Friday, December 30, 2011

Click my link -- December 30, 2011

Fascinating list comparing the top sellers in ebook and in print from Amazon. This raises all sorts of interesting questions for libraries and reinforces what I said at the LJ ebook summit in October: your digital collection doesn't have to be a mirror of the print collection.

Great discussion about copyright. Very accessible discussion, and Patry's response to the comments are equally good.

From the Telegraph: Charles Dicken: Good on paper, great on screen

Just one of a multitude of preview 2012 lists.

NPR's bestseller list for week of December 29, 2011.

USA Today says George R.R. Martin is THE author of the year. (+1 for the obligatory Sean Bean pic)

"Swords and Sandal" novel. Enough, already, with the cute names for genre fiction. 

The Annooyed Librarian (no, not me!) comes across with some 2012 predictions. Agree? Disagree? The comments are good too.

Amazon's lending library currently has more than 66k ebooks. Still, the idea of only getting one book a month seems ludicrous.

Happy Friday!

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Say what now?

So, while you were hanging stockings by the chimney with care, you may have missed the article in the New York Times setting out the "debate" between libraries and publishers regarding ebooks. We learned that  inconvenience and "friction" for patrons are good things, and if a library's borrowing circumstances don't create one of these things, they must be punished.

The article made it seem as if libraries have given up nothing in the quest to provide access to digital books, and that the publishing companies are the ones suffering under the heavy burden of selling their goods. After all, how is a company supposed to survive if they sell a book to a library at double (if not more) the cost of consumer price? Sometimes, that price is double (if not more) of the hardcover price. Publishers who allow libraries to purchase their books give up the sale of more books later. Right? I mean, isn't that what they're arguing? "'Selling one copy that could be lent out an infinite number of times with no friction is not a sustainable business model for us,' Ms. Thomas says" If a library buys a book that lasts (seemingly) forever, then they never have to buy it again? So because we can't make a library buy it more than once, we won't let them buy it at all. The first sale isn't important, it's the promise of subsequent sales we're trying to protect! Bird in the hand? No. It's the two in the bush we're going to hold out for.

But think about this: how many titles are REALLY re-purchased, compared to the titles that are discarded for non-circulation or replaced with a newer edition? Yes, we're going to buy more copies of popular things. But out of all the books that are published in a single year, how many are so popular that we'll continue buying them five, ten, or even fifty years down the line? And, just because you're buying it in the format du jour today means you won't buy it in new format on the block ten years from now? Of course, because goodness knows libraries aren't buying digital copies (new format on the block) of things they have in print (old format on the block). In fact, it isn't even extraordinary for a library to have a copy of the same title in hardcover, paperback, large type, cassette (still!), cd, downloadable audio (MP3 and/or WMA), and now ebook. For an author like James Patterson, this is the expectation. Buying all of those formats doesn't seem like it would sustain any company, especially not a library with a decreasing budget! All of that applies to a popular author, though. What about the ones who don't quite find the audience Mr. Patterson enjoys? What about the books that are updated every year? How many times do you think I'm going to buy the 2010 Frommer's Vancouver and Victoria? Every day (hopefully) libraries are moving out copies of books that haven't managed to scrape together 10 circs in 20 years, let alone 26 circs. We've spent our money trying out a new author, or buying lesser known authors in the hopes of promoting them to patrons and helping them along. But, when they fail to catch on, off they go and all we have to show for it is....what? Low circulation. Bookstores return stock that they can't move, but libraries never have. How can we sustain our business model if we buy books from a publisher's stock of less popular or untried authors if we have to eat the cost of that experimentation every time?

Why are the HarperCollins terms not based on individual titles? Each title is an individual license, right? So the terms don't have to be the same across the board. Why is there no variation? Why is it the same 26 for a tried and popular backlist title as for a new book of poetry? If I buy 1 copy and get 26 circs, do I get a bonus for buying 10 copies? 300 circs? If I buy one $26.00 copy with a 26 circ limit, and it goes out three times, do I get the option to stop licensing it and get $23 back? Where is the "friction" that benefits the library? Oh, that's right. You negotiated the terms with my VENDOR, not with me, and often without my knowledge. And I missed this blog post from awhile back: 26 and out?  Not so much.

Digital lending provides plenty of friction that should be rubbing libraries the wrong way. Articles like the one from Saturday never mention the things libraries give up for the privilege of buying a title and putting it in front of patron eyes.

Interlibrary loan? Forget it. If your home library hasn't bought the title, you have no library access to it, unlike with print books.

