Monthly Archives: March 2016

Book ’Em

28 March 2016

From Slate:

The San Jose Public Library wants its books back. And its CDs and DVDs. Taken altogether, library patrons are holding onto or have damaged 97,000 items and owe the city $6.8 million in fines and fees. The situation is so out of control that about 40 percent of the city’s library cardholders can no longer borrow anything until they return their library holdings and pay what they owe. For a library, this is a DEFCON moment. Maybe not DEFCON 1, but at least DEFCON 3.

What can San Jose do? City council member Pierluigi Oliverio has suggested a limited-time amnesty on fines for overdue materials. “If you bring those items back, that’s worth a lot of money just in that inventory of items,”he said earlier this month. In other words, in return for its patrons doing what they’re supposed to do, the library will let bygones be bygones. What’s a little fine between friends, after all?

Over the years, libraries have fined patrons for not bringing back books and offered no-questions-asked return periods. They’ve published the names of book scofflaws in local newspapers. They’ve paid personal calls on people who hold onto books past their due dates, and even sicced the police on particularly recalcitrant readers. And they still don’t really know how to get their books back.

“Librarians have been playing with this issue for a century and a half, and there is little consensus,” says Wayne Wiegand, author of Part of Our Lives: A People’s History of the American Public Library.

. . . .

But no one’s actually proven that fines work. “Our first rule of thumb is we are providing materials with taxpayer funds,” says Julie Todaro, the incoming president of the American Library Association. But, she’s quick to add, “A lot of people will tell you higher fines aren’t a detriment to returns. It is a detriment to people using the library. Period.”

San Jose’s problems began when it raised fines in 2010, from 25 cents to 50 cents a day. Other area libraries charge less. San Francisco dings late borrowers 10 cents for every day late, with a hard stop at $5. The San Mateo County Library, where borrowers from wealthy Atherton check out books, charges 25 cents a day for adult books, up to $8, and 15 cents a day for children’s books, up to $3.90. Exclusive Mountain View is also at 25 cents, and allows borrowers to keep books for four weeks.

. . . .

In Wiegand’s view, library fines are vestigial, a leftover from 200 years ago, when books were highly valuable items, and few could afford to purchase them. Handing over a book for a limited period of time involved a significant financial risk for the lender, and a fine protected that investment.

But even back when, a fine couldn’t guarantee a library would get its goods back. Even George Washington neglected to return The Law of Nations by Emer de Vattel and a volume of debates from the English Parliament to the elites-only New York Society Library.

The New York Society Library needed to wait until 2010, when the New York Daily News outed the founding father, to recover its property. Embarrassed employees of the Mount Vernon historic site saw the article and tracked the missing items down. In return, the New York Society Library gratefully waived the $300,000 in overdue fines. (Alexander Hamilton and Aaron Burr agreed on one thing, by the way. New York Society Records showed they returned borrowed books regularly.)

Link to the rest at Slate and thanks to Matt for the tip.

Instagram vs. Twitter Advertising for Indie Authors

28 March 2016

From Bookworks:

[W]ith over 284 million active monthly users you might also think about using Twitter to advertise your work.  But don’t stop there, because Instagram is in the fight for your advertising dollars as well.

Social Media in general has added a new dimension to the marketing game, not just for the big brands, but for small-to-midsize [SMBs] as well.  In the case of indie writers, this holds a lot of weight when you consider our usually less-than-beefy budgets.

. . . .

Indie authors who advertise on Instagram alone have the potential of 400 million users – and by utilizing Facebook’s ad technology, writers can easily choose whether or not to advertise on both platforms.

James Quarles, Head of Global Advertising at Instagram, said: “Having 200,000 advertisers gives us an ability to better tailor the ads that people see to their likes and interests.”

“The Facebook relationship has helped us grow our user base and attract advertisers,” Quarles continued. “People can be creative in using the two together and run things across both platforms. That really hasn’t existed much in the marketing world.”

. . . .

Facebook makes it fairly easy to set up a campaign on the photo app, as long as users have already created a “Business Facebook Page” and are using the Google Chrome browser.

On your “Business Facebook Page,” click Settings on the upper right of your page.  A drop-down within Settings will appear in a column on the left side of your page.  There you will see “Instagram Ads.”  To start, simply click on this tab and connect your Instagram account to your Facebook page.

As the next step, it’s important to note that instead of using “Facebook’s Ads Manager,” you download their “Power Editor” tool instead.  It is found at the top of the page, under the Ads Manager platform.

