Archive for the ‘Books and publishing’ Category

Making Book 1: MARC for Library Use

Tuesday, October 29th, 2013

This is the first in a (possible) series of memoirish notes on how my books came to be.


MARC for Library Use was not the first book length manuscript I wrote.

That would have been the study of newspaper coverage of the Free Speech Movement, which I wrote (I think) two or three years after FSM itself—thus, in the mid-1960s. On an electric typewriter. Doing nearly all of my research from roll microfilm of daily newspapers. Which, as other oldsters might imagine, left me ever-so-fond of microfilmed newspapers and those lovely manual readers.

What happened to that manuscript? I have no idea. There were two copies—an original and a carbon copy. (Where, exactly, would a penurious student go to get a 400-page manuscript copied in, say, 1966? And how would he afford it?) I submitted the manuscript to the University of California Press. Which rejected it. I would have submitted it elsewhere, I think, but in the meantime loaned it to a “friend” to read. Who disappeared…with the manuscript in his possession. The carbon copy somehow wandered as well.

I think it was a pretty good project. I may be fooling myself. Anyway…


I started developing MARC-based software in 1972, the year I moved from UC Berkeley Doe Library’s circulation department to the Library Systems Office. (USMARC goes back even farther: MARC II originated in 1968.)

When I moved to the Research Libraries Group (RLG) in 1979, I continued to work with MARC—unsurprisingly—and in 1980 became Product Batch Group manager, in charge of the behind-the-scenes work that produced all products from RLG member and user cataloging (except for catalog cards—my group made sure that the intermediate steps worked, but the phenomenally complex and flexible card production software was in another group). Most Product Batch work was in pure MARC—directory, leader and all. I retained one key piece of code from Berkeley: A very compact PL/I subroutine to extract desired fields or subfields from a MARC record with minimal overhead. (Back then, programmers spent a lot of time working on efficiency!) I would note that UC’s statewide library systems group, UCDLA, also borrowed that routine.

I was aware that library vendors, especially smaller-system vendors, had a tendency to call systems “MARC Compatible” that could not, in fact, import and export MARC records on a generalized basis, and that there was a need for better understanding of MARC itself. At one point, my group hired a library school graduate who’d taken a course on MARC and who had his syllabus from the course (since there were no textbooks). I read the syllabus and was horrified: Much of it was wrong or oversimplified (e.g., assuming a certain limitation was part of the format because one interactive system had that limitation).

The field needed a proper book on USMARC. I started talking up the idea with people at the Library of Congress, the people who were the actual experts. (I started serving as a liaison from RLG to the USMARC advisory group in early 1981 into 1987, the last two years as a MARBI committee member from LITA. I became acquainted with Henriette Avram in that role.)

I got nowhere with the effort. And finally said, “I’ll do it myself.” With considerable trepidation.

My vague recollections involve about 12-18 months of research and writing (fortunately, I had my first personal computer by then: A Morrow MD2 with no hard drive but two diskette drives, one for the OS and software, one for data: it had a honking big 128K of RAM and was, I believe, a Z80 CPU). I remember quite a few trips back to Berkeley to work with material in the Library School Library (since shut down, along with the library school). Eventually, I had a manuscript—and got reviews at various stages from several people at RLG, colleagues at OCLC and WLN and Penn State, and some of the actual experts at LC, including Henriette Avram. (Ms. Avram also provided a foreword.)

I submitted the manuscript to the foremost library publisher. They didn’t know what to do with it. They suggested rewriting it as a cataloging manual. They dithered. Eventually, I told them I was offering it elsewhere. Which I did—to Knowledge Industry Publications, Inc. (KIPI). The acquisitions editor there also wasn’t quite sure what to make of it—but thought the topic might be important and took a chance.


In 1984, it appeared—a 222-page 8.5×11″ hardbound and paperback (back then, some library publishers did both versions).

It succeeded better than KIPI had expected and probably better than I had. Of all the books I’ve written (without co-authors), I’m pretty sure it’s the best-selling…and quite possibly the most important. I know that at least one major library automation vendor purchased a copy for each of its salesfolk and told them to read it. I know that within a year or two, companies claiming MARC compatibility had MARC compatibility.

