Archive for 2013

Making Book 7: Marc for Library Use, Second Edition

Wednesday, November 13th, 2013

Shortly after G.K. Hall purchased the Professional Librarian Series from Knowledge Industry, the series editor asked me whether the time was ripe for a revised version of MARC for Library Use, which was still selling reasonably well. I responded that the completion of format integration (moving from a group of format-specific MARC formats to one integrated USMARC format) would be a good time to do that.

To some extent, a secondary motivation for the original book was to promote the idea of format integration. RLG staff began preparing proposals for such integration in 1984 and worked with others (at OCLC, LC and elsewhere) to refine those proposals over the years. The proposals were turned into reality during the MARBI sessions at Midwinter and Annual 1988—but, after having worked on the proposals for years, I was not at those two MARBI sessions. Because of changes in my position at RLG and other factors, I declined reappointment to MARBI for 1987-89 and moved from being an active participant to an interested observer.

Thus the subtitle of the second edition: Understanding Integrated USMARC. I refreshed and updated the earlier material—and also added occurrence tables for commonly-used fields in each material type, based on the test runs done for Bibliographic Displays in the Online Catalog and a new test run of over 600,000 records done in August 1988.

In addition to extensive updates and refinement, the second edition also added a chapter on format integration and a chapter on nonroman text (with samples from RLG cataloging, since RLG was a leader in establishing nonroman character sets, eventually working with a number of companies to establish UNICODE).

I’m guessing that most of you (if there are many of you!) who’ve seen or used MARC for Library Use used this edition—a 6″ x 9″ 358-page book (hardcover and paperback). It appeared in 1989. It did very well.

A note on production: While I’m pretty sure I produced camera-ready copy for some of my earlier books, I’m 100% certain of that in this case: there’s a colophon on the last page. It was set in Zapf Calligraphic, an updated version of Palatino designed by Hermann Zapf (who designed Palatino) for Bitstream as one of a series optimized for digital typography. Except for a few figures (added later), I prepared all pages using Ventura Publisher and an HP LaserJet Series II printer. (In some ways, I miss Ventura Publisher—but it didn’t play well with Windows, especially after Corel took it over. I do not miss the brutally expensive HP LaserJet, which ran hot and noisy, but it produced high-quality typography at a time when that was difficult to do on a budget.)

Crawford, Walt. MARC for Library Use, Second Edition: Understanding Integrated USMARC. Professional Librarian Series. Boston: G.K. Hall, 1989. ISBN 0-8161-1887-6. ISBN 0-8161-1889-2 (pbk.)

The Big Deal: More widely available–and a discount

Tuesday, November 12th, 2013

Two quick notes on The Big Deal and the Damage Done:

  1. Thanks! to the (German?) institution that purchased a site-license/campus-license edition.
  2. For those who want the paperback but don’t want to deal with Lulu, or prefer to deal with Amazon for whatever reason: You can now buy The Big Deal and the Damage Done at It currently sells for $21.54 at Amazon; if you’re a Prime member or otherwise get free shipping, the total cost of the book and shipping may be lower than through Lulu.

The paperback should become available through other sources as well, but so far it doesn’t show up at B&N. (Yes, the “publisher” in this case really is, since I accepted the free Lulu ISBN to get it into distribution channels–that ISBN makes Lulu the publisher of record.)

Also (which I just noticed while preparing this, and which will be in a separate post in a few minutes), this and all of my books at Lulu are eligible for a 20% off discount (one order per account, any number of items in that order), good from now through Friday, November 15: Use the coupon code CORNUCOPIA at checkout.


Making Book 6: Current Technologies in the Library

Monday, November 11th, 2013

One interesting aspect of writing most anything is dissonance between what you set out to write—and what a reader thought you should be writing.

In one way, that happened with MARC for Library Use, but at the editorial level: One publisher’s acquisitions editor thought I should be writing about how to catalog with MARC tags. I don’t remember running into that level of dissonance with reviewers, though.

