Archive for December, 2012

Wrapping up 2012

Monday, December 31st, 2012

It’s been an interesting year–both in the apocryphal “Chinese curse” sense and in a more positive sense. So, what the heck, here are a few idle end-of-year musings, of no special import.

Better than 2011 (at least in professional terms)

Some comparisons with 2011 seem reasonable…and encouraging.

  • Speaking: My already-slowed pace of speaking invitations disappeared entirely in 2011, with not a single speech requested or given (after one in 2010 and two in 2009). In 2012, I spoke once (at Internet Librarian), in an odd sort of invited/requested situation. I’m pleased to say that at least one two-state group (or one committed person and groups he was able to convince) think[s] I still have something to say: I’ll be speaking at least three times in 2013, albeit all at the same conference.
  • Writing 1–Paid print columns and articles: This one’s less encouraging. After 27 years of having at least one (and at one point four) ongoing paid print magazine columns, the end of 2011 also saw the end of the last such column…with a single paid article in 2012.
  • Writing 2–Cites & Insights: For various reasons, some personal, some otherwise, I came very close to giving up C&I altogether in 2011, which saw the fewest issues ever (nine), the fewest words since 2002 (214,521), and the fewest pages since 2002 (274). I thought turning all my energy to book writing–for real publishers–definitely made financial sense and might make sense otherwise. That might have been the sensible decision, but C&I started creeping back in. 2012 was back to 12 issues (if not quite monthly, since a combined January-February issue was balanced by a special Fall issue), and relatively long ones at that (312,023 words in 394 pages–actually the second-highest word count, with 2009 higher, and the third-highest page count, with 2009 and 2010 higher). My goal for 2013? Do issues that I find fun to do and somewhat worthwhile; no specific goal for length (which has never worked out) or number. (Since the first issue of 2013 is a long 40 pages and the second is sure to be at least roughly that long, saying “16 to 24 pages” seems a bit ludicrous.)
  • Writing 3–Books: 2011 saw my first professionally-published book in eight years, Open Access: What You Need to Know Now. 2012 saw my second, The Librarian’s Guide to Micropublishing, and my third–Successful Social Networking in Public Libraries–should be out right about now. Having finally given up on books about liblogs and library blogs, I tried something more directly relevant to public libraries, Give Us a Dollar and We’ll Give You Back Four (2012-13). The jury’s still out on that one, and I wish I had a way to market it to library trustees, who are possibly a natural audience for it. Here, 2013 is currently a void: I have no specific projects in mind.
  • Writing 4–Blogging: You can see the numbers in the right sidebar. 2011 was down from 2010; 2012 is up (slightly) from 2011. Admittedly, a lot of the 2012 posts are related to one particular project–but fewer than a third of the total for the year (49 of 188). I have a little list of posts I should write. One of these days, I will. (No, this ramble isn’t on the list.)
  • Social networking: I haven’t yet been asked to leave by LSW on Friendfeed, and I don’t think I’ve quite alienated everybody there. I continue to check in on Facebook, Google+ (where I started an LSW group as a placeholder) and Twitter, with relatively little actual activity on any of them…and, once in a great while, on LinkedIn, with even less activity. I don’t think I’m ever going to be an SEO-worthy Social Networker and Personal Brand Builder, and that’s OK.

Anniversaries and other oddities

In September, my wife and I attended my high school graduating class’s 50th reunion. Fifty years. (Thanks, in part, to George Lucas, who I never knew in high school and still haven’t actually talked to, the Class of ’62 continues to have large, lively reunions every five years.)

In October (I think) my wife and I attended her brother’s 80th birthday party.

And tomorrow (January 1, 2013), my wife and I will celebrate our 35th anniversary at New Year’s Day brunch–with a good friend of ours, at (oddly enough) a golf course restaurant in Livermore. Thirty-five years…and looking forward to quite a few more.