It is a book of which I am proud.

Crawford, Walt. MARC for Library Use: Understanding the USMARC Formats. Professional Librarian Series. White Plains, NY: Knowledge Industry Publications, 1984. ISBN 0-86729-120-6. ISBN 0-86720-119-2 (pbk.)

Mostly numbers: Help needed

Monday, October 14th, 2013

If you’re in a library (either public or academic) and know of, and can access, “medium-size data” that regularly comes out of your ILS or other source in some semi-tabular form (comma-separated values, spreadsheet, database, table, whatever) and that could stand some analysis but is clumsy to deal with:

I could use your help. Specifically, I’d like to see the labels and a few rows of the data from such a dataset, with notes on how often it’s generated and the typical overall size. (I’m assuming that there is no identifiable borrower information in any of this: If there is, I don’t want it.)

Please either contact me (in comments or to or send me the stuff–in some ways, comma-separated values are best, since they can’t harbor malware, they’re compact and (as far as I know) most programs can generate them. Send it as an attachment to that same email address.

If you’re one of the first three to send me something (I’ll add to this post when/if this happens), and if I’m able to use the submission to help me prepare a convincing proposal for a book (discussed below), and if the book is accepted by a real publisher…then you’d be mentioned in the acknowledgments and receive an actual physical copy of the book, autographed if you prefer. Alternatively, if this all leads to a webinar or some equivalent, you’d be mentioned in acknowledgments and I’d find some appropriate way to provide another form of thanks.

There are a lot of “Ifs” in that last paragraph, so maybe a little background will be useful.


I had an idea for a book at one point–originally The Mythical Average Public Library and later Mostly Just Numbers, which has morphed to Mostly Numbers in the meantime.

I discussed the idea in this post in May 2013, actually preceded by this post in February 2013 and this post in March 2013 and, to some extent, in this post in April 2013.

Then I started working on other projects, and the less said about the current sales of those self-published books–so far at least–the better.

Along the way, I added two more brief comments on the possible project: One on June 10, 2013 and one on June 26, 2013.

Given the rousing response and dismal results of recent self-pub efforts, I’ve pretty much concluded that self-publishing this would-be book is absurd. One difference between the library-sayings and public-library-benefits projects and this one: The first was both fun and a voyage of discovery, the second was at least a voyage of discovery. This one would be trying to help librarians using some techniques I’ve “discovered” (they were there all the time, but finding them and thinking through their implications can be tricky)–without “mansplaining” or otherwise losing the whole point.

Doing something that’s inherently interesting and finding that it’s met with a collective yawn (or, rather, a collective total absence of any interest at all) is one thing. Doing something that’s mostly fairly hard work and facing a similar “Haven’t you gone away yet, old man?” response (or, rather, non-response) is quite another.

And yet, and yet, it’s not entirely easy to just give up and move on. It doesn’t help that, in the last couple of months, I’ve “discovered” a couple of additional techniques that are very powerful and not at all obvious (at least to me)–one of which probably saved me 90% of the time required to do one complex set of analyses.


I don’t work in a library. I haven’t worked in a library for several decades, although I was working with a number of library statistical reports more recently–none of which I have access to any more. (None of which exist any more except possibly in some libraries as historical items…)

Having real example(s) of datasets that are potentially useful but a little cumbersome to analyze might help me decide whether this project is worth trying to sell to a publisher (or turning into a webinar or short course or something, in any case something with somebody else’s backing behind it, given the obvious quality of my own marketing efforts…).

I still plan to use the NCES academic library statistics and IMLS public library statistics as the basis for two chapters, to help librarians see how they can prepare their own specialized comparisons with relatively little effort. But adding to that a set of examples of how “advanced” spreadsheet techniques can make everyday (every month? every quarter? every year?) library analysis tasks easier and more productive…that might be worthwhile to more people.

To do that requires realistic examples. Thus my request.

Various somewhat obsolete versions of the potential book/webinar’s outline will be found in some of the linked posts.

If you can help and think it’s worthwhile, please do.

