Archive for the ‘$4’ Category

$4 to $1: Two Timely Announcements

Thursday, October 10th, 2013

At least in my mind, $4 to $1: Public Library Benefits and Budgets is a much better overall discussion of public library benefits and budgets in FY2011 (and how they changed from 2009), and a much better tool for libraries to help tell their own stories, than was Give Us a Dollar and We’ll Give You Back Four (still available, but you’re better off getting either The inCompleat Give Us a Dollar… in paperback or The Compleat Give Us a Dollar… volume 1 as a $9.99 ebook or $39.99 site-license ebook).

So far, apparently, nobody’s found it worth spending $9.99 (or $39.99 for a systemwide/statewide license) for the non-DRM PDF ebook to find out and use it–and only two people or libraries have purchased the $25 paperback, currently discounted to $19.96 at Lulu.

So, two timely announcements:

Now available at Amazon and elsewhere

If you just can’t cope with Lulu, you can now buy $4 to $1: Public Library Benefits and Budgets from Amazon–currently discounted to $21.72. (I get less revenue from this than from the Lulu sale, but that’s OK–at this point, I really want to see the book get some use!)

“and elsewhere”? It should be available at other online bookstores. So far, I don’t find it at Barnes & Noble, but…

It’s exactly the same book, ISBN 978-1-304-35588-1. (“Exactly the same” might or might not be correct–it’s possible that the copies produced for other sellers don’t use the wonderful 60lb. cream book stock that Lulu uses, but I think they do. Given the sales to date, I’m not going to spend $21.72 to find out!)

Discount ends soon unless there are sales

The current discount on the paperback book on Lulu will be retained until the book has been out for two months–it was first announced as available on August 23, 2013.

If there aren’t any sales between now and October 23, 2013, I’ll drop the discount: the price will go back to $25.00

At that point, it’s quite possible that the ebook price will be increased by $5.

[If and when there are Lulu sales, and I notice them, I’ll announce them, and those are unrelated to my promise that the prices of these books aren’t going down: They’re temporary Lulu-wide sales events that don’t reduce my income.]

I must admit, at this point $159.99 is beginning to sound like the appropriate price point for a somewhat specialized library research report in PDF form; I’ve seen that used elsewhere, by an outfit that must be selling enough copies to stay in business…but let’s not go there just yet.

IndieGoGo and non-sales: An oddity

Friday, October 4th, 2013

This could be a letter to 16 of the 18 people who would have donated money for the three-book project (Your Library Is…, $4 to $1: Public Library Benefits and Budgets, Volume 1 and $4 to $1 Volume 2) if another 70 or so had joined them in the IndieGoGo campaign.

Specifically, those whose contribution (which was returned to them) would have yielded sets of the PDF ebooks as perks.

But I’d rather make it an open letter because I don’t want to point at individuals.

Why 16 of the 18? Because I know that one of them–a close friend–did buy Your Library Is…, and one pledged a very small amount that would not have earned a free paperback. I believe one other contributor may have purchased both books, but have no way to be sure.

Here’s the oddity: 17 people contributed at least $30, for which they would have received the three ebooks.

Only two copies of each book have been sold to date–and all four sales have been paperback copies.

I was hoping, of course, that the 17 “contributions” (I’m not sure what to call contributions that don’t actually yield contributions) would lead to at least 170 sales of each book. That wouldn’t be wonderful, but it would be decent.

I sort of assumed there would be at least 17 copies sold of at least one of the two books. So much for assumptions.

I guess the question is why people contributed if they really didn’t want the books?

  • They wanted other people and libraries to get $4 to $1 for free–an admirable motive!–but they really weren’t interested in the book itself, and weren’t much interested in Your Library Is… either.
  • They were primarily interested in Volume 2, and only bought into the project to see that happens. That explanation strains credulity.
  • Some other explanation that hasn’t occurred to me.

It’s certainly not that people decided to get Your Library Is… by donating to Cites & Insights instead: To date (since well before the publication of the books), that hasn’t happened at all.

These are people who thought they were contributing at least $30. The two ebooks combined cost $18.99.

It’s an oddity.

About site license versions

I’ve promised that site license versions of $4 to $1 Volume 1, The Compleat Give Us a Dollar vol. 1 and The Big Deal and the Damage Done  will continue until at least November 1.