From that point forward, Facebook will prompt you through all of the remaining easy steps that are necessary to create your campaign.

. . . .

Many indie authors are already on Instagram and are self-promoting their work for free by simply posting regularly and building a following of fans.  So, why start spending money advertising?

Mainly, because Instagram ads are inexpensive and can generate targeted traffic to your website.  But there are other reasons, too.  For instance, Instagram posts don’t allow a website link in the body of your posts.  But Instagram ads do.

With a minimal $100 a month budget, you can easily test the waters.  Just make sure you set clear goals and always include a “call to action” – whether that’s to sell books, build mailing lists or promote a new discount that only Instagram followers can benefit from.

A Salesforce report last October revealed the following stats:

  • The overall click-through rate on its clients’ Instagram ads over was 1.5 percent, versus Facebook’s first-quarter-2015 figure of 0.84 percent.
  • Instagram’s global cost per thousand impressions was $6.29, about 90 percent higher than Facebook’s first-quarter CPMs.
  • The cost per click was $0.42 for Instagram and $0.40 for Facebook.

Link to the rest at Bookworks

Do more British kids really own a tablet than a teddy bear?

28 March 2016

From TeleRead:

The UK tabloid press has jumped all over a survey from British Military Fitness whichpurports to prove that “Britain’s tech savvy toddlers are more likely to own a tablet than a teddy.” This comes as part of the company’s #Springintoaction campaign to encourage British kids to get out and exercise, rather than spending time indoors in unhealthy pursuits like … reading?

According to the company, “in today’s digital age, children’s time is being invested in technology: two thirds (67%) of children can confidently use an iPhone, more than half (58%) own an iPad yet 41% of children don’t own a football, and 39% own a PlayStation to be able to play FIFA online!” And “58% of kids prefer to play on iPads and games rather than play outside.”

Link to the rest at TeleRead

E-books are not the answer to a literacy crisis

28 March 2016

From The Washington Post:

When librarian Jennifer Nelson arrives at the tiny library at Crewe Primary School each morning, she is confronted with a cart of first-generation iPads. The detritus of attempts to infuse technology into one of the poorest and most rural schools in Virginia, the tablets are hopelessly obsolete, worth little more than the cart on which they reside.

The White House recently announced the launch of Open eBooks, an app giving access to thousands of free e-books to any educator, student or administrator at one of the more than 66,000 Title I schools or any of the 194 Defense Department Education Activity schools in the United States. It’s an admirable endeavor and recognizes that we have a literacy problem. However, it brings to mind Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s famous line: “Water, water, every where/ Nor any drop to drink.”

On that list of Title I schools: Crewe Primary. The whole of Nottoway County, Va., is a high-poverty tract; there is no public transportation, no fiber-optic Internet available for the county’s 16,000 residents. In Southside Virginia, the commonwealth’s poorest region, most schools don’t have broadband; Crewe Primary School has DSL but little more than 40 usable iPads (not counting the old and obsolete ones) for its 318 students.

. . . .

Even if our poorest schools had broadband and ample devices, believing that free e-books are the key to ending our literacy crisis is dangerously misguided. Technology is repeatedly touted as a cure for the United States’ educational woes, promising everything from banishing boredom to widespread reform. Interactive whiteboards were the hope a few years ago, and Google Earth was supposed to make our children masters of geography. There is more technology in our classrooms and homes than ever, but too often these expensive technologies yield few gains in learning or gains not commensurate with cost.

Serving as the executive director of the Virginia Children’s Book Festival, in the heart of a literacy desert, has taught me two things: Literacy is an instilled value, and too frequently reading is a luxury instead of a necessity. Reports from the National Center for Education Statistics are clear: Children raised in homes that foster literacy are better readers and better students than children raised in homes where literacy is not promoted. Children who see their parents reading and engage in reading with their families have higher than average reading scores, regardless of their parents’ occupational status.

If a love of reading is not learned in the home, even technologically advanced schools are hard-pressed to make up that deficit.

Link to the rest at The Washington Post and thanks to Nate for the tip.

Will Commercialit Ruin Great Fiction?