Lack of any response will also help me decide what to do, in its own way.

$4 to $1: Two Timely Announcements

Thursday, October 10th, 2013

At least in my mind, $4 to $1: Public Library Benefits and Budgets is a much better overall discussion of public library benefits and budgets in FY2011 (and how they changed from 2009), and a much better tool for libraries to help tell their own stories, than was Give Us a Dollar and We’ll Give You Back Four (still available, but you’re better off getting either The inCompleat Give Us a Dollar… in paperback or The Compleat Give Us a Dollar… volume 1 as a $9.99 ebook or $39.99 site-license ebook).

So far, apparently, nobody’s found it worth spending $9.99 (or $39.99 for a systemwide/statewide license) for the non-DRM PDF ebook to find out and use it–and only two people or libraries have purchased the $25 paperback, currently discounted to $19.96 at Lulu.

So, two timely announcements:

Now available at Amazon and elsewhere

If you just can’t cope with Lulu, you can now buy $4 to $1: Public Library Benefits and Budgets from Amazon–currently discounted to $21.72. (I get less revenue from this than from the Lulu sale, but that’s OK–at this point, I really want to see the book get some use!)

“and elsewhere”? It should be available at other online bookstores. So far, I don’t find it at Barnes & Noble, but…

It’s exactly the same book, ISBN 978-1-304-35588-1. (“Exactly the same” might or might not be correct–it’s possible that the copies produced for other sellers don’t use the wonderful 60lb. cream book stock that Lulu uses, but I think they do. Given the sales to date, I’m not going to spend $21.72 to find out!)

Discount ends soon unless there are sales

The current discount on the paperback book on Lulu will be retained until the book has been out for two months–it was first announced as available on August 23, 2013.

If there aren’t any sales between now and October 23, 2013, I’ll drop the discount: the price will go back to $25.00

At that point, it’s quite possible that the ebook price will be increased by $5.

[If and when there are Lulu sales, and I notice them, I’ll announce them, and those are unrelated to my promise that the prices of these books aren’t going down: They’re temporary Lulu-wide sales events that don’t reduce my income.]

I must admit, at this point $159.99 is beginning to sound like the appropriate price point for a somewhat specialized library research report in PDF form; I’ve seen that used elsewhere, by an outfit that must be selling enough copies to stay in business…but let’s not go there just yet.

Self-publishing Reality Check 3

Wednesday, September 18th, 2013

It’s been a week since the last post in this series. (Actually, it’s been 8 days: Somehow, the previous post was updated rather than having a new post.)

There has been at least one sale at my Lulu bookstore—but it was Anna Julia Young–Autobiography, one of my wife’s projects. And if you’re interested in Livermore or East Bay local history, you might find it interesting. As for my books: not so much.

Since the existence of $4 to $1: Public Library Benefits and Budgets vol. 2: Libraries by State depends in part on sales of volume 1 and of Your Library Is…, and since the possibility of doing Mostly Numbers or any future project that could conceivably be sold to a traditional publisher as a self-pub to do it faster and make it cheaper depends on it being plausible to do self-pub books, it seems reasonable to track what’s new out there.

I’m using abbreviations (and hiss boo a table boo hiss) so I can track this over time—and have simplified the table for width reasons:

  • $4v1/p, e, s: $4 to $1: Public Library Benefits and Budgets, volume 1, paperback, ebook and site license versions respectively
  • YLI/p, e: Your Library Is…, paperback and ebook versions respectively
  • iC: The inCompleat Give Us a Dollar… (paperback only)
  • C$1: The Compleat Give Us a Dollar… volume 1, both editions
  • C$2: The Compleat Give Us a Dollar… volume 2, both editions
Dates $4v1/p $4v1/e $4v1/s YLI/p YLI/e iC C$1 C$2/s
To 8/29






(The second date is “through around 2 p.m.” and the first date on the next row starts right after that.)

These are, to be sure, still early days. I’ll keep saying that for a while… although it’s getting harder.

Next update no earlier than 8/26, a month after the three new books were published, and I may try to make it every other week, as it’s starting to get pretty discouraging to admit how things are going on a weekly basis.

