Archive for July, 2013

The inCompleat Give Us a Dollar and We’ll Give You Back Four

Wednesday, July 31st, 2013

Do you find the myriad tables with no graphs and essentially no commentary in Give Us a Dollar and We’ll Give You Back Four a little overwhelming?

Have you read my plans to provide The Compleat Give Us a Dollar…, Volume 1: Libraries by Size, and Volume 2: Libraries by State, combining tables, graphs (including new graphs for states) and commentary–but only in 8.5×11 PDF ebooks–and thought that it might be less convenient for quick comparisons?

Have I got a deal for you…

The two ebook volumes of TCGUAD should be available tomorrow, August 1, or Friday, August 2 (they’re ready, but there’s other stuff to do).

Meanwhile, it’s here:

The inCompleat Give Us a Dollar and We’ll Give You Back Four


It’s 433 8.5″ x 11″ pages. It’s a big book. It combines all of the text from the original book, essentially all of the comments from the two Cites & Insights essays, all of the scatterplots (and other b&w graphs) from Graphing Public Library Benefits, and what I believe to be the most meaningful graph for libraries by state, a scatterplot plotting circulation per capita against spending per capita, along with the correlation coefficient for those two measures.

I’m sure there are a few egregious errors from the fast process of combining four different sources, then stripping out some graphs and trying to remove the associated notes properly. But all the real text and tables should be just fine.

The price is a low, low $26.99. Did I mention that it’s a big book?

Oh, and that the two-volume Compleat… won’t be available in print? (And would be brutally expensive if it was.)

I believe library schools will find this worthwhile. As should some library consultants, some state libraries and some libraries. You won’t find this level of detail in $4 to $1: Public Library Benefits and Budgets or anywhere else I can think of.

If you don’t recognize the subheading above as being a link, here’s the link–and again in text form:

Two ebooks about to disappear

Thursday, July 25th, 2013

If you want the ebook (PDF, no DRM, full first-sale rights) version of Give Us a Dollar and We’ll Give You Back Four, buy it now: It will disappear on or about August 1, 2013. The paperback and hardback versions will still be available for some time to come.

If you want Graphing Public Library Benefits (only available as an absurdly cheap PDF no DRM full first-sale rights ebook), buy it now: It will disappear on or about August 1, 2013. And will be gone, period.

Both will be (partially) replaced by Crawford’s Folly Volume 1 The Compleat Give Us a Dollar and We’ll Give You Back Four, Vol 1, Libraries by Size. That will only be available as an 8.5″ x 11″ PDF ebook, more than 300 353 pages long (the current ebook is 6″ x 9″ but I couldn’t make the existing graphs work in the narrower column), in two versions: single-user and site-“license” (still a sale, but with explicit permission for multiuser simultaneous access and downloading from a server for some reasonably-controlled group of people up to and including all libraries within a state). It’s a remarkable book in several ways, and provides a detailed view of the benefits of America’s public libraries in 2010 that’s unlikely to be equaled in the future.

The (partially) refers to Chapter 20, Libraries by State, and I anticipate that another 8.5″ x 11″ PDF ebook combining Chapter 20, the second half of the comments published in C&I, and one scatterplot for each of 49 states will emerge some time later in August. It will be Vol. 2, Libraries by State, and will similarly be available in single-user and multiuser editions. Volume 2 will be 191 pages long.

I’m guessing each volume will go for $9.99 single-user, $30 site license.

Update 7/29/13: Note the change from “more than 300” to “353” pages for volume 1, the addition of page count for volume 2. Both of these will appear around August 1-2…and there will also be a combined print-only version that omits all the multicolor line graphs so that it’s printable. (It includes all the scatterplots–around 250 in all–and the commentary.) That book is 425 8.5 x 11″ pages. Since it lacks some of the material in The Compleat…, the obvious title is The inCompleat Give Us a Dollar and We’ll Give You Back Four. The print version will be much easier to use to make comparisons among states and sizes of libraries. It will probably sell for something like $24.95, give or take.

