Breaking Down the Middle
The first two installments of The Middle discussed older items I’d tagged for Trends & Quick Takes more-or-less chronologically, resulting in particularly miscellaneous conglomerations. After completing the second chunk, I concluded that this wasn’t the best way to proceed. I’ve gone through the set, retagging old “tqt” items with a handful of narrower tags. The largest of the resulting clusters yields this issue’s The Middle on Futurism (and the second part, Forecasts, in the next issue).
As anyone foolish enough to track my Diigo account knows, I’ve done similar breakdowns in other areas, some of them truly obscure to anyone else. Currently, I see more than 20 subdivisions for copyright, which is far too many (especially given that I’m not writing nearly as much about copyright as I did a few years ago), eleven subcategories for ebooks (some too small, a couple too large), twenty subdivisions for “miw” (which isn’t getting any new tags, since those would be tagged “libraries” or “lib-“ with a subdivision), and four subdivisions for social networks.
There are three tags with far too many occupants, in each case more than 100 and in one case more than 260, and I’ve avoided even looking at the contents—but need to one of these days. “blogging” may need a combination of subdivision and radical trimming. “oa” is astonishingly large, given that I basically stopped writing about Open Access in Cites & Insights in late 2009, then returned to the topic with Open Access: What You Need to Know Now (ALA Editions) in 2011. Not sure what needs to be done there.
Finally there’s the monster, 269 items out of my total 1,968 (as I write this—that number should shrink this week, but it seems to float around 1,850 to 2,000 over time): “gbs”—which includes not only the probably–failed Google Books settlement but other Google Books-related items. If, as seems likely, the settlement has completely broken down (as has, most probably, Google’s business plan for its scanned books), then there are two fairly obvious choices: scrap all the items or write a retrospective on what happened and, more specifically, library-related comments and what they may say that’s still meaningful. It’s not a pretty picture. (Given that, on average, quotation-and-commentary essays seem to run about 500 words per source document, “gbs” is clearly intractable for an essay or for a two- or three-part mega-essay: It’s a book, and not a small one.)
That’s a future problem. Only a problem, of course, if I continue to believe that Cites & Insights is meaningful and sustainable.
It’s been interesting to watch what happened after I took the poll results seriously—reducing the suggested contribution based on what people said they’d be willing to contribute and creating a new single-column narrower PDF designed to work well on e-devices larger than smartphones.
As for people’s actual willingness to contribute, that’s a simple story: Contributions for 2012 total $0.
As for use of PDF formats, I did get a nice note from somebody who appreciated the single-column format (but, so far, hasn’t found it worth paying for). As I edit this (April 24, 2012) it’s been 50 days since the March 2012 issue emerged in both formats and 27 days since the April 2012 issue appeared. So far, the “on” formats (single-column PDF) account for 30% of all downloads of Issue 12.2 and 27% of all downloads of Issue 12.3—and I do note that Issue 12.2 totals nearly 800 PDF downloads, a good figure for early reading (Issue 12.3 is at 530, which is also good for less than a month). Conclusion: So far, most people prefer the print-oriented two-column version…but enough are using the single-column version to make it worth the (modest) time required to generate it. And maybe one day a few readers will actually kick in a few bucks.
If you’re wondering about HTML pageviews for essays in these issues: The highest, for Social Networks in March, is at 301 pageviews—more than the one-column PDF but less than 40% of PDF downloads overall. Second highest, and impressive for the first month, is no real surprise: Public Library Closures in the April issue, already at 299 pageviews, more than half as many as overall PDF downloads. (The lowest is not The Front in the March issue; it’s the set of old-movie mini-reviews in April—and at 143 HTML pageviews in less than a month, that certainly doesn’t tell me to stop doing those.)
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