Temporary oops

Posted in Writing and blogging on March 20th, 2014

If you attempted to comment on yesterday’s post, you may have found that it didn’t accept comments.

Oops.

It does now.

As recounted some time ago, I’ve changed the default setting for this blog so that “Allow comments” is unchecked, because so many of the posts here are not really comment fodder (C&I announcements, etc.) and because I was getting ridiculous numbers of spamments that were clearly “here’s a place we can dump a comment, and just maybe it won’t be trapped as spam” efforts.

My intention is to check the “Allow comments” box any time a post could reasonably have comments.

But I forget sometimes.

By the way, the change seems to have worked: most days spamments are in single digits or low double digits, not high double digits and low triple digits.

Oh, and there were three (count them, 3) immediate comments on my Tuesday post the same day I added it (and allowed comments, only a minute or so after the initial post). All of them were wholly unrelated spamments.

This post allows comments.

NAQ on me and public library research

Posted in Stuff on March 19th, 2014

A little followup to yesterday’s post–and if you didn’t already guess, “NAQ” is what a great many FAQ’s should really be called–that is, Never-Asked Questions.

IMLS has released the 2011 public library figures. Wouldn’t your work be more popular if you updated it?

To IMLS’ considerable credit (and I have only good things to say about IMLS and NCES), it put up its survey figures when they were available–not when it had its commentary ready. $4 to $1…is based on the 2011 IMLS data, the most recent available (and makes comparisons to 2009 in some areas).

Do you blame anybody for the lack of public library attention and sales?

Other than myself? No. I admittedly hoped for word-of-mouth publicity, since there’s not a lot I could do directly without spending substantial sums of money, but that clearly didn’t happen. Nor is there any good reason it should have.

Why were you doing public library research anyway?

First, because my heart is in public libraries (although, unlike my wife the librarian, I’ve never worked in one). I thought and hoped that an analysis making it fairly easy to show that public libraries are enormously good values even if you only count the easily countable, and that better-supported libraries offer even more value to their communities, would be valuable to librarians and consultant–and maybe to Friends, to help get better support for libraries.

Second (the selfish reason), because I hoped to get enough feedback and ongoing support that I could do some deeper number-crunching, including longitudinal research (time series), of aspects of countable public library performance that might be worth knowing about. I have a bias toward treating small public libraries as seriously as large ones, and I think that bias would be useful. (In case you weren’t aware: in 2011, three-quarters of America’s public library systems served fewer than 23,000 people, and more than half served fewer than 9,000. Most public libraries are small libraries.)

So why not keep doing it anyway?

First and foremost, because if only four librarians, libraries or others were willing to buy the 2011 book, I’m not reaching anybody with this stuff–and particularly not the smaller libraries. There’s not much point in doing it if it’s of no use. That may be the most important reason.

Second, because while it can be fun, it’s not enough fun to make large efforts reasonable with no income at all. If I had 1,000 fans kicking in $100 (just to be silly), or more plausibly 100 supporters kicking in $50 per year, I’d be inclined to ask them what they thought was worth doing…and pay a lot of attention to those wishes. If half or one-third of those supporters were public library people, I’d probably keep doing some of this, possibly even making it available for free. But I don’t see that happening: an Indiegogo drive was absurdly unsuccessful (and even then, several times as many people were willing to commit money as turned out to be ready to buy the book); my Cites & Insights sponsorship drive is stalled in neutral, having crept forward only 3% of the way toward a plausible goal.

Why don’t you line up a sponsor or grant support?

I did a little looking into grant possibilities. I have no institutional affiliation. Next question? (I could go into more detail, but that’s probably enough.)

Sponsorship would be a great idea. Dunno how that would happen, though–especially since I’m neither an extrovert nor an entrepreneur.

What next?

On the academic library side, I did find a way to make some pointed research both much more widely distributed and worth my time to do.

