Archive for the 'Books and publishing' Category

Academic library spending problems: The Big Deal, an FAQ

Posted in Books and publishing, C&I Books, Libraries on 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)

Posted in Books and publishing, Writing and blogging on 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 opensuny.org, 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

Posted in $4, Books and publishing, C&I Books on 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

Posted in Books and publishing, Writing and blogging on 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.

Notes

*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

Posted in Books and publishing, Copyright on 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.

Timing

Posted in Books and publishing, Libraries on 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.)

Until…

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?

So…

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…

Mostly just numbers: Mostly unlikely

Posted in Books and publishing on June 25th, 2013

In “IUUI 4 followup” on June 10, 2013, I noted that the possibility of doing a book about everyday statistics, and a related book showing librarians step-by-step how to gain useful information from IMLS and NCES statistics without (a) becoming statisticians, (b) going crazy or (c) even having access to Access (see outline here) was still very much up in the air.

I closed the followup post with this:

My sensible side says there’s just not enough interest to make this worth doing.

My other side keeps wondering whether I could do a good enough job that it would get the word-of-mouth marketing that self-pub books really require (unless you’re ready to spend serious dough).

I think where things stand is that I might try writing the first two chapters and see whether they point to something I’d be proud of and believed would both be short enough to appeal to people and useful enough to satisfy them and me.

I gave it a shot…

I did try writing the first two chapters of “Mostly Numbers,” a slightly revised title for the “general everyday statistics” part of the project.

And failed.

Which doesn’t mean that I think the idea’s useless. But it apparently won’t work for me, at least at this point. My difficulty in even writing draft chapters in an area I know well says that it isn’t meant to be. I found myself doing almost anything else rather than focusing on this.

Maybe it’s because it really isn’t a learning process in this case. Maybe it’s because, the more I looked at the issues with “misleading graphics,” the more tentative I became–there’s a huge gray area between intentionally misleading graphics (e.g., the crap NEA pulled years ago in trying to prove that Americans don’t read) and choosing techniques that emphasize a point without actually misleading.

Maybe it’s because I didn’t think I could do a good job of it in a small enough space to make it attractive–and really didn’t think I could market it well enough to get back subminimum wage for the effort (e.g., at least $3.50 an hour!).

So that one’s on the back burner, at least until various other projects are complete, which is likely to mean March 2014 at the earliest.

Then there’s the library part…

I haven’t quite given up on the book specifically targeting academic and public librarians, or rather a shorter and simpler version of that book. Here’s sort of what this might look at. Let’s still call it “Mostly Numbers” with a subtitle “Coping with Library Statistics.”

  1. Introduction
  2. Why Everyday Statistics are Mostly Numbers
  3. Doing Statistics Right: Transparency and Ethics
  4. Fair Presentations and Coping with Outliers
  5. Everyday Statistics: The Terms You Need to Know
  6. The Other Terms You’ll Encounter
  7. The Tests You Can Probably Ignore
  8. The Tools I’m Using for This Book
  9. Using Excel to Expand Your Public Library Awareness
  10. Using Excel to Expand Your Academic Library Awareness

I’m not sure this one works either. Again, I might try writing a chapter or two. The last two chapters may be the most helpful/useful. I’m not sure.

 

Give Us a Dollar: The revised plan

Posted in Books and publishing, Libraries on June 18th, 2013

If I do a new version of Give Us a Dollar and We’ll Give You Back Four, it will be quite a big different from the current one (here are links to the PDF and the hardbound versions)…and the current one will probably remain available for a while. I’d take advantage of some of the work in Graphing Public Library Benefits.

The changes can be summarized as Simplify, Amplify, Clarify and Compare.

Simplify

I now believe that I included too many different metrics and too many divisions for key metrics in the current version–“too many” in that they may obscure the overall picture of America’s public libraries, but also in that the sheer number of tables and length of the book may intimidate some potential readers/users. I also believe that, while theoretically desirable, basing divisions purely on reality may not work out as well as I’d like.

