Getting it wrong

Posted in open access on January 2nd, 2014

An open letter to a whole bunch of people talking about OA as though they know something about it:

If you use the phrase

The gold (author pays) open-access model

you should just stop right there and maybe actually learn something about OA.

A higher percentage of subscription-based journals have article processing charges than do gold OA journals, at least the last time anybody who cared about facts checked.

But if your intention is to scare people away from gold OA and OA in general, I guess facts don’t much matter.


Cites & Insights February 2014 (14:2) available

Posted in Cites & Insights on January 1st, 2014

The February 2014 issue of Cites & Insights (volume 14, number 2) is now available for downloading at

The two-column print-oriented (and optimized for printing) PDF is 42 pages long.

If you’re planning to read it on a tablet or online, you may prefer the 80-page 6″ x 9″ single-column version (not optimized for printing) at

This issue completes the book-length discussion of ebook issues. It contains:

Perspective: E and P: What I Ignored   pp. 1-2

Possible motivations behind some comments and stances on pbooks and ebooks

Intersections: It Seems Like the Obvious Case: Ebooks as Textbooks pp. 2-15

For more than a decade I’ve assumed that textbooks represented the obvious billion-dollar (well, multi-billion-dollar) market for ebooks. It turns out not to be that easy.

Libraries: Ebooks and Libraries pp. 15-42

This discussion leaves out way too much and probably grossly oversimplifies the situation, but I do discuss some items having to do with the philosophical and general issues, problems, publishers and vendors, Kindles and libraries, and Douglas County and friends.

A year’s reading

Posted in Speaking on January 1st, 2014

Lots of people seem to keep close track of what they’ve read. I started keeping a spreadsheet, mostly to avoid checking out the same book twice. Anyway…

Books* started in 2013


Books* finished in 2013

56. I gave up on one (Any Old Iron, Anthony Burgess) and I’m in the middle of another. Oh, and I skipped an Orson Scott Card novelette in an otherwise-excellent SF collection…

Books* by category, excluding the one I’m in the middle of

Biography: 1

Fiction (general): 18

Mysteries: 8

Nonfiction: 19

Science fiction/fantasy: 11

Books I particularly enjoyed (in no particular order) – Grade A

Quiet Susan Cain
Lunatics Dave Barry/Alan Zweibel
Bed & Breakfast Lois Battle
Tricky Business Dave Barry
Break No Bones Kathy Reichs
Murder on the Lusitania Conrad Allen
Wishful Drinking Carrie Fisher
The City of Falling Angels John Berendt
The Long Earth Terry Pratchett & S. Baxter
Redshirts John Scalzi
The Last Colony John Scalzi
Night Sweats Laura Crossett

Books I enjoyed a lot but note quite as much (Grade A–

A Deepness in the Sky Vernor Vinge
Mars Crossing Geoffrey A. Landis
Bare Bones Kathy Reichs
Postcards from the Edge Carrie Fisher
Texasville Larry McMurtry
Insane City Dave Barry
Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire (4) J.K. Rowling
Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix (5) J.K. Rowling
Murder on the Leviathan Boris Akunin
Murder on the Half Shelf Lorna Barrett
Murder on the Celtic Conrad Allen
Small Town Lawrence Block
Groucho Marx, Master Detective Ron Goulart
The Happy Bottom Riding Club Lauren Kessler
How to Lie with Statistics Darrell Huff
The Case for Books Robert Darnton
Humans Robert J. Sawyer
Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets (2) J.K. Rowling
Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban (3) J.K. Rowling

It’s fair to note that the genre count above is probably wrong: the Harry Potter books are all under Fiction rather than SF/F. Yes, I’m finally reading the rest of Harry Potter–I’d read the first one before all the movies, all of which I’ve seen. No credit for guessing what book I’m in the middle of or one that I’ll check out from the children’s room of the library after I finish this one…

*The asterisk

Not included: My own books, a couple of which I had reason to reread.

Other note: This is books. I also read 24 magazines, including three science fiction magazines, and I’d guess those add up to the text equivalent of at least another 50 books–the SF magazines alone are about 18 book-equivalents.

