Making Book S5: But Still They Blog

Posted in Books and publishing, C&I Books on December 20th, 2013

As of November 2009, The Liblog Landscape had sold a grand total of 57 copies. Providing the first half of the book free in Cites & Insights probably didn’t help sell any more.

Ever the slow learner, I tried doing it better—looking at a slightly smaller universe of liblogs in more detail and as more of a narrative. The new book looked at blogs from 2007 through 2009 and included chapters on stopping and pausing and why people blog. In many ways, it’s a better book than the earlier one.

Unfortunately, it sold even fewer copies. By September (the book appeared in December 2009) it had sold fewer than 20 copies. As with the earlier book, it’s no longer available.

Much of the book, excluding blog profiles, appeared as the September/October 2010 Cites & Insights, a massive 60-page issue. Through 2012, it appears that the issue was downloaded more than 2,000 times—relatively low for long-term downloads of an issue, but still more than 100 times as many readers as were willing to pay for the book. (In October-November 2013, the issue’s been downloaded or viewed 64 times.)

Crawford, Walt. But Still They Blog: The Liblog Landscape 2007-2009. 2010 (pbk.)

Making Book S4. The Liblog Landscape 2007-2008

Posted in Books and publishing, C&I Books on December 18th, 2013

Remember when blogging was hot?

Remember when a blog by a library person could average more than six comments per post, not including spam?

(Remember when spam didn’t represent 95%–or, in my case, 99%–of the comments in a blog?)

There were a number of “Top XX blogs” pieces in various places in 2004-2006, and the idea of “top” blogs was so entrenched that, when I wrote “Investigating the Biblioblogosphere” in September 2005, looking at 60 liblogs with broad reach, it was referred to using phrases like “Walt Crawford’s Top 50 Blogs,” even though I tried to make it clear that the list was never intended as a “Top 60.” The piece was also very well-read: Some 25,000 downloads and views through the end of 2012.

I devoted almost all of the August 2006 Cites & Insights
to a much broader view of liblogs (I stopped using the pseudo-Germanic term because I thought the first and last parts were both misleading), “Looking at Liblogs: The Great Middle.” This time, I looked at more than 550 liblogs, then eliminated the most widely subscribed 90 and least widely subscribed 183 (based on Bloglines subscriptions), leaving 281 that I thought of as “the great middle.” Some further refinement reduced the list to 213 liblogs; I did detailed metrics and individual descriptions for each of those. It’s important to note that the list deliberately excluded what were probably the best-known liblogs.

That essay has also been very well read: in fact, the issue in which it appeared is the most heavily downloaded for the period from 11/1/13 through yesterday, with nearly 2,000 essay views and downloads during that time. It’s also had more than 25,000 total downloads and pageviews, probably significantly more (since I lack figures for January 2013 through October 2013).

Given the early and continuing readership and interest, I thought it might be worth doing a fairly comprehensive look at liblogs over a period of time. The result was too long for C&I, so it became a self-published book (both Amazon/CreateSpace and Lulu, so one edition has an ISBN), The Liblog Landscape 2007-2008: A Lateral Look. It was clear that there were more than 1,000 liblogs in 2008. I added more blogs to those in the first two studies, looking at a couple of lists, most notably including Meredith Farkas’ “Favorite blogs” survey.

My criteria for inclusion in the book were that a blog had to be:

  • In English (or at least predominantly in English)
  • Not clearly defined as an official library blog
  • Somehow related to libraries or librarianship (or by a librarian)
  • Reachable—on the web and not password-protected
  • Established before 2008: At least one post before January 2008
  • Visible: adding up Bloglines subscriptions and Technorati “authority” (remember Technorati?) to get at least 10.
  • Not defunct: At least one post after August 31, 2007 (not consistently applied).

That yielded a universe of 607 liblogs. The book includes detailed metrics (and lists of extreme cases for most metrics) and, for each blog, a very brief profile including metrics, identification and start date.

The book didn’t do terribly and didn’t do well. Worldcat.org shows 14 libraries holding the book. It’s a 284-page 6″ x 9″ paperback.

Crawford, Walt. The Liblog Landscape 2007-2008: A Lateral Look. 2008 (pbk.) CreateSpace edition: ISBN 978-1440473845.

Making Book S3. Academic Library Blogs: 231 Examples

Posted in Books and publishing, C&I Books on December 16th, 2013

The Public Library Blogs book was such a roaring success, I couldn’t help but be inspired to do a similar book covering academic library blogs.

Nah, that’s ridiculous.