This book—full title Current Technologies in the Library: An Informal Overview—was where I ran into full-scale dissonance. As I remember, at least one reviewer (and maybe more) was really unhappy with the book because they thought it would be about leading-edge or cutting-edge or future technologies. They were particularly unhappy that the first chapter was “The Printed Page.”

But this book wasn’t futurism; it wasn’t cutting-edge; it was designed to help people think about and understand the technologies that their libraries currently used and some of the history behind some of them.

To quote from the introduction:

This book provides some background for many areas of current technology. It won’t make you an expert in any area, but will introduce you to some of the terminology, some of the basic concepts, and some specific ways in which the technology may affect libraries now or in the near future. It will also offer suggestions for further reading, should you wish to delve more deeply into a particular field.

The book was about tools, techniques and media, rather than systems, solutions and messages. I suggested four categories, of which the book covered portions of the second and third:

  1. Invisible and underlying technology—e.g., the electrical transmission system, heating and cooling, etc.
  2. Media and carriers—methods of storing and transmitting information.
  3. Tools and techniques (but only a few of those)
  4. Systems, e.g. library automation systems.

I tried to cover technologies that were still reasonably current in 1988—”either emerging with the likelihood of success, active or mature.”

Part 1 is Publishing Media—beginning with The Printed Page and running through Software for Lending, with a final chapter on Preservation.

Part 2 is Computers and Communications, with chapters on computers, input and display, printers, etc.

I included thumbnail histories and tables in some chapters, doing enough research to be reasonably sure of what I was saying—and I admit that I come back to the book at times to use these resources. I discussed interesting historical aspects of specific media and technologies, some of the advantages and problems, and in some cases specific library applications. (E.g., in the microform chapter—which begins “Microform is the Rodney Dangerfield of information media: it doesn’t get any respect”—I included “Closed Systems,” which most younger librarians may never have seen. Best examples: Newspaper Index and Magazine Index in ye olden days, big boxes with screens and locked-in computer-output microfilm (COM).)

Each chapter ended with a brief bibliography—items for further reading. The book included a fairly extensive glossary.

I should note that my wife specifically encouraged this project—and, unusually, went through the manuscript making lots of suggestions to improve the text. I believe it’s one of the best written books I’ve ever done, thanks in part to her critical eye.

The 324-page 6″ x 9″ book was published by G.K. Hall in paperback and hardcover (with a paper sleeve, the first of my hardcover books to use a sleeve rather than casewrap) in 1988. I believe it was useful; it sold reasonably well, although it didn’t set the world on fire. I cannot imagine doing a newer version of it!

Crawford, Walt. Current Technologies in the Library: An Informal Overview. Professional Librarian Series. Boston: G.K. Hall, 1988. ISBN 0-8161-1886-8. ISBN 0-8161-1888-4 (pbk.)

The Big Deal and the Damage Done: Quick note

Friday, November 8th, 2013

When I checked Lulu sales this morning (I usually check once a day or so), I was delighted to see that somebody purchased two paperback copies of The Big Deal and the Damage Done some time this morning.

Thanks! (Given the way Lulu reports sales, it appears to be one person or institution buying two copies, not two different people or institutions…)

I’ve been reading the book the last couple of days, as I start to set up for the 2012 project (that is, a 12-year study including 2012 data, once that data is posted by NCES). I’m still proud of the project; it was done quickly but, I believe, well, and should be must reading for library school students and worthwhile for many academic libraries.

As previously noted, I will not be self-publishing a 2012 update. A shorter and probably simpler version covering 2000 through 2012 (and normalizing dollar amounts to 2012 dollars rather than 2002 dollars) will be published by a “real publisher” as part of a subscription series, also available separately. (I get paid once, no royalties–but I get paid a reasonable, if not huge, amount.) There may or may not be a self-published extension, looking at other aspects of possible damage or going into more detail; that will depend on what I see in the 2012 data and on discussions with the publisher.

In any case, the current Big Deal and the Damage Done will continue to be available as a $9.99 PDF ebook (no DRM, explicit full first-sale rights, color graphs) and a $16.50 trade paperback (the graphs all use line portions as well as colors, so they’re entirely readable in black-and-white) right up to the point where the newer related item is published. (And possibly beyond, if there are continuing sales and the other publisher agrees–but it’s unlikely.)

