Book of the Week: World of Dawn: Arise (Shawn Gale)

In an effort to draw attention to quality self-published literature and in agreement with BlueInkReview, NSR highlights reviews published on BIR’s site each week, including a wide variety of fiction and nonfiction. This week’s pick:

World of Dawn: Arise

Shawn Gale writes on Canada’s West Coast. He is a graduate of the Fraser Valley Writers School, where he earned a Master’s diploma. He graduated from Humber Colleges School for Writers with a Letter of Distinction. He has a Bachelor of Art’s degree in Creative Writing from Bircham International University. He was a student at the University of Wisconsin-Madison’s Creative Writing department from 2014-2017, where he earned two certificates. His stories have been published in anthologies and periodicals in the US and Canada. 

BlueInk Review was founded by Patti Thorn, former books editor of the Rocky Mountain News, and Patricia Moosbrugger, literary agent and subsidiary rights specialist. It offers serious, unbiased reviews of self-published books. Reviews are penned largely by writers drawn from major mainstream publications, such as The New York Times and Washington Post, and editors of respected traditional publishing houses. Select reviews appear in Booklist magazine.

Defending the honor of ebooks (and innovation)

Is the ebook a dead format? How eBooks lost their shine. The Reason Actual Books Are So Much More Memorable Than Ebooks. US Ebook Sales Decline. These are some of the headlines I’ve seen recently perpetuating the (suddenly popular) notion that ebooks are not ‘in’ anymore. That they have somehow failed us. That nothing compares to the reading of actual physical objects in the world. That the challenges the publishing industry has seen with ebooks (i.e., declining sales) point in the direction of a ‘format’ on the verge of dying.

Such articles aren’t only written by informed bloggers and journalists but also by industry professionals with significant experience in the publishing and library and information science markets, particularly those catering to consumers and public libraries. They exhibit a great deal of knowledge and sensible arguments about the challenges the publishing community (trade, in particular) has had with ebooks, focusing largely on the shortfalls of various business models to deliver revenue as predictable as revenue from print, the technological issues associated with ‘formats’  that haven’t been able to deliver a fully satisfying reading experience, and, not to be overlooked, the fierce competitiveness within the market itself, which has often resulted in ‘the powerful’  thriving even if their offerings were inferior to those by various start-ups (most of which perished in recent years).

In short, technology has not been able to ‘disrupt’ book publishing the way it has disrupted other industries in the not-so-distant past (e.g., music, news), and here we are at a crossroads again, asking some existential questions. Continue reading Defending the honor of ebooks (and innovation)

DPLA to launch a membership program

On September 1, 2017, DPLA will launch the Hub Network Membership program. According to DPLA’s announcement, “the program will create a closer, more formal collaboration between DPLA and the members of the Hub Network to achieve [their] common goals and is an essential step in providing a structure and framework to give Hubs a voice in the direction of DPLA.” Continue reading DPLA to launch a membership program

Laughing to Learn

Humor is a powerful force that can be put to work in advancing understanding. Whether it’s the witty raconteur of a math professor who knows how to create enlightenment through lighthearted comparisons or the final bridge from one’s native language to arriving at a sense of full comfort in an acquired one, the opportunity to laugh provides heavy lifting of external information to internal grasp.

Of course, both humor and tastes in humor vary widely, expanding from visual slapstick to arch punning. The sorts that rely on transmission through language make readily available material for listening readers in search of learning as well as casual entertainment. To be successful on either or both counts, such audiobooks rely heavily on both careful writing and fine acting. Evident humor must expand subject comprehension rather than making it obscure or distasteful to those who might be put off by extreme argot or shocking imagery; while these can themselves be put to good entertainment services, they can also raise defenses among many listeners and thus make learning unlikely.
Continue reading Laughing to Learn

On big publishers embracing the textbook revolution

In an article for Fast Company, Steven Melendez writes:

“The digital revolution has been rocking the academic publishing applecart for years. Students bristling at the price of books—an intro biology text can cost hundreds—have been turning to alternatives like book rentals and e-texts.

