Libraries

A Trip to the Library’s Used Book Sale

11 November 2014

From author Dan Meadows at The Watershed Chronicle:

This weekend is the Fall used book sale at my local library here in scenic Chestertown, Maryland. They have these sales twice a year, Spring and Fall. They set up a large room with hardcovers and trade paperback books piled high on a series of tables, lined up on shelves surrounding the room with more piled three rows deep underneath the tables. The hallway outside the room has another set of tables packed two layers deep with mass market paperbacks, and also has the piles of books underneath each. It takes a couple of hours to properly browse the available material. And you can’t beat the prices!

Some writers and publishers have a love/hate relationship with used books (mostly hate). I’m not one of them. It’s love all the way. If not for the availability of used books, I wouldn’t have read half of what I have in my life and the number of different authors I’ve become fans of would be demonstrably smaller. Some may not like it but when you consider none of those books are there for sale without someone having bought it full price first (or discounted as the publisher wants), all I can say is get over it! You want to know where discoverability happens? It’s right here in this room full of books so cheap as to nearly be free.

. . . .

There are a few things I took away from this morning’s jaunt, more than just the new bag full of books I needed like a hole in the head. With a little mortar, I’m pretty sure I could build a summer home out of my to-be-read pile alone.

1. Traditional publishing produces a lot of crap

You hear this a lot about indies but, man, glancing through stacks of the stuff that’s been “properly vetted” by the great tastemakers only makes me snort louder every time I hear someone say how indispensable they are to quality literature. I don’t have any particular moral judgment on this, just try not to be the pot telling the kettle it’s too black, please.

2. Lit Fic doesn’t have much of a secondary life past first sale

I’ve been going to this sale for four years now and one of the interesting things I’ve noticed is that you see the same types of books over and over again, year after year. Something with a windswept field and a sunset on the cover, inevitably with the phrase “From the NY Times Best-selling Author” scrawled across the top, titled “Yesterday’s Tomorrows” or some such inexplicable thing. The cover blurb sounds like a story my uncle would try to tell about his troubled life, after Thanksgiving dinner and one too many shots of Southern Comfort, before I get so bored I have to fake an excuse to leave the room. These books never move. They were there four years ago and I don’t doubt they’ll still be there four years from now. Even for a buck, they can’t get them to walk out the door.

. . . .

5. Romance is another exception

Nora Roberts was another mega seller whose books overran the place. The difference, though, is that they move. Nobody’s buying the Pattersons but most of Roberts’ books will be gone by Sunday. I’ve watched it happen in the past where an entire table of Roberts and Danielle Steele books that are there on the opening day are picked down to bare bones by closing. The Turows and his ilk, though, end up clustered all together, with the previously mentioned best selling lit-fic, as nearly everything else around them is picked clean. Romance seems to have the same level of churn going on but they also seem to have a vibrant life after the first sale that the mega-sellers don’t.

. . . .

Which brings me to the last book I picked up this morning. Yes, I bought a Doug Preston book. I’ve never read anything he’s written (outside of his Authors United blustering. I really hope his fiction stylings are way better than that), so I’m curious. The description sounded interesting, so I thought, “What the hell? I’ll give it a go.” There was another one of his books there that sounded interesting, too. But it was a hardcover and hardcovers were $2 and I just didn’t want to pay that. (I can hear the screams of “entitled” now.) The reality is that I have no idea if I’m going to like his work. For a quarter, it’s a no-risk proposition. For $2, it’s a slightly less than no-risk. But $2 bought me that aforementioned cup of coffee. And, yes, I’m saying that fleeting cup of coffee was more important to me this morning than trying one of his books. That’s life. Get used to it.

If I read that book and enjoy it, the dynamic changes. I don’t question dropping the $2. Hell, I might even buy one (or more) new, depending on how much I like this one. But none of that happens if I don’t have access to this book for a negligible sum. At the last book sale in the Spring, I loaded up, getting about 25 books of all different stripes. Since then, there have been six new book purchases by me as a direct result of those buys. That’s six sales that would not have existed otherwise. Preston’s odds of getting me to buy one of his books new is virtually non-existant without the super-cheap used variety available to experiment and check out the lay of the land, as it were. His odds of me turning into a fan may be slim in any case, but they’re non-existant if my only choices are list price or small discount.

