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

Selection from Cites & Insights 13, Number 1: January 2013

The Front

Of Books and Journals

By the time you read this, I hope, Successful Social Networking in Public Libraries will be available from ALA Editions (and Amazon, and the usual suspects). [I say “I hope” because I won’t know until my review copies have arrived. It’s been a long process; sometimes things seem to work that way with professional publishers.]

It’s based on an external survey of actual Facebook and Twitter practices (in late 2011) by libraries in 38 states—that is, not asking them what they’re doing but actually looking for the pages and feeds. The book is more descriptive than prescriptive: I assume that public librarians, like librarians in general, know what they’re doing and that if they continue to post to pages and to tweet, they’re probably achieving results they consider at least worth the effort. Which is not to say that most of them couldn’t do better.

I believe it’s a worthwhile book. If you’re looking for The Rules or The Only Way To Do This, you will be disappointed; there are certainly other books that will tell you how it Should Be Done.

It’s the last of the professionally published books I have coming out at this point. The others—Open Access: What You Need to Know Now and The Librarian’s Guide to Micropublishing—continue to be available and, I believe, even more important. The first is a key guide to a field every academic librarian should be aware of; the second offers a new free service public libraries (and academic and special libraries) can offer to make their communities better. At the moment, I have neither “real publisher” projects in the pipeline nor clear ideas of what might be worth doing. That may change at any time.

You might note that these three books aren’t nicely focused in a single area. That’s been an ongoing problem with my writing (and professional activity) for some decades, and seems unlikely to improve. One of these months, I’ll write it up. I already have the title: “How Not to be an Expert.”

To make things more peculiar, consider my latest self-publishing projects—one described (at length) in previous issues of Cites & Insights but with a couple of new twists, one that continues a series, one that…well…I can’t figure out whether or not to include an excerpt and whether it has any future at all. (Based on sales to date, even at a temporary price of $1.99, the answer is not encouraging.)

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

Two developments here:

·         You can buy the paperback book through Amazon, this time in a CreateSpace edition with an ISBN (ISBN-10 1481279165, ISBN-13 978-1481279161), for the same $21.95. It has a different cover, but the interior is identical.

·         You can also buy a Kindle edition—one specifically created for the Kindle, with a live table of contents—for $9.99. If you’re a Kindle owner and Amazon Prime member, you can even borrow it for free.

I’ve adjusted the price of the Lulu PDF ebook edition—which, at 6x9 inches, should display beautifully on, for example, the Kindle Fire HD 8.9, the Nook HD+, the iPad or any device with at least a 9” screen and a PDF reader—to $9.99 to match the Kindle price. The Lulu paperback edition at $21.95 and the Lulu hardbound edition at $31.50 continue to be available.

Cites & Insights Volume 12 (2012)

As usual, I’ve issued the complete annual Cites & Insights, including indexes, as an 8.5x11 paperback. As usual, it’s priced at $50—of which a portion is a contribution to keep C&I going. (The annual indexes now appear only in the book version.) While part of me says that a hardback version might be nice (and stand up on shelves better), so far I can’t justify the extra $10.

This volume turned out to be a lot larger than I expected. Also, I think, much better than I would originally have expected.

It’s worth noting that, while I’d be delighted if some library schools (and a few others) chose to maintain print archives of C&I, with this being the best way to do that, I generate the annuals so that I can have a well-organized archive. Any other sales are nice, and do represent support for the ejournal, but I’m not counting on them. (If you’re wondering: So far, the seven volumes of C&I available in paperback form—going back to 2006—have sold nine copies in addition to the copy I buy of each one. That’s nine total, not nine per year.)

Graphing Public Library Benefits

This $9.99 PDF is only available as a PDF ebook because I’d have to price it at about $50 as a print book just to break even. There may be some misunderstanding about this supplement to Give Us a Dollar…:

·         The first chapter is about graphing public library benefits and some choices to be made.

·         Chapters 2 through 19 are graphing public library benefits—the best graphic counterparts I could come up with for the tables in Chapters 2 through 19 of Give Us a Dollar…

·         If you find graphics worthwhile, you should at least give this one a try. By the way, not only does the PDF not have DRM, I’m explicitly saying that you can pass it along to others who might be interested, on the assumption that, if they find it valuable, they might buy Give Us a Dollar… or whatever.

I haven’t included a sample chapter in Cites & Insights because, to make the book workable, it’s a single-column 8.5x11” format; reducing the graphs to fit in a two-column format would make them nearly unreadable. A preview (which does slightly truncate some graphs) is available on the book page.

Cites & Insights

Then there’s “this here ejournal,” as I’m inclined to call it. It almost shut down toward the end of 2011. It came back strong (in my opinion) in 2012 with a combination of original research and the kind of stuff C&I is (not very) famous for, including the three-year update on the Google Books settlement.

It was a year in which I added a second PDF version designed to work well on larger e-devices (whether tablets, netbooks or notebooks) and in which I completely redid section headings to be simpler and perhaps more coherent.

In December 2012, I asked readers to comment on the format options and on the sections in C&I, and planned to use the results of that survey to decide which of the three current formats (two-column 8.5x11” PDF, 1-column 6x9” PDF, HTML essays) to continue and what content to focus on.

I also thought survey turnout might be useful to gauge actual involvement with C&I, since the survey was very short and did not ask for money. Based on what I see from server logs, issues of C&I have 300 to 700 readers immediately, typically building into the thousands over time (the Google Books one is already well over 2,000). Unfortunately, only a dozen people responded to the survey.

Here are the results:

If Cites & Insights was only available in one format, which would you prefer?