In general…well, I’m still doing C&I (for now at least), and there are always future possibilities…

Bitter or discouraged?

Bitter, no. Nobody promised they would buy this stuff. Nobody recruited me to do it.

Discouraged–well, obviously, when it comes to this sort of public library research.

Mostly a little disappointed.

Meanwhile, on to the supplementary research on aspects of academic libraries that may interest some librarians, in addition to the core research that’s already done and will appear in late spring. And, to be sure, to reading, TV, polishing the essays for the next C&I, hiking, chores, all that other retirement leisure stuff…

 

Last chance for public libraries*

Posted in C&I Books on March 18th, 2014

*Well, not public libraries themselves. I believe they have a bright future and that there will be more public libraries in, say, 2020 in the U.S. than there are now, or at least no more than 2% fewer. That deliberately provocative headline is, well, deliberately provocative.

Last chance for my books attempting to help public libraries help themselves

That’s what I mean…but that’s on the long side for a post title.

The short form

Barring at least some sales between now and April 2, 2014, the following books and ebooks will go out of print:

The longer form

I prepared Give Us a Dollar… in the belief that it might be helpful to some of America’s public libraries. I knew I wouldn’t make a ton of money from it, but thought I might at least make something close to, say, San Francisco minimum wage (call it $10 an hour). I also thought the lessons learned from doing that version would help in doing a better version when 2011 data came out.

The book certainly didn’t sell enough copies to return minimum wage; I’ve probably made around $700 so far, and I guarantee it took a lot more than 70 hours to prepare the research and write the book. Sales have yet to reach three digits…and there haven’t been any sales (at least of the Lulu version) in the last seven months or so. (The last recorded Lulu sale was in July 2013.)

I prepared the Compleat and Incompleat versions to remedy a major problem with the book: all tables, virtually no commentary and no graphs. I priced them as low as possible. Total revenue to date from those versions can be summed up easily: $0.

I also prepared $4 to $1…, which I believe to be a much improved approach. I only did libraries by size initially because it kept the size (and therefore price) down…and because it didn’t make sense to do Libraries by State unless at least a few dozen and preferably a few hundred libraries, consultants and others wanted the book enough to pay a whole $9.99 to $19.96 for it.

Again, I did this because I believed that my analysis could be of value to public libraries (and their Friends groups) and that at least some significant fraction of public libraries would find the work worthwhile.

I was (apparently) wrong.

Three copies of $4 to $1 were purchased in August 2013.

One copy was purchased in October 2013.

And that’s it.

Four copies over seven months sends me a very strong message: Public libraries really don’t give a hoot about the work I was doing; essentially none of them even find it worth risking $10.

I was apparently wrong to believe this work had any value. That’s OK; I’ve been wrong before.

(I still believe Your Library Is... is a wonderful little book, a bargain at $16.99 paperback or $8.99 ebook, but it’s selling like…well, it’s sold 11 copies, one as recently as January, so I’m leaving it alone for now. I found it inspiring to prepare. I think you’d find it inspiring to thumb through and read little by little. Although I could be wrong there as well.)

It’s too bad in a way, but I’m willing to assume it’s entirely my fault: That I simply had and have no idea what public libraries would actually want enough to pay anything for, and that what little feedback I got from the first year’s work wasn’t enough to make it worthwhile.

What I’m not willing to do: Leave my bookstore cluttered with items that are apparently unwanted.

The lesson I take from this is that, although I love public libraries, I apparently have little or nothing to offer them. I would note that I’d been approached about the possibility of doing custom data analysis for some public libraries at some point in the future, at a reasonable rate, and had in fact offered to do so at a rate far below what any sensible consultant would charge. That approach has, so far, not led to any such work, but it’s only been 1.5 years.

On the other hand, if these books are of no value to public libraries, it’s hard for me to justify offering cut-rate services to those same public libraries. So, at about the same time the books disappear from my bookstore, the offer to do such analysis at a bargain rate will also disappear. I have no reason to believe this will pose a problem for anybody.