After more than 35 years of subscribing to the San Francisco Chronicle as a daily print newspaper, we became digital converts and tablet owners, largely because the print paper had just gotten too expensive ($559/year as compared to $71.88/year on the Kindle or $60/year on the iPad) and its arrival too uncertain in the morning. We’ve now owned a Kindle Fire HD 8.9 for…lessee…eleven days. We had two weeks to try out the Chronicle Kindle version before deciding whether to drop that and send back the Kindle (and probably get an iPad); it took us four days to decide, cancelling the print subscription. The Kindle’s staying; next up is to get a case and stand. (My wife crafted a temporary cardboard stand that works beautifully, but it’s not a long-term solution and won’t do squat to protect the Kindle when we eventually start traveling again.) I’ve blogged about that once and probably will again. We’re still not ebook people; I downloaded the free Sherlock Holmes collection on the day it was free (which mostly means a free introduction + nicely-formatted Project Gutenberg texts of public domain fiction), but haven’t really looked at it. When we start traveling again, we might add some actual ebooks, but that’s not why we got the Fire HD–we got it as a newspaper, and so far that’s what it is. I miss the print paper…but not all that much.

The downside, at the moment: Our ^#T(* Panasonic HDTV still isn’t repaired, thanks partly to Panasonic’s apparent policy of delaying everything as much as possible (seemingly even replacement parts). Since October 7, 2012, we’ve had a working TV for 33 days and a big ugly sculpture for 51 days (from October 7 until November 1, and from December 4 until…well, it’s still not fixed). We are sick and tired of the whole situation. (Thanks to my brother, we have a 19″ Polaroid with which we can watch DVDs on the itty-bitty screen; it lacks a QAM tuner, so broadcast TV via cable isn’t happening.) The Panasonic had a great picture: I remember that. I also remember everything else that’s happened since it failed the first time… We will not be watching any NYE countdowns, but that’s OK.

We’re both reasonably healthy, we’re not starving, we live in a town and neighborhood and setting so nice that it really is like being on vacation all the time (one of several reasons we haven’t really done much traveling in the past 2-3 years)…and I hope that all continues.

I’ll see some of you in Vancouver, Washington in April; I’ll chat with others of you on Friendfeed and possibly elsewhere; I wish you all a good new year.

Iowa public libraries

Monday, December 31st, 2012

Another post commenting on Chapter 20 of Give Us a Dollar and We’ll Give You Back Four (2012-13)–now available as a $9.99 Kindle ebook or $21.95 paperback with ISBN 978-1481279161 on Amazon, along with the usual Lulu options.

Iowa has a lot of public libraries for its three million people, 511 in the tables and another 30 omitted. They’re reasonably well distributed for expenditures—light at the top and very bottom, heavy in the middle. Whether adjusted or not, median benefit ratios for all expense categories are well above 4 (above 5 without adjustment). Circulation is just a bit on the low side, and expenses correlate very well with circulation. Patron visits tend slightly on the high side (with, again, full step-by-step expense correlation). Program attendance is slightly on the high side, with 53% having at least 0.4 per capita attendance (compared to 42% overall) and PC use per capita is significantly on the high side, with 31% having at least 2.25 uses per capita and 74% having one or more (compared to 19% and 57% overall).

Libraries by legal service area

LSA Count % Outliers
<700 94 18.4% 24
700-1,149 77 15.1% 4
1,150-1,649 55 10.8% 2
1,650-2,249 69 13.5%
2,250-2,999 39 7.6%
3,000-3,999 43 8.4%
4,000-5,299 24 4.7%
5,300-6,799 19 3.7%
6,800-8,699 20 3.9%
8,700-11,099 17 3.3%
11,100-14,099 16 3.1%
14,100-18,499 7 1.4%
18,500-24,999 8 1.6%
25,000-34,499 8 1.6%
34,500-53,999 5 1.0%
54,000-104,999 8 1.6%
105,000-4.1 mill. 2 0.4%

Circulation per capita and spending per capita

Unusually, there’s only moderate correlation (0.45) between circulation per capita and spending per capita.

