Showing posts from 2012


I spent a little time yesterday going through some of the software on my various computers. Help files and online documentation are wonderful things. Also, it never hurts to actually look at the screen, which often reveals useful menu choices. Sheesh. So Evernote (and the Ubuntu client Nixnote) turn out to have all kinds of wonderful features. They're all right there in the help files. Likewise, I find that when there's something that finally bubbles to the top of my consciousness as an annoyance that can no longer be borne, all I have to do is Google the problem, and someone solved it a few years ago. Example: after being irritated about how difficult it was to post links to my blog to Facebook and Twitter, I looked up a way to add that to my blogger template. I was very proud of myself. Except that just now I noticed that there's a little menu choice, "more," next to the blogger search bar that does exactly the same thing. It's probably been there foreve…

Android apps

I really do try to keep things simple. On my Android phone, I don't use all that much. Browser, email, Gtasks (to put tasks on my Google calendar), and Evernote for miscellany, some ebook reading software. But today I found two apps that are really kind of amazing. The first is called Pocket. It's like Instapaper -- a utility to grab a website and send it to a location where you can read it later. But it's all cleaned up - stripped of ads and multiple columns. You just scroll through it in a preset type size. Brilliant and simple. You can also download the app to your browser on a desktop. Available in Android and iOS. The second is called Swype. It was already right there on my phone, a separate "input method" that allows me to very quickly enter text just by swiping a single finger across the keyboard. It seemed a little weird, but I found after just a few moments practice that I could input both more quickly and more accurately this way than by using both t…

Newtown, gun control

On the same day that the Newtown, CT tragedy made headlines status in the Denver Post, there was another story: 22 kids, 1 adult hurt in China school knife attack. Terrible? Yes. Deaths? None. Why? Because the attacker didn't have a gun. In the past several days, many people have written all kinds of pithy statements, often pointing out the ready availability of weapons, and the heartbreaking difficulty of finding help for mental illness, as movingly told in "I am Adam Lanza's mother.". But I wanted to link to this thoughtful posting by Nicholas Kristof, Do we have the courage to stop this? Incredibly, I've already seen the wacko responses: "if only the teachers had been armed," as if our problem is too few guns. I've also seen, "God withdrew protection from children when we withdrew prayer from the schools," as if (as someone else Tweeted) the Holocaust was the result of too little prayer. We don't need stridency or posing. We ne…

Computer stuff

My inner geekiness speaks: First, OMG I want a Nexus 7. Let me be perfectly clear that I do not need one. But the combination of form factor, function, and price leaves me itching for the one device that does most of what I want, is both portable and essential. Thank you MicroCenter, for the chance to see and touch it. We really are getting close to the electronic notebook (anyone remember the DynaBook?) that actually works. I just might have to put this on my Christmas list. On the other hand, I suspect the right thing to do is wait until AFTER Christmas. Second, in the process of poking around to define availability of essential programs, I stumbled across Kingsoft Office for Android. It's free for that platform, and, like LibreOffice, a reasonably solid replacement for Microsoft Office. Today was the first time I'd heard of it. If you have an Android device, grab it. Third, after some disappointing downloads for office software for the iPad, I trashed two …

Forbes on ebooks and libraries

David Vinjamuri, author of one book published through traditional publishing, and another self-published, wrote the first of what looks to be a provocative series. He calls it "The Wrong War Over eBooks: Publishers Versus Libraries." I wrote him to correct the first version of this. I told him, I believe, "I saw a decrease in USE (not youth or youth readership) that was hard to explain because our libraries are busy." Vinjamuri is an astute writer, although I’d challenge this statement: "For better or worse, publishers are unlikely to adopt a pricing model for eBooks that mirrors how print books are sold to libraries." My library bought some 18,000 titles from publishers who DID agree to our Statement of Common Understanding. That Common Understand captures a lot of things close to the First Sale doctrine. I still think of it like this: the Big 5 (and shrinking) aren’t the only game in town, and what’s good for them isn’t necessarily good for the autho…