No, I haven’t turned against public libraries. I regard America’s public library non-system as vital to the nation and its communities, I use and love my local public library, I want to see public libraries get even better (in an evolutionary rather than disruptive way–I’m mostly a print book borrower), and I may even write about them in the future. Just not on spec in the hope that they’ll pay even the most modest sums for the results. I’m a slow learner, but I’m not incapable of realizing my errors.

The steakhouse blog

Posted in Cites & Insights, open access on March 13th, 2014

When I finished editing “Ethics and Access 1: The Sad Case of Jeffrey Beall,” the lead essay in the April 2014 Cites & Insights*, I didn’t worry about the fact that I failed to reach clear conclusions about Beall or his list or blog. As with most essays of this sort, I was trying to paint a picture, not come up with a Declaration of Belief.

But I did think about why I found the situation so troubling–especially since it was and is clear that many librarians continue to assume that Beall is a reliable and worthy source. Last night, it came to me.

The steakhouse blog

Let’s say someone with some credentials as a judge of good meat starts a blog called Steakhouses. (If there is such a blog, this has nothing to do with it: I didn’t check.**) It gets a fair amount of readership and acclaim, even though every post on it is about bad steakhouses. After a while, there’s even a Bad Steakhouse List as a page from the blog.

Some people raise questions about the criteria used for judging a steakhouse to be bad, but lots of people say “Hey, here’s a great list so we can avoid bad steakhouses.”

The big reveal

After a couple of years, the author of the blog–who continues to be judge and jury for bad steakhouses–writes an article in which he denounces all meat-eaters as people with dire motives who, I dunno, wish to force other people to eat steak.

I will assert that, to the extent that this article became well known and the blog author didn’t deny writing it, the Steakhouse blog would be shunned as pointless–after all, if the author’s against all meat-eaters, why would he be a reliable guide to bad steakhouses?

Bad analogy?

So how exactly are the Scholarly Open Access blog and Beall’s List different from the Steakhouse blog and Bad Steakhouse List? And if they’re not, why would anybody take Beall seriously at this point?

Note that dismissing the Steakhouse blog and the Bad Steakhouse List as pointless does not mean saying “there are no bad steakhouses.” It doesn’t even mean abandoning the search for ways to identify and publicize bad steakhouses. It just means recognizing that, to the Steakhouse blog author, all steakhouses are automatically bad, which makes that author useless as a judge.


Full disclosure: I haven’t been to a steakhouse in years, and I rarely–almost never, actually–order steak at restaurants. I am an omnivore; different issue.

*Just under 2,900 downloads as of right now. Amazing.

**I’ve now done some crude checking. There are a number of blogs that include “Steakhouse” in their titles, I don’t find a Steakhouse blog as such, I don’t find a “Bad Steakhouse List,” and the blogs about steakhouses that I did find don’t appear to be uniformly anti-steakhouse.

Appreciation

Posted in Cites & Insights on March 11th, 2014

A little follow-up to last Friday’s “Popularity?”–posted at the point where the April 2014 Cites & Insights had about 1,030 downloads, remarkably high for the first six days after publication. I guessed it was mostly because of the first essay, “Ethics and Access 1: The Sad Case of Jeffrey Beall.”

I’m now fairly certain that’s the reason. A number of people had mentioned the essay before last Friday (I didn’t see most of the mentions; I don’t follow that many people on Twitter and only track about 500 blogs with Feedly). Since then, there’s been quite a bit of tweeting and retweeting, with John Dupuis and others calling it an important essay. I am, of course, grateful for this.

(If you’re interested: around 2,450 as of midafternoon today, Tuesday, March 11–I suspect it will hit 2,500 some time today or tomorrow.)