27 March 2016

From The Daily Beast:

The Nest—a first novel by a woman, a bright-lighted family story—offers the kind of pleasure I’ve been missing all these years I’ve been assigned prodigious novels of dark ideas by established men such as Gaddis, Pynchon, DeLillo, Wallace, and Vollmann. An additional pleasure: The Nest came to me by luck, sent by some ill-informed publicity director who thought I might like such a book, “ill-informed” because I don’t recall ever praising a novel like The Nest. I was curious, gave it an hour, and then the rest of the day, speeding through all 350 pages of Sweeney’s novel. It was like binge-watching a cable TV series. In fact, The Nest reminded me of early episodes of Netflix’s Bloodline, also about siblings’ inheritance imperiled by a ne’er-do-well brother. The Nest is not just about money—a multi-million dollar trust fund—but is being promoted by money, the million-dollar advance the publisher proudly announced was paid for this first novel by an unknown writer. Sweeney and some other recent debut novelists who have been paid huge advances seem to be shaping a new genre for fledgling writers.

. . . .

The pat endings broke the spell for me. I recognized—belatedly, I admit—that The Nest is not really about character. Sweeney may not have intended her title to refer to the security provided by her gossipy style, but paging back through the novel, I realized that I never had to worry about coming upon some disturbing sensibility, original metaphor, syntactical oddity, evidence of an intricate pattern, mysterious allusion, or alien setting. No, The Nest is formed from familiar twigs to hold in fledgling readers who cheep for their next helping of plot from the pre-digesting mother/author. That’s when I remembered the money. To pay out a million dollars for The Nest, the publisher must have calculated that it is as secure a commodity as the novel is a safe fiction for readers.

I understand the economic strategy: a novelist with no history (of mediocre sales) can be publicized as the Big New Find because the author has been given a Big Old Advance. But I worry that Sweeney’s book and some other fairly recent first novels with huge advances—Chad Harbach’s The Art of Fielding, Matthew Thomas’s We Are Not Ourselves, and Garth Risk Hallberg’s City on Fire—suggest young writers are creating what I’ll call commercialit. All of these novels have at least one character who is either an English teacher or a writer, the existence of whom in the text implies that the novel must be literary. But the literariness of the four is a patina of fictional sophistication scumbled over conventional and therefore commercial components. Even if the characters don’t end up well, at least some readers do—entertained, unthreatened, and pleased to feel they’ve not been reading commercialock: commercial schlock.

Link to the rest at The Daily Beast and thanks to Dave for the tip.

One rainy Sunday

27 March 2016

One rainy Sunday when I was in the third grade, I picked up a book to look at the pictures and discovered that even though I did not want to, I was reading. I have been a reader ever since.

Beverly Cleary

Beverly Cleary turns 100

27 March 2016

Children’s author Beverly Cleary on turning 100: ‘I didn’t do it on purpose’

More than six decades since her first book came out, celebrated children’s author Beverly Cleary is marking a milestone, turning 100 in April.

You’ll find a lovely video at the link. PG decided not to embed it because of concern that the video would autoplay whenever a visitor opened TPV.

Link to the rest at Today

Paul McCartney takes battle for Beatles songs to copyright office

27 March 2016

From The Washington Post:

Well into his eighth decade, Paul McCartney has a lot to be thankful for. Though he recently was denied entry to Tyga’s post-Grammys party, he is a living legend: one of two surviving Beatles and the co-writer of much of the band’s material. Yet, one prize remains beyond McCartney’s grasp. He lost his publishing rights to the Beatles’ catalogue decades ago and, despite years of wrangling that included a tiff with Michael Jackson, has been unable to get them back.

Now, McCartney has fired another fusillade in his battle to reclaim his music. As Billboard first reported, records show McCartney, taking advantage of a law that allows singers to reclaim publishing rights after 56 years, filed a “notice of termination” with the U.S. Copyright Office. The songs on the table include many Beatles masterworks, including “Hey Jude” and “Revolution” — and, for the record, “Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da,” one of John Lennon’s least-favorite Beatles songs.

Publishing rights are, more or less, the right to “exploit” a song — to, for example, license it to a film, TV show or video game. The vast majority of McCartney’s work with the Beatles was credited to “Lennon-McCartney” — but, as the BBC noted, the singers lost their publishing rights in the 1960s when ATV, a publishing company they created with the other Beatles, their manager and outside investors, was sold without their knowledge.

. . . .

“In order to reclaim publishing ownership of a song, a songwriter must file with the U.S. Copyright Office, terminating the publishing anywhere from 2 to 10 years before the 56 years elapse, in order to obtain ownership of that song’s publishing in a timely manner. (If the writer doesn’t put in a notice within that window, they have another five-year period to reclaim the copyrights but each day’s delay adds another day that the publisher owns the copyright.)”

Link to the rest at The Washington Post and thanks to Cora for the tip.

Here’s an article that explains the law in greater detail.

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