I’ll refine that promise.

If there are no site license sales by November 1, 2013, site license versions will cease to be available on or around November 2, 2013.

I established these special versions to make it easy for library schools and other institutions or groups of institutions to make the ebooks widely available at absurdly low cost. But if there’s no interest, they’ll simply go away.

Erewhon Community Library: A $4 to $1 Example

Friday, September 27th, 2013

A good public library is at the heart of any healthy community, and the true value provided by a good library is hard to measure. That value includes children whose road to literacy begins at the library; newly employed workers who use the library to improve their skills and find jobs; every patron who learns something new or enriches their life using library resources; and the myriad ways a good public library strengthens its community as a community center and resource.

Those anecdotes and uncounted benefits make up the flesh and blood of a public library’s story—but there are also the bones: countable benefits, including those reported every year. Even including only those countable benefits, public libraries offer excellent value: by my conservative calculation, most provide more than $4 in benefits for every $1 in spending.

So what?

So this: Public libraries with better funding continue to show a high ratio of benefits to cost. That’s significant, especially as communities recover economically and libraries seek an appropriate share of improved community revenues.

Those are the first four paragraphs of $4 to $1: Public Library Benefits and Budgets. Here’s a little more that relates directly to the book:

This book and the companion state-by-state study have two purposes:

  • To offer a detailed overview of public library benefits in 2011 and how they changed from 2009
  • To help librarians, Friends and other library supporters tell your library’s story, seeing how it compares to similar libraries on a range of countable measures.

These two volumes grow out of the earlier Give Us a Dollar and We’ll Give You Back Four (2012-13), based in 2010 data and consisting primarily of tables. I recommend either The Incompleat Give Us a Dollar… as a print book or the two ebook volumes of The Compleat Give Us a Dollar…, still available from Lulu, which combine graphs, tables and commentary and provide a more extensive background for this book.

By comparison to the earlier book, this book includes more libraries, breaks library sizes down into fewer groups, simplifies other measures somewhat and reports fewer measures. But it also adds 2009-2011 changes, graphs where appropriate, more detailed tables and textual commentary on what’s in the graphs and tables. Because all of that requires considerably more space, what was a single book is now two volumes: one by library size, one by state. (Most of this chapter and all of Chapter 2 are common to both so that the two books are each complete without reference to the other. The second volume may or may not appear, and if so will appear later.)

No more quotations. You may or may not know that the book is off to a slow start. (That overstates the success of the book, actually…) I don’t know whether this will help, but I thought I’d provide a quick example of what a library could determine from the book—and how it might or might not help the Friends or the librarians tell the library’s story to funding agencies.

Erewhon Community Library

This mythical library, in Erewhon, Alabama, is the average of two actual libraries, each having the median library service area population for 2011: 7,092 potential patrons. In most ways, the two libraries are quite different, so this profile doesn’t represent either of them. (Neither one is in Alabama: I’ve moved Erewhon there so that I can offer notes on what Volume 2 could offer, if it ever happens.)

The Figures

Here’s what Erewhon Community Library received when they sent me email (or what they already knew):































I suspect the labels are easy enough to unravel, but just in case, they are: LSA (legal service area), spending per capita, change in spending per capita (from 2009 to 2011), circulation per capita, change in circulation per capita, patron visits per capita, change in patron visits per capita, reference transactions per capita, change in reference transactions per capita, program attendance per capita, change in program attendance per capita, visits per hour, change in visits per hour.

National Comparisons

Here’s how Erewhon compares to public libraries across the board:

  • Spending is actually about average—that is, below the average but well above the median. It’s in the $30 to $39.99 bracket, the middle bracket. 34% of libraries are in higher spending brackets; 49% are in lower brackets.
  • The change in spending is better than most, in the third of six brackets (2% to 8% increases)—with 32% in higher brackets, 49% lower.
  • Circulation per capita is lower than most, in the fourth of six brackets (and near the bottom of that bracket). Half of libraries do significantly better; 35% do worse. There’s a strong correlation between spending and circulation, and that’s probably the most important and demonstrable correlation in the book. For its spending level, it’s in the bottom quarter of circulation per capita, but not in the bottom tenth.
  • Circulation dropped substantially, more than in most libraries—it’s in the bottom bracket, with 83% of libraries doing better. For its spending level, it’s not in the bottom tenth but it is in the bottom quartile.
  • Visits per capita are also below most, in the fourth of six categories (and near the bottom of that bracket), with 51% doing significantly better and 25% doing worse. For its spending category, it’s in the bottom 10%: 90% of libraries spending $30 to $39.99 per capita do better.
  • But at least it’s improving, quite nicely, in fact. It’s not in the top bracket for changes in visits per capita (20% and up), but it’s in the top half of the second (7% to 19%), with 17% of libraries doing better and 67% doing worse. For its spending category, it’s in the top quarter but not the top tenth.
  • Reference transactions per capita are very good—near the top of the second of six brackets (0.8 to 1.29), with 17% doing better and 68% doing worse. For its spending category, it’s in the top quarter but not the top tenth.
  • On the other hand, reference transactions are dropping; Erewhon is slightly worse than most libraries in this regard, in the fourth of six brackets (48% significantly better, 33% worse). For its spending category, it’s in the second quarter (that is, below the median but above the first quartile).
  • Program attendance per capita is mediocre, in the fourth of six brackets, with 54% doing significantly better and 32% doing worse. For its spending category, Erewhon is just into the second quartile—that is, about 25% of libraries have lower program attendance.
  • As with visits, change is in the right direction, in the third of six brackets (32% doing better, 50% doing worse). For its spending category, it’s in the third quartile—better than most, but not in the top 25%.
  • PC use per capita is very low, in the fifth of six brackets, with 64% of libraries doing significantly better and 15% doing worse. For its spending category, it’s not in the bottom 10% but it’s definitely in the bottom quarter.
  • Ah, but PC use is improving fast—it’s near the top of the second of six brackets, with 17% of libraries doing even better and 68% doing worse. For its spending category, it’s not in the top 10% but it’s definitely in the top quarter.
  • The library isn’t especially busy, which is fairly typical for relatively small libraries. It’s in the fourth of six brackets, with 50% of libraries busier and 34% less busy. For its spending category, it’s in the second quarter—that is, more than 25% of libraries spending $30 to $39.99 per capita are less busy and more than 50% are busier.
  • Finally, it’s getting busier, in the second of six brackets for change in visits per hour, with 16% higher and 68% lower. For its spending category, it’s in the top half but not quite in the top quarter.

Is that information useful? Will it help the library fine-tune its operations and improve funding? I can’t be sure. But let’s look at libraries of comparable size.

Libraries Serving 6,000 to 8,999 Patrons

This set of bullet points is based on Chapter 7 (noting that “patrons” counts people in the legal service area, not those who have registered with the library). The brackets are always going to be the same, so we’ll just look at percentages.

  • 32% of these libraries spend more; 49% spend significantly less. Roughly one-third of libraries in this size category saw spending improve more than Erewhon, while 46% did worse.
  • For circulation per capita, half the libraries in this size range did significantly better, while 34% didn’t do as well. In the spending category, Erewhon is a little below the 25%ile—that is, more than three-quarters of libraries had higher circulation per capita.
  • For changes in circulation per capita, 34% did better and 52% did significantly worse. Erewhon is well into the third quartile for its spending category.
  • More than half the libraries in this size range (52%) had significantly more patron visits per capita, while 24% had fewer. For its spending category, Erewhon is in the bottom 10%.
  • When it comes to changes in patron visits, Erewhon did better than 65% of libraries in this size range, with 19% doing significantly better.
  • Only 16% of libraries in this size range had more reference transactions; 68% had significantly fewer. Erewhon is in the top quarter for libraries in its spending category, but not in the top 10%.
  • 47% of libraries in this size range showed either an increase or less decrease in reference per capita; 32% showed significantly more decrease.
  • For program attendance per capita, 57% of libraries in this size range did significantly better and 30% worse; Erewhon is in the bottom quarter (but not the bottom 10%) for its spending category.
  • Roughly one-third (32%) of similarly-sized libraries showed more growth in program attendance, while 49% did worse. Erewhon is in the third quarter for its spending category—more than half did worse, but more than a quarter did better.
  • More than three out of five libraries of this size range (62%) had significantly more PC use per capita, and the library is in the first quarter for its spending category (that is, more than 75% did better). Only 14% showed significantly more improvement, however, with 68% doing worse.
  • Finally, 56% of libraries in this size range are significantly busier, and Erewhon is in the least busy 10% for its spending category. But only 17% are getting busier at a significantly faster rate, while 66% are doing less.