Good pricing? Forget it. It doesn't matter if I buy 1 copy or 300 copies, the cost is the same: more than the consumer edition. How much more? It depends. We talked about one example in this post from October, but they aren't all THAT bad.

Buy it and it's mine forever? Forget it. Despite what the publishing companies say, there is absolutely NO guarantee that these books will last into infinity. Not only have you given up "ownership" of the title that you paid a premium price for, you have no way to guarantee that book will always reside in your catalog. Or that the version you need will always reside in your catalog. Or that the version your patrons have a hold on will always reside in your catalog. Remember that fun time when all the Kindle editions of a certain publisher's titles disappeared overnight? If you took a call from a frantic patron wondering "what the hell" then you know exactly what I'm talking about. This isn't just a library problem, consumers also experienced this when Amazon deleted titles from Kindle devices in 2009.

Freedom to decide who can and cannot use your materials? Forget it. "Patron" is defined by contract in many license agreements. That is well and good if you can negotiate and know the benefits and consequences of your choice. But just recently, some libraries discovered that the consequences of that choice were negotiated between the vendors and the publishers. That is why some libraries are offered different titles to purchase than others, without being aware of it at all.

Then, of course, the one copy, one user model causes "friction" and mostly insures that popular books will never be "one copy" at all. That's fine, because if you serve a population large enough to have multiple holds on items, you should buy multiple copies to satisfy demand. I don't think anyone is arguing that. But to suggest that somehow libraries are getting the better end of this deal and should provide more "friction" for library patrons is ridiculous. We don't own it. We pay more for it. We can't do what we want with it. We sign away rights (like the first sale doctrine) to get it. Yet, somehow, libraries aren't doing enough to satisfy publishers.

And publishers, please stop trying to throw authors in the middle of this debate. This isn't library vs. author. If you want authors to be "made whole" then pay them more. Give authors better contract terms. We're certainly not stopping you from doing that. If you want authors to be "made whole" then why are you preventing them from selling their product to big institutions that have to pay more than the consumer price and have larger budgets than individual purchasers? In fact, you could leave it up to the author whether or not their books can be sold in the library market. Make it a contract term. "Check here if you want us to allow libraries to purchase this title." I'm sure there are some authors who feel as you do, and would say no. There are also some authors who would say they want their book in front of as many purchase orders and patron eyes as humanly possible.

The lack of discussion about "piracy" was conspicuous in that article. It reminded me of this blog post from Lis Carey's Library: What's the Bigger Threat, Piracy, Distribution Monopolies--or Refusal to Give Customers What They Want?

At the end of the day, it comes down to demand. Demand for ebooks is up. Use of ebooks in libraries is up. From November 2010 through November 2011, our downloadable service saw a 146% usage increase without titles from Simon & Schuster and Macmillan, or new titles from HarperCollins. I would love to buy those titles for the library. I have the money to buy those titles for the library. Patrons sometimes ask for those titles to be purchased by the library. But when they're not available, apparently patrons are moving on to titles by other authors published by other publishing companies, or self published. And then they talk about those titles to their friends, their friends place holds, and I have to buy more copies.

My kind of friction.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Click. My. Link: December 22, 2011

Simon & Schuster releases (sorta) expected ebook revenue for 2011

Are Tablets and E-readers responsible for a rebirth of reading?  (Had reading died?)

The Guardian judges the Best Legal Reads of 2011

Academic librarians get small pay bump in 2010-2011 (go librarians!)

Portland book lovers nurture neighborhood camaraderie with mini libraries  (I'm gonna need a bigger birdhouse....but so cute!)

Talking about Espresso Book Machines “Ultimately, we’re looking to change the way readers think of bookstores and libraries — that they have two sorts of inventory, one group of titles on the shelves, and a vast ‘virtual inventory’ available via the EBM and printable in five minutes,” said Turner."  Hmmmmm.  What do you think?

Tor/Forge published 30 (!) NYT Bestsellers in 2011.  (way to go!) 

Omnivoracious lists some books you may have overlooked in 2011


Happy Thursday!

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

The Mystery of the Light-Fingered Science Fiction Fans

I've been weeding the fiction paperbacks in my collection. Part of this includes looking for missing items so that I can get a better picture of what is actually on the shelf and what might need to be replaced. Yesterday, I generated a list of missing books for the Science Fiction and Fantasy paperbacks (a collection with 1,000 items). There were 131 books on my list, which included Claims Returned items as well as those In Transit--you'd be surprised how many items have been in transit for years, at which point they're effectively gone from the collection--as well as In Process and Missing items.

