Bibs & Blather
The Librarian’s Guide to Micropublishing
I’m delighted to note that The Librarian’s Guide to Micropublishing: Helping Patrons and Communities Use Free and Low-Cost Publishing Tools to Tell Their Stories is now available, in paperback from the publisher, Information Today, Inc. and all the usual suspects (including Amazon—and it’s also available in ebook form) and in casewrap hardcover from Lulu.
The paperback is $49.50 (usual disclaimer: I have absolutely nothing to do with setting prices). The hardcover is $59.95, although Lulu frequently has brief sales. I have both versions. They both look great and essentially identical. I’ve sent autographed hardcover copies to the three folks who read the unedited version and wrote blurbs (all on the back cover): Robin Hastings, James LaRue and Maurice “baldgeek” Coleman. My thanks to them!
The hardcover version does two things:
Ø It makes a prebound version available for libraries that want a hardcover copy for circulation. I believe this book is going to be used by tens of thousands of patrons at thousands of libraries. It’s a casewrap hardcover—the cover design is part of the binding itself—so there’s no need to laminate paper jackets.
Ø It’s a proof of concept. This book is about producing attractive, high-quality books without spending any new money on software (assuming you have Word—or, although it’s more difficult, OpenOffice or LibreOffice). Part of the process of preparing the book was polishing a good general-purpose 6 × 9" book template for Word, something that has no’t been freely available. The book itself uses the template with no modifications. And, other than the title pages and the two ad pages at the back of the book, the body of the book is a PDF generated directly from Word2010, not using Adobe Acrobat. The same PDF is used for both paperback and hardcover—but the hardcover is itself a prime and pure example of what the book’s talking about, producing books in very small numbers without compromising on appearance or quality. The book walks the talk; the hardcover version is proof of that.
I’ve been saying that every public library (in the U.S. and in other English-speaking countries where Lulu offers its services or CreateSpace is available) needs this book. That’s probably a little grandiose, although the possibility of adding a new community/creative service for your patrons without any cost to the library (other than a copy of the book), especially a service that speaks to long-form text and local creativity, strikes me as worthwhile for even libraries serving fewer than 100 people. (As part of my next book project, I’m now even more acutely aware of the sheer heterogeneity of America’s 9,000-odd public libraries: I’ve attempted to view the web pages of 5,958 of them.)
I’ll offer some examples of libraries that should specifically find this book more than worth the price. It’s potentially useful for a number of academic and special libraries as well: More on that shortly.
Ø Libraries serving genealogists and family historians: You say there’s a link or tab on your homepage specifically dealing with genealogy? You need this book. Where there’s an amateur genealogist or a family historian, there’s a micropublished book waiting to appear: A book that will probably only be produced in a few or a few dozen copies but will be important to those families (and the local history group). Now that maybe half the libraries in the country are taken care of…
Ø Libraries with teen or adult writing classes or groups: You’d probably love to produce a collection at the end of a successful class or as part of a group’s cycle. You can do so without requiring any capital at all and it can look great. This book shows you how. Quite a few of those writers probably want a durable example of what they’ve done, their own book (possibly 24 pages of poems, possibly a 700-page epic) as a showpiece that might or might not morph into a major publication. This book shows them how—and, by the way, we’ve provided a special copyright exception so that, within reason, you can legally copy the chapters of this book they’ll need as they’re preparing their own books, as long as your library’s purchased one copy.
Ø Libraries serving local historians and historical societies: While family histories and personal histories (including the oral histories most people my age and older should be preparing) may be the most widespread examples of books that work best through micropublishing, there are also lots of local historians (and historical societies) out there who have manuscripts that deserve very short-run book publication and don’t especially want to spend a few $thousand to make that possible. With this book, all they need is Word (and not necessarily even that). Your library can be the center of this creative community-building process.
Ø Libraries serving writers who aren’t part of a writing group: One great thing about micropublishing is that neither Lulu nor CreateSpace claims intellectual property rights. They’re not publishers, they’re service agencies. (The exception: If you use their free ISBNs–and for Lulu, you don’t need to–then they’re the publisher of record for that edition. But the writer still owns the copyright and all rights in everything except those 13 digits.) With this book, those writers can get started with real books, handsome books, and if there’s enough interest, there’s nothing stopping them from taking the books to traditional publishers. (The library could create a great community service by finding ways for writers to swap editorial services, since the best editing and copyediting really do require eyes other than the writer’s.)
