Category Archives: Best of NSR

Reading by Ear: A superb collection of articles on audiobooks, audio literacy, and the art of listening

A few months ago, NSR launched the Reading by Ear column, written by audiobook and audio literacy authority, librarian Francisca Goldsmith. The column discusses audiobooks as a medium through which contemporary readers are invited to explore literary culture, performance arts, and multimodal literacy capacity building. In her thought-provoking, scholarly yet accessible writing, Francisca addresses why audiobook listening expands, rather than derails, our access to literature and the written word. She also takes on the issue of prescribing audiobooks as a ‘print reading’ support versus listening to audiobooks as a way to build information and aesthetic experiences and critical thinking about auditory experiences in their own right.

Francisca has been working in libraries for many years. Her professional background includes services and collections for teens in public and school libraries, for New Americans, and providing reference services and managing collections for adults and teens. Her contribution to No Shelf Required is immense and we are grateful to have her on board. Continue reading Reading by Ear: A superb collection of articles on audiobooks, audio literacy, and the art of listening

Ten sites that give free access to quality ebooks librarians and publishers should know about [readers, too]

Since launching the Free Content Alerts column, which highlights sites and platforms where ebooks and econtent may be downloaded and read for free, we’ve brought to our readers’ attention 10 great sites to recommend to anyone looking for quality content online in digital format, particularly those unable to access quality ebooks through their local libraries, ranging from classics to professional literature and from popular fiction to scholarly monographs.

These are the ten sources highlighted thusfar on NSR.

Open Culture, a mission to collect the content that is free and [arguably] the ‘best in class’

Eserver.org, an alternative niche for free quality content (including ebooks) in the arts and humanities

Unglue.it, an ebooks site that functions like a true participatory democracy

Knowledge Unlatched, supported by libraries, and made available in pdf to any reader, anywhere in the world

Hathitrust Digital Library, a major source of open scholarship with legal issues seemingly behind it

Smashwords, where indie authors may price their books at ‘free,’ but ‘free’ isn’t the core mission

World Public Library, an impressive collection of free books and documents but a cumbersome registration process

Internet Archive, a nonprofit offering an overwhelming amount of free content (and triggering some copyright debates)

B-OK (formerly Bookzz), probably the world’s largest free ebook site with a minimally-invasive registration process

Project Gutenberg, public domain titles free to be read and re-distributed in the U.S. (but not necessarily throughout the world)

Own Voices

We Need Diverse Books (#WNDB) has gained energy and publisher awareness since its launch in 2014. The proportion of published kids’ books continues to skew below parity for those by and about people of color, varied gender and sexual identities, and specific disabilities, with the latter two broad spectra receiving less census taking and data analysis to date in the publishing world. However, inclusivity has become a publishing value, with more people now noticing that skew and more publishers and publishing gatekeepers are actively working to correct it. The efforts have been concentrated on print titles. While both titles for kids and visually read books desperately need this attention and change in publishing traditions, adult readership and readers who use their ears need increased and sustained inclusivity in publishing as well. Among these are reviewers, whose critical pronouncements on audio materials needs to include articulate and culturally competent attention to authentic inclusivity.

An essential element of moving publishing resources toward inclusiveness, again largely in the kids print market, is awareness of own voices, which has been building broader social media consciousness with the #OwnVoices hashtag. This effort draws attention to the need for justice in publishing: narratives from and about marginalized experiences and characters from authentic sources should be sought and supported. Those who live beyond and beside the empowered culture’s contours are the ones whose voices need to be heard. Inclusivity is necessary to all of us if we are to inhabit a cultural home that has windows, mirrors, and doors. Continue reading Own Voices

Not all libraries are created equal. What would the world be if they were?

According to an article I recently read in the New York Times, Merryl H. Tisch, the former chancellor of the New York State Board of Regents, and her husband, James S. Tisch, the president and chief executive of Lowes Corporation (who sits on the New York Public Library’s board of directors) will give  20 million dollars to the New York Public Library (NYPL) to “expand and strengthen its education programming, from early literacy classes to technology training.”

The article goes on to explain that owing to this gift, a new position for a director of education will be created and Tisch added that she hoped the money would help the library create more job training courses and other programs to help expose students to the library’s rich collection of resources. Christopher Platt, the chief branch library officer, is also quoted saying that, to his knowledge, “this is the first educational gift to public libraries of this scale in the country.”