I want to note three things here, I hope briefly:

  1. To be honest, I didn’t think this was all that strikingly important as an essay; I mostly just rounded up some articles in a fairly coherent article. Although I do admit, when I read it today, it reads reasonably well. However, I believe the May 2014 Cites & Insights will have a more important article–Ethics and Access 2, including some original pseudo-research–and I’d like to believe that quite a few essays and books over the past two or three years have been more important, especially for libraries. None of the (self-published) books reached even 10% as many people. That’s a shame… And for those interested in OA, I’ve done a lot of writing about it in the past (some of it collected in a free ebook).
  2. Any opinions regarding Jeffrey Beall stated in tweets or other commentary do not necessarily reflect my own opinions, except for those in non-quoted portions of the article. I’ve seen a couple of unfavorable opinions that I would probably disagree with.
  3. I love having more readers. I’d love having a little more support–either book purchases or direct support of C&I or, dreaming once again, finding an actual sponsor for the publication (and for related original research: I have an idea in mind that’s somewhat related to the April essay, but it would involve 50-100 hours of work, and at this point I can’t justify the time for $0 return, given that I don’t have a job that I’m doing all this in addition to). Full sponsorship (which I had for a few years) would be wonderful; if any of you are in a position to help, great. (It would cost $10K/year, and I’d be happy to work with any company or operation that’s not typically covered in C&I–e.g., a library distributor or services company like Ebsco, Gale, etc., a group like OCLC, a foundation like Gates (but I’m too small-scale for them), an automation vendor like Innovative. There are firms I would not work with, presumably including those I do discuss in C&I and one or two special cases, but not all that many.)

But mostly: I do appreciate the readership and the direct appreciation in tweets. The rest of this–other than maybe #2, where it really may be important to say that other people’s opinions are, obviously, their own–is secondary. Oh, and that I believe the May 2014 issue will be worthwhile.

Finally: one correction to the Beall essay, pointed out to me by a reader: Hindawi is headquartered in Egypt, not India. Sorry about that.

Popularity?

Posted in Cites & Insights on March 7th, 2014

Here’s something mildly interesting, or not.

  • In (roughly) the first month after it appeared, the January 2014 Cites & Insights (“Books, E and P” and “Gunslinger Classics”) had around 880 downloads. I was pleased.
  • In the first month after it appeared, the February 2014 Cites & Insights (“E and P: What I Ignored,” “Ebooks as Textbooks,” and “Ebooks and Libraries”) had around 550 downloads. I was OK with that, too.
  • In the first month after it appeared, the March 2014 Cites & Insights (“Toward 15 and 200,” “Thinking about Magazines” and “The Back”) had around 420 downloads. That’s not too bad either.
  • and, wait for it…
  • In the first week since it was published–well, actually, not quite a week yet, but up to roughly 3 p.m. this afternoon, so a little more than six days–the April 2014 Cites & Insights (“Ethics and Access 1: The Sad Case of Jeffrey Beall” and “The Middle: Forecasts and Futurism”) has around 1,030 downloads.

I draw no conclusions. The May 2013 issue will definitely include Ethics and Access 2, and this one includes some original “research.”

As to the fundraising campaign…not a whole lot of progress to report. But y’all must love forecasts and futurism. Or something like that…

 

A deadline and an apology of sorts

Posted in C&I Books, Cites & Insights on March 4th, 2014

First, the deadline:

If you (or your library or consortium) haven’t yet purchased a copy of The Big Deal and the Damage Done–either the $16.50 paperback, the $9.99 PDF ebook or the $40 campus/site/consortium-”licensed” ebook (the $40 version includes explicit permission on the copyright page for simultaneous usage/downloading from a single server, campus or consortium), you should do so soon.

On or about May 14, 2014, all three versions will go out of print: they will become wholly unavailable. (Since neither PDF version has any DRM attached, this will not have any effect on any purchased versions.)