I found 30 of the missing books on the shelf where they were supposed to be, which was a relief because it means that I don't have to worry about reordering any of them, but also a cause for concern because there aren't that many books in the SF/F collection, and somehow the people pulling holds aren't finding them on the shelf. That left 101 books still missing. My process is to put the item barcodes into Millennium and see whether another branch has the item, whether we have it in hardcover, etc, before I remove it from the system. After a while, I started to notice something interesting: many of the books were part of huge SF series.

I deleted 80 books, and almost half of them were Star Trek or Star Wars-related. Quickly searching the catalog, I found that we own 73 Star Trek paperbacks and 33 Star Wars paperbacks, which is about 10% of the collection. However, these series paperbacks accounted for 40% of those that I deleted, and several of those items had circulated several times before disappearing. All told, 30% of Star Trek paperbacks were missing and 36% of Star Wars paperbacks were missing.

Now, I do order the occasional Star Trek or Star Wars paperback when I do my monthly order. However, I should clearly make it more of a priority, since both the history of the collection (that slow accumulation of titles that led us to have so damn many of these books) and the pattern of theft (I always figure that missing books = some indication of demand) indicate that there's a higher interest than I had assumed. Sometimes patron demands can be measured outside of request forms and high circulations; thanks to my missing report, I am paying attention to something I had largely ignored.

The titles of some of my favorite missing SF series items:

Spock Must Die!
Wagon Train to the Stars
Hard Merchandise
Solo Command
Rough Trails
The Best and the Brightest
Kirk: The Star for Every Wandering

Monday, December 19, 2011

Click my Link: December 19th, 2011

Ebrary's report of offline & mobile access to ebooks is now available for viewing without registration. 

NPR lists the top 5 YA books of 2011.  I haven't read any, but they all look amazing. 

The Telegraph invokes my favorite subject heading to talk Christmas "cookery" books

The Telegraph also dissects the 2011 literary year.  

The Bull Spec blog starts its round up of audio SF/F for 2011

Happy Monday!

Thursday, December 15, 2011

That Book Doesn't Live Here Anymore: Weeding Fiction Paperbacks

A while ago, I started a project to relieve some of the pressure on the mass market paperback shelves by identifying potential candidates for weeding. I found some surprising results, primarily having to do with what books were actually on the shelves. Here is a description of my work with the Fiction paperbacks--those items not classified Science Fiction, Fantasy, Romance, Urban Fiction, Mystery, Horror, Nonfiction, or Western. This catch-all section includes thrillers, literary fiction, classics, Men's Adventure, "chick lit," books featuring African-American characters that aren't cataloged in either the Romance or Urban Fiction sections, and so on. Some of the big names are Dan Brown, Stephen King, Dean Koontz, Fern Michaels, James Patterson, Nora Roberts, and Danielle Steel. Almost all of the Tall Premium editions that we own can be found there, making my life difficult.

I ran a report on the entire paperback collection to generate the statistics I would need (see this post for details on different fields I like to use). Then I subdivided the information by genre so I would end up with manageable chunks. As of early December, when I ran the report, the total number of adult paperbacks in our collection at the main library was approximately 5750 items. Of these, about 850 (15%) were marked as missing, billed, "claims returned," in repair, and other statuses that indicate books are not on the shelf where they're supposed to be. There were 1500 Fiction paperbacks (about a quarter of the total collection), of which 13% were problem children. These items circulated over 7500 times in the past ten years, about 5 times per item--as opposed to the more popular Romance paperbacks, which circulate an average of 8.5 times per item.

I created a list of Fiction paperbacks that:
  • Were added to the collection before 2007
  • Had not circulated in the last 2 years
  • Had fewer than 4 total circulations

Having some experience with weeding this part of the collection, I also included the "missing" and "claims returned" items in my pull list in the hope that I might actually find them on the shelf. I ended up with a list of 255 items that could potentially be weeded from the collection. This number was not overwhelming, yet might create some space on the shelves, even if I didn't end up deleting all the items I pulled off the shelves. I sorted the list by author last name and set out checking every book on the shelf against my list. As I worked, I also put aside books for repair and books with incorrect spine labels and books in the incorrect genre, using this as an opportunity to tidy up as many aspects as possible of this part of the collection. 