Giving money—especially large amounts of money that can make a lasting impact—to support any organization and institution on a mission to promote literacy, education, and access to knowledge is admirable on every level, yet this article (and story) has left me with unsettling thoughts that I wish to share here, in hopes they are not misunderstood or taken out of context. And these are pervasive thoughts, similar to those I have often expressed on NSR in my effort to draw attention to unequal access to knowledge and books permeating our society. Continue reading Not all libraries are created equal. What would the world be if they were?

Dear librarians, please don’t move away from enabling reading

Before I tell librarians what not to do, I begin with the basic (and necessary) background on the author of this article. I am not a librarian, but I have spent two decades of my career as an editor and writer working with librarians and serving their needs—as book review editor at Library Journal, as consultant to ebook vendors serving libraries, as editor of an ALA journal on econtent in libraries, as editor of a book series on information science, as instructor of ebooks courses for librarians via ALA, and as an ardent supporter of initiatives that have to do with books, reading, learning, and libraries, particularly those that free books for reading beyond the confines of physical institutions.

Next, I want to let you know, dear reader, who may be a librarian, that in this post I will not be naming names of organizations or individuals, embedding links, citing sources, pointing to speeches, or digging up case studies to prove my point. My goal is only this: to express a thought that’s been on my mind for a long time—a thought based on both experience and observation; a thought that, at its very core, celebrates you and your potential. Here goes that thought: Continue reading Dear librarians, please don’t move away from enabling reading

The Best of NSR: Reading by Ear [Why audiobook listening expands, rather than derails, our access to literature]

The Best of NSRThis opinion piece introduced a series of articles [by librarian Francisca Goldsmith], discussing audiobooks as a medium through which contemporary readers are invited to explore literary culture, performance arts, and multimodal literacy capacity building. In Reading by Ear Francisca addresses why audiobook listening expands, rather than derails, our access to literature. Read full article here. See also the follow-up to this article, Just Listen, in which Francisca takes on the issue of prescribing audiobooks as a ‘print reading’ support versus listening to audiobooks as a way to build information and aesthetic experiences and critical thinking about auditory experiences in their own right.


If you are a book, library or information professional interested in contributing to NSR, please contact the Editorial Director at mirelaroncevic@gmail.com. Please include a writing sample and a brief description of the topic you wish to explore. For more on NSR’s vision, visit our About and Mission pages. To browse our opinion pieces for inspiration, visit our Ideas page.

The Best of NSR: Why education continues to fail digital content and students

The Best of NSRIn her opinion piece for NSR, Why education continues to fail digital content and students, CEO of learning technology company Metrodigi, Kathryn Stewart, calls for a “much-needed disruption” in education, giving three reasons why it has been slow to leverage the benefits of digital content: inferior user experience, shortage of engaging content, and lack of commitment to overcome institutional barriers. Read full article here.


If you are a book, library or information professional interested in contributing to NSR, please contact the Editorial Director at mirelaroncevic@gmail.com. Please include a writing sample and a brief description of the topic you wish to explore. For more on NSR’s vision, visit our About and Mission pages. To browse our opinion pieces for inspiration, visit our Ideas page.

The Best of NSR: Technology is not the death of deep reading

The Best of NSRIn her opinion piece for No Shelf Required, Content and Media Editor at BiblioLabs Emilie Hancock argues that if we make even the smallest efforts to use technology as a means toward reading more, “we can re-establish a reading culture in the digital age.” At a time when many ‘blame’ technology for ‘killing’ reading, Emilie’s article serves as a reminder that perhaps we haven’t been looking closely enough to notice that technology can, in fact, help us to read more, not less.

This very thinking hits at the core of NSR’s mission—to draw attention to the power of ebooks and econtent to transform the world into a place where reading flows and is an integral part of life in any enlightened society. Read the full article here. Continue reading The Best of NSR: Technology is not the death of deep reading

The Best of NSR: Academic libraries are shrinking, while content is growing. How did we get here?