Academic library spending problems: The Big Deal, an FAQ

Monday, September 9th, 2013
The Big Deal and the Damage Done

The Big Deal and the Damage Done

What is it?

A segment-by-segment study of U.S. academic library spending on current serials (mostly Big Deals), “books” (that is, all acquisitions except current serials, including backsets), and everything else–staffing, archives, etc.

The 125-page 6″ x 9″ paperback book (or PDF ebook) looks at spending from 2000 to 2010 (and, briefly, 1996 through 2010), broken down by Carnegie Classification but also by size and sector (public/private, nonprofit/profit).

I believe it makes a detailed and convincing case that Big Deals have done damage to academic libraries and the institutions they serve by siphoning off so much money that non-serial acquisitions budgets have had to be slashed and there’s less money left to pay for librarians, other staff and everything else that makes an academic library work.

How is it available?

The paperback version costs $16.50 (plus shipping) from Lulu.

The PDF ebook (no DRM) costs $9.99 (no shipping) from Lulu.

There’s also a special campus/site license edition, $40 (no shipping) from Lulu, which is the PDF ebook with a modified copyright page to explicitly permit loading it on a campus or site server that allows multiple simultaneous reading or downloads within any reasonably well-defined community (including online students at library schools).

Why is there a site license edition?

Two reasons:

  1. A library asked about the possibility.
  2. There were murmurings about “unglueing” the book, making an ePub version free for everybody, specifically so it would be available to LIS students, and the more I looked at the process, the less I wanted to be involved with it [a long post that I don’t much want to write], but I wanted to fill the need.

Will the book get cheaper if we wait?

No–although if it ever reaches $2,500 in net proceeds for the ebook edition(s), I’d be willing to make it freely available at that point. There’s a long, long way to go (around $1,930) before that could happen.

What will happen if everybody waits: The book will disappear from the market.

Will it be replaced with a newer version?

Yes and no.

There will be an updated study that goes through 2012.

No, it won’t be a Cites & Insights book.

No, it won’t be $9.99 or $16.99.

No, it won’t happen until the late spring/early summer of 2014 (assuming NCES releases the numbers in December 2013).

The updated version will be shorter, probably less complete, certainly more expensive.

Can I get a sample?

Yes. There’s the preview of each version at Lulu, but you can also read the first 11 pages and a portion of the conclusion in the July 2013 Cites & Insights (this link is to the one-column “online version,” since it’s a truer replication of the book pages than the two-column “print version”).

Tell me a little more…

Here’s the beginning of the first chapter:

When publishers began offering Big Deals and other forms of serial bundling, they were touted as win-win-win situations: Publishers could remain profitable, libraries could slow down the rate of increase of serials spending and users could gain access to many more serials.

When there’s that much money at stake (over $1 billion since at least 2002) and only one aspect of library collections and services is being addressed, it’s fair to wonder whether there might not be some losers in with all that win. Given that some publishers and librarians continue to tout the Big Deal as a wonderful thing, some going so far as to say that the serials crisis was solved in 2004 with the widespread adoption of Big Deals, it makes sense to look more closely at the current situation.

I believe that Big Deals did some good—but they also did some damage, damage that gets worse as the amount spent on serials (in Big Deals and otherwise) continues to ratchet up faster than inflation.

Damage is done to scholars and students in the humanities and social sciences, where books continue to be key, as money continues to be shifted to serials (most of it for STEM—science, technology, engineering and medicine) at least in many libraries.

Damage is done to libraries as serials take an ever-bigger chunk of the total budget, leaving less for not only books but also staff, preservation, computers, archives, programming and new initiatives.

I began looking at actual numbers while preparing a preconference on open access. One of the sillier arguments against open access (and especially against gold OA) is that there’s really no serials problem—that Big Deals solved it.

That’s only true if “solved” takes on a fairly unusual meaning. In 1996, before Big Deals had become common, taking U.S. academic libraries as a whole, serials took 17% of all spending. Books (including back runs of serials and other materials) took 10.4%.