Here’s what I have in mind for a new version, subject to revision:

  • Spending brackets: Reduce from the current 10 to, probably, five–in part because it’s possible to make charts with five lines that can be read in black-and-white (using different line dot-and-dash combinations), while I don’t think that’s true for 10. The brackets would probably be based on the median per capita spending and would be something like this: A. <1/3 of median. B. 1/3 to 2/3 of median. C. 2/3 to 1 1/3 of median. D. 1 1/3 to twice median. E. More than twice median.
  • Size (LSA) brackets: Reduce from the current 18 to, probably, nine, with one bracket each for libraries serving fewer than 1,000 people and those serving at least 100,000, and seven others based on actual distribution (looking at roughly 1,000 libraries per section).
  • Other metrics: Include circulation per capita (reducing current nine brackets to maybe six), reference per capita (reducing from ten brackets to maybe six), patron visits per capita (reducing from nine to maybe six), program attendance per capita (reducing from eight to maybe six), PC use per capita (reducing from eight to maybe six) and visitors per hour (reducing from nine to maybe six). Omitted from detailed metrics: hours open (but see below), total PCs, PCs per thousand patrons and circulation per hour.
  • I’d still have the benefit ratio, probably calculated very similarly, used as appropriate.

The overall net effect is that a given library would be comparable to around 200 other libraries for spending. or around 166 for other metrics. And that most graphs would involve around 1,000 libraries (but I’d probably remove the top 10% from some graphs.)

Amplify

The new version would be amplified from the current in several ways:

  • I would not exclude libraries with very low funding, those with very high funding, and those with less than 0.25 FTE librarian. I would still exclude territorial libraries, closed libraries and libraries with no reported operating expenditures.
  • The new version would include graphs as well as tables, as appropriate.
  • Rather than peculiar “combined tables” showing quartiles for given metrics at different expenditure levels, there would be single tables, one for each metric–and I’d use the extra space to add 10%ile and 90%ile to the current Q1 (25%ile), median (50%ile) and Q3 (75%ile) figures. That would offer a much better picture of what’s out there, while still ignoring extreme cases.
  • I would include correlations as appropriate (as I do in GPLB).

Clarify

The current version is, how you say, light on textual commentary. Once you get past page 21, it’s basically nothing but tables.

Which, as a pure tool, may make sense–but is a little overwhelming.

The new version will include some commentary, pointing up noteworthy items in the tables and graphs, providing at least a little textual clarity.

Compare

The current version looks at one year. While I do suggest that it’s likely that more money would yield better and more numbers, I don’t have any hard evidence for that.

The new version would compare 2010 and 2011 figures (and would include only libraries present in both years). It would also attempt to show correlations between changes in spending per capita and various other metrics. I would probably include changes in total open hours here.

Oh, and one other change–if this happens at all and if it makes sense:

I’d split the state-by-state sections out into a separate book, and those sections would include some comparisons to overall figures that aren’t there now. That would make the separate book an interesting overview of differences in metrics across the nation.

Best guess as to length (the current book is 262 pages; Graphing Public Library Benefits is 222 pages): Somewhere around 150-200 pages, ideally closer to the first, for the main book; probably around 200 pages, maybe more, for the “Viewing the States” book.

Price would be $9.99 for PDF, whatever it works out to for paperback (probably around $15.50 if it’s 150 pages, around $16.50 if it’s 200 pages), $40 for site-license or state-license (for the state-by-state) ebook version without usage restrictions.

The Survey

No, I still don’t know whether it makes any sense to try a Kickstarter or IndieGoGo campaign to prefund this book, possibly with a stretch goal of making the PDF version free. I also still don’t know whether I’d do this. Since the new figures should show up in July, I’m coming close to a decision.

If this helps you think about these issues, you can still respond to the survey.

Second call: “Give us a dollar…” and “A library is…”

Posted in Books and publishing, Libraries on June 17th, 2013

I could really use more responses before deciding the future of “Give Us a Dollar…” and whether to proceed with “A Library Is…”

Here’s the survey. Five simple questions, anonymous, shouldn’t take more than a minute or two.

Here’s the background post.

Thanks!

Survey on “A library is…” and “Give us a dollar…”

Posted in Books and publishing on June 12th, 2013

As noted in yesterday’s post, I’m doing a little survey before continuing work on the little book of public library mottoes/slogans or working on crowdsourcing for a future “Give Us a Dollar…”

The survey should take no more than a couple of minutes to complete.

Here’s the address in the clear: http://www.surveymonkey.com/s/3SQ332D

I’ll let the survey run for at least a week.

If you’re at all interested in this–or if you think the little book of library mottoes is a terrible idea–please respond. The survey’s anonymous, of course.


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