On the other hand, I’ve always sensed that I have a much larger readership among academic librarians than among public librarians—which may make sense, given that I always worked for or on behalf of academic libraries, even though my heart may have always been with public libraries. So either I thought this one might do a little better or I was just deluded.

In any case, the methodology was similar to the other book and I included pretty much the same metrics—again, with most of the book consisting of individual profiles. I also made a few comparisons between academic library blogs and public library blogs. E.g.:

  • Academic library blogs had even fewer comments than public library blogs
  • Academic library blogs had more frequent posts than public library blogs, but slightly shorter posts.

The project was interesting. The 279-page 6″ x 9″ paperback reached a few libraries. (Worldcat.org shows 22 libraries holding this book as of December 15, 2013.) The first few chapters appeared in the May 2009 Cites & Insights, with a limited update that November.

Crawford, Walt. Academic Library Blogs: 231 Examples. 2008 (pbk.).

Making Book S2: Public Library Blogs, 252 Examples

Posted in Books and publishing, C&I Books on December 13th, 2013

Should your public library have a blog—or more blogs than it already has?

I can’t answer that question. I can say there’s a good chance your library could benefit from one or more blogs.

If anyone tells you that your library must have a blog, they’re wrong. Very few solutions apply to every public library, no matter how large or small.

On the other hand, hundreds of public libraries (serving as few as 400 people and as many as 2.3 million) already use blogs to good effect. I believe thousands of public libraries could serve their communities well by initiating blogs or adding new blogs.

Those are the first four paragraphs of Chapter 1 of Public Library Blogs: 252 Examples. Looking at it now, you could substitute “Facebook page” or “Twitter account” or “Pinterest” or… for “blog” and I’d probably sign my name to the statement.

I find it difficult to look back at this book, six years later, and figure out just why I did it—except that I thought some libraries might find it helpful to have “similar” examples and see how blogs had been doing, at least from an external view.

I did not set about finding all the public library blogs; if I was crazy enough to do this one again, I’d probably start with library websites and look for blogs directly. What I did was probably more sensible (but far less inclusive): I took two major lists (one from LISWiki, one from Blogging Libraries), yielding more than 530 links, including—naturally—quite a few duplicates between the two lists. The book explains how I whittled that list down to 209 blogs—then added other blogs from the 196 libraries represented to arrive at the final 252 blogs. (The basic criteria: The blog had to be English-language, beginning no later than December 2006, with at least one post in two of the three months March, April and May 2007, with enough internal evidence to demonstrate meeting those criteria. That last criterion was probably too narrow at the time and would certainly be too narrow in a reexamination.)

The book discusses various metrics—expressed as text descriptions or lists of standout blogs, not tables—and, for some three-quarters of its length, describes each blog and offers sample posts.

This was one book that I published both via Lulu and via CreateSpace, making it available on Amazon (and adding an ISBN). This naturally resulted in huge sales via Amazon may or may not have aided the pitiful sales—and those sales probably shouldn’t have been a surprise. As of December 12, 2013, Worldcat.org shows 22 libraries holding one or the other version.

The first quarter of the book appeared in the May 2009 Cites & Insights. A limited update appeared in the September 2009 issue. The Lulu cover is one of my favorites: A photo of the library at Ephesus (which my wife & I visited on a cruise).

Crawford, Walt. Public Library Blogs: 252 Examples. 2007 (pbk). CreateSpace edition: ISBN 9781434805591

Making Book S1. Balanced Libraries

Posted in Books and publishing on December 11th, 2013

What the heck: Let’s look at some or all of the self-published books I’ve done, always using Lulu (and in some cases also using CreateSpace or Kindle Direct, both part of Amazon).

This book grew, indirectly, out of discussions surrounding and emanating from “Library 2.0″—the ideas, the movement (or set of initiatives) and the term itself.

I’m guessing that nearly all of you have read the first big essay coming out of my concerns about “Library 2.0″—through the end of 2012, it might have been downloaded or read more than 50,000 times. The big essay appeared as the Midwinter 2006 issue of Cites & Insights (I’m not linking to it because I’ve replaced the PDF and HTML with stubs suggesting that you buy Library 2.0: A Cites & Insights Reader
and providing the new URL for the issue; I find it interesting that of the thousands of downloads/opens of the stubs since I made that change in 2011, no more than a couple of hundred people have downloaded or opened the new URLs—and fewer than 20 have purchased the modestly-priced book). Later that year, I shifted my own focus from “Library 2.0″ to balance. That shift eventually resulted in this book.