A little nudge

But The Big Deal and the Damage Done is also available in a special $40 campus license version–identical to the $9.99 PDF, except that the cover has an extra line and the copyright page explicitly grants permission to make the book available for simultaneous multiuser download or reading from a campus (or library or association) server.

The regular PDF is a case where a library buys the ebook, not just leasing it: It explicitly carries first-sale rights. The campus version goes way beyond: it means you’re ethically as well as legally able to make the book available to every student in a library school (on campus or distance), to every librarian in a multicampus system, to…whatever seems reasonable. With my explicit approval, right there on the copyright page.

So far, three of those special editions have been sold. I count each one as four copies in counting overall sales–and the book’s about eleven copies away from catching up with Give Us a Dollar and We’ll Give You Back Four. (Neither one is nearing three-digit sales yet…)

If I saw 40-50 campus-license sales (suggesting roughly one per library school) and that was the end of it, I’d be delighted.

On the other hand, if nobody cares about the site-license/campus-license version, it will go away.

PS: Not that I want to encourage anybody to wait, but Lulu might be having some partial-week sales, typically 20% off with a coupon code. If I remember and if I see them, I’ll post about them as they happen. The 20% comes out of Lulu’s portion, so the only effect on me is to increase book sales.

Right now, the only book sale I know if is the “FAST5” coupon, good for 5% off, but it can only be used once per account–so, for example, buying a complete set of all eight annual volumes of Cites & Insights might be a good use for it. [Go to Search for Cites Insights. When I do that, the eight annuals come up first. Why eight? I never produced volumes 1-5 via Lulu, although I’ve been tempted to do so.]


Making Book 5: Patron Access: Issues for Online Catalogs

Friday, November 8th, 2013

In 1987, I went back to a book a year—for that year and through 1992 (although there was a second “book” in 1992, I’m not sure it counts).

To my mind, this book is the second one that changed the library field significantly (MARC for Library Use was the first): I believe online catalog patron interfaces in the late 1980s and beyond were significantly influenced by this publication, including the huge growth in gutter-aligned labeled displays.

How widespread are gutter-aligned labeled bibliographic displays? Take a look at your library’s online catalog, the detailed or full display for a single item. There’s a very good chance that it has a column of labels—and that those labels are right-aligned. (I know that’s true for my public library, and I believe that library uses one of the most widely-used ILSes.)

Before Patron Access, there were very few such displays. I didn’t come up with the idea (I saw it suggested by Joe Matthews), but I believe this book was the first to publicize it widely and show how well it worked—since it certainly didn’t sound intuitively attractive.


This is the second book to grow out of the RLG Patron Access Project, the lengthy literature survey, and the enormous outline and bibliography I assembled during that project. (The outline included more than 250 specific issues relating to patron access: it did emerge as a three-part document in late 1985 or early 1986 (as far as I know, it is not available online). My superiors at RLG were happy to allow me to use the outline to prepare a book. As usual, a number of RLG colleagues (Lennie Stovel, Glee Cady, Kathleen Bales, Sarah How) commented on various drafts, as did my editor at Knowledge Industry Publications and my wife (Linda Driver, a professional librarian).

It’s probably worth quoting two paragraphs from the Acknowledgments:

This book builds on, but does not supplant, the landmark books on online catalogs by Charles Hildreth, Joe Matthews and Emily Fayen (all cited in the Bibliograph). Although I don’t agree with everything in those sources, I would be remiss not to express my appreciation for their work.

Finally, I should acknowledge the librarians who, over the years, have shown that the most important aspect of patron access is the concerned, professional librarian. Many names at UC Berkeley, Stanford, Palo Alto City Library and Menlo Park Public Library come to mind; Virginia Pratt at UC Berkeley’s Library School library deserves special mention.

The book was not published by Knowledge Industry. G.K. Hall purchased the Professional Librarian Series from Knowledge Industry, including existing contracts; this was my first book to be published by G.K. Hall.