Last year’s minimum goal was three books for each LPL borrowing cycle, which comes out to 42. So I at least achieved the minimum. This year’s minimum goal is the same.

The secret decoder ring guide to ALA dues

Posted in ALA on December 30th, 2013

I am reliably informed that there are people claiming that they have no idea how expensive ALA dues are. (That’s the American Library Association, if you weren’t aware.)

As a bit of continuing education, I am here offering the secret decoder ring guide to finding out the cost of ALA dues:

1. Choose a web search engine. I tried Bing, Google, Blekko, DuckDuckGo and StartPage.

2. Type the highly classified supersecret search string:

ala dues

You don’t need to put quotes around it, although it won’t hurt.

3. Hit Enter or click on whatever the search icon is.

If you chose DuckDuckGo or StartPage, you may have some odd ads at the top, but–at least for me, at least today–every single search engine yielded the same page as the first non-ad result.

This page, in case choosing a search engine, typing eight characters and hitting Enter is entirely too confusing.

That page has links for the types of membership (personal, organizational, divisional).

Clicking on one of the links brings up a page (or part of a page) with, gasp, the cost of dues.

Or, if clicking seems too complicated, you can scroll down that same page and see the cost of dues.

I know this is pretty advanced stuff, but I suspect you can figure it out.

There will not be a quiz.

Making Book S8: The Liblog Landscape, 2007-2010

Posted in Books and publishing, C&I Books on December 30th, 2013

I should have known better.

After the stunning sales of the previous Liblog Landscape books, I should have just let it be.

Instead, I did a comprehensive study: every English-language liblog that was discoverable on the web in mid-2010. Thirteen hundred and four of them. Plus another thirteen hundred and twentyseven “things” that I looked at, but didn’t qualify in the end, including 306 that had disappeared entirely or now required passwords to read, 118 that had been renamed (and are actually part of the 1,304), a dozen begun later than May 31, 2010, and things that either aren’t blogs at all or are blogs that appeared in liblog blogrolls but weren’t liblogs.

On the other hand, while amassing information on an absurdly broad range of liblogs, I didn’t get too crazy: I didn’t write profiles for individual blogs. I didn’t attempt to break down blogs by blogger affiliation. And, gulp, I did determine a lot of stuff about each liblog (with the percentage of blogs for which I got the information in parentheses):

  • Country in which the blogger resided when the blog was checked (for 93% of the blogs)
  • Blog software used, if one of seven possibilities (96%)
  • Google Page Rank—I don’t seem to have a way to get this any more, but could back then (81%)
  • Year and month of the first post I could locate (100%)
  • Longevity of the blog in months through May 31, 2010. (100%)
  • Currency: how current the most recent post was as of May 31, 2010 (99+%)
  • Total posts through May 31, 2010 where it was plausible to get that figure (91%)
  • Count, length, and comments for each of four three-month periods (March-May 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010)—I wasn’t stupid enough to try to capture all the posts, but did some pretty large samples. Blogs with countable posts—which, of course, also requires that the blog existed during that period—range from 52% (2007: 36% were younger) to 67% (2009). For those blogs with countable posts, ones for which length could be calculated ranged from 87% (736 blogs in 2010) to 92% (746 blogs in 2008). Blogs with posts that had countable comments ranged from 72% in 2010 to 81% in 2007.

I also divided blogs into three types—book and other reviews, technology, and everything else—and four groups based on Google Page Rank and level of posting during March-May 2010. There were 115 review blogs, 405 mostly-technology blogs and 784 others. Groups included 443 “core blogs,” 207 “less active visible blogs,” 364 “also alive” blogs and 290 “mostly defunct” blogs.

The 237-page book didn’t profile any liblogs (I was going to do that piecemeal as copies were sold, but gave up after sales were too slow to justify the effort), but had loads of tables and graphs on various aspects of measured performance and characteristics, with lists of the standout blogs in each area.

