Cites & Insights: Crawford at Large
ISSN 1534-0937
Libraries · Policy · Technology · Media

Selection from Cites & Insights 11, Number 2: February 2011

Bibs & Blather

Where’s Chapter 4?

Chapter 2 of The Liblog Landscape 2007-2010 appeared in the final issue of Cites & Insights 10 (December 2010). Chapter 3 appeared in the January 2011 issue. So where’s Chapter 4? Not here as a service to readers, if some feedback is correct.

Quoting from Walt at Random

Here’s what I said in a Walt at Random post on January 4, 2011:

I originally planned to publish chapters 2-11 of The Liblog Landscape 2007-2010 in Cites & Insights, one chapter per issue, with Chapter 2 appearing in December 2010, Chapter 3 in January 2011 and so on through, possibly, September or October 2011. I hoped that I’d see enough parallel book sales to justify doing that and, with luck, to justify doing a five-year study of liblogs. Because these chapters contain graphs and other stuff, the “HTML separates” appear as PDFs with sets of book pages rather than in the usual HTML form.

But maybe not…

Fact is, as you can readily discover by clicking on “Liblog Profiles” as a category (since I pledged to do one post with four liblog profiles for each copy sold), only four copies of the book have been purchased–two downloads and two paperback.

That’s not as bad as disContent: The Complete Collection, which, halfway through the four-month offering, has sold exactly three (count them: 3) copies. I’ve accidentally extended that four-month offering to five months (through the end of March), but that’s as far as it goes. Sad to say, I’m confirming my suspicion about “freemium” offerings and my so-called audience–and it appears to be even worse than I thought.

I appreciate one colleague’s honesty: he doesn’t intend to pay for library literature, no matter who writes it. I’m getting the idea that this is a general opinion, just not usually stated so bluntly.

As to the liblog books, I had honestly hoped and expected that some or all of the library school libraries/collections would acquire these. But, you know, they’re not either from A Major Library Publisher or overpriced special studies from importantly-named research groups, so…

I don’t think it’s that nobody wants to read this stuff. I think it’s that nobody wants to pay for it.

Here’s the track record:

·         Public Library Blogs: Sold 80 copies, of which 28 are in libraries (according to Worldcat), including no more than three institutions with library schools. Meanwhile, the text portion of this has been downloaded more than 2,500 times in C&I (1,254 as an HTML separate plus 1,321 in the issue, through 12/31/10).

·         Academic Library Blogs: Sold 43 copies, of which 21 appear to be in libraries–including no more than nine institutions with library schools, and probably significantly fewer than that. (I’m including two Australian possibilities here.) More than 2,500 downloads of the text in C&I (1,225 as an HTML separate; the same 1,321 in the issue.)

·         The Liblog Landscape 2007-2008: Sold 66 copies, of which 13 appear to be in libraries–no more than nine of them library schools. So far, 1,600+ downloads in C&I (as a full issue), but it’s early yet.

·         But Still They Blog: Sold 19 copies, of which three (so far) are in libraries, at most one with a library school. So far, 1,053 C&I downloads–but it’s very early, since that issue came out in September 2010 and these stats only go through 12/31/10.

·         Chapter 2 of The Liblog Landscape 2007-2010: So far–and it was only out for seven weeks through the end of the year–127 separate downloads and 425 copies of the issue, for a total of 552. Four books sold.

·         Chapter 3 of The Liblog Landscape 2007-2010: This one was out for less than two weeks through the end of the year, so these are almost meaningless numbers: 48 separate downloads, 371 copies of the issue, for a total of 419 copies. Again, four books sold.

·         Going back: My 2006 study of the “great middle” of liblogs has been downloaded some 22,000 times, 13,000 of them as a separate–and the 2005 study has been downloaded more than 23,000 times, 14,000 as a separate.

So there’s a readership, as long as it’s free. Which, with any sort of institutional or corporate sponsorship, would be just fine with me.

A year ago, I wouldn’t have called 66 copies anything close to acceptable–but if I accept that the liblog studies are mostly a hobby, that’s at least enough to pay for software upgrades and the costs of getting the thing into print, even if it’s not much more than $1/hour for time spent.

Nineteen copies? Not so much. Four copies (so far)? I haven’t yet covered the direct cost of buying a proof copy.

Current plans

I’d planned to include Chapter 4–which starts to get into the meaty, interesting facts and figures–in the February issue of C&I. (No, you haven’t missed it: It won’t be out for at least two weeks, maybe three, maybe more.)

And I’d still love to do that…if there’s some evidence of at least modest sales for the book or download. Let’s call “at least modest sales” five copies per chapter, which would yield at least 55 copies of the book as a whole (Chapter 1 is never going to appear in C&I. But if more than 200 copies of the book are sold, I’ll change the PDF price to $0, which would make it freely available.)