The preface to the book—a 259-page (plus xii pages) 6″ x 9″ hardcover and paperback—made it clear that the highlight boxes were “my own opinions and are intended to provoke thought, not to be accepted on faith.” And here are the final four paragraphs of that preface, which describe my aims fairly well:

Good patron access systems exist, and more are being developed. Online catalogs, though still in their infancy, have the potential to provide more and better access to all forms of bibliographic material, including materials never represented in card catalogs.

This book’s subtitle expresses its primary intent and focus: Issues for Online Catalogs. After some years of discussion, early research and early examples of online catalogs, the time seems right to discuss a broad spectrum of issues related to patron access. Some issues appear to be obvious and to have obvious answers. Some issues may appear extraneous to patron access. Many issues are controversial, and some may be impossible to resolve.

My intent in this work is to stimulate further thought and development, not to devise the perfect patron access system. Assertions should encourage challenges; if those challenges produce demonstrably better patron access, my goals will be achieved.

Patron access catalogs will improve. By 1991, many of the discussions in this book should appear quaint because the issues I discuss will already be resolved. That’s as it should be. I am building on the work of others, with the expectation that others will add more and better work to mine.

I believe that happened, and I believe this book played a significant role. I suspect some of the highlight boxes are still relevant. If you’ve always lived with online catalogs, you might not be aware just how primitive many patron interfaces were in 1986—if libraries had online catalogs with patron interfaces at all, that is. Remember patron access interfaces that were only to the catalog itself, without holdings or availability information? No? (When somebody talks about “online card catalogs,” it’s worth remembering that there was a time when many online catalogs didn’t provide status information—and in many cases provided less information than the card catalogs.)

The book’s organization stems from the master outline’s organization, refined over the course of a year or more. There are a dozen chapters, including “Presentation: Context in an Online Catalog,” “System Clarity,” “Feedback and Help” and “Display Issues.” (There’s also a glossary, an annotated bibliography and an index.) It appears that the longest single chapter is “The Database Engine: Computer, Files and Indexes,” but most chapters are roughly similar in length.

I am particularly proud of this book. I now own the rights to all of my books published by Knowledge Industry or G.K. Hall/Macmillan. This is the oldest one that, if I had the text in machine-readable form, I would actually be tempted to republish (quite possibly with a CC BY license) because it might still be useful for the field. (I don’t have the text in machine-readable form, and can’t see scanning the pages and cleaning up the OCR without any funding at all…but I do believe it would be a worthwhile project.)

Just to finish this off, here are four of the five assertions (highlight boxes) from the “Protection” section, each of which has several paragraphs of expansion. (The fifth may not be relevant any longer—it had to do with limited computer resources, very much an issue in 1987!)

A good patron access system protects the patron from the system, the patron from other patrons and agencies, and the system from the patron.

While patron access systems should show that items are charged out, and may show when they are due, no patron should be able to find out who has items charged out.

No records should link a patron to returned items, and no records should link an item to the patrons who have borrowed and returned it.

Records of commands entered at a catalog should never identify the patron who is using the system.

I believe those four (the last three are essentially expansions of the first) still describe a desirable state of affairs for every library’s online catalog—and I still believe that weakening those protections is dangerous.

Crawford, Walt. Patron Access: Issues for Online Catalogs. Professional Librarian Series. Boston: G.K. Hall, 1987. ISBN 0-8161-1850-7. ISBN 0-8161-1852-3 (pbk.)

Self-Publishing Reality Check 8

Wednesday, November 6th, 2013

It’s been a fortnight since my last post in this series.

I’m delighted to say that there have been some sales—although all but one of them are for The Big Deal and the Damage Done, rather than any of the books I’m tracking here.

