Blogs shouldn’t be discussed in print books?

I was talking about my self-publishing experiences with a few people at Midwinter, and particularly the surprisingly poor sales for Public Library Blogs: 252 Examples, which I believe to be an extremely useful resource for any library considering a new blog (or extending existing ones). I think it’s up to 55 copies now, but that’s still pretty pathetic.

One or two people suggested that hip blog-creating types wouldn’t be caught dead buying a dead tree book about blogs–that they’d consider it anachronistic and, well, just wrong. And that this might even be true for Balanced Libraries (which is still short of the 200-copy mark): That potential readers don’t want old-fashioned print books.

I find this a little hard to fathom, to be entirely honest. Public Library Blogs and the new Academic Library Blogs: 231 Examples are done as books because I believe they’re most useful that way–that being able to browse through the book rather than trying to get a sense of 200+ blogs is worth the price, quite apart from whatever added value I’ve provided with metrics and well-chosen sample posts. (The sample posts actually make the books worth reading cover-to-cover, in my not-at-all-humble opinion; that surprised me.)

But, hey, maybe there are hundreds (dozens?) of potential buyers out there who think my material is worthwhile but are fundamentally opposed to print books, particularly on digital matters. Improbable, but possible.


You want ebooks? You got ebooks.

As of now, you can acquire Balanced Libraries: Thoughts on Continuity and Change, Public Library Blogs: 252 Examples, and Academic Library Blogs: 231 Examples as downloadable PDFs. Only from

They’re even cheaper: $20 each, and no shipping/handling charges (as far as I know).

If you think they should be free–well, show me the grant or institutional funding that keeps me working on this stuff, and we can talk about it. The work’s done on my own time and with my own resources. If you feel I should be doing it for the greater glory or whatever, sorry, but that’s just nonsense.

I’m acting in good faith here. As far as I know, Lulu doesn’t add any sort of DRM to the PDF. If some “content should be free, creators should be independently wealthy” jackass buys one copy and posts it for everybody else to copy…well, lawsuits are expensive, so I’d probably just remove the download options and chalk one up to my overly optimistic view of human decency. I don’t believe that will happen–and, more to the point, I don’t believe that any would-be readers would be so sleazy as to take an illegal download over the real thing just to save $20.

I suspect you won’t get the great cover photos–which is a shame. I know that URLs within the PDF won’t be live and may not cut-and-paste properly: Since I was designing print publications, I felt perfectly free to add a space to a long URL so it would split between lines better. Oh, and there probably aren’t any bookmarks (chapters, etc.) in the PDF; again, I was designing for print, and bookmarks (etc.) make for a slower-to-generate and larger PDF.

You should probably go directly to Cites & Insights Books (my storefront) rather than the individual book links above. I know that the links for buying downloads are there on the storefront; I imagine they’ll eventually show up on the book pages, but don’t know when.

Full volumes of Cites & Insights will not be available from Lulu as PDF downloads. After all, other than the extras in each volume, you can already download all the issues for free. And PDFs aren’t available through CreateSpace; this is strictly a Lulu offer.

A clarification: My comments about surprisingly low sales have to do with Public Library Blogs. Academic Library Blogs only became fully available yesterday (that is, January 17, 2008); no comments about sales or lack thereof make any sense for at least three months.

Otherwise..well, my comments in the comment stream may form part of an eventual post or article. They may not. And, you know, I’ve called C&I Books an experiment–and they call them “experiments” because they can fail…

18 Responses to “Blogs shouldn’t be discussed in print books?”

  1. John Dupuis says:

    Ok, this may be a weird request…but have you considered a discounted price to buy both print and electronic? I buy a lot of books for my library in both formats because I think that they serve different kinds of reading. I would certainly consider buying both for the Academic Blogs book but I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t at $50.

  2. Brenda Chawner says:

    Walt, I agree that a hard-copy book is a good format for the type of content you have in these two title – everything I read and see says that most people still prefer to read length material in print.

    I’d find your books more attractive if you set up a ‘companion’ website listing all of the URLs for the blogs you include – just the URLs, not any of the other content. I’ve reviewed or read quite a few books about Web-based resources and/or tools that do this, and it makes it much easier to go to a particular site mentioned in the book. Since most URLs are long and it’s easy to make an error in typing them, I just get frustrated when if I have to type large numbers of URLs for sites mentioned in a book.

    I realise that this would be even more work for you, but it would make it easier for purchasers of the books to check the current state of the blogs you review. I’d certainly be more interested in recommending them for our library if you did this.

    My other suggestion, which may not appeal to you, would be to send out a few (free) review copies – the electronic version would be fine for this. I’m much more likely to buy something if it’s recommended by someone whose opinion I respect.