[Why? Because shortly after that a more up-to-date, but briefer, sequel will be published as a Library Technology Reports issue, distributed to subscribers and available for individual purchase from ALA.  While I believe the original book continues to have separate value, I'm choosing to shut it down at that point. Some time later, probably in June, there will be a complementary self-published book looking at other aspects of academic library book purchasing and circulation: note that's complementary, not complimentary--the self-published book won't be free.]

As an aside, the trio of public library books appear to be dead in the water. Only Your Library Is… has sold any copies since November 2012, and that hasn’t sold any copies since January 2013. I’m a little sad about that, but have pretty much given up. (So far: 11 copies of that wonderful little book, and fewer than half a dozen of either of the others. Such is life.)

Then there’s the apology. A Cites & Insights reader let me know that, in some cases where I’ve said [Emphasis added] at the end of quoted material, there doesn’t actually seem to be any emphasized material in the quote. This reader thought this was an artifact of the single-column version and the way I converted it from the two-column.

Turns out it’s true of the two-column version as well, and is apparently an artifact of how Word 2010 creates a PDF using “Save/Send to PDF.” It’s maintaining italics and, I think, boldface in some circumstances, but seems to be losing it in some.

I can fix this in one of two ways, and currently plan to do it in the second–but if there’s significant reader desire, I can do it in the first and maybe retroactively for this year’s issues:

1. I can Print using Adobe PDF as a printer, rather than using Word’s function. That may also result in a smaller PDF. Unfortunately, because I haven’t spent the $$$ to upgrade to the most recent Acrobat, that works as a printer, not an Acrobat-in-Word function, with the result that you don’t get bookmarks for essays and headings within essays.

2. I’ll probably replace my 5-year-old computer some time this year, maybe, perhaps, depending partly on support for C&I…and if/when I do, I’ll probably also upgrade to Office360/Office 2013. I’m guessing it has much better built-in PDF support and will probably handle the boldface properly.

Of course, it’s possible that nobody actually uses the PDF bookmarks, in which case solution #1 is an easy fix…

I’ll open comments on this post. If you have an opinion on this matter, please do comment or send me email at the usual (waltcrawford at gmail dot com).

Another sidenote: Either it’s Charles W. Bailey, Jr.’s mention–thanks, Charles–or word gets around when I’m dealing with certain topics. The March C&I, with an essay that means a lot to me but possibly not to you, had only about 450-500 downloads in its first month. The April issue, with the Beall lead essay, has more than 740…in its first four days!

Cites & Insights 14:4 (April 2014) available

Posted in Cites & Insights on March 1st, 2014

The April 2014 issue of Cites & Insights (volume 14, issue 4, whole # 172) is now available for downloading at http://citesandinsights.info/civ14i4.pdf

The print-oriented two-column edition is 22 pages. Those reading online or on a tablet may prefer the 6×9″ single-column version, which is 41 pages long, at http://citesandinsights.info/civ14i4on.pdf

This issue includes two essays:

Intersections: Ethics and Access 1: The Sad Case of Jeffrey Beall  (pp. 1-14)

The saga of Jeffrey Beall going from self-appointed investigator into “predatory” open access publishers and journals (and, notably, only OA journals) to ludicrous analyst of serials pricing and the reasons for OA–and beyond that to denouncing OA and its advocates? It’s an odd story, and my version includes some really good ideas on avoiding sketchy journals (mostly from a notoriously worthwhile pseudonymous feathered library type) without buying into vigilantism.

The Middle: Forecasts and Futurism (pp. 14-22)

After skipping a year, it’s time for another set of forecasts (short-term predictions) and futurism (long-term “predictions”), including some thoughts on the whole trendspotting game.

Does that number in the title of the first essay suggest something? Why, yes, it does–probably two things, one of them almost certain to appear in the May 2014 issue, and involving another “B.”

To go or not to go…

Posted in Cites & Insights on February 24th, 2014

One of these days, I’ll start blogging again about a range of topics. To some extent, I’m still recovering from the compressed project of early February–and a followup to that project that occupied most of last week. Now, I’m polishing the next Cites & Insights…but also trying to make a decision, preferably by March 3.