Comparisons to Other Alabama Libraries

So how does Erewhon Community Library stack up against other Alabama libraries? It’s still in the middle as far as size is concerned—39% of Alabama’s libraries serve smaller groups while 38% serve larger groups. On the other hand, it spends more per capita than most Alabama libraries—only 13% spend significantly more while 76% spend substantially less. 24% of Alabama’s libraries improved spending more than Erewhon, and 61% didn’t do as well. As to the smaller set of metrics for state comparisons:

  • Less than a quarter of Alabama’s libraries circulated significantly more items per capita (24%), and 67% circulated fewer. For its spending category, however, Erewhon was in the lowest quartile. More than three-quarters (76%) either gained circulation or lost less. (Alabama’s libraries show very strong correlation between spending and circulation.)
  • Visits per capita are similar: 24% of Alabama’s libraries had significantly more, 51% fewer. In this case, Erewhon’s actually in the lowest 10% for libraries spending similar amounts. Only 22% had more improvement in visits per capita; 62% had less.
  • Some 22% of Alabama’s libraries had more reference transactions per capita; 67% had fewer. For its spending category, Erewhon is in the third quartile—better than half the libraries but not as good as the top quarter. A full 58% of libraries showed more improvement (or less reduction) in reference transactions per capita; 27% did worse.
  • Finally, just over half (52%) of Alabama libraries had more PC use per capita, while 20% had less; for its spending category, however, Erewhon was in the bottom quartile. On the other hand, while 36% of Alabama’s libraries saw even more increase in PC use per capita, 55% did worse—and Erewhon is in the top quartile for this measure in its spending category.

Are these facts helpful? Again, I’m not sure. In any case, barring a major and fairly rapid increase in sales of Volume 1 and Your Library Is…, Volume 2 won’t appear.

Understanding Your Story

I’ve thought of the books as providing help to libraries attempting to tell their stories to funding agencies, once they’ve fleshed out data comparisons with the real-world items that make libraries special. But maybe there’s another aspect: Understanding
your own story.

Looking at this off-the-cuff mythical example, I wonder why the usage numbers are (except for reference) not very good. Once a library knows that their resources are being underutilized, does that help them plan ways to improve the situation?

I looked at more numbers (again averaging two real libraries to create a mythical library). Erewhon spent $3.73 per capita on print materials in 2011: That’s a reasonably healthy amount, above the national average. The library’s open reasonably good hours for a small library (2,566—about 49 hours a week). There are 4.8 books per capita, which is also decent—and with 34,000 volumes, it shouldn’t be that there’s nothing worth borrowing. About 61% of the potential patrons are registered borrowers—which isn’t great, but isn’t terrible either. I do note that there aren’t many programs (86 total), and most of those programs are for kids or young adults (only 15 are for adults). Is that an issue?

So: Does all of this help, or is it just a distraction? I don’t know the answers.

Thanks again–and a status report

Tuesday, August 27th, 2013
I just sent this to those who contributed to the $4 to $1 campaign. It’s a good summary of where things stand and my suggestions for those who would find this stuff useful, so I’m just repeating it here:
Thanks again for your contribution to $4 to $1: Public Library Benefits and Budgets (and related books).

As you no doubt know by now, the campaign failed, and your contribution has been returned.

I can think of several possible reasons for the failure (books to help libraries improve budgets aren’t as sexy as hot new devices or as intriguing as other possibilities, I don’t have a wide enough social network, I didn’t pound pound pound on it enough…whatever), but see little point in attempting to analyze the failure. It could have been worse–the final figure was just over $500, or just over 20% of the goal.