Night Sweats: A hard-hitting review

Tuesday, July 23rd, 2013

I’ve seen a number of really favorable reviews of Laura Crossett’s Night Sweats: an unexpected pregnancy.

Actually, all the reviews I’ve seen of the book have been very favorable.

I purchased the book* and finished reading it yesterday** and felt that I should provide a contrarian review, one that’s hard-hitting and exposes all the book’s faults.

So, here goes:

Major faults and failings in Night Sweats

  • I’m pretty sure I found a copy-editing error.
  • It could be longer.

That’s about it. I’d like to argue about Crossett’s religion, but for a lapsed Methodist to take on an Episcopalian about religiosity exceeds even my capacity for absurd argumentation–yes, she’s more religious than I am, but that strengthens the story in ways I can’t possibly argue with.

Then there’s the other side…

Good points about Night Sweats

  • Crossett’s an excellent and achingly honest writer.
  • It’s a true story and an interesting one.
  • Crossett’s also hilarious, not necessarily what you’d expect in this kind of a book. (Whatever “this kind” might be.)
  • The book’s just plain compelling–even if (like me) you’re someone for whom the story of an unexpected pregnancy might not immediately connect.

Despite the (probable) copy-editing failure, I’d be dishonest to sum this up as anything other than:

Buy this book. Read it. I’m pretty sure you’ll find it worth your while.

Oh, and if you want the ebook, it’s available from the usual suspects, but Laura*** (and Our Bodies Our Selves, if I have that right) gets more of the modest proceeds (it’s $4 if there’s no current sale) if you buy it directly from Lulu.


*Why did I buy this book? Well… Laura sent me a PDF to see if I had comments on her layout and typographic options, since she used The Librarian’s Guide to Micropublishing in the project–and gives me credit in the acknowledgments. I did manage to look at the typographic choices, which I find excellent–but it was difficult because I just wanted to read it. And I wanted to read it enough in print to buy it.

**Why so long? After all, the book’s only 93 pages long and it’s so well written that it’s an easy read. Well, there’s a sick cat–which Laura may find amusing, since a sick cat enters into the book–and also I was trying to prolong the experience.

***Why am I sometimes first-naming Ms. Crossett? Because she’s a Virtual Friend. I don’t know whether we’ve ever met face-to-face, but we’ve been chatting on Friendfeed as part of the Library Society of the World for years, and she’s also given me good and sometimes tough advice on the side on some library-related projects. She’s one of many there who I respect considerably and can say that we frequently disagree but not in ways that are disagreeable. She’s a good person. And, of course, one of those writers–like Barbara Fister–who make me recognize the limits of my comparatively crude writing skills.

What am I missing about 2.5-buck Chuck?

Wednesday, July 17th, 2013

Look, I’ll be honest: For a variety of reasons, most nights I drink relatively inexpensive white wine (my system doesn’t get along well with red), mostly chardonnay. I get a lot of my wines from Trader Joe’s and Grocery Outlet, and a lot of those from Trader Joe’s are clearly produced by Bronco, the same company that produces Charles Shaw (“Two Buck Chuck” in California, “Three Buck Chuck” in less enlightened states–but it’s up to $2.49 in California now.) My wife keeps Purple Moon on hand as a reliable little wine; my most common repeat wine is Santa Barbara Landing. Both, based on UPC codes, are from Bronco. (Both cost $3.99 in California.)

But the last time I tried Charles Shaw, I wasn’t impressed. Oh, like most Bronco wines, it didn’t have the usual “cheap wine” flaws–it was cleanly made and entirely drinkable. But when compared to wines costing a mere $2 more…I was willing to spend the extra $2.

Then my favorite consumer magazine, the one you can’t quote in ads and that only runs in-house ads, did a “summer whites” review. And Charles Shaw’s 2011 chardonnay(which I hadn’t tried) was one of the eight Very Good wines, along with Bogle (which I like quite a bit when it’s on sale) and a few others, including a $23 Sonoma-Cutrer and a $29 Frank Family.