I’m sure there are other cases I haven’t thought of here, but the ones listed here cover nearly every community, I suspect, including most smallest communities. Is there somebody in Whale Pass, Alaska (not the smallest library population at 31, but the smallest library that I know of with a Facebook page) who could benefit from this book? I wouldn’t be surprised…
Does your library have a special collection, materials of interest to some in the community and elsewhere that are too fragile for circulation? If you own the rights to them, you can prepare circulatable books with the content at very little cost. The techniques in this book will get you started.
If your library school offers a course on libraries and publishing, you need this book. (You also need Open Access: What You Need to Know Now, but presumably you already have that. In multiple copies.)
If your library school offers a course dealing with innovative public services, you need this book.
This book is primarily written for public libraries, but one chapter focuses on academic libraries and micropublishing, primarily discussing ejournals. If your academic library is getting into the open access ejournal business, aren’t there a few authors and libraries who would happily pay to see their work in book form? You can add an annual print edition (assuming the journal publishes less than 750 pages per year) with zero financial outlay or risk, although in this case you do need a copy of Acrobat. The book shows you how. Oh, by the way, at least one academic library is already using Lulu to build a virtual university press…and there will be more.
I know, I know, the patrons of special libraries and the libraries themselves have unlimited funds, so this money-saving technique isn’t relevant. (You can stop laughing; I hope you didn’t choke in the process.) But maybe there are patrons of special libraries and even library projects where a book would be a great outcome, but you know there’s only need for one, five, or fifty copies, and you’re just about ready to go the ugly FedexKinko’s route. This book can show you how to do it better and, quite probably, a little cheaper as well.
That’s the story: The book’s out. I believe it’s the most universally applicable book I’ve ever written, detailings a new service almost every public library can usefully provide and the tools to make that service work. Without any cost to the library–other than the price of the book. Such a deal!
I think I’m a pretty good nonfiction writer: a hack in the best sense of the term. For that matter, I think I’m a better than average self-editor, although that may be delusional.
Cites & Insights is self-edited. My self-published books have been self-edited.
But I’ll suggest that all of my editors–and over the past decades, I’ve dealt with quite a few–will tell you that I’m an easy writer to deal with because I know my writing can always stand improvement. (In practice, I don’t go back to my original ms. when looking at a galley unless I spot a special problem: I read the galley on its own merits, assuming it represents an improvement over the original.)
This book was unusual because I was making all of the changes in the three full cycles and two or three minicycles of editing (line editing, copyediting, “proofreading”). I was sending ITI a PDF; they were returning the PDF with “stickies” (comments, which work a little like Post-Its®) for editorial and proofreading suggestions. There were hundreds of such proposed changes (many of them as small as correcting my bad habit of overusing em dashes, one of them proposing a complete rewrite of a chapter). I had to evaluate each change, since I was the only one who could make the changes.
I believe I made 99% of the proposed changes, maybe more. I know the book is the better for the cycles of professional editing it received from John B. Bryans, Amy Reeve and Brandi Scardilli (and possibly others whose names I’ve forgotten or didn’t know). I know the book is better for M. Heide Dengler’s advice and cooperation in refining the book template—professional advice that’s reflected in the free .dotx, .dot and .odt templates available for book buyers to use and modify. And, to be sure, the book benefits from professional indexing; in that case, I’m not a hack so much as a talentless hack, so I really appreciate the quality of the index. (They sent the index to me as a Word document, so I just imported it into the manuscript before using the “Save and Send” button to prepare the final PDF.) And, of course, I anticipate considerable benefit from the professional marketing skills of Rob Colding.
There it is. It’s a book I’m proud of, a book I believe thousands of libraries can benefit from, to the benefit of their patrons and communities. Go buy it. I’m available to talk about micropublishing or hold workshops…for a fee.
Cites & Insights Volume 11, 2011, is now out in book form, available at Lulu for the usual $50. The index is only available as part of the book. The address: http://www.lulu.com/product/paperback/cites-insights-11-2011/18809137.
In 2011, there were 131,350 sessions at the Cites & Insights homepage and 329,322 pageviews on the site from 22,314 IP addresses. In all, there were some 77,000 PDF downloads and 225,000 HTML pageviews (but that includes site overhead).