Since you have some interest in this project, here’s some suggestions for what you can do now:

1. $4 to $1: Public Library Benefits and Budgets, Volume 1, Libraries by Size is now available. It’s a 213-page 6″ x  9″ book. The link here will take you to the paperback (which is priced at $24.95, since it will–eventually–be available on Amazon, but it’s discounted 20% at Lulu, making the price $19.95). It even has an ISBN: 978-1-304-35588-1. It’s also available as a $9.99 PDF ebook or a site license edition PDF ebook for $39.99, the latter explicitly allowing multiple simultaneous usage and downloads within a library school (including distance students), single-state library consortium, state library association, college, university or other similar situation. I think the book came out very well. You can read more about it at Walt at Random, and the draft version of Chapter 3 is still available as most of the September 2013 Cites & Insights. (That link brings up the single-column PDF version; the chapter begins on Page 7.)

2. If you’re buying $4 to $1 for a library school or a library or as a consultant, and especially if you’re buying it in print, I’d also suggest The inCompleat Give Us a Dollar and We’ll Give You Back Four, a $26.99 433-page 8.5″ x 11″ paperback that provides the most complete discussion I know of regarding 2010 public library benefits and budgets ($4 to $1 uses 2011 data and changes from 2009; it uses fewer measures and simplified benchmarks). It combines tables, graphs and discussion–and it’s inCompleat only because it lacks multicolor line graphs for some measures. The Lulu book page includes a preview that should give you a good sense of what the book is like.

3. Your Library Is… : A Collection of Public Library Sayings just came out yesterday (the working title was A Library Is…). It came out much better than I expected. The link takes you to the 163-page 6 x 9″ $16.99 paperback; an $8.99 PDF ebook is also available–but I recommend the print book, given that this is the kind of book you want to read a few pages of, bookmark, then come back to every day or two. The book includes 1,137 unique mottoes and slogans as well as 88 mottoes and slogans shared by 205 public libraries. Some sayings are humorous; some are profound; some may be inspiring. By the way, you can also get a special deluxe PDF ebook (what makes it deluxe? it wraps the front and back book cover images at the front and back of the ebook) for free–by contributing at least $50 to Cites & Insights and requesting a copy when I thank you for your contribution. (Or, for that matter, you can contribute at least $100 and, on request, I’ll send you an autographed paperback copy–but that will take a few weeks!) The Lulu book pages (either link) include a preview that should give you a good sense of what the book is like.

4. What about Volume 2, Libraries by State? I believe it would be a fascinating set of comparisons, but it’s not directly useful for individual library purposes. I’ve prepared the matrix and set of measures to be included (dropping two of the measures from Libraries by Size to save space), and I plan to prepare the draft version of the first two states and introductory material, to appear in the October 2013 Cites & Insights, probably out next week. Volume 2 will appear if there are enough sales of Volume 1–at least 50 and possibly 100 before I prepare the rest of the book and publish it.

5. One last thing. The final offer for the $2,500 goal, which would have returned $2,400 to me, was that I’d make the PDF version of Volume 1 entirely free. I’ll restate that offer in terms of sales: When (or if) sales of Volume 1 total $2,400 in net revenue (which would only take about 80 site-license copies or about 300 individual copies), I’ll reset the PDF price to $0. The same goes for Your Library Is…: If it ever reaches $2,400 in net sales, I’ll make it free. (“Sales” through donations to C&I will count as $8 each toward that goal.)

That’s more than enough! This letter will also appear as a post at Walt at Random. As you’ve probably already guessed, your email addresses are blind copies, since some of you preferred anonymity.

Thanks again,
Walt Crawford

$4 to $1: Public Library Benefits and Budgets–Now available

Friday, August 23rd, 2013

$4 to $1: Public Library Benefits and Budgets (volume 1: Libraries by Size) is now published and available for purchase in one of three ways:

  • The paperback book is 213 6″ x9″ pages (viii+205). Regular price is $24.95; it’s currently discounted (on Lulu only) to $19.96. There’s even an ISBN for you traditionalists: 978-1-304-35588-1. The book may be available via Amazon (and possibly elsewhere) at some point; I’d much prefer that you buy it directly from Lulu! (Even at the discounted price, I get considerably more revenue.) Here’s the cover:


  • The regular PDF ebook sells for $9.99. No DRM. Exactly the same interior content as the paperback (except that there’s no ISBN on the copyright page, and this version doesn’t have an ISBN)–and the line graphs (which are fully legible b&w in the paperback) are in color.
  • The site license edition PDF ebook sells for $39.99. It differs from the regular ebook in that it has a paragraph on the copyright page explicitly allowing any single-state organization to mount it on a server that allows simultaneous multiple downloads, including use by distance learners in any state. If you want to use the book for a library school course, for a single-state consortium, for a state library association, whatever–this is your ethical, legal course.