Even if his ebook version was $5.99, I’m not buying that. I wouldn’t pay $2 for one of his hardcovers. If the book I bought today was priced at $6, it would still be on the table where I found it. If those are my only options (or my cheapest options) he has precisely zero chance of turning me into a full paying customer. Here’s my concern with ebooks: no used versions at miniscule prices means it’s either the library or some random chance someone gives me one. Publishers have gouged libraries with exorbitant ebook prices and overly restrictive licenses. That option isn’t as viable as print either. You want discovery for ebooks to be better? Stop handicapping it. Libraries, used books for slightly above free and sharing between readers is where most discovery happens. You may think it’s bookstores but odds are most shoppers are “discovering” something there they already knew about. Discovery in that sense is more surprised to discover something you actually want is there in stock.

Link to the rest at The Watershed Chronicle and thanks to Dave for the tip.

Here’s a link to Dan Meadow’s books

Library Ebook Growth Slowing but Still Substantial

4 November 2014

From The Digital Shift:

Ninety-five percent of public libraries currently offer ebooks to patrons, up from 72 percent in 2010, and 89 percent in both 2012 and 2013. However, money remains the biggest impediment for libraries looking to add ebooks or expand collections, according to Library Journal’s fifth annual Ebook Usage in U.S. Public Librariesreport, sponsored by Freading.

The growth in demand for ebooks has cooled during the past four years, although as the report notes, this “is only because [ebooks] have become less of a novelty and more mainstream.” Survey respondents said they expected to see their library’s ebook circulation grow by 25 percent this fiscal year, compared with 108 percent growth in 2011, 67 percent in 2012, and 39 percent in 2013.

Collections have grown substantially during the past four years as well, and increased options and availability for patrons likely played a role in slowing the growth in demand. In 2010, the median number of ebooks offered by libraries was only 813, compared with a median of 10,484 titles in 2014—an increase of nearly 1,200 percent.

. . . .

Survey respondents reported that their ebook collections are 74 percent fiction and 26 percent nonfiction, while print book collections were split at 57 percent fiction and 43 percent nonfiction. The top five fiction ebook categories reported by respondents are bestsellers, mystery/suspense, romance, general adult fiction, and YA fiction, while the top five nonfiction categories are bestsellers, biographies/memoirs, history, self-help, and cooking.

. . . .

For the first time this year, tablets overtook dedicated e-readers as the device of choice for ebook readers. Eighty-four percent of respondents said that their library’s patrons were using tablets such as iPads, Kindle Fires, or Google Nexus tablets to check out ebooks, while 78 percent said that patrons were using dedicated e-reader devices such as NOOKs or Kindle Paperwhites. This compares to 66 percent who said patrons were using tablets for ebooks in 2012, and 90 percent who said patrons were using dedicated e-readers.

“Tablets will likely continue to take over, as they can access a wider variety of content, from ebooks to streaming video, to music, to audiobooks, to the Internet in general,” the report notes. “The killer app for the earliest dedicated ereaders like the Kindle was the reflective display which was ‘as easy to read as paper.’ Well, these days, people are more used to reading on screens than on paper, and backlit screens have improved so that older eyes can read even smartphone screens with minimal squinting.”

Link to the rest at The Digital Shift

How Andrew Carnegie Built the Architecture of American Literacy

2 November 2014

From The Atlantic CityLab:

Across the nation, the libraries that Andrew Carnegie built have been transformed and reused as historical museums, city halls, art centers, and even bars and restaurants, sometimes by dramatic means.

It is a testament to Carnegie’s philanthropic investment in cities—the largest in U.S. history—that so many of these buildings are still in use. Yet no one can say exactly how many are standing now. Despite the important roles the libraries continue to play in towns and cities, our understanding of these buildings as a piece of civic infrastructure is far from cohesive.

. . . .

Between 1893 and 1919—a three-decade run that librarians refer to as the Golden Age of the American public library system—Carnegie paid to build 1,689 libraries in the U.S. These seeded the DNA for nearly every American library built before the end of World War II. That may explain in part why there is no central accounting for Carnegie’s libraries, which were built without any oversight from a formal program or foundation: Even libraries that aren’t historical Carnegie libraries share their aesthetic philosophy.

. . . .