Increasingly, there is a new challenge from the growing Open Textbook Revolution—and traditional bookmakers, after years of opposition and lawsuits alleging copyright infringement, are trying to get a piece of the action as their glossy hardbacks get tossed aside.

Open texts are free academic materials written by educators and professionals that are peer-reviewed and licensed to be freely downloaded…Thanks to investments by universities and private foundations, many of the free online peer-reviewed texts are on par with the big bucks’ books in terms of depth and production values—and they’re rapidly gaining traction.”

Read the full article here.

Ebooks in K-12 libraries: The options, the issues, the possibilities

This NSR original three-part series on ebooks in K-12 or school libraries (written and researched by Peyton Stafford, an expert on school library-oriented publishing ) is intended for school librarians who want a basic understanding of how ebook business models work in their world and how to make them work as much as possible to the librarian’s advantage.

The first article looks at business models and their importance, and then sketches out the main kinds of ebook business models that K-12 librarians have to deal with. The second article looks at the models in more depth and give examples of how they work in practice. It also discusses platform issues. The third article draws a few conclusions and points out some ways that librarians can skillfully use their knowledge of ebook business models to stretch their budgets and better serve their teachers and students.

After reading the three articles listed below, school librarians should be able to recognize the business model that goes with any particular ebook offering they may be evaluating. This will help them compare offerings so they can make wise decisions as they acquire and manage their ebook collections.


This week in Literature and Arts

July 29, 1954: “…that mad Baggins is off again” with Allen and Unwin’s publication of The Fellowship of the Ring. Hello Sam and Frodo!

July 29, 1965: HELP!, the Beatles second film with director Richard Lester, premiers at London’s Pavilion Theatre.

Continue reading This week in Literature and Arts

Elsevier has acquired bepress

Elsevier has acquired bepress, which, in the words of an insightful Scholarly Kitchen post, puts it in the position of being “a major if not the foremost single player in the institutional repository landscape.  This acquisition solidifies Elsevier’s efforts to “adopt and coopt open access.”

As we’ve seen in the publishing (and library) industry time and again, innovation either comes from outside or from the leaders among us ready to test a disruptive idea. Elsevier acquiring bepress (on the academic side) is very much in line with Penguin acquiring AuthorSolutions (on the trade side) a few years ago. That which disrupts (like open access and self-publishing) is at fiercely resisted by the biggest players… until it is eventually accepted and, more importantly, absorbed.

Read full press release below. For an in-depth analysis, NSR recommends the  Scholarly Kitchen  post .

What’s the best way to get indies into libraries?

Has one of your library patrons ever asked why your library had a Kindle bestseller title in print but not as an ebook? Maybe someone who preferred reading e rather than p? Or have you ever wondered the same thing, yourself, when you found an ebook you wanted to read but then found that your collection development people had missed it, or that they had trouble adding it to your collection?

In an earlier article in this column on indies in libraries we looked at indie authors whose ebooks have become bestsellers and discussed why libraries would want to add these to their collections. To summarize what we found, while libraries focus their acquisitions efforts on books from the Big Five, there is a parallel universe of publishing that generates bestsellers and sells them to the public. Some of these bestsellers get into library collections, but not all. The issue for libraries is acquiring as many of these bestsellers as possible to minimize their loss of patrons to Amazon and other ebook services that provide instant access to the titles.

These books are not the old-fashioned self-published books with bad covers and typographical errors that many library and publishing professionals still think of when thinking of independent authors and independent publishing; rather, these are professionally written, edited and produced books (mostly genre fiction) that have been published by highly skilled writers who take advantage of the new realities of publishing. They purchase the editorial and design services of publishing professionals through marketplaces, such as Reedsy, where they can contract for services from editors and others who are current or former employees of the Big Five. They publish and distribute their books on platforms, such as Amazon, that are built to drive sales for them. And they market their books through book blogs, store appearances, and direct email services, such as BookBub.

In this article, we will look at the practical aspects of adding indie ebooks to a library collection, how indie authors distribute their ebooks, and the channels that libraries can use to add these books to their collections. Continue reading What’s the best way to get indies into libraries?