For the record:

  • One paperback copy of Your Library Is…
  • Four (!) paperback copies of The Big Deal and the Damage Done
  • One campus license ebook version of The Big Deal and the Damage Done (which I count as four sales-equivalents)

For what it’s worth, including campus licenses as four each, The Big Deal and the Damage Done is about to catch up with Give Us a Dollar and We’ll Give You Back Four in total sales. Note that neither one has yet reached three digits…

I’m using abbreviations (and hiss boo a table boo hiss) so I can track this over time—and have simplified the table for width reasons:

  • $4v1/p, e, s: $4 to $1: Public Library Benefits and Budgets, volume 1, paperback, ebook and site license versions respectively
  • YLI/p, e: Your Library Is…, paperback and ebook versions respectively
  • iC: The inCompleat Give Us a Dollar… (paperback only)
  • C$1: The Compleat Give Us a Dollar… volume 1, both editions
  • C$2: The Compleat Give Us a Dollar… volume 2, both editions
Dates $4v1/p $4v1/e $4v1/s YLI/p YLI/e iC C$1 C$2/s
To 8/29


















Making Book 4. Bibliographic Displays in the Online Catalog

Wednesday, November 6th, 2013

My third book for 1986 isn’t precisely mine and grew out of a two-year project at RLG, one that resulted in other later publications as well.

It was, among other things, a much earlier set of statistics for MARC field occurrence in a large set of bibliographic data than anything comparable I can think of—but that was actually a lengthy appendix.


In 1984, the J. Paul Getty Trust funded a two-year RLG project with a number of aims. One portion of the overall project was the Patron Access Project. The goal of that project was to develop a design for a workstation-based patron access system to work with an online catalog based on RLIN software. The project rested on several assumptions, among them that online catalogs (and especially patron access) were just beginning a long process of development, evaluation and improvement; that scholars and research libraries might have special needs less likely to be fully addressed by commercial catalog development; that by 1990 scholars would have access to powerful microcomputer-based workstations; that RLIN itself (while “an unusually sophisticated database engine and retrieval methodology”) was not designed for direct use by scholars or other patrons; and that RLG should focus on the access needs of scholars as part of its overall goal.

I served as investigator for Phase 1 of the project, studying—exhaustively—the literature of online catalogs and preparing an extremely detailed outline of issues for online catalogs. (Remember when we used special outline software to develop outlines—before it was plausible to just use the outline functions of Word and competitors?) In 1985, I attended a CLR conference on online catalog screen displays and “came away convinced that the library community could benefit from large-scale tests of bibliographic display systems.”

Since I was still Product Batch manager (a post I gave up at the end of the project, becoming “assistant director for Special Services”), I was aware that RLG maintained the RLIN Monthly Process File, a file in MARC format containing 700,000 to 900,000 records (anything created or updated or used for catalog cards or other products during the previous six weeks)—and that it was feasible to use that file as a testbed. (At the time, computer capacity and handling methods didn’t really allow for processing the entire RLIN database for this sort of thing.) I developed the Bibliographic Display Testbed program, making it possible to try out a proposed set of display rules and see the results—both sample screens and how often, for example, records would run over to second or third screens.

A sidebar about the times and technology. In 1985-1986, and a few years beyond that, most library computer displays, especially for online use, were character-based, showing 24 lines of 80 characters each (fixed-width characters). You typically got from one screen to the next by typing a command, certainly not by scrolling down an effectively-infinite-length virtual screen. (What would you scroll with? Those smart terminals didn’t have mice.)

So there were real reasons to be concerned with how often users would need to go past the first screen of a record display, especially given the sense that a fair number of users might not bother.

I’d worked with MARC records—and specifically RLG’s MARC records, which included a lot of archival and manuscript control records—to suspect that bibliographic data was too heterogeneous for small samples to be terribly meaningful. We ran some 100-record tests, which satisfied my conviction: They varied so much from test to test as to be nearly useless.

RLG concluded (at my suggestion) that we could provide a useful product for the wider library community by testing a range of possible display designs and publishing the results. That would require work time, more than one analyst—and a means of distributing the result. Some portion of the time of two other library systems analysts (Lennie Stovel and Kathleen Bales) was made available, and Knowledge Industry Publications, Inc. agreed to publish the results (with RLG owning the copyright and receiving what royalties might ensue, since this work was done on work time).