Overall, there continue to be two C&I issues with more than 10,000 PDF downloads (one with more than 32,000). Three more are over 9,000 (all reaching that level last year), four more over 8,000 (one breaking that mark last year), ten over 7,000 (including seven that reached 7,000 during 2011), and so on… 62 issues have had at least 5,000 downloads and only ten fewer than 1,000—but that ten includes five of last year’s nine issues. Looking only at 2011 downloads, it’s curious that “Library 2.0 and ‘Library 2.0’” still leads the pack, since for more than half the year the PDF has been a stub (and the substitute location has only been downloaded 22 times, while the book has sold seven copies to date). Next is 11:2, the followup on the topic—which has also been a stub for most of the year.
Looking at article readership, the top articles overall haven’t changed much. Six articles appear to have been viewed (in PDF or HTML form) at least 15,000 times:
Library 2.0 and “Library 2.0”
Perspective: Investigating the Biblioblogosphere
Perspective: Looking at Liblogs: The Great Middle
Perspective: Conference Speaking: I Have a Little List
Perspective: Life Trumps Blogging
Perspective: Book Searching: OCA/GBS Update. Those are all from 2005-2007.
Looking only at HTML article pageviews during 2011, I find 10 articles viewed more than 1,000 times and another 10 viewed between 800 and 999 times—again, not including the full-issue downloads. With those included, these would range from 24,194 down to 1,578. Here are the articles, listed from most viewed during 2011 (2,458) to least within the top 20 (851):
Old Media/New Media Perspective: Thinking About Kindle and Ebooks
Perspective: Conference Speaking: I Have a Little List
Making it Work Perspective: Five Years Later: Library 2.0 and Balance
Perspective: Academic Library Blogging: A Limited Update
Perspective: Looking at Liblogs: The Great Middle
Perspective: Discovering Books: OCA & GBS Retrospective
Perspective: Book Searching: OCA/GBS Update
Offtopic Perspective: Mystery Collection, Part 1
Making it Work: Philosophy and Future
Open Access Perspective, Part II: Pioneer OA Journals: Preliminary Additions from DOAJ
Making it Work Perspective: Five Years Later: Library 2.0 and Balance (cont.)
Open Access Perspective Part I: Pioneer Journals: The Arc of Enthusiasm, Five Years Later
Perspective: Writing about Reading
The Zeitgeist: hypePad and buzzkill
Old Media/New Media
Ethical Perspectives: Republishing and Blogging
Copyright Comments: Public Domain
The Zeitgeist: Blogging Groups and Ethics
Perspective: The Google Books Search Settlement
Perspective: On the Literature.
The article that I had the most personal issues with during the year, given its apparent total lack of impact within the field? It missed the 800 mark by 18 pageviews.
I looked at 2011 statistics for Walt at Random as well, and while they’re certainly impressive, I think they’re mostly related to spiders and spammers.
The impressive part: 487,649 sessions and 2,251,367 pageviews—yes, that’s two and a quarter million pageviews—from 49,655 IP addresses.
The less impressive part: When I look at most viewed pages, the first hundred are almost entirely month and category indexes, not actual posts. And the highest posts aren’t ones that make a lot of sense. My conclusion is that most of the traffic isn’t actually people reading what few posts I do.
For what it’s worth, here are the ten actual posts with the most apparent pageviews, where they appear ordinally among the 6,044 pages and how often they were viewed (or “viewed”) during 2011:
6. The Cover Story, Part 1 (11,164)
122. Public library blogs: Posting frequency (2,220)
124. Anniversary Post: Six Years! (2,111)
127. A little Friday afternoon posting (from February 2007!) (1,757)
129. 50 Movie Comedy Kings, Disc 6 (1,699)
130. A little anecdote to close the year (1,544)
132. Generally positive, mildly aroused (1,371)
133. Mystery Collection Disc 22 (1,359)
134. “You can’t buy a place for…” (1,322)
If you can come up with a common thread among those ten posts (other than “Walt Crawford wrote them all”), you’re a better synthesis than I am.
I believe it would be worthwhile to do an annual nationwide survey of public library presence on social networks, looking at all U.S. public libraries–9,184 of them (based on IMLS figures as reported in Hennen’s American Public Library Ratings (HAPLR)).
As background for my 2012 ALA Editions book Successful Social Networking in Public Libraries, I looked at all public libraries in 25 states (distributed by population) in late summer 2011—and later added the libraries in 13 more states, for a total of 5,958 libraries in 38 states. For the first 25 states (and 2,406 libraries), I revisited four months after the first visit to look at changes in social networking.