The Best of NSROriginally published in the Fall of 2016, this opinion piece on the present and future of academic libraries remains one of the most read articles on NSR. Michael Zeoli (VP, YBP Library Services and Publisher Relations) takes a close look at how collection development practices have evolved in academic settings in recent years, especially since the advent of ebooks and proliferation of digital content. Regardless of how familiar book professionals are with complex purchasing models in academic libraries, it is important that we understand how we ‘got here’ before we can understand how best to move forward.

We also must acknowledge that we all participated in the creation of complex business models for buying and managing content. We must now all participate in simplifying them. The reality is, as Michael explains, the academic library world is shrinking, even as more content is created and new technologies are implemented. This raises serious questions about the future of the academic library and the roles we all play in shaping it. Perhaps the most important sentence in the piece is: “All parts of our ecosystem have an active role to play; none should act out of fear and remain passive.” Read the full article here. —Ed.


If you are a book, library or information professional interested in contributing to NSR, please contact the Editorial Director at mirelaroncevic@gmail.com. Please include a writing sample and a brief description of the topic you wish to explore. For more on NSR’s vision, visit our About and Mission pages. To browse our opinion pieces for inspiration, visit our Ideas page.

What readers want [and what we are not giving them]

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For the past many months, I’ve had the privilege of stepping outside the confines of the publishing and library industries (as well as the borders of the United States) to engage in projects that bring books and knowledge to people. There comes a point in every person’s career when we crave to turn our professional jobs into missions, and it simply isn’t enough to earn a paycheck, even amidst the most challenging circumstances. We take a leap of faith and jump.

And jump I did, from New York all the way to Croatia, where I would (not immediately upon arrival but soon thereafter) embark on the project of my life and turn an entire country into an open virtual library (available to all its people without a card and access code and regardless of status, geography, background, citizenship, etc). In early December 2016, Croatia (the country of my birth) became the world’s first free reading country (i.e., an open virtual library) for one entire month. Continue reading What readers want [and what we are not giving them]

Are you a ‘reader’ when listening to an audiobook? Yes, of course.

audiobooksThere is really no need to recite numerous reports that have come out recently correlating audiobooks with reading success of children and young adults. There is also no need to convince librarians and publishers that listening is learning and that listening is synonymous with literacy. Those who have been on the frontlines know the benefits of audiobooks and listening to the spoken word.

However, many people outside the library and publishing industry still believe that listening to audiobooks is a form of cheating and not really the same thing as reading.  This is puzzling. All one needs to do to dispel this belief is think back in time and consider how people passed on knowledge to each other for generations. Did they all have the privilege to access urban libraries for books? Or money to buy books on their own? Did they even have a bookstore or library anywhere in the vicinity of where they lived? How did they learn exactly? Continue reading Are you a ‘reader’ when listening to an audiobook? Yes, of course.

Placing a hold — Emotional adventures in the ebook catalog

books-1614218_1920NSR is pleased to present the second in a series of stories written by Yoav Lorch, Founder and CEO of Total Boox,  on the irrationality of the ebook ‘situation’ in libraries.  His first story, Book Snatching — Clearly the most violent act in the history of reading, was published on NSR three weeks ago. It is about the absurdity of ebooks disappearing from devices; this one is about the absurdity of needing to place holds in digital environments.

Librarians and publishers alike need to be reminded of such absurdities. In a world beset with analytical articles from trade journals, it’s quite refreshing to consider such absurdities through fictional narratives. As Neil Gaiman (long-time supporter of libraries) wisely put it: “Life is always going to be stranger than fiction, because fiction has to be convincing, and life doesn’t.” Continue reading Placing a hold — Emotional adventures in the ebook catalog

Book Snatching — Clearly the most violent act in the history of reading

book-436507_1920A little over two years ago, shortly after Total Boox entered the library market, NSR published a story written by Total Boox CEO and Founder, Yoav Lorch, on the absurdity of ebooks disappearing from devices. Sue Polanka (founder of NSR) wrote in her introduction to the story that it was a “clever tale showing us the sad state of ebook borrowing in libraries.”

Since the picture hasn’t changed much, and the absurdity of ebook content disappearing from devices still reigns in 2016, I’ve asked Mr. Lorch for permission to publish the story again. Enjoy.—Ed.

Continue reading Book Snatching — Clearly the most violent act in the history of reading