So once fifteen copies have been sold, I’ll put Chapter 4 in the next issue of C&I. Twenty copies: Chapter 5. And so on.

This, of course, assumes that C&I itself continues for the long run…

If Chapter 3 never appears? Then I’ll almost certainly come to my senses regarding the five-year study. (I had a neat new idea about a slight extension of that study, one that could only appear online or as PDFs, since it would require multicolor output, but that neat new idea certainly won’t happen if the study doesn’t happen.) If neither library schools nor librarians are willing to provide any support for this stuff, then it’s clear that I really shouldn’t be doing it. Time spent helping out with the Friends store at my local library might be more productive for all concerned…

Sponsorship may, to be sure, change the picture, and firm up the picture for C&I itself. When I know something, so will you.

If not? Well, then let’s not waste any more language on alternative forms of publishing or new models or the role of independent researchers. Without the imprimatur of formal publishers and formal journals, the work is, apparently, effectively worthless. If I want to keep writing (other than blogs), I should find topics that publishers will buy rather than topics where I believe I have something special to offer. And that may be a lesson I should have learned a long time ago.

Update and Further Comment

First of all: In case you’ve forgotten, The Liblog Landscape 2007-2010, which covers 1,304 liblogs and is a uniquely comprehensive treatment, is available at in trade paperback or PDF form.

As of January 13, 2011, no additional books have been sold, either print or download. (That’s for all C&I books at Lulu. One copy of Balanced Libraries did sell on Amazon—the CreateSpace edition.) Issue downloads are up to 445 for C&I 10:12 and 441 for C&I 11:1. Downloads of the chapters are up to 134 for Chapter 2 and 65 for Chapter 3.

I got four comments on that post—three direct, one private email that apparently represents a consensus of several library people. That consensus…well, here’s how I excerpted it in my own comment, noting that “Z” (whom I regard as a friend and valued colleague) is doing me a favor by being honest about this:

Z suggests that I’m overstating the interest in these studies based on C&I stats: That most libloggers will download the issue or article, look for their own names and one or two others, and ignore everything else–that people really don’t care about studies like this. Z also suggests that the studies might be significant in the long run, but that only institutions would plausibly pay for them. And that’s not happening.

I suspect Z may be right. If that’s true, and given that my ability to market to ALISE or library schools is nil (and the chances of their buying anything that doesn’t have the Proper Stamp of Authority isn’t much greater), then the studies really are a waste of my time… which does not inherently extend to Cites & Insights.

So, while I was reluctant to write this post, I may be learning useful things, even if they’re not things I necessarily want to learn.

For now, I’m going to stop pushing the books. Either they sell or they don’t. Which means fewer blog posts but, with luck, ones that are more enjoyable for writer and reader alike.

At this point, I see three possibilities—and I think I’m giving them in reverse order of probability (that is, I think the first is most probable):

1.      Z is right: Almost nobody (personally or institutionally) much cares about quantitative liblog research and most earlier download figures represent egosearches. I should give it up. (The four copies already sold may represent the viable market?)

2.      There’s not enough interest for “Andersonomics” to work: Some people are mildly interested, but not enough to pay anything for the book (during the last week of December and first five days of January, the PDF version was really cheap…). I’ve already tested that to some extent with the “freemium” disContent: The Complete Collection (woo! three copies!) and the “pay what it’s worth” experiment with Cites & Insights itself since sponsorship ended at the end of 2009 (I won’t give the total contributed to date, but it’s in the very low three digits). But they’ll read it if it’s free. (#2 has a broader significance than #1, and I’m now convinced that a special book version of Library 2.0 and “Library 2.0” with index and with update essays included would sell two to five copies at most, so that’s not going to happen. For that matter, I’m beginning to wonder whether the continuing high download numbers for that issue mean anything...)

3.      It’s just too early, and a trickle of sales will follow: That’s the most hopeful outcome, but also the least probable. As a cockeyed optimist, I’ll leave the window open: As soon as 15 copies have been sold, I’ll schedule Chapter 4 for the next C&I; as soon as 20 have been sold, Chapter 5…and so on. And I’ll continue to prepare and post four liblog profiles for each copy sold. Who knows? I might even make it out of the numbers and into the As.

If #1 is right, and maybe if #2 is right, then I’m doing y’all a favor by not taking up precious C&I space with chapters of The Liblog Landscape 2007-2010. Which may be true.

Cites & Insights: Crawford at Large, Volume 11, Number 2, Whole # 137, ISSN 1534-0937, a journal of libraries, policy, technology and media, is written and produced by Walt Crawford.

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