Two-column 8.5x11” PDF: 4

One-column 6x9” PDF: 5

HTML separates for each issue: 3

The responses aren’t at all conclusive.

If C&I goes to a single PDF version (retaining the HTML separates), which would you prefer?

Classic two-column 8.5x11”: 5

“Online”: single-column 6x9”: 7

One comment: “It works on my crappy Pandigital”

I interpret this to mean that people who currently prefer the HTML separates would mostly migrate to the single-column PDF, although any generalization from so few responses is useless.

How frequently do you read these sections of C&I?

Ten people answered this section. Nobody responded “Never” for any section. Otherwise, working from the bottom:

·         Rarely: Media 2, Policy 1, The CD-ROM Project 4

·         Sometimes: Two each except: The Middle 3, The Back 3, Libraries 3, Policy 1.

·         Usually: Two each: Libraries. Three each: The Front, The Middle, The Back, Media, The CD-ROM Project. Four each: Everything else.

·         Always: Four each except: The Front 5, Libraries 5, Media 3, The CD-ROM Project 3.

Notably, Technology—which has never appeared to date—follows the most prominent pattern.

Looking at it from a rating average viewpoint (5 for Always, 4 for Usually, etc.), and working from most-read to least-read:

·         Most read (4.3): The Front.

·         Second most read (4.2): Libraries, Technology, Social Networks, Words, Intersections

·         Third most read (4.1): The Middle, The Back, Policy

·         Second least read (3.7): Media

·         Least read (3.1): The CD-ROM Project

I interpret the relatively low marks for Media as mostly being those who don’t much care for the old movie reviews. I interpret the very high marks for Technology as “I usually read everything, including things you don’t actually write yet.”

How valuable do you find these sections?

Nine people answered this section. Nobody provided comments. Nobody answered “Not at all,” and there was only one “Meh” response, for The CD-ROM Project. Otherwise:

·         OK: One each: Intersections, Policy, Words, Social Networks, The Middle, The Back. Three each: The CD-ROM Project

·         Reasonably: Three each: Technology, The CD-ROM Project. One each: Libraries, Words. All others: Two each.

·         Very: Six each for all sections except: One, the CD-ROM Project; Five, Social Networks; Seven each, Libraries and The Front.

·         Not applicable: One each, Media, Libraries, Social Networks, The CD-ROM Project

Looking at it from a rating average approach (Very is 5, Not at all is 1):

·         Most valuable (4.88): :Libraries

·         Second most valuable (4.7-4.79): The Front, Media

·         Third most valuable (4.6-4.69): Technology, Words

·         Fourth most valuable (4.5-4.59): Intersections, Policy, Social Networks, The Middle, The Back

·         Least valuable (3.5): The CD-ROM Project

Anything you’d like to add?

Three responses:

I really enjoy Cites & Insights, in whatever format, and am glad it's still around.

Thanks for doing it. It's an amazing thing, and great for synthesizing big issues.

While I sometimes have seen posts that Walt refers to, he puts them in context as well as often picks up things I have missed. It is kind of like a newspaper...where you see stories you might not have "pre-selected" but are interesting and often important to broaden one's horizon.

To which I can only say Thanks.

Putting it all together

There weren’t very many responses, which makes overinterpretation less than useless. As to format, especially now that I’ve seen how the single-column PDF really looks on a 9” tablet (it looks great as far as I’m concerned), my inclination is to keep both PDF versions…and, seeing how the HTML separates look on mobile web browsers (or at least Silk), consider dropping the HTML separates. I’ve never been entirely happy with them and they’re a nuisance to produce—not a big nuisance, but a nuisance.

The other responses are mildly interesting, even with so few of them.

·         It’s no surprise that The CD-ROM Project isn’t the hottest item, which is also why it’s not over yet—but it will be this year, one way or another (either I’ll finish it or I’ll give up).

·         I find it interesting that Libraries score high on value—but not as high on readership.

·         I’m pleased that people find Bibs & Blather, er, The Front valuable, since it’s mostly self-promotion. I’m also pleased that The Back didn’t get downgraded.

·         I’m inclined to regard the “valuable” responses as mostly a tie, especially since there’s a disconnect between the high Value and low Readership scores for Media.

If this all boils down to “not much change,” that’s probably right. I may yet do a Technology essay (but the mini-essays wind up in The Middle, so that might never happen). Intersections includes some of the best-read and, I think, most important essays; ditto Words, Policy and Libraries.

If anything, I’ll pay a little more attention to libraries as such (but, of course, they’re vital to nearly everything except The Back) and probably do more Words stuff later this year (e.g., I have a lot of ebook-related stuff…)

Thanks to those who responded. I wish a few dozen more had done so.

Want HTML? It’s up to you

If you want the HTML separates to continue, contribute to Cites & Insights. The Paypal link is right there on the home page.

·         If the sum of contributions and purchases of C&I annual volumes reaches $1,000 by the time I’m ready to publish the February issue (call it January 20-22, 2013), I’ll keep doing HTML separates throughout 2013.

·         If that sum is significant and appears well on its way to $1,000 within the first quarter of 2013, I’ll do HTML separates for the February issue and see how it goes.

·         If not, probably not. As far as I can tell, at least 250 people read HTML versions fairly regularly. If the HTML versions aren’t worth even $10 to $25 per year to at least some of those readers, they’re not worth doing.

If it isn’t obvious: C&I isn’t going anywhere, at least not just yet.

Cites & Insights: Crawford at Large, Volume 13, Number 1, Whole # 157, ISSN 1534-0937, a journal of libraries, policy, technology and media, is written and produced irregularly (but usually at least monthly) by Walt Crawford.

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