According to the figures assembled by Jones (adjusted here for inflation), Carnegie spent as much as $1.3 billion on public libraries in the U.S.—a gift unmatched before or since. Some 70 percent of these buildings were built in small towns. The grants sparked the national enthusiasm for libraries at the turn of the century, with the majority going to cities that now occupy the Rust Belt region (in addition to always-fashionable California).

. . . .

“It was an expectation in communities across the country—if you didn’t have a library, somehow you were not supporting culture,” says Wayne Wiegand, professor emeritus of library studies at Florida State University and author of a forthcoming history of public libraries, tentatively titled Part of Our Lives: A People’s History of the American Public Library. “Without Carnegie, we’d still have public libraries, but they’d be different and probably fewer in number.”

Close to 800 of Carnegie’s library buildings are still in use as public libraries, according to Carnegie Libraries Across America, while another 350 have been given new purposes as office buildings and cultural centers.

. . . .

A letter addressed to Andrew Carnegie from the city of Eau Claire, Wisconsin, was typical of an application for a Carnegie library grant. Dated November 18, 1901, the letter reads:

In and by a resolution heretofore unanimously adopted by the Common Council of the City of Eau Claire, Wisconsin, the undersigned were appointed a committee to prepare and present to you, in behalf of the City of Eau Claire and its inhabitants, a request that you give to said City the sum of fifty thousand dollars, or such additional sum or portion thereof, as, in your bounty and good judgment, you deem would be commensurate with the needs and requirements of this City and its inhabitants, to build and construct a suitable building to be devoted to the purpose of maintaining a free library in this City for all future time, to be known as the “Carnegie Library.”

What follows in the letter is part Census form, part tourism brochure, extolling the noble history of Eau Claire while detailing its population, geography, and amenities. The application was enough to earn a $40,000 grant for the construction of the Eau Claire Carnegie Library—$1.1 million in 2014 dollars. (Today, the building serves as city hall.)

Link to the rest at Atlantic CityLab

Here’s a photo of the Carnegie Library in Belleville, Illinois:

Carnegie_Library_Building_Belleville_Illinois

EU’s Highest Court Allows Libraries To Digitize Books Without Rightholder’s Permission

19 September 2014

From Techdirt:

The [EU Court of Justice]case concerned a university library in Germany that wanted to digitize a book that it had purchased so as to be able to make it available electronically to its visitors. The publishing house tried to sell it an e-book of the work concerned that could be used for this purpose, but the library refused. Because it involved the EU Copyright Directive, the case was referred by the Federal Court of Justice in Germany to the EUCJ, which has now released the following decision:

the Court holds, first of all, that, even if the rightholder offers to a library the possibility of concluding licencing agreements for the use of his works on appropriate terms, the library may avail itself of the exception [permitted by the EU Copyright Directive] provided for in favour of dedicated terminals; otherwise, the library could not realise its core mission or promote the public interest in promoting research and private study.

Furthermore:

the Court finds that the directive does not prevent Member States from granting libraries the right to digitise the books from their collections, if it becomes necessary, for the purpose of research or private study, to make those works available to individuals by dedicated terminals. The right of libraries to communicate, by dedicated terminals, the works they hold in their collections would risk being rendered largely meaningless, or indeed ineffective, if they did not have an ancillary right to digitise the works in question.

 

Link to the rest at Techdirt

Prisoners get better libraries than public

16 September 2014

From The Telegraph:

Prisoners are “far better served” by library facilities than the general public, an MP has claimed.
Some prisons carry more than 16 books for every inmate, compared to just one book per resident in a community library, Philip Davies, the Conservative MP for Shipley, told the Commons.

Chris Grayling, the Justice Secretary who has faced criticism after banning inmates from receiving books in the post under a crackdown on perks, said Mr Davies was “entirely right”.

. . . .

Mr Davies said: “In a recent Parliamentary Question it was confirmed that £106 per prisoner is spent on libraries in prison. From a recent Freedom of Information request I did, I found out that in Leeds prison there are ten-and-a-half books per prisoner. In Wakefield prison there are 16.9 books per prisoner.

“By contrast, in the libraries in my constituency for the general public, there is only about one book per person. Would the Secretary of State agree with me that rather than prisoners being denied reading material, actually they are far better served than the general public?”

Link to the rest at The Telegraph 

Younger Americans and Public Libraries

11 September 2014

From the Pew Research Internet Project:

Younger Americans—those ages 16-29—especially fascinate researchers and organizations because of their advanced technology habits, their racial and ethnic diversity, their looser relationships to institutions such as political parties and organized religion, and the ways in which their social attitudes differ from their elders.

