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Showing posts from September, 2012

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…

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.

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.

LXDE

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.