In some ways, this book is a sequel to Being Analog—but it wasn’t written as such. I viewed the book as an experiment in at least two ways:

  • Seeing whether self-published print-on-demand made sense in cases where I didn’t think the topic would ever reach close to 1,200 buyers (the level at which I believed professional library publishers would be interested)…that is, whether it would sell enough copies to make doing it worthwhile. (My initial target was 300 copies in two years as “success.”)
  • Responding to the claim that book publishing is too slow and cumbersome for books to be an effective part of the ongoing conversations about library change and social software. As I said at the time, “I’m not convinced that’s true.”

I tried to make the book conversational: I set up one post for each chapter, specifically to gather comments and feedback. That effort was pretty much a failure.

I was, of course, also experimenting with Lulu itself. Before trying this, I purchased a Lulu paperback (Atlanta Nights, a novel by “Travis Tea” that was put together by a bunch of science fiction authors as a test of PublishAmerica’s standards—while deliberately written to be unpublishable, I find it entertaining, and it certainly proved its point about vanity presses disguised as traditional publishers) to check out the production quality of Lulu books. It was excellent.

I either developed or refined a book template for Word, prepared the PDF, and chose one of my wife’s travel photos as the basis for a wraparound cover. I’ve been using her photos for many book covers ever since, most strikingly in the huge wraparound prints on Cites & Insights annual editions. I should have spent more time sharpening and cleaning up this particular photo, but it still works well.

The 247-page 6″ x 9″ paperback (also available as a PDF ebook) appeared in 2007. Later, I added a CreateSpace edition available on Amazon. It did not reach the 300-copy sales goal by the end of 2010. It did reach the 300-copy mark in late 2012. I’ve contemplated doing a second edition, but I haven’t contemplated it very much. It’s possibly worth noting that sales of that first book make up 45% of all sales of all of the self-published books I’ve done on Lulu, CreateSpace and Kindle Direct.

As with most C&I books (except those with ISBNs, where the publisher of legal record is either Lulu or CreateSpace), the nominal publisher is Cites & Insights Books, which does not exist. I haven’t included that in the bibliographic citations.

Crawford, Walt. Balanced Libraries: Thoughts on Continuity and Change. 2007 (pbk).

Commenting: The new default is off

Posted in Writing and blogging on December 9th, 2013

As with many other blogs, this one has seen a lot fewer real comments in recent months and years than in the past.

As with–I’d guess–many other blogs, this one sees far too many spamments.

In the good old days (waves cane in the air), I would check the spam logs and restore comments that were mistakenly trapped as spam (which happens once in a while, usually because a person includes more than one link in comment).

But once I started getting more than 60 spam attempts a day, I just wasn’t willing to take the time to check each one.

More recently, I’ve sometimes remembered to go back and turn off commenting for those posts for which it’s clearly irrelevant (which seem to attract the most spam elements). That seemed to be helping: I was down to 20-60 spam attempts per day.

Then, last week, things went straight to hell and have stayed there: I’m getting some 200 spam attempts a day (most of them in non-Latin scripts).

Meanwhile, while there are a few actual comments, there are very few.

Giving up

So I’m giving up. WordPress’ interface doesn’t allow me to choose whether or not to allow comments as I’m preparing a post. I have to post it, then go into the dashboard, call up Posts, and do a quick edit from that list. I tend to forget to do that on the “no comments required” posts.

So I’m switching the default. From now on, new posts will not allow comments by default. If I remember and it’s appropriate, I’ll go in and turn on commenting (for 60 days) after publishing the post.

Sorry if this further discourages real comments, but there are so few of those compared to the flood of presumably autogenerated spamments (I particularly love the ones where the spammer doesn’t bother to run the generating software, so you get random-generation clauses rather than text)…

If you actually have a serious response and I’ve forgotten to turn on comments, you can always send me email. If it’s my goof, I’ll turn on comments and post your email as a comment (unless you tell me not to).

Open access, advocacy, extremism and attention: A casual note

Posted in open access on December 9th, 2013

For a long time I viewed myself as an open access (henceforth OA, because that’s what I’m talking about) independent/observer: Not really involved in the “movement” but noting developments, commenting from time to time and–once in a while–indulging in a little “curse on both your houses” when it seemed necessary.

More recently, I found that I was gradually moving from independent to advocate–but I’m beginning to think that’s wrong, for a couple of reasons:

  • While I did write what’s still a key book on OA (Open Access: What You Need to Know Now), and while that book could be considered OA advocacy–it’s certainly not entirely neutral–I’m not in the trenches day-in and day-out responding to critics and espousing all forms of OA. I’m no Peter Suber or Michael Eisen. I’m also no (insert list of effective OA advocates here).
  • For whatever reasons–possibly lack of institutional affiliation, possibly lack of single-minded 100% support of any and all OA models and approaches, possibly not being either a scientist or an academic, possibly, I dunno, being a crappy writer–I find that I’m not really a significant part of the conversation. With relatively few exceptions (Peter Suber being a primary one), my contributions to the discussion are largely ignored, especially outside the library field. And even within the library field, I’d bet that J. Beall gets 10 times the attention and credibility that I do–and 10 times may be too conservative.