Creative destruction

I'm sure I'm jet-lagged. All of my thoughts and conversations of the day are running together. But here's the idea: in times of fundamental change -- whether the rise of digital publishing in a time of the Big 5 publishers in America, or the rise of the Internet amidst Russia's increasingly totalitarian state - you don't bet on the systems of control. You bet on the creators. Regarding publishing, why would an author give up 90% of the profit when without the author there's nothing to publish? Regarding politics, why would a new generation of workers agree to be penned into a closed, archaic industrial system when they've tasted an open global network? If the economic or political system can't accommodate the new and developing, then it is by definition old and decaying. So for the Big 5: your attempt to consolidate and lock down the market is doomed. The writers really don't need you anymore. And for Putin: to a new generation, it doesn't lo…

The Foreign Service

A quick note about the US Embassy people I worked with while in Russia. They impressed me. Quick with languages, knowledgeable and insightful about culture and customs, they all moved deftly and thoughtfully through a host of complex situations. I hadn't really imagined what it would be like to have such a career, with its frequent repostings around the world. But I believe our nation must be well-served by such persistent attempts to do nothing more than build friendly relationships among various professionals. At any rate, I was genuinely grateful for their professionalism and competence.

Russia reflections: censorship

I'm sure I'll have many more thoughts over the next few days about my experience. But now that I'm back in the US, I'll say what I really didn't want to say while I was there: there is a strong and widespread sense that anti-American sentiments are rising, aided and abetted by Putin's administration, and somewhat to my surprise, by the Orthodox Church. Many of the questions I received by Russians were about censorship. My stories - about overprotective parents who wanted stories of woods without wolves (lest they frighten the children) - seemed almost naive to the Russians. While I was there, as recorded on the front page of the English language Moscow Times (November 30-December 2, 2012), "a city court declared Pussy Riot's 'punk prayer' video extremist, meaning that media outlets can face closure for publishing the all-female band's famous performance in Moscow's Christ the Savior Cathedral. Thursday's far-reaching decision also…

Non-fiction book fair

Yesterday I had my final speaking engagement. It was at the Non/Fiction Book Fair, at a large hall just opposite Gorky Park. The traffic is USUALLY bad in Moscow, but it was particularly crowded around the fair. There were two incredibly long lines outside the building to buy tickets. But as a speaker, I already had one. I dropped by the coat check room (most building in Moscow seem to have one -- the legacy of cold winters) -- then went upstairs. Peter from the Embassy introduced me to Americans from the company Foreword Reviews, who represent many small and independent publishers. They knew about Douglas County Libraries because they'd met some of our people at the recent PubWest conference in Colorado. One thinks of such fairs as industry gatherings. But apparently there are so few retail outlets for books that the Moscow citizenry just swarms the place. Almost every space was elbow to elbow. A lot of book buying was going on -- really more of a consumer event. I've poste…

Higher School of Economics

I had a leisurely morning yesterday, catching up on blogging, then met the very charming Yelena again, then Masha from the Embassy, and off we went to the Higher School of Economics (HSE). Our embassy driver was fearless. After two days of snow, then rain, it was all slush and ice. The HSE was in the older part of Moscow, which meant very narrow streets, and lots of little hills. But our driver went careening through, often inches away from the parked cars, but always under perfect control. Then we walked up five flights of stairs to meet with about 15 students of various ages. There was one librarian, a number of journalism students, and a few writers. My key topic was again ebooks. The second time through with Yelena the interpreter was fun. We worked very smoothly together, and did a better job communicating humor. I very frank about what wasn't working in the US right now (Big 5 market moves, and why that was driving us to consider new sources of content). I also talked about…

Russian State Libraries

After another breakfast buffet (salmon caviar!), I met Peter and one of his other staff people in the lobby. We walked over through the second day of snow to the Russian State Library, just a couple of blocks away. There I met Yelena, my new interpreter. The Russian library is a huge couple of buildings behind the Dostoyevsky statue, and contains some 10 million or more items. I was introduced to several key directors of the library, then they took me up stairs to a very fancy board room, where about 30 librarians from the largest Moscow libraries wandered in to listen. A tech guy set me up with my slides (bless the little wearable jump drive). My talk to this group was mainly the 5 trends talk. Then I took questions, and segued a bit into the censorship talk. I begin to see why there's such an interest in this topic here. There is in fact a list of titles that are forbidden -- mostly related to terrorism. One of the librarians asked if we'd ever experienced this interesting…