The Natural Listening Literacy Diet

Mark Schatzker’s popular science book, The Dorito Effect (audiobook edition read by Chris Patton for Dreamscape Media, 2015) delves into the industrial hijacking of our concepts of natural flavors. This has been the order of the modern American food chain in an effort to expedite a shorter cycle of both plant and animal life from birth to table, increase shelf life of prepared foodstuffs, and tease taste buds with dramatic sensations that encourage more snacking. In short, the modern favor cupboard relies on predictability in exposure: every bag of salt and vinegar crisps will offer uniform tang and crunch. And that disposition isn’t reserved only for the foods our bodies both need and crave. We’ve put too many minds on market-assured nutrient replacement literacy diets as well.

Instead of encouraging true experimentation with narratives written by artists and researchers for the joy and engagement of discovery, we line up the fortified tan-tinted bread of leveled readers and roll our eyes if a reading child develops a prurient taste for stories in which the juvenile characters don’t show respect for their fictional parents or prefer listening to page-gazing. In short, the acquisition of literacy too frequently devolves into measuring how many 2-ounce bags of cheese powder-flavored chips a new reader can hack with a single bottle of orange-essence-scented fizzy water. This is truly junk reading; escapism called junk reading, on the other hand, might just as often be venison or creek-caught crawdads swallowed illicitly but to the tune of collecting really-o, truly-o unfarmed protein. Continue reading The Natural Listening Literacy Diet

How enormous is Sci-Hub? And does its size signal the end of paywalled research?

According to biodata scientist Daniel Himmelstein (University of Pennsylvania ) and his colleagues, who recently conducted a survey that investigated the impact of the web site and its repository, “Sci-Hub can instantly provide access to more than two-thirds of all scholarly articles.  The self-proclaimed “first pirate website in the world to provide mass and public access to tens of millions of research papers” (as stated on its homepage)  continues to grow rapidly while still facing legal issues.

Himmelstein’s study (published on July 20th on PeerJ Preprints) found that Sci-Hub’s reach is even greater for research papers protected by a paywall (instant access is provided for 85 percent of all papers published in subscription journals). In a conversation with ScienceInsider, Himmelstein said that the results of the study could mark ‘the beginning of the end” for paywalled research.

When asked if librarians would ever endorse Sci-Hub over paying for journal access, Himmelstein said: “I don’t think librarians would ever endorse it, given the legal issues of instructing someone to do something illegal. But in a way they already do. There are many libraries nowadays that can’t provide 100% access to the scholarly literature.”

When asked if there was anything publishers could do to stop new papers from being added to Sci-Hub, he said: “There are things they could do but they can really backfire terribly. The issue is, the more protective the publishers are, the more difficult they make legitimate access, and that could drive people to use Sci-Hub.”

Indies Unlimited, a one-stop source of reliable information for indie authors

You’re sitting behind the Reference Desk or maybe trying to slip unnoticed through the stacks on your way to a staff meeting, when an elderly lady or gentleman quietly asks for help.

“I am trying to write my memoir. I’m a retired (doctor, lawyer, construction worker—you know the drill, so fill in the blank) and I want to write the story of my life. But I’m stuck. I thought it would be easy. After all, I lived it. But now I see I don’t know much about writing, much less about getting published. I just spent $4000 with a company that was supposed to help me with the writing and then print the book, but all they did was type up my notes and print them on cheap paper with a shoddy cover that didn’t even show the photo I sent them for it. Now, what do I do?”

In your mind, the question is not only what does your patron do, but what do you do? The patron doesn’t need a referral to a long list of resources that might or not be of help, much of which is appropriate for published indies but not for novices. He or she needs direction to a reliable, trustworthy resource that is written for someone in his situation—the beginning, unpublished author. Continue reading Indies Unlimited, a one-stop source of reliable information for indie authors

Book of the week: Reflections on Mortality (Robert B. Brooks & B. Glenn Wilkerson)

In an effort to draw attention to quality self-published literature and in agreement with BlueInk Review, NSR highlights reviews published on BIR’s site each week, including a wide variety of fiction and nonfiction. This week’s pick:

Reflections on Mortality: Insights into Meaningful Living

Robert B. Brooks, PhD, is the former director of the Department of Psychology at McLean Hospital and is on the faculty of Harvard Medical School (part-time). He has lectured nationally and internationally and written extensively about different psychological themes, especially resilience across the lifespan. B.