I dunno. It might have made a good thesis. Looking at the book now—my own copy is, I believe, one of eleven total copies—makes me tired just thinking about the hundreds of hours of work that went into this. The library field collectively didn’t even yawn, and maybe that was appropriate. I honestly believed that these books were worthwhile for library schools, and if I’d sold 45 copies of this one, I’d have been delighted. That didn’t happen.

Here’s what I find doing a quick revenue report from Lulu since 2008, looking only at the Liblog books and ignoring a handful of copies of one of them that might have sold via CreateSpace:

The Liblog Landscape 2007-2008: 54 copies

But Still They Blog: 24 copies

The Liblog Landscape 2007-2010: 11 copies

Chapters 2 and 3 appeared in Cites & Insights. Had there been visible sales, more chapters would have appeared there.

I have to admit: the research projects I’ve done since then have been considerably more substantial, if sometimes not as much fun.

After this series, I stopped doing self-published books for a while…or at least writing self-published books. That was a sensible move.

Crawford, Walt. The Liblog Landscape 2007-2010 (pbk.)

Making Book S7: Open Access and Libraries

Posted in Books and publishing, C&I Books on December 27th, 2013

Here’s a book I haven’t made much of anything from—and that’s OK.

I first wrote about open access—before it was called that—in May 2001. By the end of 2009, I’d concluded that I was no longer able to add value to OA-related discussions, a decision that I’ve since reversed, for better or for worse.

Since I’d written a lot about OA during that time—including a disContent column on the topic—I thought there might be some value to offering it all in one package.

Thus this book. Thirty-three essays, 513 6″ x 9″ pages. Most of the essays are reasonably brief—but not the last one (70 pages). The essays appear in chronological order because I wasn’t revising them, just reprinting them. I’d intended to index personal names and journals, but in the end I gave up on that idea: It was too much work for literally zero reward. (I tried using “index all” but had the mistake of having one or more indexed words in essay names, which were chapter headings. The result was a complete mess. My bad.)

I published the PDF as a zero-cost ebook; the paperback version is basically priced at production cost (not quite: I actually make something like $1.50 from each print copy sold. So far, I don’t think I’ve earned enough for one lunch at my favorite inexpensive Chinese restaurant). It’s still available. It is the first Cites & Insights Reader, although it doesn’t carry that name. The cover is one of the few relevant designs I’ve done, but also a very easy one to create.

As of now, some 19 copies have been acquired, most of them (but not all) the free PDF.

Since changing my mind on “no more OA for me” in December 2012, I’ve published a fair amount on the topic—and I’ve just finished retagging some 250 items tagged as “OA” into subsets (and reducing the number along the way), so it’s fair to assume there will be more to come. There’s already been enough for a less massive Volume 2, if I was inclined to do that. So far, I’m not.

Here’s a link to the $17.50 paperback; here’s one to the free PDF ebook. The contents of the book carry a CC BY-NC license; as far as I’m concerned, the PDF can be legitimately redistributed.

Note that this one doesn’t show up in my CV because the introduction is the only original material.

Crawford, Walt. Open Access and Libraries: Essays from Cites & Insights, 2001-2009. 2010.

Making Book S6: disContent, The Complete Collection

Posted in Books and publishing, C&I Books on December 23rd, 2013

To quote from the preface:

I’m not quite sure how I got started reviewing title CD-ROMs, but that start is directly relevant to the history of “disContent.” I wrote a series of columns in CD-ROM Professional under the title “CD-ROM Amateur” from 1995 and 1996; that became “CD-ROM Corner” in Database in 1996, continuing through 1999. In mid-1999, Database became EContent—but the column continued.

In 2000, it was obvious to all concerned that a column composed primarily of title CD-ROM reviews had run its course, both because it didn’t really fit EContent and because the stream of title CD-ROMs was drying up. I discussed possibilities for the future with Marydee Ojala, then editor of EContent. I’m not sure whose idea it was, but we came up with “disContent,” which replaced “CD-ROM Corner” in 2001.