Tales from Moscow

I arrived in Moscow last Sunday around noon. On Monday I gave two talks, as noted in my previous post. Tuesday, I got to take a high speed train (100 mph, if that's what 160 kilometers per hour shakes out to) to Nizhniy Novgorod, the 5th largest city in Russia. The train was very new, modern, comfortable. The day started when I was picked up by Steve, an embassy Assistant Cultural Affairs Officer. He lived in Moscow as a student for 10 years, and his Russian is excellent. We were driven to the train station. Differences from American trains: you walk through a security gate to get in the door, then another security gate before going to the train platform. There, my passport was checked and noted by a guard. I gather that access within the country, whether for travel or work, remains subject to approvals and monitoring. Once we arrived in Novgorod, we took a taxi to our hotel, then were met by Lyudmilla, a vivacious and articulate interpreter. She took us on a walk along the Vol…

First talk: ebooks

I just finished giving my first talk in Moscow, a lecture for "students and professors" at the Russian State University for the Humanities. The topic was "The Role and Future of Books in the Digital World." I gave it in English -- the students are part of the American Studies program, headed by Marina Kaul. Having taught a class last summer with friend and colleague Sharon Morris, the setting was familiar. Bright students listened carefully and asked some great questions. Virtually all of them, as undergraduates, had read ebooks. When asked if they paid for what they read, they all laughed. Of course, a great deal of what they read is probably on Project Gutenberg. But not all. When I asked if ebooks were available from their local libraries, the consensus seemed to be that they were not. So far, I'm holding up well. I got to my hotel about noon yesterday, then walked long and fast with Nicky, my translator from Bulgaria, now teaching English in Moscow. I cr…

Disable Secure Boot to Install Linux

I just know I'm going to need this some day. In short, to get to the point where we can attempt to boot an alternative operating system we need to know our way through six steps:
1. Boot machine while pressing F10
2. Find Secure Boot in the menu tree, ignore warnings
3. Disable Secure Boot feature
4. Enable legacy boot options
5. Enable specific legacy devices, such as USB devices
6. Save and reboot while holding down F9

All of this is from a Distrowatch piece by Jesse Smith. No doubt all of this won't work when I need it either, but somebody might Google it up and find it. Some things we must pay forward. A follow-up: The currently favored solution is a workaround: a pre-bootloader signed by Microsoft (so it passes secure boot) that can then be used to load a normal Linux bootloader without further signature checking. One Linux developer, Matthew Garrett, has managed to get Microsoft to sign a pre-bootloader called Shim. You can download it today and use it to boot Linux on…

In Moscow

The flight was uneventful. Delta took off on time (a little early getting off the ground), and arrived a little ahead of schedule on the other end. I got to watch Lincoln Vampire Hunter on the way over, and that was interesting, having just seen Spielberg's Lincoln. I liked them both. Yes, Sally Fields did a great job telling off those pompous politicians. But Mary Elizabeth Winstead offed a vampire. Spielberg's Lincoln told stories. Bekmamatov's Lincoln wielded a silver-tipped ax. So on the whole, pretty balanced. The Moscow airport was airy and bright, although the sky was very cloudy, and it was gently snowing. The airport is lined with tall pines. Customs was a breeze. I got picked up by somebody holding up a card with my name, which was fun. He spoke no English, and I speak no Russian, but he was friendly, and let me sit up front so I could see better. The drive into town (I'm right across from Red Square, it seems) was interesting, too. Lots and lots of tall apa…

To Moscow!

Thanks to the recommendation of Sue Polanka (of No Shelf Required fame), I picked up a gig from the US Embassy in Moscow to go talk about American library issues. Over the space of 6 days, I'll give four distinct talks on 9 occasions. The most requested one is about ebooks. Digital publishing may be taking off in Russia, and the United States is a little ahead of the game. But I'll also be talking about 5 trends in US public libraries (a focus on early literacy, ebooks, community reference, library as place, and access to technology), censorship (as discussed in my book "the New Inquisition"), and "chasing the library patron" (strategies for increasing library market penetration. I hope to learn as much as I can about Russian libraries, and to blog about that for American Libraries upon my return.I've never been to Russia before, so that's exciting. I even get to take a train trip from Moscow to Nizhniy Novgorod and back.One would think that Moscow …

RIP Acer Aspire One

Well, I guess the time has come. The Acer Aspire One, despite my upgrading of the BIOS, doesn't want to charge its battery anymore. So it is slowly just losing its charge, and will die. And that's OK, since I have another Acer laptop that I bought back in June when my desktop computer died. I got a lot of use out of the Acer Aspire One. And honestly, how many computers does a boy need? But I will try to make sure that I've backed up everything, then reformat the internal drive before I recycle it. One can't be too careful.