Glenn Wilkerson, DMin, is recognized as one of the world’s foremost authorities in elevating social/emotional health and creating positive self-concepts in children. He is the author of the nationally acclaimed ARK (Adults Relating to Kids) Program, incorporating best practices in parenting and teaching.

BlueInk Review was founded by Patti Thorn, former books editor of the Rocky Mountain News, and Patricia Moosbrugger, literary agent and subsidiary rights specialist. It offers serious, unbiased reviews of self-published books. Reviews are penned largely by writers drawn from major mainstream publications, such as The New York Times and Washington Post, and editors of respected traditional publishing houses. Select reviews appear in Booklist magazine.

Audiobook Reviewing in Communities of Affinity

Among readers and collection developers both, there is a contemporary argument ongoing focused on how criticism—not in the popular meaning of negativity but in the academic sense of analytical—belongs or is even necessary to potential readers. With fiction, literary as well as genres written for quick consumption, much trust seems to be placed in large publishing houses’ editorial and marketing departments identifying need-to-read titles. That this might be healthy in the longterm cultural accretion diet seems debatable: small, less moneyed voices are silenced; reading interests and tastes that hue away from the demographics of those editorial teams; reviewers—both professional and amateur—find plenty to keep them busy in the main hall without exploring the potentially better furnished chambers.

It’s a bit like the contemporary American food chain: more than enough to stave off hunger and even maintain energy and general health, albeit at the expense of taste, flexibility, and longterm threats to wellbeing of both ourselves and the planet. This isn’t a screed calling for elite snobbery among reviewers (or publishers); it is a call to amateur and professional reviewers alike to consider more deeply than simply tendering personal feelings about the reading they’ve consumed. Audiobook reviews long on blurbifying the print book’s reviews, or recapitulating the narrative content, perhaps with a one-line aside deeming the narration “great” or “not so good” aren’t audiobook reviews really. Saying they are simply doesn’t make them so. Continue reading Audiobook Reviewing in Communities of Affinity

Children’s Books Online: The Rosetta Project — the largest collection of illustrated antique books online

The 10 collections of online sites available to readers for free downloading and reading that we have considered over the past months have almost exclusively focused on books for adults. A number of these sites do include a section for children. However, some sites are devoted exclusively to children’s books, such as Children’s Books Online (CBO), and those books mostly done in a classic time for such writing: between 1880 and 1930.

CBO describes itself in the briefest of terms: It is a library of illustrated books begun in 1996 by just one person with a handful of books. Today it is a volunteer-driven organization of almost 100 residing throughout the world (see long list o volunteers here) who assist in website development and maintenance, and translating many of the titles into a variety of languages. The extent of the collection is not given but I would estimate several thousand volumes have been digitized. Each page of a book is downloadable as a jpg file. Books can be accessed by chapter and even image.

Titles are indexed by age, interest and reading levels, which are categorized from Pre-Reader to Adult.  In addition, downloads (as zip files) of almost 500 titles are available for purchase. CBO relies on donations and grants for this work.  The collection is certainly unique in presenting what many children’s literature specialists consider the Golden Age of the genre.

Navigating Research: OUP’s whitepaper explores how users view and use reference sources

As stated in the summary of OUP’s newly released whitepaper titled Navigating Research, “this study explores users’ and librarians’ perspectives on the role of reference resources in research and teaching in today’s academic institutions. It examines how users seek contextual information and guidance for areas of scholarship as they conduct research, and how reference resources can support their work.”