This report pulls together several years of research into the role of libraries in the lives of Americans and their communities with a special focus on Millennials, a key stakeholder group affecting the future of communities, libraries, book publishers and media makers of all kinds, as well as the tone of the broader culture.

Following are some of the noteworthy insights from this research.

There are actually three different “generations” of younger Americans with distinct book reading habits, library usage patterns, and attitudes about libraries. One “generation” is comprised of high schoolers (ages 16-17); another is college-aged (18-24), though many do not attend college; and a third generation is 25-29.

Millennials’ lives are full of technology, but they are more likely than their elders to say that important information is not available on the internet. Some 98% of those under 30 use the internet, and 90% of those internet users say they use social networking sites. Over three-quarters (77%) of younger Americans have a smartphone, and many also have a tablet (38%) or e-reader (24%). Despite their embrace of technology, 62% of Americans under age 30 agree there is “a lot of useful, important information that is not available on the internet,” compared with 53% of older Americans who believe that. At the same time, 79% of Millennials believe that people without internet access are at a real disadvantage.

Millennials are quite similar to their elders when it comes to the amount of book reading they do, but young adults are more likely to have read a book in the past 12 months. Some 43% report reading a book—in any format—on a daily basis, a rate similar to older adults. Overall, 88% of Americans under 30 read a book in the past year, compared with 79% of those age 30 and older. Young adults have caught up to those in their thirties and forties in e-reading, with 37% of adults ages 18-29 reporting that they have read an e-book in the past year.

The community and general media-use activities of younger adults are different from older adults. Those under age 30 are more likely to attend sporting events or concerts than older adults. They are also more likely to listen to music, the radio, or a podcast in some format on a daily or near-daily basis, and socialize with friends or family daily. Older adults, in turn, are more likely to visit museums or galleries, watch television or movies, or read the news on a daily basis.

As a group, Millennials are as likely as older adults to have used a library in the past 12 months, and more likely to have used a library website. Among those ages 16-29, 50% reported having used a library or bookmobile in the course of the past year in a September 2013 survey. Some 47% of those 30 and older had done so. Some 36% of younger Americans used a library website in that time frame, compared with 28% of those 30 and older. Despite their relatively high use of libraries, younger Americans are among the least likely to say that libraries are important. Some 19% of those under 30 say their library’s closing would have a major impact on them and their family, compared with 32% of older adults, and 51% of younger Americans say it would have a major impact on their community, compared with 67% of those 30 and older.

As with the general population, most younger Americans know where their local library is, but many say they are unfamiliar with all the services it may offer: 36% of Millennials say they know little or nothing about the local library’s services, compared with 29% of those 30 and older. At the same time, most younger Americans feel they can easily navigate their local library, and the vast majority would describe libraries as warm, welcoming places, though younger patrons are less likely to rate libraries’ physical conditions highly.

Link to the rest at the Pew Research Internet Project

Little Free Libraries add charm to neighborhoods

3 September 2014

PG has posted about these before, but he’s doing it again because he thinks it’s such a nice idea.

From The Christian Science Monitor:

It’s a simple idea: You take a book; you leave a book. And it’s one that’s catching on all over the world through the organization Little Free Library, based in Hudson, Wis. Book lovers can send away for a small wooden structure and set it up so that passersby can take a book now and donate one later. Builders can register their library online at littlefreelibrary.org for various benefits.

. . . .

Todd Bol, the “first steward” and executive director of the organization, made the original little library in 2009 in memory of his mother, who was a teacher. He estimates there are now 20,000 such libraries officially registered worldwide. Many people find them charming.

. . . .

“I’ve had plenty of times when I’ve installed [a Little Free Library] and people have hugged them,” Mr. Bol says. He’s heard a lot of heartwarming stories, too: One man told him that the book exchange had gotten his neighbors talking to one another again. A woman said that, on Halloween night, “the kids were paying more attention to the Little Free Library than the candy.”

Link to the rest at The Christian Science Monitor

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The Floating Library

1 September 2014

From The Floating Library:

Here in Minnesota we live in the land of 10,000 lakes. In all seasons locals flock to the water to recreate and socialize. Yet, long days at the beach or trips in a canoe rarely involve the book arts.