Writers support libraries

I wrote about this a few weeks ago, but I continue to think about it. A lot of librarians missed this: NWU Supports Librarians' Objections to Publishers' E-book Licensing Terms. There's an interesting issue here. We all know, consumers and libraries alike, that in effect, our ebook purchases aren't purchases at all. They are licenses. We can't give the books away, we can't resell them, we can't donate them. That's a license. Yet Random House has declared that libraries own their ebooks. Here's what a lot of people don't know. I didn't. Modern author contracts call for an author royalty of 10% or so for sales. But for licensing, authors are supposed to get 50%. So you have to wonder: is Random House licensing their works, but taking 90%, when they should only get 50? Somehow, this copyright and publishing framework has become a corporate asset, benefitting neither the public, nor the creator. Calling all authors: why not publish at the…

Copyright reform?

I ran across various links today on Twitter to a Republican House Committee report on current copyright laws, and in particular, about how those laws have gone way too far. You can find one posting about it here. To quote from that article, ... [the report] goes on to look at some of the specific harms of today's copyright law, including harming remix culture and a lot of commercial activity around it, that it "hampers scientific inquiry," discouraging value added industries and others. Finally, it puts forth suggestions for copyright reform that go way, way, way beyond anything we've seen legitimately discussed in Congress, ever. I think it's clear that copyright has become a corporate property, used more often to suppress the works of others than to advance the public good, or even assure the compensation of the creator. A corollary is software patents, which are also used (as in the case of Apple and Microsoft) not to foster innovation, but to seek monopoli…

Mystery of the missing ebooks

That's the title of this Huffington Post piece by Art Brodsky. It does a very good job, in clear, jargon-free language, of telling the public just what's going on with ebooks and libraries. Not a pretty picture.

Diane Ravitch on educational reform

This piece by education historian and former assistant secretary of education under George H. W. Bush captures a lot of things I believe. I started out eager for educational reform, and concluded that the two big streams of standards and charter schools just didn't get us there. Worth a read.

DCL Report 10/31/2012

Just in time for Halloween, this harrowing DCL Report again compares consumer prices for print and ebooks to what libraries have to pay -- when we can buy them at all. This time, the bestseller list is from USA Today -- the top 25. Boo.

Zinio and online magazines

My library is one of many that now subscribes to Zinio: the World's Largest Digital Newstand. Available as an app for Android and iOS, it's also available as an online subscription. What that means is that because I pay taxes to my Douglas County Libraries, I have access via my computer, tablet and phone to an impressive collection of the full editions of many popular magazines. One of the ones I'm sampling is Newsweek - the very edition (Oct. 29, 2012) in which it left paper for the digital world. Why? Editor Tina Brown writers, "the supportive print ad dollars fell off a cliff scross the entire industry in the spring of 2011." Meanwhile, she notes, "it costs $24 million a year to manufacture, print, distribute and manage the circulation of Newsweek." I find that I'm about ready to leave my newspaper behind, too. I understand that I'll have to pay some subscriptions to support the writing I want. But I'm grateful to have the library to al…

National Writers Union weighs in

This piece from the National Writers Union is chock-full of interesting facts. For instance, "Until recently, typical author-publisher contracts entitled authors to 5-15 percent of revenues for 'sales' of print books and 50 percent of revenues for 'licensing' of other subsidiary rights, including electronic uses or e-books. "As revenues from e-book licensing have begun to surpass print book sales, publishers have been pressuring authors to agree to contract amendments reducing e-book royalties from 50 percent to a new norm, unilaterally imposed by publishers, of 25 percent of net proceeds. Most publishers' current contracts limit e-book royalties to 25 percent of net." Most interesting: publishers are telling libraries that they're licensing ebooks to libraries, not selling them. But they're telling writers that they're selling them, not licensing. I'll repeat what I've written before: libraries and authors are natural allies.…

