Making Book 17. The Librarian’s Guide to Micropublishing

This book is especially close to my heart, and it’s also one that’s given me some difficulty.

The difficulty isn’t with the publisher: Information Today, Inc. has been great throughout the process, beginning with accepting the idea and including the process of working with ITI’s designer to come up with a mutually-agreeable professional-quality Word book template that we could use without modification for the book itself and also make available to anybody else to download for free.

The difficulty isn’t with the quality of the book. I believe it’s first-rate (and was improved by ITI’s three layers of editing—one of the rare cases where I’m acutely aware of editorial changes, because the way we did this, I had to approve each one: the proposed changes were sticky notes in the PDF of the book).

The difficulty isn’t with the need for the book. I am 99% certain that 99% of America’s public libraries serve patrons who want to put some story into book form, even though they know it can’t sell hundreds of copies—whether that story is family genealogy (which alone would probably account for millions of such stories), family history, local history or a specialized interest. Lulu (and CreateSpace) make it possible to do that with no upfront costs; this book provides the tools to do it well with no upfront costs. (I’ve heard people swear that certain books done using these tools and templates were done by professionals. In the particular cases, yes, they were done by a professional, but a retired professional librarian, not a publishing professional.)

Nope. The difficulty is that the book hasn’t done nearly as well as it should.

Just as I believe every academic library (other than the most specialized) should own a copy of Open Access: What You Need to Know Now (WorldCat currently lsits 914 libraries owning it, so that’s a start), I believe every public library (and many academic libraries) should own a copy of this book to serve their patrons and community…but, so far, WorldCat only shows 433 copies.

ITI did a fine job of promoting the book, as far as I can tell.

Why have so few libraries picked it up? Well, it’s not dirt-cheap, but I wonder whether there’s also a fair amount of “we don’t want any part of this self-publishing crapola” going on? After all, if a library provides the tools to produce attractive, well-laid-out print-on-demand books, won’t there be some requests for them to have some of those books?

Maybe that’s not it. Maybe the penetration will grow over time. I hope so—not so much for the royalties as because I think this is a tool that really and truly will make a library more central to its community, and help to see the community’s stories told in durable form. Both of which I think are very good things.

In case you didn’t already know: although this book has a professionally-designed cover and the paperback version was offset-printed and bound by ITI, the contents (except for the title pages, provided as a PDF by ITI) were entirely generated using the tools and templates described in the book: Microsoft Word 2010, output to PDF. In fact, the casewrap hardcover version is fulfilled by Lulu, using the production methods described in the book.

Crawford, Walt. The Librarian’s Guide to Micropublishing: Helping Patrons and Communities Use Free and Low-Cost Publishing Tools to Tell Their Stories. Medford, NJ: Information Today, Inc., 2012. ISBN 978-1-57387-430-4 (pbk.), 978-1-57387-451-9 (casewrap)

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