Bibs & Blather
Navel Gazing Part 6
Few things have remained constant throughout Cites & Insights’ history. There’s the title, the primary (usually sole) author and publisher, the price and the principal format. I was going to say “and the ISSN,” but it appears I didn’t have an ISSN until the fourth issue. Technically, the subtitle’s remained constant—but the banner typography implies (correctly) that “Crawford at Large” remains mostly to avoid getting a new ISSN, since it’s smaller than the motto beneath it.
There is one other constant since January 2002. The first essay in the first issue of each volume is Bibs & Blather, with a portion of the essay devoted to self-examination: Looking back at the previous volume and offering predictions for the current volume.
Last year’s navel gazing exercise, “No Year’s Resolutions,” recounted each previous year’s stated plans and how they worked out. I won’t repeat that. I will note that this issue passes Crawford’s Guideline—C&I has survived six years, making it a success within periodical literature even if it fails thereafter. Fortunately (or unfortunately, depending on your preferences), it’s not failing any time soon, barring even larger unforeseen circumstances than those of 2006.
Even though I said “No year’s resolution” for 2006, I did offer a very short list of “modest expectations”:
No fewer than 12 and no more than 30 pages per issue; no fewer than 12 and no more than 16 issues; continued foci on copyright and net media without abandoning other interesting areas. Maybe another reader’s survey toward the end of the year; maybe not.
Later in that essay, I noted that I had “said elsewhere that I didn’t plan a January issue until very late in the month…and didn’t plan an extra Midwinter issue coming out just before the ALA Midwinter Meeting.” I said that while wondering whether I’d be wrong on both counts.
I was, in a manner that also blew the first of the modest expectations. The January 2006 issue came out on December 20, 2005—which isn’t very late in the month. Not only was there a Midwinter 2006 issue, it was the longest issue ever at 32 pages: Library 2.0 and “Library 2.0.” So much for “no more than 30 pages per issue,” although no other issue exceeded 30 pages. That was also the most widely read C&I ever (more than 10,000 PDF downloads and 11,800 HTML hits), and I regard it as a landmark in the literature, so I won’t apologize for the length.
Number of issues: That’s been fairly constant—13 in 2001, 15 in 2002, and 14 each year since.
Foci: I probably wrote as much about copyright as in 2005, but the eight essays represented 10.3% of the 2006 content, down from 12.9% in 2005, and copyright occupied fifth or sixth place instead of second. As for net media, that depends on your definition: Six essays representing 13.9% of the content related to blogging, wikipedia and the like, but three Library 2.0-related essays for another 15.6%. A little more detail on coverage in 2006 follows later.
Survey: I didn’t do an overall survey because it’s clear that I wouldn’t base future coverage primarily on reader feedback—particularly given that it would be difficult to get even 10% of readers to respond. I did raise four specific issues in posts at Walt at random. In no case did I receive more than seven responses.
Extent and coverage: My original hope for C&I was to do 144 to 192 pages per year. What actually happened: 224 pages in volume 1; 262 in volume 2; 278 in volume 3; 308 in volume 4; and 324 in volume 5. Last year, I hoped for somewhere between 280 and 320 pages; the volume totaled 362 pages (page totals exclude indexes). Along the way I tweaked the layout and typography—but most of those changes increased the number of words per page. Last year totaled nearly 277,000 words.
Coverage was reasonably varied. Most copy (64%) was within Perspectives; a third was library-focused. Heaviest topical coverage (with some overlap) was (in descending order) on balance, Library 2.0, net media (including blogs), copyright, access, and Google Book Search/OCA. Frequent multitopic sections included six Library Stuff, six Trends & Quick Takes, eight My Back Pages, three old movies, two Old Media/New Media essays and four Interesting & Peculiar Products.
The mini-survey asked questions about four portions of C&I I was actively considering dropping. Here’s the results, informed by a handful of your comments:
Ø PC Progress is gone. When there are Editors’ Choices (PC Magazine) and Best Buys (PC World) that appear worth mentioning, I’ll include them in Interesting & Peculiar Products.
Ø The Censorware Chronicles disappeared of its own accord.
Ø Library Access to Scholarship will stick around This is one case where reader feedback changed my mind.
Ø Interesting & Peculiar Products overlaps with Trends & Quick Takes and My Back Pages, but it has a place. It will continue.
As for frequency and length, I’ll stick with “no fewer than 12 and no more than 15 issues” and aim for issue lengths between 16 and 30 pages.
I’ve been threatening to do print-on-demand books for some time now. My first idea was to reprint old material (columns and articles as well as C&I essays) in updated value-added collections. The overwhelming flood of reader enthusiasm for such an idea has encouraged me not to spend too much energy on that idea just yet; “collective yawn” overstates the interest.
I have six other book ideas that aren’t reprints-with-commentary, all of them ones I believe would be worth doing but none of them likely to achieve sales that justify traditional publishing (at least by ALA Editions): In other words, ideal candidates for Lulu or Café Press (or some other PoD provider).
I’ve started work on the first of the six, recognizing that there’s no better than a fifty-fifty chance of completing it in a reasonable time frame. I’m hedging my bets: Some of the draft chapters will appear as Perspectives in Cites & Insights. If, after half a year or so, I conclude that it’s not going to happen or wouldn’t make a good book, I’ll probably use the rest of the completed chapters that way. If the book does prove workable, at least half of it will not have appeared previously in C&I.
Working on the book shouldn’t hurt C&I,—but it might reduce the number of extra issues and blockbuster essays. Then again, it might not.
I would love to have feedback on experiences with Lulu, Café Press (as a book fulfillment agency) or direct competitors—how much they charge for shipping (what gets added to the posted price), whether the sites work well, the print quality of the books. I’ve heard mostly good things about both of them, but I have yet to set up an account with either. You know the address: email@example.com.
Cites & Insights is sponsored by YBP Library Services, http://www.ybp.com.
Opinions herein do not represent those of OCLC or YBP Library Services.
Comments should be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org. Comments specifically intended for publication should go to email@example.com. Cites & Insights: Crawford at Large is copyright © 2007 by Walt Crawford: Some rights reserved.
All original material in this work is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial License. To view a copy of this license, visit http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/1.0 or send a letter to Creative Commons, 559 Nathan Abbott Way, Stanford, California 94305, USA.