Circulation per capita plotted against spending per capita

Circulation per capita (rounded) occurrence by spending category

Losing credibility with one quick answer

Sunday, December 30th, 2012

When you’re an Expert, it helps to know your facts. Especially if they’re Facts people might not want to hear.

And it doesn’t help to make up Facts on the spot.

This is just a little rant. Sorry. You can skip it if you want.

On my way to and from the library today (the public library, and yes, it was busy, as it always is), I was listening to small chunks of a conversation involving some doctor (didn’t catch the name) who’s clearly an Expert on food and health, with lots of books and lots of advice–eat lots of soy, don’t eat anything processed, avoid fructose, lots of cooked Asian mushrooms but no raw or American mushrooms, do this, don’t do that. [Possibly worth noting: this was on a PBS station.]

And the interviewer mentioned a local attempt to tax soft drinks at one cent per ounce, an attempt that went down to defeat.

At which point, the Expert made a pat, convenient statement:

If we taxed soft drinks at one cent per ounce, we’d raise enough money to pay for health care for everybody.

Fortunately, I held on to the wheel tightly as I said “That can’t be true.” Now, I’ll admit, my wife and I are outliers: Neither of us drinks soda at all (except that my wife occasionally uses a little ginger ale to try to clear out her throat–maybe two ounces in a day).

But still…

So I came home and did a little investigation.

I wasn’t aware that American consumption of soft drinks has been declining for some years, but that’s a different issue. I took the current figure (2011 consumption) that I could find repeated by more than one apparently authoritative body and a much higher figure (date not given) reported by an Alarmist You’re All Going to Die Fat organization.

Here’s what I found:

  • If you take the Alarmist number, a one cent tax per ounce would raise $72 per person per year.
  • If you take the apparent 2011 figure, that tax would raise $57 per person per year.

I don’t know about your health care costs, but I’m guessing the general average is just a wee bit higher than $57 to $72 per year.

Just a wee bit as in two orders of magnitude.

Those per capita numbers add up to between $18 billion and $23 billion. That’s billion with a B: 315 million Americans times $57 to $72.

Health care expenditures in the US appear to be on the order of $2.5 trillion. That’s trillion with a T.

Yes, health care expenditures in the U.S. are way too high–but even if we managed to get them down to $1.8 trillion, a 28% cut, that would still be 100 times as much as the more probable figure for “one cent per ounce.”

Here’s the thing…

The Expert was saying provocative things. I found some of them annoying and more than a little preachy, but hey, he’s an Expert: Maybe I should look into them further.

And then he popped out that line.

And I thought: Why should I believe anything else he says, given that he’ll make something up on the spot that’s so wildly wrong? (He’s a doctor. Either he really believes that most people drink, what, ten gallons of soda a day–which would still only be $12.80 per capita per day in soda tax, not close to enough to pay for health care–or he’s terrible with numbers.)

Credibility: Lost. Just that easy.

Cites & Insights 13:1 (January 2013) available

Saturday, December 29th, 2012

I probably said it would be out the first week of January 2013, but it was ready, so…

Cites & Insights 13:1 (January 2013) is now available for downloading at

The issue is 40 pages long.

The “online edition,” designed for faster downloading and easy reading on most e-devices larger than phones, is also available; it’s 77 pages long.

I’m now consistently creating the PDFs directly in Word, which means they may be somewhat larger but will have bookmarks for all article headings.

This issue includes the following essays–also available as HTML separates at, although this may be the last issue for which that’s true (see the first essay for details)

The Front  pp. 1-4

Of books and journals: notes on my forthcoming (or here now?) ALA Editions book, changes in other recent books, the annual edition of C&I–and the results of the reader service. Ends with a straightforward challenge: If you want HTML separates to continue, you’ll need to contribute to C&I.

