Libraries

Finally, Feel Free to Return That Library Book You Checked Out in 1981

10 October 2019

From The Wall Street Journal:

Casey Kidik was in fifth grade when she came across a copy of “Julie of the Wolves.” She had checked it out as a second-grader from the public library in Carver, Mass. By the time she rediscovered the book, the family had moved to Plymouth.

“I found it and then didn’t even want to tell my mom,” recalled Ms. Kidik, 25 years old. She hid the book in her bedroom bookshelf for months before coming clean ahead of a family trip to Carver. Embarrassed, she returned it, and her mom paid the $3.25 fine.

Ms. Kidik felt so guilty she avoided borrowing another book for nearly 20 years. “It’s this weird shame that we have about library late fees,” said Ms. Kidik, now a communications analyst at an asset management firm.

Libraries have come to realize what a lot of guilty readers already know—that late fees prompt some borrowers to keep books rather than face the humiliating tsk-tsk of librarians collecting late fees. That chapter is about over.

This week, Chicago became the largest American metropolis to end charges for overdue books, joining at least 150 library systems in the U.S. and Canada that have ended late-shaming fines, according to the Urban Libraries Council. So far this year, libraries in St. Paul, Minn., Dallas and Oakland, Calif., are among those that have joined the late-fee amnesty movement.

Libraries are fighting for customers to survive in a digital world. One strategy is to remove the twin burdens of fines and guilt.

. . . .

Overdue charges range from around 17 cents a day and up. Libraries often cap fines at $5 to $10, or charge the cost of replacing the item, according to a 2017 study by the Library Journal.

For many borrowers, the money is less onerous than the feelings of disgrace. St. Paul Public Library Director Catherine Penkert said friends used to hang their head in shame and confess “I didn’t even want to tell you, I have fines.”

Sharon Bostick, who recently retired as the dean of libraries at the Illinois Institute of Technology in Chicago, knows the feeling. She created the Library Anxiety Scale, a part of her doctoral dissertation.

“All the rules that we have, and the fines and the fees, they’re making libraries really hard to deal with,” she said. “Putting everybody in this spot where they’re going to be fined to death is not helpful.”

Since St. Paul killed overdue fines, some branches have seen a double-digit percentage increase in circulation. Citywide, circulation is up nearly 2%, a surprising plot twist after years of steady declines.

The fear of returning overdue books is part of American culture. In a 1988 episode of “Married with Children,” character Al Bundy faced a $2,163 fine for a copy of the “Little Engine That Could” 31 years overdue. A 1991 episode of “Seinfeld” has Jerry being dogged by a library cop over a book due in 1971.

Link to the rest at The Wall Street Journal (Sorry if you encounter a paywall)

Who doesn’t read books in America?

4 October 2019

From The Pew Research Center:

Roughly a quarter of U.S. adults (27%) say they haven’t read a book in whole or in part in the past year, whether in print, electronic or audio form, according to a Pew Research Center survey conducted Jan. 8 to Feb. 7. Who are these non-book readers?

. . . .

[A]dults with a high school diploma or less are far more likely than those with a bachelor’s or advanced degree to report not reading books in any format in the 12 months before the survey (44% vs. 8%). Adults with lower levels of educational attainment are also among the least likely to own smartphones, a device that saw a substantial increase in usage for reading e-books from 2011 to 2016. (College-educated adults are more likely to own these devices and use them to read e-books.)

Adults whose annual household income is $30,000 or less are more likely than those living in households earning $75,000 or more a year to be non-book readers (36% vs. 14%). Hispanic (40%) and black (33%) adults are more likely than whites (22%) to report not having read a book in the past 12 months. But there are differences between Hispanics born inside and outside the United States: 56% of foreign-born Hispanics report not having read a book, compared with 27% of Hispanics born in the U.S.

. . . .

The same demographic traits that characterize non-book readers also often apply to those who have never been to a library. In a 2016 survey, we found that Hispanics, older adults, those living in households earning less than $30,000 and those who have a high school diploma or did not graduate from high school are the most likely to report they have never been to a public library.

Link to the rest at The Pew Research Center

The Whole “Library eBooks Kill Retail eBook Sales” Idea Makes No Sense

20 September 2019

From The Digital Reader:

I was working on a blog post this morning on Scholastic ebooks being in OverDrive when I got to thinking about the current uproar over library ebooks.

It seems a lot of people in publishing are convinced that library ebooks are responsible for retail ebook sales being down. This belief has been around for over a year now (since Macmillian first established that trial embargo on library ebooks in July 2018), and it’s now grown to include a concatenating belief that Amazon is the one telling publishers about the supposed connection between library ebooks and retail ebook sales declining.

I still don’t beleive that Amazon is doing that; I think it is an example of gossip spread in the industry before showing up in the media. But I don’t want to debate that today; instead, I want to discuss the underlying premise.

. . . .

The idea that library ebooks (in and of themselves) have a negative impact on retail ebook sales simply makes no sense to this ebook buyer.