“disContent” had the same relationship to the rest of EContent as “CD-ROM Amateur” did to the rest of CD-ROM Professional: An outsider’s voice in an industry publication. EContent’s design and editorial staff chose a raised fist as the logo for “disContent”—perhaps more adversarial than I like to be, but it seemed fine to me.

“disContent” was a two-page column in every issue of EContent (11 issues per year) from 2001 through 2003. It changed to a one-page column in 2004—and started appearing in every other issue (typically five times per year) in 2006. It ended at the end of 2009.

The editors at EContent never told me what to write about and did a fine job of improving the manuscripts I sent them. I think there may have been one case where an editor found a column less than satisfactory (I had a substitute handy), but in general I had leeway to write about what I wanted.

I thought quite a few of the 73 columns held up very well in 2010. I’d republished a few of the early ones and, more recently, a couple of later ones in Cites & Insights. 

As is typical for paid magazine writing (as opposed to cough scholarly journal writing cough) the magazine purchased very limited rights–first serial publication with a three-month period of exclusivity, basically. I owned the columns.

I was thinking of doing a selected anthology of the columns most relevant in 2011 and beyond. Somehow, that didn’t happen.

But I also had a brilliant idea: Why not try out the “freemium” idea some pundits have proclaimed as the future of media? Offer something special, distinctive, limited, for people who support what you’re doing, to make it easy for them to pay.

Thus the November 1, 2010 announcement of this book: a 314-page hardcover including a preface, all 73 of the columns (each with a postscript updating or commenting on the column) in chronological order, including a few that I’d just as soon forget, a very limited index, and my autograph, signed as part of the title page. About 88,000 words in total. It cost $50, of which I got about $24. Oh, and I’d only sell it until 100 copies were sold or four months had passed, whichever came first. (I got confused and changed four months to five, not that it made much difference.)

A Brilliant Success

The “freemium” idea succeeded…well…let’s say the response wasn’t overwhelming. Without revealing the actual sales, I’ll say that the total has a single digit and my net revenue had two digits (but high two digits).

In the process of basically failing, I reduced the maximum number of copies to 50, promised that there would not be a selected edition (so I guess there won’t be), and also said I wouldn’t republish more than a quarter of the columns in C&I. And, true to my word, took the book out of print on April 1, 2011.

It’s a beautiful hardcover book with a great paddlewheel picture on the wraparound cover (not the same paddlewheel picture as the 2012 Cites & Insights annual. Including my own copy, five copies were produced. I hope the four buyers enjoy theirs.

Big discount on Librarian’s Guide to Micropublishing

Posted in Books and publishing on December 20th, 2013

I forgot to post this earlier, but better late than never…especially since the sale runs through January 27:

ITI is selling some of its book titles for 40% off through January 27, 2014. Included in that list is The Librarian’s Guide to Micropublishing. At 40% off, I think it’s worth buying even for your own use, much less for your library’s use.

More details and the full list of books on sale.

Freedom of speech

Posted in Language on December 20th, 2013

Freedom of speech (in America) means that the government may not prevent you from saying or publishing something in a public space.

Freedom of speech does not mean

  • That you can say anything you want anywhere you want, even on the job or on private property.
  • That there can’t be consequences for what you say.

Freedom of speech is all about prior restraint, not about consequences.

Freedom of speech doesn’t mean you can’t be successfully sued for libel or slander.

Freedom of speech doesn’t in any way prevent your employer from taking action against you because of something you said or wrote.

Freedom of speech sure as hell doesn’t mean that a TV production company can’t penalize you, suspend you or cancel your show because of what you said.

On the other hand: Freedom of speech does mean that absurdly partisan ignorami can spout off as though, if you happen to be one of them, freedom of speech should mean freedom from consequences.

Because freedom of speech does mean the freedom to be wrong and willfully ignorant.

Chances are, you already know this. But sometimes it needs to be said.


Added 12/23/13: It should go without saying, but apparently does not, that freedom of speech does not require a publisher to publish what you have to say (or keep publishing it), or a bookstore (online or physical) to carry a publication or anything of the sort.

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.)

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