Maybe I’m overstating the second one. Maybe it doesn’t matter.

For various reasons, I don’t have readership numbers for Cites & Insights for most of 2013. My sense is that the three OA issues that year were not widely read, and they certainly haven’t been widely-referenced, at least from what I can see using Google searches.

It probably doesn’t help that one of the Great Men of OA labeled me an enemy of OA years ago, and as far as I know has never retracted that absurd charge. Yes, I’ve criticized that particular Great Man for what I consider an extremist view of OA and his frequent attempts to undermine forms of OA that differ from his own. I don’t apologize for that. (I’ve also criticized one of the would-be Great Women of OA for a form of extremism, for that matter, mostly having to do with appropriate CC licenses. I don’t apologize for that either.)

I had another jotted note toward a future post about escalating definitions of openness, another form of OA extremism that I find troubling (in that it makes it easier to oppose OA or ignore it entirely). I might yet write that…or maybe not.

So maybe I’m not really becoming an OA advocate. Of course I believe it’s important (and it’s fair to note that I was writing about it–and engaged in it–long before the term existed). Of course I’ll note it where it matters (e.g., in talking about possible solutions for the damage done by the big deal). And no, I’m not saying “screw it: I’m walking away from OA” again. That’s silly; while I may not have much of an audience or much credibility, I still have a little–and there continue to be some interesting aspects of OA to write about.

Still… My Soros funding still hasn’t come through (nor have I ever requested it); I don’t have a “cushy job” or any job at all to fall back on; I’m not sure I’m willing to plow through all the BS from extremists both opposed to OA and those favoring The One True Way; and, well, this is one area where:

  • There are some eloquent voices who do have some credibility
  • I sometimes feel as though writing in this area is mostly a waste of time.
  • It’s clear that I have no basis for direct OA advocacy.

So, back to being an observer–not really an independent, but not really an advocate. To attempt otherwise appears to be beating my head against a wall of gelatin: Not bloody-making but basically pointless.

 

 

 

 

Making Book 18. Successful Social Networking in Libraries

Posted in Books and publishing on December 9th, 2013

This book has been a voyage of discovery—one that began with a loose agenda and ended with a greater appreciation for the sheer diversity of America’s public libraries and the extent to which small libraries are the centers of their communities.

The loose agenda was not a set of theses and prescriptions for what constitutes successful social networking and whether public libraries were doing it right. Instead, I set out to see what was happening: how prevalent library social networking actually is and whether it seems to be reaching an audience.

Thus begins the preface for this, the most recent of my professionally-published library books (as of now: #19 should, Gaia willing, the creeks don’t rise and a certain government agency gets the data out, appear sometime in 2014).

I proposed the project to ALA Editions in early 2011, with the assumption that librarians are intelligent and generally sensible people who know what they’re doing. Since social network activity would not be a long-established service that might be difficult to shut down, they wouldn’t be maintaining Facebook pages or tweeting unless those efforts were reasonably successful as that library defines success.

I also disbelieved assertions I’d seen, as early as late 2010, that all or almost all public libraries already had Facebook pages. That struck me as implausible—but also easy to investigate. If I checked 200 libraries and 180 or more of them were visible on Facebook, then I was wrong or the sample was biased.

I started out with a two-state project (which immediately convinced me that I was not wrong in doubting the universality of library Facebook involvement); it grew by stages until it eventually involved 38 states and nearly 6,000 libraries. (At the time, my choice of states was partly limited by the lack of an Excel version of IMLS’ public library datasets; I found out after the survey was complete that Excel could, in fact, open the Access version. Since then, IMLS has begun releasing the datasets in Excel and CSV forms, making it even easier. Still: 6,000 libraries was a lot of work; going from 38 states and 6,000 libraries to 51 states & DC and more than 9,000 libraries would be more work than I signed on for.)

I investigated social networking activity the hard way: I looked. And in 2011, you could find out quite a bit about Facebook pages and Twitter accounts, including information that’s no longer as readily available. I was able to document the number of followers or likes, the total number of tweets and, by examination, the typical rate of tweeting, Facebook updating, and comments for a given library.

I also got some great comments from a number of public librarians regarding aspects of social networking, and used some of those comments in the book.

The investigation was a lot of work—possibly more than I’ve done for any other book. I think it was worth it.