In 2002, at which point Big Deals were well established, serials were up to 22.5% of all library spending—but books were up a little too, taking 11.9% of library spending.

In 2010, serials were up to 26.1% of all library spending—nearly as much as books and serials combined in 1996. Books? Down to 10.6%–frequently of reduced budgets.

Meanwhile, the remainder budget—that is, everything except current serials and other acquisitions—fell from 72.6% to 63.3% of library budgets overall. That’s a serious drop.

How much of serials spending is for electronic access? At a minimum, it’s grown from 15% in 1998 (the first time it’s broken out) to 70% in 2010, doubling its market share since 2004 (when it was 35%).

Library Publishing Toolkit (and more)

Monday, September 2nd, 2013

In case you haven’t already heard about it, you should be aware of the Library Publishing Toolkit, edited by Allison P. Brown and published by IDS Project Press.

Here’s the brief description from the project website:

The Library Publishing Toolkit looks at the broad and varied landscape of library publishing through discussions, case studies, and shared resources. From supporting writers and authors in the public library setting to hosting open access journals and books, this collection examines opportunities for libraries to leverage their position and resources to create and provide access to content.

The Library Publishing Toolkit is a project funded partially by Regional Bibliographic Databases and Interlibrary Resources Sharing Program funds which are administered and supported by the Rochester Regional Library Council. The toolkit is a united effort between Milne Library at SUNY Geneseo and the Monroe County Library System to identify trends in library publishing, seek out best practices to implement and support such programs, and share the best tools and resources.

You might also want to visit the publication’s page at, since it’s part of the IDS Project.

I would be lying if I said I’d read the entire book (402 pp. 8.5″ x 11″). I haven’t. I will…but I haven’t yet.

It’s pretty clearly a worthwhile project, a collection of essays on real-world aspects of library publishing.

You can get the Toolkit in two forms:

  • PDF ebook, free for the taking, no DRM–and it’s published with a Creative Commons BY-SA license, so you’re also free to pass it along. There appear to be two PDF downloads, one slightly smaller than the other; I’m not sure what the difference is.
  • Paperback (PoD using CreateSpace), list $9.19, currently $8.18; I’m guessing $9.19 is the CreateSpace production cost, and of course Amazon (owner of CreateSpace) can discount that cost. Either price is very low for a handsome 402-page 8.5 x 11 paperback.

It is indexed, to be sure.

How do I know about it? I contributed the Foreword, “Makerspaces for the Mind.” It was a pleasure to do so. I’m pleased with the resulting publication.

(and more)

It’s odd. I rarely contribute to collections–after all, tenure’s never been a possibility (even pay seems unlikely these days) and I’ve always had mixed feelings about most (but not all) edited collections.

“Rarely” isn’t never, to be sure, and as it happens I’ve contributed to two other collected works in recent days. In one case, it was for a modest sum of money; in the other, it was because a long-time friend and colleague asked.

The June 2013 issue of Against the Grain features a set of nine articles on self-publishing, edited by Bob Holley. I contributed “Self-Publish or Traditional? My Experience with Books for Librarians.” (As a sidenote, the sixth essay in the collection is by Rory Litwin, who refers to me twice–by last name alone, that is, “Crawford”–and who might be surprised to know that I agree with most of what he says.)

Using Social Media in Libraries: Best Practices is from Scarecrow Press, edited by Charles Harmon and Michael Messina. I wrote the Introduction. I have no comments on the collection as a whole–except to note that the contrast between my views in the Introduction and Laura Solomon’s views in the Foreword is, shall we say, substantial.

The Compleat Give Us a Dollar…ready now

Thursday, August 1st, 2013

The most in-depth discussion of public library benefits and budgets in FY2010 you’re likely to find (or at least that I’m aware of) is now available in a form that combines tables, graphs and comments.

The Compleat Give Us a Dollar vol. 1, Libraries by Size combines all of the text from Give Us a Dollar and We’ll Give You Back Four (2012-13) except Chapter 20 with several hundred graphs to accompany the tables–and all of the commentary provided in Cites & Insights and in Graphing Public Library Benefits.