  3. walt says:

    I’d love to–but Lulu doesn’t have any provision for bundles. Otherwise, I’d bundle C&I 6 and Balanced Libraries as a $50 bundle and the two blogging books as a $50 bundle also…

    Such a list is already in place for the Public Library Blogs book, as referenced in the book (check the copyright page). I forgot to upload it for the Academic Library Blogs book, but will do so today. It’s actually a spreadsheet, but includes all the URLs. (The list will be at by tomorrow at the latest.) Thanks for reminding me–I just forgot this step. The list is now available, at
    As for review copies…well, Balanced Libraries has had four excellent reviews. I’m thinking about (print) review copies, but haven’t come up with anything…

  4. Brenda Chawner says:

    Thanks for letting me know about this, Walt. Nothing I’ve seen about the books has mentioned the online lists of URLs- so you might like to add to your descriptions of the books so that people know they’re available.

  5. walt says:

    Brenda: Hmm. Thought I’d mentioned that for Public Library Blogs, but maybe not. I’ll do that in the C&I writeup on this and other books. In any case, it’s at

    Thinking about reviews…well, I wonder. Maybe I’ll write a post about that issue.

  6. bowerbird says:

    wow! so much interesting fodder in this single post!
    i guess once you start talking about the cold hard cash,
    the theoretical arguments become a lot more _real_…

    but hey, i ain’t gonna touch _any_ of those issues! :+)

    so just one comment…

    if you would agree that “252 examples” is hard-copy of a
    database, then yes, for me personally, i find those useful,
    but some people might get the impression that it will go
    out of date, and perhaps sooner rather than later, since
    that’s the nature of cyberspace today. but one advantage
    of electronic-publishing is the ease of making updates,
    so perhaps if you actually turned it into a real database,
    and kept it updated, so people who buy the hard-copy
    can tune in to the e-database as it evolves, that would be
    a way to address this perceived “deficiency”. indeed,
    since you’ve become knowledgeable about wikis lately,
    you could make it a wiki and have your readers update it.


  7. walt says:

    “if you would agree that “252 examples” is hard-copy of a

    No, I don’t agree at all that the book is a hardcopy of a database. If someone asked for a free copy of the full spreadsheet (the one I’ve just posted is just the first three columns), I’d probably send it–and that’s the only “database” aspect of the book.

    Yes, most of the book is a compendium of examples. That doesn’t make it a database.

  8. I can’t help but think a simpler explanation for the sales is that you don’t have a publisher behind you doing all the promotion, getting it stocked in bookshops etc. alongside the implict assumption that I believe potential buyers are likely to make that if an established publisher is involved the book is ‘better’ than if it is self-published (which still feels very much linked to ‘vanity publishing’ for many).

  9. walt says:

    Owen: To some extent, that’s part of this experiment. “Stocked in bookshops” really isn’t an issue for most library books, at least not in the U.S.–they’re not going to be stocked in bookshops in any case.

    Thing is, I have a “brand.” I’ve had a dozen books published by recognized library publishers, three by America’s foremost library publisher (ALA Editions). At least one and up to three of my books changed the library field significantly (ask anyone who dealt with smaller library automation vendors and asked questions about MARC compatibility before MARC for Library Use came out!). My ejournal has anywhere from 1,400 to 30,000+ readers (although 2,000 to 4,000 is more typical). After 20+ years of writing and publishing, I should have a fairly solid reputation. And, indeed, the four reviews of Balanced Libraries seem to indicate that I’m not dropping the ball on these books.

    The blogging books wouldn’t work as traditional publications, I don’t believe; the publishing delay would be too long and the overhead of standard publishing would require either a higher price or more sales than seem likely. In other words: I wouldn’t even attempt to convince ALA Editions or Information Today, Inc. to publish either of them, certainly not for $29.50. (Balanced Libraries might be a different story, and I’m certainly open to an offer to pick it up commercially, but there the inherent publishing delay was also a factor–and, while it’s not a massive success, it’s also not a failure.)

    If nearly all potential buyers conclude that a publisher’s name on the spine is more important than my track record and name, to the extent, that they won’t touch one of these books, then that’s useful information–and the experiment (overall) will be a failure. Live and learn.

    I’ve never been accused of “vanity publishing” for doing Cites & Insights. If anything, the two blogging studies are the least “vain” projects I’ve done in a while, as there’s very little opinion in them. And maybe that’s an issue as well…

    This is too long for a comment; it’s approaching the post or article I may eventually do about all of this.

  10. bowerbird says:

    walt said:
    > No, I don’t agree at all that
    > the book is a hardcopy of a database.

    ok, but we don’t seem to be communicating too well.
    perhaps i’m wrong, but it seems to me that the data
    (or “information”, if you prefer) in the book is rather
    _volatile_, and thus will soon become _dated_, and
    that _might_be_ one reason why its sales are slow…

    just a suggestion, not an argument i wish to “defend”,
    so if it doesn’t ring true to you, please just ignore it…



    p.s. and i’m not even sure you can confidently say that
    sales _are_ “slow” at this early point in time — i’d guess
    self-published works take some time to pick up steam —
    but i was sharing what seems to me to be a reservation.

  11. Laura says:

    I think I would actually like the blog books (or at least the one I’ve seen) better if they contained more editorializing, and I think they’d sell better if it were somehow easier to market them to librarians who don’t know much about blogs.

    I got the book primarily to give some of the other people working on our website an idea of what kinds of things library blogs are about. If you already read blogs, you probably either know or can find out easily enough. If you don’t read blogs, however, there’s a good chance you won’t have heard of the book.