Satire: publishers raise print prices to reflect library value

New York - Today RandomHouse announced that it will be raising the price on individual purchases of print books by an average of 430%. "Let's face it," said company spokesman Sam Snively, "if you just buy a book, and only one person reads it, our authors just aren't getting the same kind of exposure that they'd get at, say, a library. Libraries display the book, write reviews for the local paper, host authors, and even do book clubs. Consumers don't do any of that." Industry observer Josh Golden agreed. "Absolutely. This price more accurately reflects the true value of the work, as established by American libraries' enthusiastic promotion of both literacy and publisher's offerings. Frankly, I'm surprised the industry didn't address this problem years ago." In a related news item, Simon & Schuster revealed their price hikes for bookstores. "Sure, bookstores buy books from us, but surprisingly often, don't even…

Book trailer for "A Monster Calls"

At a session yesterday put on by AuthorU, video expert Mike Hance (of Denver Writers Meetup) showed a video trailer for A monster calls, by Patrick Ness. I really haven't been following this art form/commercial. But this one was so compelling I immediately put the book on hold. Evocative. .... Later. I just read the book this morning, and I cannot remember a more powerful literary experience. The writing, the illustrations, and the story itself are beautiful. The basic plot: 13 year old Conor's mother is very ill. His father lives in America now with his new wife and child. At school, Conor is bullied daily. He has a recurrent nightmare, and a secret he cannot bear. So he sends out a call -- answered by a monster, an ancient yew tree that comes walking to his window after midnight with three tales to tell, and a demand for a fourth. This is a story that will tear out your heart -- then hand it back to you, whole. Highly recommended.

Publishers ask for business models and don't know what a library is

My favorite blog commentary on ALA President Maureen Sullivan's talk to the American Association of Publishers so far: this post from Agnostic Maybe. Brilliant. First, the cartoon is funny. Most blogs don't have illustrations. Second, the points in the posting do make the humble librarian scratch his or her head. So....publishers (the big six, anyhow) want us to look forward, let go of the past! (Oh, except they also want us to preserve all their existing revenue streams.) They, the producers and distributors, want us, the consumers, to tell them how to price and deliver their products. The request is itself unusual. Equally unusual is that they apparently don't know that we have. ALA has offered several business models. Which ones will prevail? Here are two that won't: * don't sell ebooks to libraries at all. * charge three to five times the cost of print, which has higher production and distribution costs than electronic files. And here's just a wild i…

An Open Letter to America’s Publishers from ALA President Maureen Sullivan

CHICAGO - The following open letter was released by American Library Association (ALA) President Maureen Sullivan regarding Simon & Schuster, Macmillan, and Penguin refusal to provide access to their ebooks in U.S. libraries. The open letter states: It’s a rare thing in a free market when a customer is refused the ability to buy a company’s product and is told its money is “no good here.” Surprisingly, after centuries of enthusiastically supporting publishers’ products, libraries find themselves in just that position with purchasing ebooks from three of the largest publishers in the world. Simon & Schuster, Macmillan, and Penguin have been denying access to their ebooks for our nation’s 112,000 libraries and roughly 169 million public library users. Let’s be clear on what this means: If our libraries’ digital bookshelves mirrored the New York Times fiction bestseller list, we would be missing half of our collection any given week due to these publishers’ policies. The po…

Wikipedia articles to ebooks

I haven't tried this yet, but it looks handy: converting wikipedia articles into DRM-free ebooks.

Book burning party in Troy, Michigan

This is about one of the most brilliant campaigns I have ever seen to reframe a political contest. Troy Library from Jennie Hochthanner on Vimeo.