It may be a day or three before the Cites & Insights Books footer on this page is updated to include $4 to $1: Public Library Benefits and Budgets, but it’s available now. (To some extent, whether Volume 2, Libraries by State, is ever published will depend on sales of Volume 1.)

 By the way…

If you actually buy the paperback version, you’ll see that the composite images on the top and bottom of the cover run all the way around the cover–and the remainder of the back cover is made up of another composite image. All elements in these composites are taken from public library websites and Facebook pages, from all 50 states. There’s actually an order to most (not quite all) of the images in the top & bottom strips…and the same order, but in reverse, to the remainder of the back cover.

The first person to tell me what that order is will receive a free ebook of my choosing as a PDF.



Monday, August 19th, 2013

Maybe that’s all I need to say. The $4 to $1 campaign failed. Big time.

Thanks to the 18 folks who supported it. (I thanked each one by email when the pledge came in. I may do another email round later.)

I might do a post mortem later on. I might not. It’s a Monday sort of Monday.

On a completely different topic:

What the *B(#^ is it about infographics that causes people to take “facts” seriously even when there are no sources given and the “facts” are wildly improbable? There’s an “awful facts about reading” infographic making the rounds that has no sources, includes wildly improbable “facts” that are refuted by, well, every other survey that’s been done–and turn out to be based on a ten-year-old statement from some group I’ve never heard of that, itself, doesn’t really provide sources. But hey, it’s an infographic: It Must Be Taken Seriously. Arggh…

Or does this mean that I should scrap $4 to $1 and turn it into a series of, what, 400 infographics, so that it’s taken seriously?

The Compleat Give Us a Dollar…ready now

Thursday, August 1st, 2013

The most in-depth discussion of public library benefits and budgets in FY2010 you’re likely to find (or at least that I’m aware of) is now available in a form that combines tables, graphs and comments.

The Compleat Give Us a Dollar vol. 1, Libraries by Size combines all of the text from Give Us a Dollar and We’ll Give You Back Four (2012-13) except Chapter 20 with several hundred graphs to accompany the tables–and all of the commentary provided in Cites & Insights and in Graphing Public Library Benefits.

The ebook is 361 8.5″ x 11″ PDF pages (actually 353 pages + viii front matter)–8.5″ x 11″ so the graphs would work, ebook-only because it requires color to work properly. It’s the usual $9.99–but there’s also an explicit site-license version allowing multiple simultaneous download/reading for $39.99, ideal for library schools (including distance students), single-state consortia, state libraries, whatever.

The Compleat Give Us a Dollar vol. 2, Libraries by State, combines Chapter 20 from Give Us a Dollar and We’ll Give You Back Four (2012-13), the commentary from Cites & Insights and, for 49 states, new scatterplots showing circulation per capita plotted against spending per capita. (The District of Columbia and Hawaii each have a single public library system, and a one-point graph seems silly.)

The ebook is 195 8.5″ x 11″ PDF pages (actually 191 pages + iv front matter)–8.5″ x 11″ so the graphs are as large as possible and for consistency with volume 1, ebook-only because, well, see below. It’s also $9.99–and the explicit site-license version is only $34.99.

Both ebooks were created as PDFs directly from Word, including all bookmarks–so you can navigate to any chapter or subsection of a chapter directly from Reader’s sidebar.

For those desiring the ease of flipping back and forth of a print book, or who want a print book for other reasons, I’ve combined the two volumes and removed the multicolor occurrence-by-spending-category graphs to create The inCompleat Give Us a Dollar and We’ll Give You Back Four, announced yesterday. It’s a big book–433 8.5″ x 11″ pages (actually 425 pages + viii front matter). It will set you back $26.99.

You can use the coupon code FAST5–once per account–to save 5% on your order, if you haven’t already used it for some other purpose.

Two ebooks out of print

With publication of the new books, Graphing Public Library Benefits is now redundant (and had total sales that, when rounded to the nearest five, come out to zero) and has been deleted.