So I decided to give it another shot. I had the usual two glasses with dinner last night; my wife had enough of a taste to suit her. I’ll have most of the rest this evening.

And, well, compared to $3.99 and $4.99 chardonnays, and even $5 to $7 chardonnays (on sale)…I think 2.5-buck Chuck is a little overpriced for what it is. It was clean but harsh, and really not very interesting.

So what is it about 2.5-buck Chuck that I’m missing? Yes, I know, it got a Double Gold at one commercial wine tasting, and it’s beaten some Napa chards in tastings. (I’m not a great fan of Napa chards, by the way–even if I was willing to spend $15-$25, I find Sonoma, Santa Barbara, Santa Ynez, Monterey, Mendocino and Lake County wines all more interesting, at least for real-world prices. That’s me.) But I just don’t get it.


Cites & Insights 13:9 (September 2013) available–special issue

Tuesday, July 16th, 2013

Cites & Insights 13:9 (September 2013) is now available for downloading at the Cites & Insights homepage.

The early, special issue is 10 pages long. If you’re reading online or doing anything other than printing it out, you’re much better off downloading the single-column online edition, which is 24 pages long, as most of the special issue is a rough draft of a book chapter that includes graphs and tables, which had to be compressed (reducing the type size in the tables quite a bit!) to fit into the narrower columns of the print version.

The issue consists of a single essay (albeit one that includes a draft book chapter as an example):

$4 to $1: Public Library Benefits and Budgets–Help Needed  pp. 1-10

I’ve started the followup to Give Us a Dollar and We’ll Give You Back Four (2012-13), and I’m trying to crowdfund inexpensive or free versions of the book (and presell copies) through an Indiegogo crowdfunding campaign.

This issue describes the project: Two books (one with libraries by size, one with libraries by state) combining tables, graphs and commentary to offer reasonably detailed pictures of countable public library benefits for FY2011 and how they’ve changed from 2009 to 2011, and A Library Is..., a collection of public library slogans and mottoes.

In addition to describing the project, why I’m trying crowdfunding, what happens if the campaign does (or doesn’t) succeed and how this relates to existing books, I provide a rough-draft sample of what the book will include–Chapter 3, covering libraries with fewer than 1,000 potential patrons [more than one-ninth of America’s public libraries and systems].

The campaign runs through mid-August. This is the September 2013 C&I: There won’t be another one for at least six weeks and probably more.

$4 to $1: An FAQ of Sorts

Wednesday, July 10th, 2013

In case you hadn’t heard, I’m running an IndieGoGo crowdfunding campaign to underwrite a three-book project:

  • $4 to $1: Public Library Benefits and Budgets (2013-14): Libraries by Size
  • $4 to $1: Public Library Benefits and Budgets (2013-14): Libraries by State
  • A Library Is…: A Collection of Public Library Mottoes and Slogans

The project is discussed in more detail here; some additional information about the campaign is here.

They say you need to keep telling people more and more about crowdfunding campaigns…especially ones that aren’t taking off with the velocity of, say, the LibraryBox Kickstarter campaign.

So, for now, here’s an FAQ of sorts about the project, where it stands and related issues.

How’s it going?

You can check by going to the campaign itself. As of this writing, not so well. That could change, of course.

What happens if it fails?

  • The Libraries by Size book will probably happen, maybe, but will also probably be a little more expensive.
  • The Libraries by State book, which is of more interest as a look at the diversity of America’s libraries than it is as a tool, might not happen at all. If it does, it will be significantly more expensive.
  • A Library Is… will almost certainly happen. I’d either offer it as a perk for significant contributions to Cites & Insights, offer it on its own as an ebook (and maybe a paperback), or both. (Hey, I’ve gone through some 5,000 libraries, with around 4,200 left to go–all serving fewer than 10,000 people. It’s turning out to be as interesting as I thought.)

What happens if it succeeds?