Tax cuts and the economy

I know that evidence hardly has anything at all to do with political persuasion. But I submit nonetheless that this article, called, Do tax cuts lead to economic growth? by David Leonhardt, is an absolutely crucial contribution to our current debate. The article was published in the Sept. 16, 2012 New York Times, The Sunday Review, page 4. Let's start with the graph (and click to expand). To quote Leonhardt, "Bill Clinton and the elder George Bush both raised taxes in the early 1990s, and conservatives predicted disaster. Instead, the economy boomed, and incomes grew at their fastest pace since the 1960s. Then came the younger Mr. Bush, the tax cuts, the disappointing expansion and the worst downtown since the Depression." Leonhardt calls this "one of the most serious challenges to modern conservativism." Now Romney is promising -- as the centerpiece of his economic plan, apparently -- more tax cuts, and inevitable economic growth as a consequence. But why? …

Y the Last Man

Recently I read through the graphic novel series, "Y: the Last Man," by Brian Vaughan, and illustrator Pia Guerra. This is the paperback run published through 2003-2008. It's a stunning work. The premise of the story is that in 2002, all over the world, every male mammal dies, apparently simultaneously. Yorick Brown, a recent college grad and an amateur escape artist, and his capuchin monkey, Ampersand, are literally the last man and male monkey. What works: the characters in the story are very well done, with surprising depth. Also surprising is that there really isn't a lot of sex in what some might imagine to be a lurid male fantasy. What doesn't work so much for me was the trope of crazed female warriors, a sort of Mad Max ThunderDome post-apocaplypse scenario. I suppose that comic books have to have some combat. But I really wondered how likely it would be that women would immediately adopt the violent approach to problem resolution that so many of the ot…

ebooks in the rural press

Sterling, CO is out in the eastern plains. And this Journal Advocate article is one the few, and one of the clearest pieces I've seen in the public media about the topic. It's baffling to me that the local Denver Post recently did an editorial about the Department of Justice decision that consumers were being ripped off by agency pricing -- and yet local media does not seem interested in the far more overt gouging of libraries.

With friends like these

In a recent press release, ALA President Maureen Sullivan talked about how librarians reached out in good faith to Big Six publisher Hachette, had cordial discussions, and left thinking that we'd laid a foundation for a solid and mutually beneficial relationship. Then came the kicker: this week Hachette raised its prices for backlist titles (it still won't sell new titles to libraries) by up to 220%. One can't help but think of the music industry. In an effort to hold onto corporate profits, the price of the packaging kept going up and up. Eventually, there was a consumer revolt, and disruptive new business models (as in the more consumer-friendly iTunes). Now think about those changes: today, there's no shortage of music. In fact, there's more than ever. But those music publishers who used to run things don't, so much. Most interestingly, musicians now often give their music away, finding it a far surer strategy to success. In the world of abundance, the pro…

Great Indie Fiction Books

I'm proud to promote this workshop by our staff. "Public Libraries at Work" Webinar Series Alternative Reads:
Discovering and Sharing Great Indie Fiction Books with Your Patrons
Wednesday, September 19, 2012
1:00 p.m. Central Get to know the wide array of books from small and independent presses, hybrid publishers, and self-publishers, during PLA's upcoming, hour-long webinar, “Alternative Reads: Discovering and Sharing Great Indie Fiction with Your Patrons.” Presenters Dedra Anderson and Lisa Casper, both from the Douglas County (Colo.) Libraries, will provide insight into this burgeoning field of fiction and offer readers’ advisory to help you connect your patrons to lots of great reads off the beaten path. Complete Registration Information Deadline to register is 4:30 p.m. Central on Monday, September 17, 2012.

Local authors on board

See this wonderful post by Pikes Peak author Deb McLeod about the past - and future - of libraries.

the Visible Hand of the Market

I'm very pleased to announce a new monthly report by the Douglas County Libraries. See this American Libraries blog to see both my explanation, and the report itself. In brief, we compare the prices of ebooks, for consumers, and libraries, according to the main channels of distribution. Scary. See also this Publishers Weekly post by Peter Brantley.