Key findings include, among others:

  • recognition of ‘reference’ as a specific category is declining and users are not likely to identify ‘reference resources as those belonging to a distinct category
  • research needs of today’s researchers are moving away from basic factual information and terminology (for which free online sources are used)
  • resources offering guidance to a field of study retain appeal as a ‘bridge between introductory materials and specialized research publications”
  • resources offering guidance to a field of study are also used to support work in interdisciplinary fields
  • use of reference sources relies on their visibility and discoverability; this is likely to remain a challenge for publishers, librarians, and researchers

The whitepaper comprises three strands:

  • a review of existing literature
  • qualitative interviews with 16 librarians and 18 users (faculty and students)
  • a survey of 164 librarians

The full whitepaper may be downloaded here.

Book of the week: Swarm (Guy Garcia)

In an effort to draw attention to quality self-published literature and in agreement with BlueInk Review, NSR highlights reviews published on BIR’s site each week, including a wide variety of fiction and nonfiction. This week’s pick:


Guy Garcia is a journalist, novelist and multimedia entrepreneur who specialzes in multiculturalconsumerism and socio-economic trends.  His work has been featured in Time, the New York Times, LA Times, Fortune, and Rolling Stone.  He is from Los Angeles, California.

BlueInk Review was founded by Patti Thorn, former books editor of the Rocky Mountain News, and Patricia Moosbrugger, literary agent and subsidiary rights specialist. It offers serious, unbiased reviews of self-published books. Reviews are penned largely by writers drawn from major mainstream publications, such as The New York Times and Washington Post, and editors of respected traditional publishing houses. Select reviews appear in Booklist magazine.

Oral History, Aural Culture

Audiobooks offer access to the distant history of human artistic expression through technology, an ironic fact that flies in the face of print purists. Before ebooks, there were print books, and before that manuscripts, tablets…and oral tradition. Audiobooks can give us back that visceral discovery of a bigger culture beyond our family’s home and our neighbors’ conversations that oral storytelling first provided.

To regain the experience of pre-literate narrative, not any performance available in recording will do. Here, the issues of pacing and tone need to be sensitive to delivering a work as though the audience cannot encounter it in print. Given the reality that such audios, made now, offer the original works in new languages (modern English, for example!), care to emulate storytelling rather than book-reading is required to keep the listener engaged as much as possible as would audiences of millennia back. Continue reading Oral History, Aural Culture

This week in Literature and Arts

July 12, 1946: The Adventures of Sam Spade debuts on radio. The program ran until the early 1950s, jumping from ABC to NBC and finishing its run at CBS (more than 200 episodes all together). Howard Duff initially played Spade, but other actors assumed the role on the various networks.

Creator Dashiell Hammett’s name apparently was dropped from the credits when he was suspected of being a closet commie (how utterly ridiculous does this sound now?).

July 16, 1951: Little Brown publishes The Catcher in the Rye.

If Holden still were around today would he be on Facebook, would he tweet selfies, or would he think it was all phony?



Michael Rogers ( is a Jesse H. Neal Gold Award-winning freelance writer, editor, reviewer, and photographer. He is also former Media Editor and audiobook reviewer at Library Journal.

The [powerful] connection between digitalization, creativity and society

An interesting discussion is taking place in the Frankfurt Book Fair circles. This press release hints at the opportunities afforded to society through digitalization, To understand it fully, it helps to understand what THE ARTS+ is about.  It is “a fair, business festival and international meeting place for the culture and creative industries,” which launched in October 2016 during the Frankfurt Book Fair and will return in October 2017.

The goal is to exploit the potential of digitalization for creative content and to develop new business areas. International artists, opinion leaders and experts will present at this year’s Frankfurt Book Fair innovative approaches from the fields of publishing, museums, architecture and design, brands and agencies.

Publishing professionals and librarians can draw inspiration from such discussions as they may lead them in the direction of new partnerships, collaborations, and initiatives with ebooks and econtent, particularly (but not limited to) those promoting visual arts. Continue reading The [powerful] connection between digitalization, creativity and society

Portal on all aspects of ebooks and digital content and for all creating, reading, publishing, managing, curating, and distributing the written word and other content in digital format, including publishers, writers, editors, content developers, distributors, educators, librarians and information science professionals. With contributions from book and library professionals and thought leaders in the United States and around the world.