  • That’s pretty much spelled out in the various goal levels. Even at the minimal $2,500, completion of all three books is guaranteed–and quite a few of them would be “presold,” since they’re offered as perks for any contribution of $12 or higher.
  • The books would be less expensive than otherwise, maybe even free in some cases.
  • I’d be thankful and happy and resolved to do the best possible job.

Does this project replace Give Us a Dollar and We’ll Give You Back Four (2012-13)?

No. That book–and the related Graphing Public Library Benefits  and commentary in Cites & Insights–offer a more detailed picture of a single year, 2010, but split across several resources.

The new project offers less detail (for libraries by size) but a richer and more integrated view, and looks at both measures for 2011 and changes from 2009 to 2011.

What might happen to Give Us a Dollar…: I’m toying with the idea of combining the three resources (essentially cutting-and-pasting between various Word files, with minimal new editing) into either a single huge ebook combining tables, graphs and commentary, or two huge ebooks (one by size, one by states). If I do that, the new item would only be available in two forms: ebook(s) and campus/state-licensed ebook(s), where I explicitly say the ebook(s) can be loaded onto a server for a campus (including distance students), single-state consortium or state, with no controls on simultaneous usage. I’d take the Lulu ebook version of the current book out of print; the print version and the Amazon/Createspace ebook version would continue to be available. Modified 7/11/13: I’d forgotten that the Graphing book didn’t include Chapter 20, so the only feasible version would be one humongous ebook, probably around 570 pages. It’s not feasible to offer a print version because the spending-segment graphs require color to make sense–and a 570-page color Lulu book would cost around $118 per copy to produce (since printing costs would be $0.20 per page rather than $0.02 per page, and you can’t have part-color).

What About The Big Deal and the Damage Done?

No direct effect, although the (very mild so far) success of that book’s “campus license edition” will guide me in future ventures.

I’m 99% certain there is not going to be an campaign for this book, for several reasons (including stalled requests, as far as I can tell); I believe the campus license edition fills the need that the campaign might have filled without requiring me to try to come up with yet another high-profile campaign and new perks.

Will there be a next edition of that book including 2012 data?

Probably and probably not. There will probably be something–in mid-2014, if all goes well–but it may not be a self-published book. The current book should continue to be valuable.

Hope this helps. If you think it’s a worthwhile project, please publicize it, support it or both!

$4 to $1: Why not just use a publisher?

Monday, July 8th, 2013

Last week, I introduced an IndieGoGo campaign to assure the completion of–and presell copies of–$4 to $1: Public Library Benefits and Budgets (2013-14).

Here’s the post (and maybe Independence Day wasn’t the ideal day to post this).

Here’s the campaign itself.

After an initial mini-burst of publicity (on my usual social networks), I realized that I hadn’t directly posted to Facebook’s ALA-TT group, of whom very few probably get my own status updates.

So I did, on Saturday, July 6, and got a few comments. Including this one from Jules Shore (following comments from Henry Mensch who noted that this wasn’t as sexy as LibraryBox but also that it was important stuff that can be useful in advocacy work, which is a primary goal):

Maybe we need a better explanation. I don’t like to compare your project to LibraryBox, but that example has already been presented, so…
1) I’ve heard of Kickstarter, but LibraryBox was the first time I donated. I’ve never heard of IndieGoGo. I didn’t recognize it as an equivalent.
2) I thought the point of producing a reference work, as I interpret this project to be, is you get a publisher to publish and make money from the sales. I imagine every Public Library system in the nation would want a copy of this report, so sales are almost guaranteed.

Why are you funding this project via IndieGoGo, instead of going the regular publisher route?

I offered a quick response this morning (July 8, 2013), but maybe I should say a little more.

Why IndieGoGo rather than Kickstarter?

Fewer projects, less emphasis on GOTTA HAVE THAT VIDEO PLUG, no approval process: slightly lower fees (4% rather than 5%: not a biggie).

The point of producing a reference work

I must admit that I’d never heard the theory that the point of producing a reference work is “you get a publisher to publish.”