The book itself is a combination of commentary, tabular results, graphs, quoted tweets, updates and comments, and advice. For various reasons, there was some delay in the book’s final appearance, but it’s out now, and I believe it’s still relevant. I also continue to believe that each library needs to determine what constitutes success—that for an outsider to declare a library’s social networking activity to be useless is simply inappropriate. But that’s another discussion.

Crawford, Walt. Successful Social Networking in Public Libraries. Chicago: ALA Editions, 2014. ISBN 978-0-8389-1167-9 (pbk.)

So: That’s it. Unless I offer similar comments about the self-published books I’ve done…

Making Book 17. The Librarian’s Guide to Micropublishing

Posted in Books and publishing on December 6th, 2013

This book is especially close to my heart, and it’s also one that’s given me some difficulty.

The difficulty isn’t with the publisher: Information Today, Inc. has been great throughout the process, beginning with accepting the idea and including the process of working with ITI’s designer to come up with a mutually-agreeable professional-quality Word book template that we could use without modification for the book itself and also make available to anybody else to download for free.

The difficulty isn’t with the quality of the book. I believe it’s first-rate (and was improved by ITI’s three layers of editing—one of the rare cases where I’m acutely aware of editorial changes, because the way we did this, I had to approve each one: the proposed changes were sticky notes in the PDF of the book).

The difficulty isn’t with the need for the book. I am 99% certain that 99% of America’s public libraries serve patrons who want to put some story into book form, even though they know it can’t sell hundreds of copies—whether that story is family genealogy (which alone would probably account for millions of such stories), family history, local history or a specialized interest. Lulu (and CreateSpace) make it possible to do that with no upfront costs; this book provides the tools to do it well with no upfront costs. (I’ve heard people swear that certain books done using these tools and templates were done by professionals. In the particular cases, yes, they were done by a professional, but a retired professional librarian, not a publishing professional.)

Nope. The difficulty is that the book hasn’t done nearly as well as it should.

Just as I believe every academic library (other than the most specialized) should own a copy of Open Access: What You Need to Know Now (WorldCat currently lsits 914 libraries owning it, so that’s a start), I believe every public library (and many academic libraries) should own a copy of this book to serve their patrons and community…but, so far, WorldCat only shows 433 copies.

ITI did a fine job of promoting the book, as far as I can tell.

Why have so few libraries picked it up? Well, it’s not dirt-cheap, but I wonder whether there’s also a fair amount of “we don’t want any part of this self-publishing crapola” going on? After all, if a library provides the tools to produce attractive, well-laid-out print-on-demand books, won’t there be some requests for them to have some of those books?

Maybe that’s not it. Maybe the penetration will grow over time. I hope so—not so much for the royalties as because I think this is a tool that really and truly will make a library more central to its community, and help to see the community’s stories told in durable form. Both of which I think are very good things.

In case you didn’t already know: although this book has a professionally-designed cover and the paperback version was offset-printed and bound by ITI, the contents (except for the title pages, provided as a PDF by ITI) were entirely generated using the tools and templates described in the book: Microsoft Word 2010, output to PDF. In fact, the casewrap hardcover version is fulfilled by Lulu, using the production methods described in the book.

Crawford, Walt. The Librarian’s Guide to Micropublishing: Helping Patrons and Communities Use Free and Low-Cost Publishing Tools to Tell Their Stories. Medford, NJ: Information Today, Inc., 2012. ISBN 978-1-57387-430-4 (pbk.), 978-1-57387-451-9 (casewrap)

30% off Cites & Insights Books–through 12/9

Posted in Books and publishing on December 6th, 2013

NOTE: It now appears that the #decktheshelf 30% off sale runs through Tuesday, December 9.

——————————————

Lulu’s announced a site-wide 30%-off sale–apparently through Tuesday, December 9, 2013

Use coupon code

#decktheshelf

A thirty-percent discount is extraordinary–it’s the biggest discount I’ve seen.

If you’ve thought about any of my books–the C&I annuals, The Big Deal, etc.–or, for that matter, have yet to get Laura Crossett’s Night Sweats (from Lulu)–this is the day to act.

My store’s here, or you can just go to lulu.com and search for what you want. (You can reach any other books beginning at my store, of course.)

Come to think of it: If you or your library doesn’t yet own The Librarian’s Guide to Micropublishing, or wants it as a casewrap hardcover, today is your day: the 30% sale applies to that as well (via Lulu–the only way you can get the hardcover version).

[Note: If you're concerned about Laura's share, or mine, or ITI's on TLGTM: don't be. These sales don't affect net revenue. I love love love it when Lulu does sales like this.]


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