    While I think the posts you provide are good and worthwhile, I think the book would be easier to sell if it were more “here’s what Walt Crawford has to say about starting a library blog, with some examples of what to do” rather than “Here’s WC presenting a bunch of examples with no comment.”

  12. walt says:

    Laura–That’s really interesting. I deliberately avoided the how-to and why because I didn’t want to compete with the cluster of books emerging from others in the field–I wanted to provide a supplementary resource.

    Maybe that’s a mistake.

    I certainly knew that providing a specialized resource meant I was looking at sales in, at best, the high hundreds rather than low thousands: My “success mark” for either blogging book is lower than for Balanced Libraries.

    (As for editorial comments on the blogs themselves…well, I still feel a little singed from two years ago and am a bit reluctant to check that particular stove’s surface just yet.)

    The awareness issue is absolutely legit, although I’ve been fortunate enough to have American Libraries Direct pick up both book announcements–but that’s admittedly somewhat ephemeral (although excellent, in my opinion). Cites & Insights reaches a fair number of people who don’t read my blog (I believe), but not people who don’t do econtent…

    And, since I’m not on the speaking circuit, I haven’t been promoting the books in person.

    I may yet send out a couple of (print) review copies to one or two (print) media. I probably would have already had it not been for my experience with First Have Something to Say, where I know review copies went out from ALA Editions and never saw any reviews (but it’s sold acceptably well).

    One thing that should be clear, and maybe needs a separate post: I’d welcome critical reviews (even highly negative ones, as long as the reviewer shows signs of reading the book)–not just positive reviews. One reason I’m so pleased with the four reviews of Balanced Libraries is that none of them is 100% positive; they all show thought and critical insight, not just praise.

  13. Laura says:

    Marketing books is hard work, and it’s usually not the sort of work that people who write books are good at–although it’s been increasingly thrust upon them as publishing houses cut corners (and self-published books, of course, don’t get any real marketing support at all).

    I’ve been meaning to write up some things about the public libraries book–perhaps noting that here will actually get me to do so.

  14. kate says:

    I stumbled across your blog through Twitter and was instantly intrigued because you discuss public library blogs. Just recently, I noticed that my local public library had several blogs listed on their website. I began to check with other Canadian public libraries and discovered that maintaining in-house blogs was not a common phenomenon. I inquired about my public library’s blogs and received an unhelpful response.

    So I am still perplexed as to the rationale for public libraries devoting time to blogging. Is it a way to promote certain books & other material over others?

    I just checked my library’s online catalogue and noticed that they have your book on order. Perhaps you will answer the many questions I have on this topic.

  15. kate says:

    oops… I meant to add that I’ve put the book on reserve.

  16. walt says:

    Kate: It’s fair to say that public library blogs aren’t all that common; the book attempts to be fairly comprehensive for blogs started before January 2007 and continuing through May 2007 and comes up with some 250 English-language blogs worldwide–but lots of libraries may not have listed their blogs in the two major directories.

    There are quite a few reasons for a library to maintain one or more blogs, and in some cases the blogs may actually save time–e.g., it’s an easy, low-overhead way for some libraries to post events and other news.

    I don’t know that I’ll answer your questions, but the book certainly offers a range of examples of how libraries are using blogs. As for libraries “promoting certain books and other material over others,” I’d be astonished to see that happening. Yes, library blogs may feature certain items–but that’s not typically “over others” so much as trying to entice readers. I have yet to hear of a public library that explicitly wanted certain items to circulate more than others.

  17. woo-hoo! one of fify-five copies in the world! i have one of these (plb-252) on my desk right now. (looking at it now) …but dude, it doesn’t even have a bar code or and isbn (???). Isee an isbn listed on Amazon, but not printed on the cover of the book. and no bar code to scan? how can a retailer sell this? do you add stick-on barcodes? I won’t critique the content because I haven’t given it a fair looksy, but I really thought it was essential to have this other info on the cover and spine. maybe these omissions are hurting sales? I promise I’ll give a better look-over soon and post any comments I might have… cheers.

  18. walt says:

    Dude? Whatever. If the copy came from Lulu, it doesn’t have an ISBN, so there’s none printed on it–and that’s never been a secret. If it came from Amazon/CreateSpace, it does have an ISBN and bar code on the back cover, in a typical location and position.

    “How can a retailer sell this?” If I thought there was any plausible chance that bookstores would be stocking these books, I’d pay for the Lulu ISBN and distribution package–but, as far as I know, none of my books has ever been stocked in any physical bookstore (except the ALA Store). Library books just don’t make it to your local Barnes & Noble…and particularly not specialized library books.

    I don’t “add stick-on barcodes” because I don’t buy copies for resale. If I thought buying copies for resale was plausible, I wouldn’t be using Lulu (well, maybe I would, since they now have high-quantity pricing as well). All of this has been discussed at considerable length here and in Cites & Insights. My decisions may be wrong, but they’re fairly carefully thought out.

    As for the spine–I’m not aware of any books that have the ISBN or a bar code on the spine. At least none of the books I buy have stuff like that on the spine.