Additionally, the ebook version of Give Us a Dollar and We’ll Give You Back Four (2012-13) has been retired from Lulu, but you can still buy the paperback or hardcover versions–and an ebook version is still available for the Kindle.

One final note: If the crowdsourcing for $4 to $1: Public Library Benefits and Budgets continues as it is going now, then any chance of Volume 2 (libraries by state) actually emerging in the future will be conditioned on additional sales of these books.

$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



$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.]

Important, useful, used, interesting: Part 3

Friday, May 10th, 2013

Continuing this brief series

Here’s a difficult case–one where I believe the work is useful and possibly important, where I found it interesting enough to do the first time around, and where I have no way of knowing whether it’s likely to be used enough to make a second go-round (improved in several ways) worthwhile:

Give Us a Dollar and We’ll Give You Back Four (2012-13).

That’s the $9.99 Lulu ebook. You can also get it in paperback for $19.99 from Lulu or–the snazzy and durable version–in casewrap hardcover for $28.99.

Or, for that matter, if you need an ISBN or find it easier to buy from Amazon than from Lulu, there’s a Kindle version for $9.99 (which you can borrow free if you’re a Kindle Prime member) and a CreateSpace paperback edition (different cover), ISBN 978-1481279161, for $21.95 at Amazon.

Here’s the CreateSpace cover…


And here’s the problem…

It’s not that nobody’s purchased it. Actually, more than 80 and fewer than 100 copies have been sold so far (almost all of them via Lulu).

I did a special Oregon/Washington edition in conjunction with a talk I gave at the two library associations’ joint conference a couple of weeks ago.

(You might want to look at the free PDF version of that special report, in case you’re part of an organization that might want a similar report done. It also gives some hints as to how I would change a new edition of the overall book.)

The problem is that I don’t know how useful the book actually is, how to get it to the people who I think could use it most, and how much it’s likely to be used. And, perhaps equally to the point, whether the concept is useful enough, to enough libraries, that it would be worth doing a revised, improved (graphs included!) 2014 edition when the 2011 IMLS public library data becomes available.

I’ve said before that if 150 copies of the book (in all forms) sell by the time the 2011 data emerges, I’ll probably do another edition–and if 300 copies sell, I’ll definitely do another one. And, of course, I’ll continue to invite feedback on how it could be done better.

Flesh, blood and bones

The book attempts to provide numeric evidence (“statistical,” but not so much, and that’s another installment…) to help public libraries tell their stories to funding agencies.

I would fully agree with anybody who says that the numbers–at least those gathered for the IMLS reports–don’t really tell the story of a public library’s value to its community. That story is made up of other stories: The children learning to read and love books, the unemployed using library computers to find work and library resources to improve themselves, etc., etc.

I think of those stories as the flesh and blood of a library’s essential value to its community.

But a library also needs the bones–and that’s where the numbers come in, especially for the more hardnosed city councils, county supervisors and other funding agencies.

Does my book help provide the bones? I hope so; I can’t be sure without feedback.

Funding methods and reality

I could mount a Kickstarter campaign to underwrite the 2011 version–possibly with the ebook edition being free for the taking.

That makes no sense unless there’s obvious evidence that the book (as revised) would be both useful and used. (Not that it’s at all clear I could succeed with a Kickstarter campaign…)

I’m acutely aware that, in thousands of cases where I believe the book could be most valuable–libraries too small to have their own numbers experts or marketing groups–it’s not only unlikely that the librarian (or perhaps the Friends group, if there is one) would hear about the book, it’s not even clear they’d ever have time to read it, even if it was free. (“Thousands” is never hyperbole where public libraries are concerned…)

So that’s the quandary. I don’t have answers. There’s another tough case where I could actually have more options (in the case of Give Us a Dollar, I think the timelag of using a traditional publisher pretty much rules out that option). Maybe in the next installment, whenever that happens…

As always, feedback welcome. And in case you missed it and you’re an academic librarian (or library school faculty member or…), yesterday’s post (“It Didn’t Work for Phil Ochs, It Doesn’t Work for Jeffrey Beall“) is partly about the possible crowdsourcing of a free ebook edition of The Big Deal and the Damage Done, and requests feedback on the possibility (using and what sorts of premiums would make crowdsourcing appealing.

I could really use feedback on those issues!