I soon found that my biggest problem was actually going to be finding physical books to weed. Many of the books with low circulation that I had targeted said "Check Shelves" but were nowhere to be found. This was frustrating, because I could delete them and still not make any space on the shelves for new books, which is a major goal of weeding. I did end up finding 22 books marked "missing" and left them on the shelves, figuring that the fact that they had been marked meant that there had been some demand for them. If they turn up again on my list during my next round of weeding, I will be merciless.

When I had a group of books with high weeding potential, I considered:
  • Whether it was part of an ongoing series
  • Whether one of our branches had another paperback copy
  • Whether we had a hardback copy here at the central library
  • Whether I had a second copy on the shelf
  • The condition of the book
  • Whether I should reclassify the book's genre to see if it would circulate elsewhere
  • Whether it looked like one of the most eyeroll-inducing books ever to be published

If there were other copies in house or in the system, it was fairly easy to make the decision to delete the copies I had in hand. If the book was in poor condition, that was another easy call, although most of them had not circulated enough to make this a factor. Most of the books that I pulled were generic thrillers, action/adventure books with titles like Scorpion Strike, and historical fiction. I was pleased to weed titles by Gene Hackman, Thomas Kinkade, and Oliver North from the collection. I was less pleased to find that seven books by Stephen King, eight books by Dean Koontz, and five books by James Patterson were missing, really missing. I would rather spend my collection budget buying new books than replacing books that people have disappeared from the shelves. 

I ended up deleting 195 books from this part of the collection over the course of a week, only 89 of which were actually on the shelf. I reclassified about a dozen books and repaired a few more. I figured out that I might need better signage for this part of the collection. I cursed the Tall Premium editions. I put the weeded books on the free shelf for the public to snatch up if they dared. And now I'm turning my attention to the Mystery section!

ETA: I did not find any books that were "claims returned," making me shed a small tear for humanity.

ETA: I am also keeping a spreadsheet of the things I delete, what their total circulation was, and whether we have another copy in the system. Because I can. On it I am tracking, for books that were missing, whether they should be replaced--especially if they had high circulations and there are no copies left in the system. 

Monday, December 12, 2011

Click my link: December 12, 2011

Philip Pullman thinks you shouldn't close libraries. We agree.

How long (or how much) does it take for you to judge a book? I usually use a 10% test. If I can't get into it after reading 10%, I give up. 

Great interview with Amy Tan about her first digital offering Rules for Virgins, which you can find over here at Byliner

The LA Times talks Stephen King on TV.

Who doesn't love a good flow chart? The one that started it all, The SF/Fantasy book finder flowchart. (Linked to the interactive version, but find the original here.) How about a horror or gothic novel?

Happy Monday!

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Click My Link: December 8, 2011

Ebooks On Fire: Controversies Surrounding Ebooks and Libraries:

"Ubiquitous web and print ads tell individuals and libraries to “buy” ebooks. But long-term preservation and retention rights to stable content are not the norm, because many resellers and vendors don’t possess those rights from the publisher or author. Instead of true ownership, most ebook “purchases” are more like leases, and leases with few residual rights at that."

Over at Letters to a Young Librarian, a discussion of popular reading materials in the academic collection.

A Q&A with Holly Hibner (of Awful Library Books fame) about weeding and managing library collections.

You Can Judge a Book By Its Cover: How Designers are Helping to Keep the Old Format Alive

Amazon just created a $6 million fund to support Kindle Direct Publishing.

ETA: Investigating ebook publishers for price-fixing: US edition!

Monday, December 5, 2011

Click My Link: December 5, 2011

Amazon tax deals exempting them from collecting state taxes may be illegal

Holiday themed books: not just for kids!

Upheaval at the NYPL 

Best Coffee Table books (or picture books for adults!) of the season.

22 Gift books for ardent readers. 

Publishers warm to ebooks -- on their own terms.

Zoo City, Boneshaker, Unholy Night, and How to live safely in a science fictional universe to be adapted into movies.

ETA: Publishers "fancying up" paper books to compete with ebooks.

Happy Monday!

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Click My Link: December 1, 2011

Recent articles of interest:

Baker & Taylor acquires CollectionHQ

Circulation: Measure of Library Performance or Just Another Number? Mary Kelly calls for "a comprehensive discussion of library performance standards and some metrics to match!"

OverDrive recently introduced a "Test Drive" program, which supposedly helps libraries lend ereaders in a publisher-friendly way. 

We recently had a Twitter discussion about the difficulty of categorizing the new book Mrs. Nixon. This article talks about Mrs. Nixon and others in the context of genrefusion


Literary Seductions (Will ebooks change how we choose who to date?)

In case you need a laugh and missed it yesterday.