Tag Archives: featured

Welcome, local author! Your public library wants you!

As the indie author revolution grows, more and more libraries are providing services to them. Many libraries have extensive information on their websites. Pike’s Peak Library District sets an excellent example at https://ppld.org/local-authors. But, what do you do when an indie author/aspiring writer walks in the door and needs something he or she can carry home with them?

Many indie authors are first-time writers, especially those who write memoirs. They may be of retirement age and somewhat uncomfortable with technology. For instance, they would rather you give them information in printed form than refer them to your website. They may have an ebook edition of their book, but they paid someone to create it for them, and they do not understand library ebook purchasing procedures. They didn’t know your library had services for them, and you need something to give them so they can begin learning about the services.

Continue reading Welcome, local author! Your public library wants you!

The British Library provides access to over a million vintage images on Flickr

More and more copyright-free images and illustrations are available freely online without a library card. Many of these initiatives are driven by libraries and various other government institutions. As they should be.

The British Library’s archive on Flickr includes over a million free images and illustrations. They are drawn from 17th, 18th and 19-century books in the Library’s collection, located in the main building in London. The archive is divided into themes including, among many others, Women of the World, Decorations & Design,  Space & SciFi, Architecture, Portraits, Book Covers, Illustrated Lettering, Children’s Book Illustration, Technology & Industry, and Fauna.

For other sites offering free vintages images, consider also the following:

Defending the honor of ebooks (and innovation)

Is the ebook a dead format? How eBooks lost their shine. The Scientific 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)

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

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.”

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.

Great to see major publishers embrace alternative ebook models in public libraries, but let’s give credit where credit is due

This month, libraries across North America that work with hoopla digital will be able to provide access to some 15,000 (backlist) titles by HarperCollins, one of the ‘big five’ publishers that have resisted working with non-traditional ebook business models and adhered to the one-copy-one-user approach, resulting in less-than-ideal user experience for public library patrons. The news came the day before the official launch of the American Library Association conference in late June (see original press release here) and has already received ample coverage, much of which has revolved around statements that with this move HarperCollins was changing the game, breaking new ground, and giving libraries something exciting to look forward to.

While HarperCollins deserves credit for being the first of the Big Five (others include Penguin Random, Macmillan, Hachette, Simon & Schuster) to go a step beyond the restrictive one copy-one user model (it was also the first to provide ebooks to libraries when others weren’t ready), HarperCollins isn’t the first publisher to embrace alternative models and certainly isn’t the one that is breaking new ground with this move. In fact, as many already know, hoopla has offered the cost-per-circulation model (which pays publishers per ‘loan’ instead of paying fixed fees to acquire titles) for a few years.

What’s more, other companies and other players in the ebook market have even gone beyond this model (e.g., Total Boox, Odilo) to provide instant, simultaneous access to ebooks in libraries and beyond. The fact that this move by HarperCollins is leading so many to call it game-changing is on some level a testament to how our industry (including publishers and libraries) views and values change and innovation. We often center our sentiments on what the most powerful do. Continue reading Great to see major publishers embrace alternative ebook models in public libraries, but let’s give credit where credit is due

Meet RBdigital, a new app that makes audiobooks, ebooks and magazines available in one location

One of the most interesting products unveiled at this year’s American Library Association conference in Chicago (held in late June), was Recorded Books’ RBdigital app, which brings together three content types into a single application: ebooks, audiobooks, and magazines. RBdigital essentially merges two existing apps into one: OneClickdigital and Zinio for Libraries. With this move, Recorded Books raises the bar higher for all ebook players catering to libraries.

Press release below.

Recorded Books, an RBmedia company, has announced the launch of RBdigital™ — bringing together libraries’ top-circulating digital media into a single mobile app. The functionality in both OneClickdigital™ and Zinio™ for Libraries — two leading library lending apps currently in use by thousands of libraries around the world — is now seamlessly merged into the new RBdigital app.

“We’re proud to be the first to make audiobooks, magazines, and eBooks available in one location on mobile devices,” says Tom MacIsaac, Chief Executive Officer of RBmedia. “This new unified app provides the best mobile experience in the industry. With RBdigital, library patrons will find it easier than ever before to discover and access their favorite content on their smartphones and tablets.” Continue reading Meet RBdigital, a new app that makes audiobooks, ebooks and magazines available in one location

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)

The Four Basic Ebook Models for K-12 Libraries

This is the second article in a three-part series on ebook business models in K-12 libraries. In the first article, we looked at what a business model is and at the four main kinds of ebook business models that K-12 librarians need to know about. In this article, we will look at each of the four basic models in more depth and glance at some examples of them. We will not attempt to compare product offerings in depth, but I will mention an example or two of each model. Because ebook technology is still in its early stages, the platforms and feature sets of each offering change rapidly, so any comparison is bound to be a snapshot at best.

As you read, keep in mind that ebooks are not simply digital versions of printed books. Legally, they are licensed as software, so when you buy an ebook you are buying a license to use a piece of software. You are not buying a physical object. You do not own it in the same way that you would own a printed book. Technologically, they are completely different, too. While they may look like pictures of books on the screen, under the skin they are software.

On the one hand, this brings some limitations, but at the same time, it is possible to use ebook technology to empower readers in ways that cannot be done with print technology. Continue reading The Four Basic Ebook Models for K-12 Libraries

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?

What readers want (and what we are not giving them)

pexels-photo-196649

[Article 1 in the “Lessons from Croatia Reads” series]

This is Article 1 in the “Lessons from Croatia Reads” series, which aims to describe the experience of turning the country of Croatia into a Free Reading Zone in December 2016. The series is not meant to be a standard academic case study of all that various numbers and figures prove and don’t prove about the future of books and reading. It is an attempt to draw from the experience in a way that highlights all that is missing but within our reach. Croatia Reads was/is meant to give us a glimpse of a future that holds so much promise for the written word. In this future things look radically different than they do today, but the possibilities (and opportunities) for all who work with books are endless.

* * *

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 non-profit projects and initiatives 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 Zone for one entire month. Continue reading What readers want (and what we are not giving them)