New times, new partners

Below is an earlier version of an article I wrote for the Independent Book Publishers Association. It has just come out in their monthly journal. Public libraries in America buy about 10% of the total commercial publishing output; and closer to 40% of children's materials. But which books? Over the past generation of librarianship, the answer comes down to four things: * what our patrons ask for. Libraries aren't "free" -- they're paid for by the community. That's who we have to satisfy. * what's pushed by advertising. Library buyers, whether distributed among professional staff, or assigned to a centralized collection profiler, are trying to anticipate demand. Public demand results from advertising. Print run and publisher marketing budgets are generally reliable predictors of the number of copies we'll need. * what's reviewed. We tend to buy what's well-reviewed -- unless the demand trumps it. Books that wind up in libraries are typica…

Spring can really hang you up the most

I play piano, although I'm barely intermediate in ability. I'm mostly self-taught, which could be the problem. But the classics are so cool. One of them is "Spring Can Really Hang You Up the Most" (lyric by Fran Landesman, music by Tommy Wolf, copyright 1955). After I played it today (from "the Big Book of Torch Songs"), I wondered how it was supposed to be done. So I Googled up some Youtube performances. There are a bunch of them, some quite lovely. But before you die, listen to Ella Fitzgerald. Oh. My. God. Effortless perfection. Ditto for the piano. It's hard to imagine that such a thing is even possible.


I mentioned in an earlier post that my little Acer Aspire netbook (purchased back in 2008) has been running Linux Mint. But in some important ways, it was very slow. I use it mostly just for browsing and email these days. So I tried an experiment. I downloaded the LXDE environment -- supposedly a very lightweight and faster system. (This wasn't hard -- the metapackage was in the software manager program.) Then, using the same approach, I downloaded Chromium, an often faster browser. And guess what? It is faster, quite noticeably so. Probably I should have tried this before trying to download and burn copies of Peppermint and the Debian-LXDE distros. But hey, it killed some time while I rested up from my travels, and it's good to have speedy little devices around the house.

Patti Thorn on self-publishing

Patti Thorn is co-founder of BlueInk Review, a fee-based service offering serious, unbiased reviews of self-published books. She served for 12 years as book review editor of the Rocky Mountain News, which closed in 2009. She offers her observations on the last year of reviewing in "From lizards to lit: a year of self-publishing realizations."

Diane Rehm Show on ebooks

ALA's Carrie Russell writes, "I was on the Diane Rehm Show yesterday to talk about libraries and e-books, along with Allan Adler from the Association of American Publishers, Jeremy Greenfield from Digital Book World and Vailey Oehlke, director of the Multnomah County Library (OR). Allan and I were live in the studio and Jeremy and Vailey called in by phone. Vailey was great! Our host, Frank Senso, was very skillful in taking the conversation in a direction that he wanted it to go. It was quite amazing to see how he managed that – no wonder radio and television hosts and spokespeople are called 'the talent.'" Hear the show: Or read about it here.

Life with e_books

Life With E-BooksA great summary of issues and players. One correction: Monique Sendze has elected to stay with Douglas County Libraries. And I'm glad she did.

Ursula LeGuin on Libraries and ebooks

I tell you what. Science fiction authors get it. Connie Willis I have praised and quoted often. Here's a great blog post from another wonderful writer. Look for post # "56. Libraries and ebooks."

Suppose we win?

So here's a thought experiment. Suppose today the Executive Director of the American Library Association gets a series of calls from the CEOs of all the Big Six. "Wow, what were we thinking?" they say. "We've been looking over the research, and it's clear that libraries HELP publishers sell ebooks in all kinds of ways. Instead of trying to lock you out of the market or heaping new restrictions on you, from now on, you get things a week BEFORE street date. We have no better friend and ally than the public library when it comes to the promotion of reading!" Oh, and another thing. "We realized we were wrong about both pricing and ownership, too. We'll give you a solid 45% discount, and you get to keep and hold your copies. What a pleasure doing business with you!" In this scenario of total victory, what do we get? Here's my take: not enough. Do our patrons mostly want Big Six offerings? Look at the bestseller list for the answer. But t…

Douglas County Libraries videos

Innovate. Explore. Discover.

Myth-busting: libraries and ebooks

Recently I submitted an article for the Independent Book Publishers Association in New York. As I've written elsewhere, librarians need to pay more attention to independent publishing. My article is coming out later this month, I believe, but I wanted to share part of it here. Publishers and authors have a lot of misinformation about libraries. This might be a good time to bust the myths.Myth # 1: Libraries just want to buy one copy, then give your book away to the world. The truth: No, we don't. We do want to increase access -- getting more books in more people's hands is part of the library's mission. But we understand and adhere to copyright. We pay for multiple copies in the ebook world, just as we do with print. At Douglas County Libraries, we have our own system to manage ebook checkouts. We apply Digital Rights Management through the industry standard Adobe Content Server, and we check out books to just one person at a time.Myth # 2. Libraries steal sales from…

You can call me Al

Happy Anniversary, Alfred Hitchcock. But I guess I should also link to Paul Simon's version.