   Catching Up with Open Access 1  pp. 4-40

 The first half of a roundup on Open Access covering portions of the last couple of years. This half includes citations and commentary on advantages, colors & flavors, repositories, mandates, problems, PeerJ, history, philosophy and miscellany, ethics, tactics and strategies, and scholarly societies. (The second half will appear in the February 2013 issue.)

Comedy Kings Disc 10

Friday, December 28th, 2012

Riding On Air, 1937, b&w. Edward Sedgwick (dir.), Joe E. Brown, Guy Kibbee, Florence Rise, Vinton Haworth, Anthony Nace. 1:10 [1:07]

Whether you find this amusing, hysterical or annoying will depend mostly on how you feel about Joe E. Brown, the rubber-faced comic who here plays the managing editor (and only staff) of a small-town daily newspaper, which he’s saving up to buy for $5,000. He has a thing for a young woman whose father owns a department store and doesn’t much care for him. There’s a romantic rival, who has a job as a stringer for a Chicago paper and stands to inherit $10,000…with which he plans to buy the small-town daily. Oh, and Brown’s character wins a radio essay contest with a $5,000 prise.

That’s just the start. In all, it involves perfume smuggling, radium deliveries, radio-controlled airplanes (not model airplanes), swindlers and a whole bunch of physical humor. I’m somewhere in the middle where Brown is concerned: At the start of the movie I found his schtick tiresome, but by the end I was enjoying it. Incidentally, both plot summaries at IMDB are almost entirely wrong, as is the plot summary on the disc sleeve. $1.00.

Road to Bali – Previously reviewed.

St. Benny the Dip, 1951, b&w. Edgar G. Ulmer (dir.), Dick Haymes, Nina Foch, Roland Young, Lionel Stander, Freddie Bartholomew. 1:20

I’m not entirely sure why, but this one’s absolutely charming. Maybe it’s the strong cast (consider: Topper—Roland Young; Max from Hart to Hart—Lionel Stander, who by the way was blacklisted during the HUAC years; this was his last credited film role until 1963; and there’s no gainsaying any of the other players, surely not Nina Foch or Dick Haymes); maybe something else. The plot: A trio of con men are pulling a little sting, where they play poker with a guy, dope his drink, convince him—before he passes out—that four women are coming up for an evening of fun, and then take off; he’d be too embarrassed and worried about his wife’s reaction to his obvious philandering to call the cops.

Except that the hotel switchboard operator who’s calling him with the setup call has also notified the cops. And the three con men wind up on the lam, which takes them to a Catholic church, which somehow—with the indirect help of a priest who doesn’t care for a cop’s attitude—leads to them being back out on the street dressed as priests. And winding up in a derelect tabernacle or mission…where the police discover them and decide it’s a miracle: They’ve been sent to resurrect the mission.

That’s how it starts. How it ends? Oddly—but with a load of heart and good humor, despite few belly laughs and nearly zero credibility. It’s even a romantic comedy of sorts. And Dick Haymes has one good musical number. The music on the soundtrack tends to distort, and that’s the biggest strike against it. Still, $1.50.

Swing It, Sailor!, 1938, b&w. Raymond Cannon (dir.), Wallace Ford, Ray Mayer, Isabel Jewell. 0:57 [1:02].

I’m guessing this movie might be good…if you’re a Wallace Ford fan and think he’s insanely funny. or if you think Navy comedies must be funny (and quite a few of them are). Otherwise? Not so much. The plot is based on a sailor who consistently gets his muscular, unable-to-swim buddy Husky to loan him money, do his work, take the blame, whatever. When they come back into port, Husky’s planning to propose to a woman…and the moocher wants to make sure that doesn’t happen, and that Husky reenlists. To that end, the moocher courts the woman (who’s on the make in any case).

Real amusing stuff, right? Sure, there’s some physical comedy, but it’s mostly a little depressing (yes, it was set in the depression, but that’s no excuse). I’m being extremely generous in giving this one $0.50.

Georgia public libraries

Thursday, December 27th, 2012

Another post commenting on Chapter 20 of Give Us a Dollar and We’ll Give You Back Four (2012-13)–now available as a $9.99 Kindle ebook or $21.95 paperback with ISBN 978-1481279161 on Amazon, along with the usual Lulu options.