This was a team effort. I wrote the programs and documentation, managed the large-scale test runs and wrote most of the text for the book. I also provided some possibilities for display design, based on the Patron Access Project study. Lennie Stovel provided much of the display design, investigating different possibilities for the top and bottom of the screen, different label alternatives and different sets of data elements. Kathleen Bales (some of you know her as Kathy) worked with Lennie to prepare the final sets of data elements and labels and to refine the designs. Both of them reviewed my program design and suggested improvements.

We were looking at several issues for online catalog design: which fields and subfields to include in each kind of display, how to arrange and group the fields, whether to use labeled or cardlike displays, what labels to use and where to put them, what techniques to use to improve legibility (remember, we’re talking about fixed-width characters with relatively low resolution), how many different display types to provide and what other information to put on the screen (and where!).

We saw five major questions: Does the display provide an appropriate amount of information? Will patrons understand the information as it is displayed? Is the display readable and attractive? Will patrons be able to find information rapidly and to find all the information needed? Will patrons be able to view the information on a single screen?

As far as we knew, almost no work had been done on the final question and not enough on the others.

We did hundreds of early test runs, mostly using a single day’s activity (19,000 to 25,000 records at the time), but several dozen using the entire six-week file. Based on those tests, we concluded that three levels of display were minimal—brief, medium and complete, each possibly either cardlike or labeled. The aim was for a brief display to leave at least seven lines for holdings information at least 90% of the timeand for a medium display to fit on one screen (with at least three lines of holdings) 90% of the time. It was clear that complete labeled displays would usually require at least two 24-line screens—but that complete cardlike displays could usually fit on one screen with minimal holdings.

We finally arrived at a common frame—the top and bottom of each screen—and a common set of data elements for medium displays. For various reasons, the dataset used for testing was reduced to a subset containing 395,000 to 405,000 records (or, for public libraries, a constant set of just under 35,000 records). We ran final tests against those records to determine percentages, and used a fixed set of eight representative records to prepare mockup displays.

The result was this 359-page 8.5″ x 11″ paperback. It includes eight chapters, most chapters combining discussions of specific display design possibilities, tables of the efficiency of those options and figures showing how the options worked out in practice. (There are a lot of figures—the book’s mostly tables and figures—with most chapters having anywhere from 46 to 99 half-page screen simulations and four or five tables each.)

Appendix A included field occurrence tables (showing for each USMARC field the occurrences per hundred records and the average field length) for all records except archival & manuscript control (a testbed of more than 628,000 records—that table is four pages long); field occurrences for 34,941 public library records; a comparison of two different 600,000-record samples (taken four months apart) for selected fields; and field occurrences for each bibliographic format (with sample sizes including 522,000 books records, 3,975 AMC records—which were and are distinctly different than most others, a mere 408 machine-readable data file records (there weren’t many of those back in the mid-1980s!), 1,000-odd maps, 11,600-odd musical scores, 50,000 serials, 4,450 sound recordings and 1,600-odd visual materials—and for each format, how the sample performed for each of 28 display possibilities. Another appendix provided a full MARC-tagged listing for each record used in most of the tests.

What was the impact of this book? I can’t say. I believe that the related Patron Access: Issues for Online Catalogs (more about that later) helped to convince designers to give “gutter-aligned” labeled displays a try—that is, displays where the label is right-aligned and the field text is left-aligned. Such displays were almost unknown before that book was published and became nearly standard (for labeled displays!) in later years: They sounded strange, but we found that they worked very well.

Are there huge differences between the field occurrence rates we found back then and those in the much larger grant-sponsored study (against a copy of most of the OCLC database) done more recently? Not really. The newer study took things down to the subfield level, but the general results were quite similar—as you’d expect. It’s not news that most bibliographic records only use a handful of fields; the question is whether the special cases that require oddball fields should be supported by the formats. I always believed they should, and continue to believe that, but—again—that’s another discussion.

Crawford, Walt, Lennie Stovel and Kathleen Bales. Bibliographic Displays in the Online Catalog. Professional Librarian Series. White Plains, NY: Knowledge Industry Publications, 1986. ISBN 0-86729-198-2 (pbk.)