Librarianship redefined

I used to say our job is to gather, organize, and present to the public the intellectual content of our culture.But lately I've been thinking about my grandmother, Mimi. There's a simpler and homelier construction:We tell the family stories.

Librarians still talking to ourselves

This latest Library Journal piece on ebooks and libraries (Too Many ebook Cooks) is another mark of the mounting dissatisfaction in the field. On the other hand, this brilliant piece by Librarian In Black is way funnier. But back to LJ's Francine Fialkoff's piece. First, I don't want to claim all the credit for the Douglas County Libraries model. Monique Sendze was the system architect. Rochelle Logan and her team (Sharon Nemechek, Deb Margeson, and Julie Halverstadt key among them these days) are doing the really hard work of system process and workflow redesign. My board's willingness to invest money to solve big problems was and is impressive. Second, it happens that I sit on one of the ALA committees (Digital Content Working Group) that Ms. Failkoff takes to task for not having turned around either Big Six attitudes about selling to libraries, or the public's general lack of awareness about the issues. And there is certainly a lot of work to be done. We migh… and Amazon

Eric Hellman is thoughtful, probing, and bold. Amazon's attempt to shut down the very cool idea of certainly irritated ME. But here's his response.

New uses for old tablet

New Uses for Your Old TabletThanks for the link Anythink.

Past, present and future of public libraries

Carnegie Corporation of New York: Today's Public Libraries: Public Places of Excellence, Education and InnovationIt happens that I'm in Pennsylvania, giving four talks over the next three days. Maybe that's why this very well-written Carnegie message is particularly resonant


Smashwords and libraries

So here's the interesting thing about this Smashwords blog post -- "Based on our survey, we expect Smashwords authors and publishers will provide their books to libraries at lower-than-retail prices." Hmm. Some publishers want to charge more, sometimes WAY more than retail. But authors, the creators, want to charge less. Which is better for authors? And which, gentle reader, is better for the public, and the public library?

ALA releases ebook business models

Washington, DC – Based on conversations with publishers and deliberations on the ebook market, the American Library Association (ALA) today released Ebook Business Models for Public Libraries, a report that describes general features and attributes of the current ebook environment and outlines constraints and restrictions of current business models. The report, which was created by the ALA Digital Content & Libraries Working Group (DCWG), suggests opportunities for publishers to showcase content through public libraries. “Ebook publishing is expanding and evolving rapidly, and the terms under which ebooks are made available to libraries show wide variation and frequent change,” said DCWG co-chair Robert Wolven. “In this volatile period, no single business model will offer the best terms for all libraries or be adopted by all publishers or distributors. This report describes model terms libraries should look for in their dealings with ebook publishers and distributors, as well as …

This can't be good

ebook vendor comparison chart

My colleague Valerie Horton, director of the Colorado Library Consortium, put together this handy little chart of ebook vendors.


With my esteemed colleague Sharon Morris, Director of Library Development and Innovation for the Colorado State Library, I just finished teaching a graduate class in "Leadership and Organizational Effectiveness" for the University of Denver's Library and Information Science program. It was fascinating. I have a few observations.* The next generation of librarians is really smart. I like them.* I learned a lot myself, at least as much as the students. Class planning worked out to about two hours of prep per hour of class. The cool thing was just getting some clarity around both the content and the research behind each concept. Sharon is working on a PhD in this field. She has a commanding knowledge of the latest findings. That's pretty handy for a class like this. Our students got the very best thinking available. And I think our overall approach - know thyself, play well with others, pay attention to the measures of organizational effectiveness -- captures the right …

50 Shades of Red

I wrote a blog for American Libraries on a problem: the proliferation of formats, and the spiking of prices for ebooks as a force for the erosion of library purchasing power. Find the blog here.

Online PhD Resources

I don't make a habit of this, but I've gotten a number of notifications about a free online resource for the doctoral student. I have a couple of friends working on their PhDs, now, and I'm convinced that sometimes, it IS nice to have help. So you can find Online PhD Resources here.