The result is two spreadsheets, one of which (LSNALL) would be the baseline for the new project. (The other, LSN25, looks at the four-month changes. It wouldn’t be relevant for the new project.)
LSNALL includes, for each library, the following, based on my own searching and results:
Ø Library name and Legal Service Area population as provided by the state library in its spreadsheet, noting that “Library name” is frequently something other than the name the library actually uses. (Only libraries that have an LSA are included, leaving out 7,000-odd branches but also cooperative agencies that aren’t double-counted.)
Ø State abbreviation
Ø Date on which I checked the library
Ø “FB?”–a code indicating whether I found a working Facebook link to a library Facebook page on the website (w), in the first 100 Google results (g), or by searching Facebook itself (f), in that order–or, if none was found, whether I found a community or information Facebook page instead (i) or nothing at all (n).
Ø If there is a Facebook page (or group, or non-page account), the number of Likes (or friends).
Ø For the most recent and fifth most recent Facebook post from the library itself, a code indicating its currency bucket: d (the day I checked), e (week–within the past seven days including today), f (fortnight), m (month), q (quarter), s (six months), y (year) or z (more than a year). (“e” was chosen to make the buckets directly sortable.)
Ø A one-letter code indicating whether I found some signs of interactivity within the “visible” posts (usually 20 to 30): “y” for a non-library comment or a non-spam post from someone other than the library; “l” if I found likes (by someone other than the library!) on posts but no comments; “s” if I found only spam comments (or only spam and likes); and blank if I found none of those.
Ø A Twitter code, similar to Facebook except that there are no “i” cases and I use “t” instead of “f” if the Twitter account could only be found within Twitter itself.
Ø Followers, following, and tweets.
Ø The same most recent and fifth most recent bucket codes for tweets
Ø An interactivity code, usually based on either non-library tweets, retweets, or tweets beginning “@”–I didn’t look as far for these, and don’t regard the results as very meaningful.
Ø Comments if needed—sparsely. (E.g., “FB0″ for a few cases where a library Facebook page is apparently the library’s actual page but has no updates, up through FB4 if there aren’t yet five updates, or “FB teen” or the like where there’s no general-purpose FB page but appear to be specialized pages.)
Ø Added after the initial scan: “SN?”–a number from 0 to 2 indicating how many of the two possibilities the library had–and “H”–a number from 0 to 9 providing the HAPLR size category (0 being under 1,000, 9 being 500,000 and up), to ease sorting and, as it turns out, reporting.
A derivative spreadsheet, LSN38, leaves out rows with SN?=0 (libraries with no findable social network presence) and adds derivative columns for use in the book, such as “F%” (Likes divided by LSA), “T%” (same for Twitter followers), “T/F” (followers divided by likes), “Fr” (followings divided by followers) and “Fmx” and “Tmx”—two-character codes indicating frequency and reach buckets. There are also metrics spreadsheets and pages within these spreadsheets, of course, but the primary LSNALL spreadsheet is the true baseline.
With proper funding in place and possibly better ways to distribute the results, I’d do this between June and November 2012:
Ø Start a new spreadsheet (linked to the old one for comparative metrics) to include the other 12 states and DC (which would require either acquiring Access or working with a partner, since the other 12 states don’t seem to have downloadable spreadsheets) and update it for current LSA figures.
Ø Check each row in the spreadsheet to fill in columns as follows:
1. Actual library name—initially copied from names supplied by the state library, replaced if searching yields a different name or form of name. If so, that name would be used in a new Google search (Google unless Bing is modified to allow a 100-results-per-page setting, in which case I’d use Bing, since it seems to yield better results for public library websites).
2. Position of the library’s official website (if one is found) in the result.
3. Facebook columns as at present, with these changes: a. The second “current post” bucket would be based on the 10th most recent post, but normalized to the same meanings (i.e., two days, two weeks, two fortnights, etc.) b. The interactivity column would be replaced with a number representing the number of non-library, non-spam comments and posts found within the first ten library posts, from 0 to whatever. Post-level likes would be ignored.
4. Twitter columns as at present, with the same “bucket” change as for Facebook and with the “Following” actual number replaced with a code indicating general approach of following (open to modification, but storing the actual number feels like overkill). Unsure whether to modify the interactivity column or simply drop it.
5. Google+ columns along the same lines as Facebook columns, but with the number for “Added to circles” replacing Likes. (Subject to change.)