Making Book 3: Common Sense Personal Computing

Tuesday, November 5th, 2013

1986 was a big year for me for books—three of them in all, each with a very different background.

It was also the year after I was appointed LITA Newsletter editor and, in order to provide more coverage of conference events and other divisional stuff, changed the publication from traditional ALA layout and typography to desktop publishing: Eventually tripling the page count without ever increasing the budget. In the end, I edited (and produced the pages for) the LITA Newsletter for more than half of its life as a print publication (I was editor from 1985 through 1994)—a record I would rather not own, since once LITA Newsletter went e-only it didn’t take long to disappear entirely. But that’s another story and not directly relevant.


I don’t recall the precise genesis—whether I was talking to Ed Wall at a party or one of “his people”—but I’d had an idea for an interesting little article back in late 1983 or early 1984. Those were the early days of serious personal computers: After the pure-hobby stuff but when IBM PCs were just starting to be significant.

The concept: I’d noticed, in shopping for a computer and reading early computer magazines, that there were three very different ways that personal computers were priced: “computer pricing,” hardware pricing and system pricing. The question was: “How much will that $1,200 computer really cost?”

  • Computer pricing meant a quoted figure that got you a computer and a keyboard—and not much of anything else. The classic examples were the Commodore 64 and early Apple and IBM PC prices. “You have bought an expensive paperweight; by spending more money (generally a lot more money) you can turn that paperweight into a system. Computer Pricing is like pricing an automobile without including windshield, seats, the engine, or controls.”
  • Hardware pricing meant a price that got you a computer, keyboard, monitor, disk drives, and enough I/O to attach a printer. Early examples were Compaq portables, the Mac and the Apple IIc. (The IIe originally featured computer pricing; when Apple introduced the IIc, it repriced the IIe as a complete set of hardware and substantially dropped the price.) As I noted, this was better—but was still like buying an automobile “which doesn’t have any steering wheel, gas pedal or brakes, or other controls.”
  • System pricing probably originated with Osborne—offering a system ready to do useful work as you buy it. The price would included not only a full set of hardware but also “relatively complete software”—typically word processing, spelling checker (those were separate back in 1984!), spreadsheet, database or file manager, and BASIC. All you needed was a printer, some paper and some diskettes. Morrow, Kaypro and Sanyo all used system pricing.

Anyway…I wrote the article, “Commonsense System Pricing,” which showed comparable system prices for ten different personal computers, trying to determine actual comparability. By the way: Only two of the ten systems had hard disks at all.

The article appeared in Issue 6 (actually volume 2, issue 2) (1984) of the young Library Hi Tech.

That article led to another article, “Common Sense Planning for a Computer, or, What’s it Worth to You?”—which appeared in Issue 7. (LHT was—is, I guess—a quarterly.) And another in the final 1984 issue. And four more in 1985, three in 1986, three in 1987 and three in 1988. (In 1989, I replaced the “Common Sense Personal Computing” articles with “Trailing Edge” articles, which appeared in most issues of LHT from 1989 through 1998: my vanity bookcase includes a 15″ deep collection of LHT issues. Then there’s “Trailing Edge Notes” and “Crawford’s Corner” in Library Hi Tech News, 10 times a year from 1995 through 2000…which, when I finally stopped doing it after the publication had been sold to what’s now Emerald and the prices were jacked way up, eventually led to Cites & Insights. But that’s a digression.


Ed Wall (of Pierian Press, at the time publisher of Library Hi Tech) encouraged me to build a book around the columns, with some additional pieces added and making a logical whole. I did that in the latter half of 1985. The title of Chapter 1 may have been prophetic: “Just What The World Needs, Another Book on Microcomputers: An Introduction.”