Namely, to go or not to go? To ALA Annual in Las Vegas, that is.

The question is linked to “Toward 15 and 200: Your help wanted,” my attempt to establish a pool of sponsors and supporters for Cites & Insights–with perks for those who sponsor or support the direct and indirect costs of C&I, based on their sense that it’s worthwhile to them.

I believe it’s worthwhile to go to at least one library conference at least every couple of years, as part of an effort to stay involved in the library community. (The LSW FriendFeeders are obviously my primary involvement, but there’s worth in more general awareness, face-to-face conversations, seeing what vendors are up to, etc. as well.) The cost of attending is probably the major indirect cost of C&I–especially since it’s one I can certainly avoid (unlike domain registration, hosting, printer supplies and once in a while software/hardware: for example, this may be the year I give my five-year-old budget notebook its own retirement party).

Vegas would be a relatively inexpensive ALA Annual–the hotel prices are bargains, and it’s possible to get there for a reasonable price (on an unreasonable airline, but that’s a different issue). I’m a valley boy, so the heat of Vegas in June/July isn’t an issue. And it’s been a couple of years…

Anyway: I’m trying to make that decision. The level of support for C&I will help make it. If you find C&I to be moderately worthwhile, I invite you to chip in–with suggested levels of $30/year for supporters, $50/year (or more, of course) for sponsors, and perks at both levels. (The first such perk will go out this week to early donors–early notification of the next C&I.)

 

C&I sponsorship: Reminder and progress report

Posted in Cites & Insights on February 18th, 2014

On January 6, 2014, I posted “Toward 15 and 200: Your help wanted,” a request for donations to support Cites & Insights at two levels and with mild perks for support.

That request also appears in the current Cites & Insights (March 2014).

Briefly: If you regard C&I as worthwhile–both for the last 13 years and in the future–I could really use some evidence of that. Publicity (posts, etc. linking to issues that you’ve found worthwhile and think other people should read) is always helpful. Direct support–I’m asking for $30 or $50 in this case–is, of course, also helpful, to cover the direct expenses and encourage me to keep up the major expenses (which are indirect).

I’m targeting enough revenue to justify going to one professional conference a year–either ALA or something else–at least partly to stay in touch with people in the field and “the buzz.” But the perks would also provide an advisory panel, which could be mutually beneficial (I think).

The minimum target for this fundraising drive is 50 supporters & sponsors.

As of now, after roughly six weeks, the results are greater than 0% but less than 10%.

Your help would be greatly appreciated.

If, of course, you believe I’m another useless old white man who should shut up and go away, you could let me know that directly or simply ignore C&I and these requests. I’m getting some evidence that this blog itself is being ignored, at least as a source of worthwhile (linkable) comment*, and it’s certainly true that I’ve spent most energy recently on C&I and on research/writing that actually pays a little.

Right now, I’m looking at what I’ve tagged for future discussion in C&I and considering two sets of possible topics:

1. Those that are either fun or topics I feel really strongly about and feel I can add something worthwhile on.

2. Those I feel I can add something worthwhile on, but are perhaps more work than fun–and are perhaps more important for the field.

The growing temptation is to go through and strike #2 altogether. Some level of support may change that.


*For example, I thought “Favoring the ALA Statement of Appropriate Conduct” was an at least mildly useful addition to the commentary on that issue. As far as I can tell, nobody ever linked to it, certainly including one long list ‘o’ links on the issue. The other indications of this are the total lack of comments hereabouts–not atypical for blogs these days–and the fact that the most-”viewed” pages when I look at site stats are almost never either recent or anything other than random. E.g., for February so far, the top actual post is “What’s on your Firefox search dropdown?” from October 2006, and of the top five none are from 2014 and the only one from 2013 is about 2.5-buck-Chuck.


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