The Floating Library is an experimental public art project that introduces the creative genre of artists’ books and printed matter to people recreating on an urban lake.

A custom made raft designed by architect Molly Reichert features bookshelves built to hold printed matter for perusal and check out on the water. Patrons in canoes, kayaks, paddle boards, skiffs, rowboats, or even inner tubes are invited to paddle up to the Library and browse the shelves from inside their watercraft. Protective covers on the shelves do their best to keep materials dry.

. . . .

The materials featured at the Floating Library are books and other printed matter made by artists. What does that mean? It means you’ll find treasures ranging in form from photocopied zines to letterpress printed pamphlets to hand-stitched bindings to commercially printed volumes to objects that look more like sculptures than books. Some of them are made to last forever, some will fade and tear with time, some are designed for the unique environment of a lake-based library.

. . . .

Despite some logistical snags and a downpour, the first weekend of the Floating Library went off fairly well.

On the logistical side of things, I made a public art mistake of assuming that permission to tie up to the swimming area buoy granted to me last year by a teenaged summer employee of the parks system would stand this year. Not so. After being alternatively tied up to a weedy submerged dock for part of the afternoon, we finally moved into open waters for better visibility. Luckily the wind blew us in the right direction to find the Library’s overnight docking spot. On Sunday we brought an anchor.

On the rain side of things, we learned that the Library’s rain plan is top notch. We got soaking wet but all the books stayed safe and dry in their plastic tubs.

Due to the rain, the patronage of the Library was slow overall, but we did greet several unexpecting boaters and checked out a few books.

Link to the rest, with photos, at The Floating Library

Thief Takes $6K Worth Of Bestsellers From Library, Sells Online

21 August 2014

From CBS Pittsburgh:

 Local libraries have been on alert after some sticky fingers have taken hundreds of books worth thousands of dollars.

A book thief with a fondness for bestsellers has been busy.

. . . .

“Within the last maybe six months or so, that a lot of our new books and bestseller books have gone missing,” said Jill McConnell, Acting Director of the Cooper Siegel Library in Fox Chapel.

The books are apparently being sold over the internet.

“Yes,” says McConnell, “Other libraries have discovered that their books were sold online.”

Link to the rest at CBS Pittsburgh

Why the Public Library Beats Amazon—for Now

13 August 2014

From The Wall Street Journal:

A growing stack of companies would like you to pay a monthly fee to read e-books, just like you subscribe to Netflix to binge on movies and TV shows.

Don’t bother. Go sign up for a public library card instead.

Really, the public library? Amazon.com recently launched Kindle Unlimited, a $10-per-month service offering loans of 600,000 e-books. Startups called Oyster and Scribd offer something similar. It isn’t very often that a musty old institution can hold its own against tech disrupters.

But it turns out librarians haven’t just been sitting around shushing people while the Internet drove them into irrelevance. Over 90% of American public libraries have amassed e-book collections you can read on your iPad, and often even on a Kindle. You don’t have to walk into a branch or risk an overdue fine. And they’re totally free.

. . . .

To compare, I dug up best-seller lists, as well as best-of lists compiled by authors and critics. Then I searched for those e-books in Kindle Unlimited, Oyster and Scribd alongside my local San Francisco Public Library. To rule out big-city bias, I also checked the much smaller library where I grew up in Richland County, S.C.

Of the Journal’s 20 most recent best-selling e-books in fiction and nonfiction, Amazon’s Kindle Unlimited has none—no “Fifty Shades of Grey,” no “The Fault in Our Stars.” Scribd and Oyster each have a paltry three. But the San Francisco library has 15, and my South Carolina library has 11.

From Amazon’s own top-20 Kindle best seller lists from 2013, 2012 and 2011, Kindle Unlimited has no more than five titles a year, while the San Francisco library has at least 16.

. . . .

Over at the library, the situation is different. All of the big five publishers sell their e-book collections for loans, usually on the same day they’re available for consumers to purchase. They haven’t always been so friendly with libraries, and still charge them a lot for e-books. Some library e-books are only allowed a set number of loans before “expiring.”

Publishers have come to see libraries not only as a source of income, but also as a marketing vehicle. Since the Internet has killed off so many bookstores, libraries have become de facto showrooms for discovering books.

Link to the rest at The Wall Street Journal (Link may expire)

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