I thought the point of producing any work (and I think of $4 to $1 as being more advocacy and current awareness) was to create something that others would find worthwhile.

But let’s get to the broader question: Why not just use a traditional publisher, especially since “I imagine every Public Library system in the nation would want a copy of this report, so sales are almost guaranteed”?

  • Speed. Since this is intended to be useful for advocacy and as a reasonably current overview, I looked for timeliness. It will appear the day after I finish editing–I’ve set mid-October as a deadline for the whole project, but I’d hope to have the first part (Libraries by Size) out in early September and maybe earlier. Based on past experience, I think it highly unlikely that I’d be able to get this out through a traditional library publisher within six months of completion–actually, I’d be surprised if I even had a contract by mid-September.
  • Price. I’d especially like smaller public libraries–which typically don’t have their own marketing staffs or statistical experts–use this, and for those libraries, $45-$65 is a real barrier. (That seems to be the general range of prices for books from library publishers these days, although some go for a lot more.) The IndieGoGo model, if it succeeds, will mean no more than $9.99 for ebook versions (and maybe less), and a modest price (probably well under $20) for paperback versions–and even a modest price for ebook versions explicitly permitting multiple access over a campus, library or statewide server. It’s not that library publisher prices are too high (given the small market and the costs of professional everything, I don’t think they necessarily are), it’s that I can do it a lot less expensively.
  • Realistic sales projections. There are roughly 9,200 public library systems (including single-branch libraries) in the U.S. Most of them are very small. (How small? For FY2011, 46% served fewer than 6,000 people, 66% served fewer than 14,000, 76% served fewer than 23,000–and 23% served fewer than 2,000.) Most of them won’t buy this book; most of them will probably never hear about it. I would be delighted to reach 10% of America’s public libraries. I believe all 40-odd library schools should have copies of these books, but my believing that doesn’t make it so. To be honest: I don’t believe either of the traditional library publishers I normally work with would touch this project–I suspect it wouldn’t meet their break-even criteria.

So what’s the point?

Going the Indiegogo route may be peculiar, especially since ideally most sales should go to libraries (or Friends groups) rather than individual librarians.

It’s an experiment. I think the project’s worthwhile–a considerable improvement over a previous version, which sold just enough copies to make a new version intriguing but nowhere near enough to make it worthwhile for a traditional publisher.

The publicity problem

I’m personally disinclined to go into a daily drumbeat of publicity for this project; that may be a fatal error.

I’m confused enough as to PUBLIB guidelines so that I have not posted anything about this (trying to avoid what can be viewed as a commercial plug), although I think others could do so. Maybe. (If/when I do a special C&I issue promoting this, I’ll announce that on PUBLIB as usual.)

I’m not regularly part of any Friends list, so haven’t really gone there.

I’m not an entrepreneur by nature, which is a problem.

I think this is worthwhile. Only others can decide that for sure.


And, hey, I think A Library Is… will be an intriguing and possibly inspirational little collection (not that little: I’m just past the halfway point and up to 900 mottoes and slogans, although I may trim that somewhat)–and I currently have no plans to offer that book on its own.

Take a look. If you think it’s worthwhile, I’d appreciate your help–both in signing up and in publicizing the project. The quick URL to the project is



An indescribable followup

Saturday, July 6th, 2013

Early last week (June 28, 2013, to be exact), I posted “Indescribable“–about the oddity of running into a few public library websites where Bing and other search engines didn’t show brief descriptions of the sites.

I’m seeing more of those (as I continue the sweep of public library websites–smaller and smaller libraries as the project continues–toward A Library Is…: A Collection of Public Library Mottoes and Slogans).

The answer sounds like something out of The Price is Right, and yes, I know I’ve said that before.

To wit, Plinkit. Quoting from the site:

Plinkit Is:

  • A service that state libraries and consortia provide to local libraries

  • A template-based web site creation toolkit made using open-source software

  • A multi-state collaborative supporting Plinkit services

  • Provided as a web-hosting service

Lots of libraries, especially smaller ones, use Plinkit websites. They’re clearly reasonably customizable and, more important, they provide reasonable-quality websites for libraries that might have trouble building and maintaining their own scratch-built sites.