The sixty-one libraries in the tables (none omitted) have relatively low expenditures: none higher than $35.99 and nearly three-quarters in the bottom three brackets (compared to 28% overall). As with spending, so with use: No library has more than 9 circs per capita, and 89% have less than six (compared to 36% overall)—but only two libraries (3%) have less than two circ per capita. For what it’s worth, the correlation between spending and circulation is consistent. Patron visits per capita are also on the low side, with no library reaching 9 (20% do overall) and 87% below 4 (compared to 35% overall). Only 16% of the libraries have at least 0.3 program attendance per capita (compared to 54% overall) and none exceeds 0.69 (compared to 21% overall).

Libraries by legal service area

LSA Count %
14,100-18,499 3 4.92
18,500-24,999 3 4.9%
25,000-34,499 5 8.2%
34,500-53,999 8 13.1%
54,000-104,999 15 24.6%
105,000-4.1 mill. 27 44.3%

Circulation per capita and spending per capita

Unusually, for Georgia libraries circulation per capita only correlates moderately well (0.44) with spending per capita.

Circulation per capita plotted against spending per capita

Circulation per capita (rounded) occurrence by spending category

Note that, while I’ve used the standard template for the second chart, in fact the four highest spending categories ($36 and up) are meaningless for the chart, since no Georgia libraries spend that much.

Kindle books from Word: A micropublishing tutorial

Thursday, December 27th, 2012

When I wrote The Librarian’s Guide to Micropublishing, which primarily focuses on physical books, I didn’t attempt to cover EPUB or Kindle’s ebook format in depth because there were no clear, simple, valid free ways to get from a formatted book in Microsoft Word to a good-looking EPUB or Kindle ebook.

As far as I can tell, that’s still the case for EPUB, although that’s also likely to change fairly soon.

Meanwhile, if you plan to use the Kindle Direct Publishing program for Kindle versions, there’s now a straightforward, simple way to get from a properly-formatted Word document to a good-looking Kindle publication. I’ve tried it. It works.

Here are the steps.

Beforehand: When preparing your book in Word

  1. Complete your book, preferably following the guidelines I used in my book. Specifically: Use styles for paragraphs, not tabs or manual formatting. Include a Contents page that’s generated using heading styles–not prepared manually. Include front matter (title page, etc.).
  2. Don’t use special character sets if you can avoid it. (Special characters such as em dashes are fine.) If you can simplify bullets, that’s good: They won’t come out looking great anyway. (KDP says bullets are ignored. That’s not quite true.)
  3. You can use tables–formatted using Word’s table mechanisms or imported from Excel, for example, but not manually formatted.
  4. You can use images–but in that case, there will be an extra step, which KDP covers in its advice. (To wit: Once you’ve generated the filtered HTML, see below, you’ll have to combine that and the folder containing image files into a single .zip file, and upload the .zip file. If there are no images, you can just upload the .htm file.)

During: Making it Kindle-ready

  1. Save the book under a different filename so you can keep the original. Do all the rest on that file.
  2. Delete all headers and footers. The easiest way to do this is to double-click in the footer, delete the line, go to the Next section, delete the line, and so on until there are no more sections. Then do the same for the headers. You may have to do this process separately for first pages of sections (chapters), odd-numbered pages and even-numbered pages. It took me 10 minutes to do it for a 20-chapter book.
  3. Save the file for later revisions.
  4. Save as Web page (filtered), which produces an .htm file. (It’s one of the file choices on the Save as… dropdown menu). Word will caution you about features that you lose in the process–e.g., small caps turn into all caps. Ignore the caution.
  5. You might want to look at the results using your browser; you should find, among other things, that the Contents page is now a set of live links to the headings and subheadings.
  6. That .htm file is now ready for the KDP uploader, which will turn it into a proper Kindle file. (You probably also want to upload a cover image; see the KDP guidelines for that step.)
  7. As noted: If you had images, upload the .zip file instead of the .htm file.