The ebook is 361 8.5″ x 11″ PDF pages (actually 353 pages + viii front matter)–8.5″ x 11″ so the graphs would work, ebook-only because it requires color to work properly. It’s the usual $9.99–but there’s also an explicit site-license version allowing multiple simultaneous download/reading for $39.99, ideal for library schools (including distance students), single-state consortia, state libraries, whatever.

The Compleat Give Us a Dollar vol. 2, Libraries by State, combines Chapter 20 from Give Us a Dollar and We’ll Give You Back Four (2012-13), the commentary from Cites & Insights and, for 49 states, new scatterplots showing circulation per capita plotted against spending per capita. (The District of Columbia and Hawaii each have a single public library system, and a one-point graph seems silly.)

The ebook is 195 8.5″ x 11″ PDF pages (actually 191 pages + iv front matter)–8.5″ x 11″ so the graphs are as large as possible and for consistency with volume 1, ebook-only because, well, see below. It’s also $9.99–and the explicit site-license version is only $34.99.

Both ebooks were created as PDFs directly from Word, including all bookmarks–so you can navigate to any chapter or subsection of a chapter directly from Reader’s sidebar.

For those desiring the ease of flipping back and forth of a print book, or who want a print book for other reasons, I’ve combined the two volumes and removed the multicolor occurrence-by-spending-category graphs to create The inCompleat Give Us a Dollar and We’ll Give You Back Four, announced yesterday. It’s a big book–433 8.5″ x 11″ pages (actually 425 pages + viii front matter). It will set you back $26.99.

You can use the coupon code FAST5–once per account–to save 5% on your order, if you haven’t already used it for some other purpose.

Two ebooks out of print

With publication of the new books, Graphing Public Library Benefits is now redundant (and had total sales that, when rounded to the nearest five, come out to zero) and has been deleted.

Additionally, the ebook version of Give Us a Dollar and We’ll Give You Back Four (2012-13) has been retired from Lulu, but you can still buy the paperback or hardcover versions–and an ebook version is still available for the Kindle.

One final note: If the crowdsourcing for $4 to $1: Public Library Benefits and Budgets continues as it is going now, then any chance of Volume 2 (libraries by state) actually emerging in the future will be conditioned on additional sales of these books.

Night Sweats: A hard-hitting review

Tuesday, July 23rd, 2013

I’ve seen a number of really favorable reviews of Laura Crossett’s Night Sweats: an unexpected pregnancy.

Actually, all the reviews I’ve seen of the book have been very favorable.

I purchased the book* and finished reading it yesterday** and felt that I should provide a contrarian review, one that’s hard-hitting and exposes all the book’s faults.

So, here goes:

Major faults and failings in Night Sweats

  • I’m pretty sure I found a copy-editing error.
  • It could be longer.

That’s about it. I’d like to argue about Crossett’s religion, but for a lapsed Methodist to take on an Episcopalian about religiosity exceeds even my capacity for absurd argumentation–yes, she’s more religious than I am, but that strengthens the story in ways I can’t possibly argue with.

Then there’s the other side…

Good points about Night Sweats

  • Crossett’s an excellent and achingly honest writer.
  • It’s a true story and an interesting one.
  • Crossett’s also hilarious, not necessarily what you’d expect in this kind of a book. (Whatever “this kind” might be.)
  • The book’s just plain compelling–even if (like me) you’re someone for whom the story of an unexpected pregnancy might not immediately connect.

Despite the (probable) copy-editing failure, I’d be dishonest to sum this up as anything other than:

Buy this book. Read it. I’m pretty sure you’ll find it worth your while.

Oh, and if you want the ebook, it’s available from the usual suspects, but Laura*** (and Our Bodies Our Selves, if I have that right) gets more of the modest proceeds (it’s $4 if there’s no current sale) if you buy it directly from Lulu.


*Why did I buy this book? Well… Laura sent me a PDF to see if I had comments on her layout and typographic options, since she used The Librarian’s Guide to Micropublishing in the project–and gives me credit in the acknowledgments. I did manage to look at the typographic choices, which I find excellent–but it was difficult because I just wanted to read it. And I wanted to read it enough in print to buy it.