6. Optional, if someone believes it’s worth doing and would pay extra for it: Blogging column, with a number for the number of blogs identified on the library’s homepage, and with a separate spreadsheet identifying those blogs. (This could lead to a five-year update of my Public Library Blogs study. It may be a lot more work than it’s worth. The Public Library Blogs book sold 31 copies, but that was with only my own publicity.)
7. Optional, and I’m not sure any of these are worthwhile: Columns for MySpace presence, YouTube presence, Flickr presence indicated on homepage.
Similar spreadsheet, linked to earlier sheets or pages for analysis, and adding significant new social networks that welcome institutional pages/accounts if such networks appear.
The deliverables would depend heavily on who’s paying for this and what they want. Possibilities:
Ø Writeup of results including comparisons to 2011 and metrics similar to those planned for the forthcoming book, distributed as a free PDF. The writeup (and specific writeups) would include not only benchmarks by size of library and state, but also case studies and lists of libraries doing particularly well in various metrics relative to their size, to serve as examples for other libraries wanting to improve their social networking.
Ø More specific writeups for individual states or for specific library sizes.
Ø Possibly the spreadsheet itself for further analysis.
I believe the results would be valuable, since I believe most public libraries can benefit from a social networking presence and it’s clear that most of them are not reaching as many people as they’d probably like to. A variety of benchmarks and examples should help. (My book should help too, combining benchmarks, examples, discussion, advice…)
But it’s way too much work to do for free or on spec. My experiments in self-publishing have taught me that, and have taught me that I can’t do it based on the hope of selling the results on my own, since I’m a good researcher but a terrible publicist.
I figure I could do this for $15,000 a year for the whole process, including deliverables (but not including #6 and #7 above). Adding #6 would push that to $20,000; adding #7 is unclear.
That is small potatoes for most funding agencies, but it would meet my needs.
Ø An agency could sponsor this—such as a foundation or an agency that already does library research, or, for that matter, an agency that finds it worthwhile. I’d be delighted to work with almost any such agency. The one real exception is one where I can’t imagine they’d want to work with me. I’d be delighted to work with OCLC or WebJunction on this, or the Gates Foundation, a library school, a vendor, almost any consortium, whoever. I suspect my lack of institutional affiliation is a problem for most funding sources, but I’d love to be proved wrong. Unfortunately, independent research is not highly regarded in this field, as with most other fields.
Ø A group of state libraries could sponsor it, in which case I’d narrow the research to cover only those states and charge a different fee, something along the lines of $500 + $n per state, where $n is the number of reporting libraries in the state times a constant, probably $1 to $2.
Ø I could find some way to be assured that sales of the report–which I’d prefer to be free–would come close to generating $15,000 in revenue. I don’t see too many pigs flying overhead, so I don’t regard that one as probable.
Ø I could prepare a Kickstarter project, video and all. Would it be accepted by the curators? No idea. Would it stand a chance? Stranger things have happened…
I need help on this. I’d need to have funding lined up by June in order to plot out the survey process, and by May if I was going to attend this year’s ALA Annual Conference. If I can’t work something out by June, I’ll probably turn my attention to other book or writing possibilities and abandon this.
If you think you could help find a home for this, let me know: email@example.com.
Here’s a possible offshoot of this project, at least for 2012. Lots of public libraries have mottoes or sayings on their websites (and probably elsewhere). Not all, by any means; I’d guesstimate 1/3, but that’s a NSWAG (non-scientific wild-ass guess).
Those mottoes are frequently interesting as tiny indications of what libraries are, or regard themselves as.
It might be fun and, I don’t know, uplifting to have a collection of these mottoes. I’m calling it “A library is…” for the moment, although I suspect only a minority of the sayings could be used to complete that statement.
If there’s interest, and if I get funding, preparing that collection could be an offshoot. It certainly wouldn’t be worth looking at all 9,000+ libraries (or the 8,000+, at a guess, that have websites) to find them, but if I was there anyway, capturing and organizing them would be a minor extra task.
Does this seem intriguing to anybody else? If I try the Kickstarter route, A library is… would almost certainly be one of the thank-you items, especially since it could be offered at four or five different levels (PDF or EPUB or HTML; softcover book; autographed softcover book; hardcover book; autographed hardcover book).
Comments should be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org. Cites & Insights: Crawford at Large is copyright © 2012 by Walt Crawford: Some rights reserved.
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