Liblog Landscape 2007-2010 and C&I: An update

This is the last day of Lulu’s 25%-off discount, one that applies to The Liblog Landscape 2007-2010, disContent: The Complete Collection and my other C&I books. It looks as though three people have taken advantage of the discount–not one of them for the limited-edition hardcover.

I originally planned to publish chapters 2-11 of The Liblog Landscape 2007-2010 in Cites & Insights, one chapter per issue, with Chapter 2 appearing in December 2010, Chapter 3 in January 2011 and so on through, possibly, September or October 2011. I hoped that I’d see enough parallel book sales to justify doing that and, with luck, to justify doing a five-year study of liblogs. Because these chapters contain graphs and other stuff, the “HTML separates” appear as PDFs with sets of book pages rather than in the usual HTML form.

But maybe not…

Fact is, as you can readily discover by clicking on “Liblog Profiles” as a category (since I pledged to do one post with four liblog profiles for each copy sold), only four copies of the book have been purchased–two downloads and two paperback.

That’s not as bad as disContent: The Complete Collection, which, halfway through the four-month offering, has sold exactly three (count them: 3) copies. I’ve accidentally extended that four-month offering to five months (through the end of March), but that’s as far as it goes. Sad to say, I’m confirming my suspicion about “freemium” offerings and my so-called audience–and it appears to be even worse than I thought.

I appreciate one colleague’s honesty: he doesn’t intend to pay for library literature, no matter who writes it. I’m getting the idea that this is a general opinion, just not usually stated so bluntly.

As to the liblog books, I had honestly hoped and expected that some or all of the library school libraries/collections would acquire these. But, you know, they’re not either from A Major Library Publisher or overpriced special studies from importantly-named research groups, so…

I don’t think it’s that nobody wants to read this stuff. I think it’s that nobody wants to pay for it.

Here’s the track record:

  • Public Library Blogs: Sold 80 copies, of which 28 are in libraries (according to Worldcat), including no more than three institutions with library schools. Meanwhile, the text portion of this has been downloaded more than 2,500 times in C&I (1,254 as an HTML separate plus 1,321 in the issue, through 12/31/10).
  • Academic Library Blogs: Sold 43 copies, of which 21 appear to be in libraries–including no more than nine institutions with library schools, and probably significantly fewer than that. (I’m including two Australian possibilities here.) More than 2,500 downloads of the text in C&I (1,225 as an HTML separate; the same 1,321 in the issue.)
  • The Liblog Landscape 2007-2008: Sold 66 copies, of which 13 appear to be in libraries–no more than nine of them library schools. So far, 1,600+ downloads in C&I (as a full issue), but it’s early yet.
  • But Still They Blog: Sold 19 copies, of which three (so far) are in libraries, at most one with a library school. So far, 1,053 C&I downloads–but it’s very early, since that issue came out in September 2010 and these stats only go through 12/31/10.
  • Chapter 2 of The Liblog Landscape 2007-2010: So far–and it was only out for seven weeks through the end of the year–127 separate downloads and 425  copies of the issue, for a total of 552. Four books sold.
  • Chapter 3 of The Liblog Landscape 2007-2010: This one was out for less than two weeks through the end of the year, so these are almost meaningless numbers: 48 separate downloads, 371 copies of the issue, for a total of 419 copies. Again, four books sold.
  • Going back: My 2006 study of the “great middle” of liblogs has been downloaded some 22,000 times, 13,000 of them as a separate–and the 2005 study has been downloaded more than 23,000 times, 14,000 as a separate.

So there’s a readership, as long as it’s free. Which, with any sort of institutional or corporate sponsorship, would be just fine with me.

A year ago, I wouldn’t have called 66 copies anything close to acceptable–but if I accept that the liblog studies are mostly a hobby, that’s at least enough to pay for software upgrades and the costs of getting the thing into print, even if it’s not much more than $1/hour for time spent.

Nineteen copies? Not so much. Four copies (so far)? I haven’t yet covered the direct cost of buying a proof copy.

Current plans

I’d planned to include Chapter 4–which starts to get into the meaty, interesting facts and figures–in the February issue of C&I. (No, you haven’t missed it: It won’t be out for at least two weeks, maybe three, maybe more.)

And I’d still love to do that…if there’s some evidence of at least modest sales for the book or download. Let’s call “at least modest sales” five copies per chapter, which would yield at least 55 copies of the book as a whole (Chapter 1 is never going to appear in C&I. But if more than 200 copies of the book are sold, I’ll change the PDF price to $0, which would make it freely available.)