**Why so long? After all, the book’s only 93 pages long and it’s so well written that it’s an easy read. Well, there’s a sick cat–which Laura may find amusing, since a sick cat enters into the book–and also I was trying to prolong the experience.

***Why am I sometimes first-naming Ms. Crossett? Because she’s a Virtual Friend. I don’t know whether we’ve ever met face-to-face, but we’ve been chatting on Friendfeed as part of the Library Society of the World for years, and she’s also given me good and sometimes tough advice on the side on some library-related projects. She’s one of many there who I respect considerably and can say that we frequently disagree but not in ways that are disagreeable. She’s a good person. And, of course, one of those writers–like Barbara Fister–who make me recognize the limits of my comparatively crude writing skills.

Ebooks are only leased, not sold? That depends

Saturday, June 29th, 2013

On one hand, I appreciate the number of writers who are recognizing that many (most?) library and personal “purchases” of ebooks aren’t really purchases at all, since the “buyer” doesn’t actually have much in the way of rights to the ebook. That’s probably true for most Big Publisher ebooks; it’s apparently true for most Kindle ebooks and many others.

On the other hand…

Sometimes you can buy ebooks.

Lots of ebooks are sold without DRM.

Lulu never required DRM for its ebooks–and a few months ago, it stopped allowing DRM on its ebooks–if you wanted to keep selling ebooks through Lulu, you had to strip the DRM (which it had always charged extra for, as one way to discourage it).

Since mid-2012, Tor and Forge–both imprints of Macmillan–have produced DRM-free ebooks available through all the usual channels. Tor’s a very big name in science fiction, and says the change in policy hasn’t hurt sales.

If I had to guess, I’d guess a growing number of independent publishers are leaving DRM off their ebooks.

As far as I’m concerned, if an ebook lacks DRM, you can buy it. Do you have full first-sale rights? You should. Whether you do…that may be for further clarification.

My own clarification

Let me be clear about any of my Lulu-distributed ebooks (all PDF):

When you buy one, you own it.

If you want to make backup copies of the PDF, please do.

If you want to lend it to somebody else (presumably not reading it yourself at the time), feel free.

If you want to give it to somebody else (presumably deleting your copy), that’s fine.

If you want to sell it to somebody else (presumably deleting your copy), that’s fine too.

If you want to have it available on sixteen different devices that you use at different times or places, OK with me.

You own it.

As to the “presumably” clauses–I rely on good faith and ethical behavior.

Oh, if you’re a library: That one copy can legally, legitimately, ethically be mounted on a library ebook server that restricts use to one person at a time. You own the copy.

For cases where single-user restrictions aren’t reasonable? On newer books, I’m providing a “site license version” that explicitly allows multi-reader access assuming reasonable identification of a library’s or campus’ patrons/students/whatever. Those books will cost four times as much as the single-user version. The license is a matter of honor and good faith. (I suppose there are less litigious people than I am, but not by much…)

So when someone says you can’t buy ebooks….the proper answer is “That depends.” Sometimes you can. I have a feeling “sometimes” will grow.


Wednesday, June 26th, 2013

I had it all planned out.

I was going to put together an IndieGoGo campaign for the $4 Project (Give Us a Dollar and We’ll Give You Back Four [2013-14]: Libraries by Size; Give Us a Dollar: State by State; A Library Is…), with a reasonably modest goal ($2,500 as a baseline–below that, nobody pays) and several stretch goals. I figured to put it together today and tomorrow, make it live on Friday, and add the writeup as The Front in the August Cites & Insights, and publish that on Monday. (The other essays are edited already.)


I realized that this weekend is ALA Annual. Which means that, from tomorrow through next Monday, anything I do in the library area will receive even less attention than usual.

Or maybe….that’s the perfect time to start the campaign?


Still trying to decide whether it’s a complete waste of time to attempt crowdfunding. Still trying to see whether the Mostly Numbers: Coping with Statistics for Librarians project makes sense.

The August issue of C&I won’t show up before July 1: That’s a given. It may be later than that. Will it begin with a summary of the book project campaign and why you should care? Wait and see…