And that’s it.

On the other hand, if you’ve published a book using CreateSpace and accept the suggestion to offer a Kindle version via KDP, don’t accept the offer to translate your PDF into a Kindle book. The results are awful, partly because all the page headers and footers turn into text, partly because of other issues. Taking the extra half hour to create a filtered HTML file from Word, after stripping headers and footers, will yield a much better Kindle book.





AMPLIUS: 25% off through 1/2/13

Thursday, December 27th, 2012

Lulu is having one of their better sales of the year:

25% off, from now through January 2, 2013. (I suspect it’s only good for one order per account, but for as many books as you want.)

The coupon code is AMPLIUS

So you can go to the C&I bookstore and pick up:

The code, once again, is AMPLIUS



Want HTML versions of Cites & Insights essays? It’s your click

Monday, December 24th, 2012

The survey on Cites & Insights format preferences and section preferences is now closed.

Twelve people participated. Thanks!

Sorry the rest of you didn’t have the time.

Results of the survey will appear in Cites & Insights 13:1, probably out the first week of January 2013.

Based on responses to format questions, and my own experience trying the one-column “online format” on an 8.9″-screen tablet (see other post), I’m going to keep both PDF formats, at least for a while.

The HTML separates, on the other hand, I’m not so sure about. I’ve never been wholly satisfied with the way they look; they don’t work right if a post has graphs or other illustrations; they’re a mild pain to produce. And, it turns out, at least in Silk, they appear entirely in whatever dreary sans typeface the Kindle uses when it’s not showing what it recognizes as book-style text.

So: If you really want HTML versions of C&I essays, it’s up to you…to pay for them.

Total voluntary financial support for Cites & Insights in 2012 has not reached three digits, or even high two digits.

If you want HTML essays, contribute–the PayPal secure Donate button’s right there on the home page.

If I see at least $1,000 in donations between now and the time I’m ready to publish the February 2013 issue–which I’m guessing will be around January 20-22, 2013–then I’ll keep doing HTML separates at least through 2013.

If I don’t get even within shouting range of that total, I’ll probably drop them: The one-column 6×9 PDF format should meet the needs of most e-readers. And, y’know, considering the price…

Purchases of C&I annual volumes will count as contributions, at the full rate of $50 each, even though I don’t net nearly that much. And you get great travel photos on the covers, plus indexes that are not otherwise available. (The indexes alone are worth, well…more than nothing.)


Florida public libraries

Monday, December 24th, 2012

Another post commenting on Chapter 20 of Give Us a Dollar and We’ll Give You Back Four (2012-13)–now available as a $9.99 Kindle ebook or $21.95 paperback, with ISBN 978-1481279161, on Amazon, along with the usual Lulu options.

Like California (but more so), Florida has relatively few libraries and systems for its population: 80 (all in the tables, none omitted). Funding tends toward the low side, with only 5% in the top two brackets and 21% in the top four, compared to 30% in the bottom two brackets and 59% in the bottom four. Similarly, circulation per capita tends toward the low side, with only 11% having at least 10 circ per capita (38% overall)—and patron visits are similar, with 20% having six or more (42% overall). I could say that it’s noteworthy that the median circulation for libraries in the highest spending bracket is nearly twice that of the second highest—but with only two libraries in each of those two brackets, that’s not especially meaningful (although those are the only brackets where even the 75%ile is at least 10 circ per capita). Program attendance is quite low, with 65% having less than 0.3 attendance per capita (compared to 46% overall). The same goes for PC use: 16% with at least 1.7 uses per capita, compared to 30% overall.

Libraries by legal service area

LSA Count %




































105,000-4.1 mill.



Circulation per capita and spending per capita

Circulation per capita correlates very strongly (0.75) with spending per capita

Circulation per capita plotted against spending per capita

Circulation per capita (rounded) occurrence by spending category