The book has 16 chapters and totals 204 8.5″ x 11″ pages. It was produced from an HP LaserJet printer—but at Pierian Press rather than by me. As recounted in the preface, the writing and submission project involved portions of the book being worked on in up to five different word processing systems: WordStar (on my Morrow MD2 with CP/M and two diskette drives), NewWord (most of the chapters, on my later Morrow MD11—with a massive 11 megabyte hard disk, still CP/M), The FinalWord (at RLG on an IBM PC/XT running PC-DOS), PC-Write (my preferred writing/editing tool for the PC/XT and, because that’s what Pierian used, WordPerfect (also on a PC/XT).

It wasn’t a bad book. It was very much of its time. It’s now a quaint historical piece.

Crawford, Walt. Common Sense Personal Computing: A Handbook for Professionals. Ann Arbor, MI: Pierian Press, 1986. ISBN 0-87650-218-4 (pbk.)

Maybe I should write something about OA

Monday, November 4th, 2013

Purely an incidental comment…

I used to write a fair amount about open access–in particular about how it related to libraries.

Enough so that in 2010 I self-published Open Access and Libraries: Essays from Cites & Insights 2001-2009. (That link is to the $17.50 paperback; the PDF ebook is absolutely free.)

The paperback is 513 pages long and includes 33 essays and an introduction. (It’s incomplete: it only includes whole essays on OA, not discussions of OA within other essays.)

I put it together partly because I’d sort of given up writing about OA at that point, partly because I didn’t think I was being heard at all, partly because more knowledgeable people and those with much larger voices were covering it so extensively.

Indeed, there were no essays specifically about OA in Cites & Insights during 2010, 2011 or 2012–although one could certainly argue that one or both of the essays in the December 2012 issue were pretty closely related to OA.

On the other hand, I did produce a compact book for ALA Editions in 2011, Open Access: What You Need to Know Now. It’s still available; I believe it’s still useful.

Then came 2013

In January 2013, I devoted most of the issue (90%) to “Catching Up with Open Access.”

In February 2013, I devoted most of the issue (>90%) to the second half of that essay.

And stuff kept happening that I thought was worth tagging for discussion…enough stuff so that I devoted nearly all (98+%) of the June 2013 issue to “Hot Times for Open Access.”

Adding it up

Just for fun (and because I could do it in three or four minutes), I thought I’d see what those essays–the ones in December 2012, January 2013, February 2013 and June 2013–would amount to if I was doing a second volume of Open Access and Libraries.

Three hundred and forty pages. Well, that’s without copyfitting. With copyfitting, it would probably come out to as little as 330-334 pages. Plus an introduction, table of contents and (maybe?) an index (but an index would be at least 10-12 pages).

In other words, by at least one measure, I’ve devoted almost precisely two-thirds as much space to open access since December 2012 as I did from 2001 through 2009. It comes out to about 126,000 words.

I don’t (currently) plan on doing such a second volume, partly because I don’t (currently) plan on abandoning OA coverage as a small voice grumbling in the wilderness, but even now it would be a fairly thick paperback.


That’s the number of items currently tagged “OA” in Diigo. Which means it’s all items that I have not yet written about. Dunno when I will. One significant chunk of that gets me a pleasant enough earworm of a particular Scott Joplin rag…

No deeper significance.




Cites & Insights 13 (2013) – annual print edition available

Monday, November 4th, 2013

The annual paperback edition of Cites & Insights is now available for Volume 13, 2013 at

The 414-page 8.5″ x 11″ paperback costs $25.99.

Highlights of this 12-issue volume include:

  • Catching Up with Open Access, Parts 1 & 2 (and Hot Times for Open Access)
  • Academic Library Circulation: Surprise! (two parts: 2008-2010 and 2006-2010)
  • The Death of Books (or Not) and Deathwatch 2013!
  • The Mythical Average Public Library
  • The Big Deal and the Damage Done (excerpts)
  • Social Networks
  • Books, Books and (Books?), a set of excerpts
  • Erehwon Community Library: A $4 to $1 Example
  • The Ebook Marketplace, Parts 1 and 2
  • and more…

If you’re wondering, the cover shot was taken in or around Papeete, Tahiti, on April 1, 2001–but it’s been flipped left-to-right to work better as a cover. (Otherwise, the front cover would be almost entirely water…)