And I’m guessing–with no proof, but one key piece of evidence–that someone at Plinkit thought it was a good idea to include as a default a robots.txt file that disallows the kind of crawling that produces site summaries in search engines.

I’m guessing this for two reasons:

  1. Now that I’ve been paying attention, all of the sites with this oddity I’ve seen lately have been Plinkit sites.
  2. Search for Plinkit itself on Bing or Blekko and, guess what…you get the “indescribable” message. (Not, oddly enough, on Google.)

I choose not to comment further on the (in)advisability of doing this, mostly because I don’t know enough to provide thoroughly knowledgeable comments.

Oh, and if you’re interested in A Library Is…: The best way to reserve a copy, and possibly the only way to get one (other than as a future perk for substantial contributions to Cites & Insights) is to contribute toward my IndieGoGo crowdsourcing effort to underwrite $4 to $1: Public Library Benefits and Budgets (2013-14). As little as a $12 contribution can get you a free copy of the PDF ebook when it’s ready.





$4 to $1: Public Library Benefits and Budgets–help make it work

Thursday, July 4th, 2013

I’ve just opened an IndieGoGo campaign to assure the completion of my (renamed) project on public library benefits and budgets: $4 to $1: Public Library Benefits and Budgets (2013-14).

You’ll find the campaign here:

My basic goal is $2,500. At that level, all three books will be completed–and many of them prepurchased as perks.

The three books?

$4 to $1: Public Library Benefits and Budgets (2013-14): Libraries by Size

Based on Give Us a Dollar and We’ll Give You Back Four (2012-13), but that title just got too cumbersome when I realized the need to split the project into two books.

As recounted in earlier posts–specifically this one–this book will have fewer and simpler tables, more graphs and a lot more commentary. Additionally, where the previous book covered a single year, this will compare two years: 2011 and 2009.

I’m guessing the new book will wind up between 150 and 200 pages, maybe a little shorter.

$4 to $1: Public Library Benefits and Budgets (2013-14): Libraries by State

While the first chapter of this book will be identical to the book just discussed, the remainder will be state chapters, probably with slightly fewer metrics. I’m aiming for 200 pages or less.

A Library Is…

A book of public library slogans and mottoes gathered from public library websites. I’m just under halfway through doing the scan, with around 800 slogans and mottoes to date. This book may be inspirational. It will never be sold separately–it will only be available as a perk for this or other crowdfunding projects or as a thank-you for larger donations to Cites & Insights.

The Indiegogo campaign is a “Fixed Funding” campaign: If people pledge a total of $2,499 within the 45 days, nobody pays anything and I don’t get anything. (In other words, it’s like Kickstarter.)

I’m sure I’ll be pushing this in various ways at times, but I’ll try not to overdo it. No, there’s no campaign video at this point: I’m just not telegenic.

If the campaign succeeds, all three books will appear. If it doesn’t, I’m not sure what will happen.

[My continued thanks to Laura Crossett for suggesting Give Us a Dollar and We’ll Give You Back Four; the new title is far more humdrum, but I needed something shorter, and “Buckfour” or $4, my own internal name, just weren’t doing it. That books will remain available.]

Raining on parades

Thursday, July 4th, 2013

I try to avoid grousing about people who rain on my parade, put down something I’m enthusiastic about, or otherwise buzzkill. I’m not sure I always manage that.

One reason to avoid bitching about buzzkill: If you then put down other people or groups for their enthusiasms, well, you come off looking like a hypocrite.

Looking like one because you are one.

I know, I know: You’re harshing my mellow, where I’m just pointing out the flaws in what you appreciate. It’s totally different.


[I was going to comment on the flood of liblog posts in Feedly this morning–more than 300, compared to the usual 110-150–but it turns out one specific blog burped up its entire history, accounting for more than half of the posts. So: Never mind.]