So once fifteen copies have been sold, I’ll put Chapter 4 in the next issue of C&I. Twenty copies: Chapter 5. And so on.

This, of course, assumes that C&I itself continues for the long run…

If Chapter 3 never appears? Then I’ll almost certainly come to my senses regarding the five-year study. (I had a neat new idea about a slight extension of that study, one that could only appear online or as PDFs, since it would require multicolor output, but that neat new idea certainly won’t happen if the study doesn’t happen.) If neither library schools nor librarians are willing to provide any support for this stuff, then it’s clear that I really shouldn’t be doing it. Time spent helping out with the Friends store at my local library might be more productive for all concerned…

Sponsorship may, to be sure, change the picture, and firm up the picture for C&I itself. When I know something, so will you.

If not? Well, then let’s not waste any more language on alternative forms of publishing or new models or the role of independent researchers. Without the imprimatur of formal publishers and formal journals, the work is, apparently, effectively worthless. If I want to keep writing (other than blogs), I should find topics that publishers will buy rather than topics where I believe I have something special to offer. And that may be a lesson I should have learned a long time ago.

5 Responses to “Liblog Landscape 2007-2010 and C&I: An update”

  1. Mark says:

    Assuming that the only apparent, effective value of something is whether or not someone else will pay for it is a limited view, but perhaps that is simply semantics. I fully understand what you mean and even agree. [And I know that you believe in other forms of value besides the monetary. And I fully understand you need (and deserve) some form of remuneration for the value you provide.]

    Then again, under this sort of logic I must not be entitled to an opinion. Nor must I understand value, seeing as I have paid for a majority of those titles. Seems I’m doing something wrong here.

  2. Steve Lawson says:

    I think I’m the “one colleague” who “doesn’t intend to pay for library literature, no matter who writes it.” That’s certainly what I said. I think how I really feel is more nuanced than that, so I’ll work on a more well-rounded way of putting it.

    I think in the future, if you want to ensure that you’ll make enough on a project to make it worth your while, you might look to Kickstarter or a similar homegrown way of getting people to fund it before you write it.

  3. walt says:

    Mark: You are one of the very few who will pay for this stuff, and it’s greatly appreciated. Little did you know you’d have rare books… And yes, I know there are many other forms of value; otherwise, I would have given up C&I long ago.

    Steve: Let’s say there was an editorial change in the blog because (a) I know it’s really more nuanced, and (b) I didn’t want to make anyone look like a bad guy, because it’s not about that. If I thought I’d have a chance with Kickstarter, I might try.

    But that leads to, well, Z, a long, thoughtful, well-written email that could have appeared here. Z suggests that I’m overstating the interest in these studies based on C&I stats: That most libloggers will download the issue or article, look for their own names and one or two others, and ignore everything else–that people really don’t care about studies like this. Z also suggests that the studies might be significant in the long run, but that only institutions would plausibly pay for them. And that’s not happening.

    I suspect Z may be right. If that’s true, and given that my ability to market to ALISE or library schools is nil (and the chances of their buying anything that doesn’t have the Proper Stamp of Authority isn’t much greater), then the studies really are a waste of my time… which does not inherently extend to Cites & Insights.

    So, while I was reluctant to write this post, I may be learning useful things, even if they’re not things I necessarily want to learn.

    For now, I’m going to stop pushing the books. Either they sell or they don’t. Which means fewer blog posts but, with luck, ones that are more enjoyable for writer and reader alike.

  4. Steven Kaye says:

    I’m wondering why the books aren’t getting coverage in eContent or Online or similar publications, myself. Or maybe they have and I’ve missed it. It couldn’t hurt to explain what DisContent actually covered, even if it’s just a direct link to the preview.

    It might be worth asking flat out on FriendFeed why people aren’t interested in buying for themselves or their collections.

    Kickstarter might be worth trying for future projects, and it might be worth doing a whipround to get a one-time ad in an ITI publication. I’d certainly chip in.

  5. walt says:

    The books probably don’t get covered because I haven’t sent out review copies, and doing so for the newest ones would involve a fair amount of outlay for little or no promised return–particularly after seeing that First Have Something to Say, which has eventually sold fairly well (that is, >1,200 copies), got almost no reviews after all of ALA Editions’ promotion.

    I published the list of essays in disContent and have published a few examples.

    I did get one strong indication yesterday, apparently representing several people’s opinion, on why people aren’t buying.

    I guess I need to look into Kickstarter more.