It simply doesn’t match up with my understanding of how people use libraries.

BTW, the last time I pointed out that a common industry belief made no sense was in late 2017 when I debunked the then-current belief that “screen fatigue” was responsible for declining ebook sales. I never got any public kudos for my work, but when was the last time you heard a publishing CEO blame their falling retail ebook sales on screen fatigue?

No one is mentioning screen fatigue any more; now the bogeyman is library ebooks, and it makes just as little sense as the last bogeyman.

The underlying premise for this belief is that because people can get a library ebook, they won’t buy the retail ebook.  This demonstrates a fundamental misunderstanding of consumer behavior.

. . . .

This runs contrary to the legacy industry assumption that if they deny the consumer the library ebook then the consumer will buy a copy of the ebook.

Take me, for example. I only buy ebooks, but when I think the ebook costs to much (or when I can’t tell if it’s worth the expense) I will borrow the print book from the library.

. . . .

What the legacy industry appears to have forgotten is that for the past eight years they have been training library patrons to settle for print books even when we want the ebook. This has been going on ever since the Big Six started imposing checkout restrictions and high prices on library ebooks in 2011.

Link to the rest at The Digital Reader

One of the beliefs that underlies the whole “Let’s delay the library book so everyone will buy their own copy” philosophy is that the release of a “big” book by a major publisher is something that lots of Americans will respond to by quickly purchasing their own copy so they can talk to their friends about it.

PG thinks such consumer behavior has become quite rare other than in locales within 15 miles of The Empire State Building or The White House. A major book release flies so far beneath 99% of the American population as to be invisible. There was a time when a lot of people paid attention to what Big Publishing was doing, but that time is gone, gone, gone.

PG is about 100% ebook when it comes to his long-form reading. As he’s mentioned before, he’s purchased a couple of print books that he knows he will like because he found a screaming deal on the price somewhere. They have sat (laid? lain?) within easy reach of PG favorite reading locations for months and months and months.

PG reads long-form nonfiction and fiction for pleasure every day. It’s all in ebook format.

He is currently reading The Ground We Stand On by John Dos Passos, published in 1941, and very hard to find for a reasonable price. PG thinks it qualifies as heavy-duty history, discussing and contrasting the parallel developments of New and Old England during the mid-17th century.

Parts of the book follow Roger Williams, the founder of Providence Plantations, which became the Colony of Rhode Island, and a Puritan minister. Williams was likely the first white man to learn the languages of the Native American tribes along the Eastern seacoast. He wrote the first book on the Narragansett language and helped to settle the Pequot War (1637-38) which could have caused enormous harm among the earliest British settlers.

The book follows Williams back and forth during his travels from the New World to the Old. Old England is in the midst of The Civil War and the Puritans were in control. While in England, Williams published his first book, A Key into the Language of America, in 1643. This book was, in part, the first printed dictionary/phrase-book of the language of the Native American tribes as well as an account of the life and culture of those tribes.

In his book, Williams wrote:

Boast not proud English, of thy birth & blood;
Thy brother Indian is by birth as Good.
Of one blood God made Him, and Thee and All,
As wise, as fair, as strong, as personal.

Williams succeeded in obtaining a charter from Parliament for Providence Plantations in July 1644. He then wrote a book titled,
The Bloudy Tenent of Persecution for Cause of Conscience in which, among other things, Williams argued for a “wall of separation” between church and state and for state toleration of various Christian denominations, including Catholicism, and also “paganish, Jewish, Turkish or anti-Christian consciences and worships.” Williams’ writing was not popular with the Puritan-controlled government and Parliament ordered the public hangman to burn all copies.

PG has rambled too much about his latest reading enthusiasm, but, to the best of his knowledge, a copy of Dos Passos’ book in physical form is unavailable anywhere in PG’s general vicinity. However, he was happy to find a copy in ebook form online (not at Amazon) for a reasonable price and is learning a great many things about this period of American and British history of which he was previously unaware.

Why Angry Librarians Are Going to War With Publishers Over E-Books

13 September 2019

PG has mentioned this brilliant strategy from Macmillan here and here, but under the principle that you can’t celebrate Big Publishing stupidity enough, here’s more.

From Slate:

If I wanted to borrow A Better Man by Louise Penny—the country’s current No. 1 fiction bestseller—from my local library in my preferred format, e-book, I’d be looking at about a 10-week waitlist. And soon, if the book’s publisher, a division of Macmillan, has its way, that already-lengthy wait time could get significantly longer.

In July, Macmillan announced that come November, the company will only allow libraries to purchase a single copy of its new titles for the first eight weeks of their release—and that’s one copy whether it’s the New York Public Library or a small-town operation that’s barely moved on from its card catalog. This has sparked an appropriately quiet revolt. Librarians and their allies quickly denounced the decision when it came down, and now the American Library Association is escalating the protest by enlisting the public to stand with libraries by signing an online petition with a populist call against such restrictive practices. (The association announced the petition Wednesday at Digital Book World, an industry conference in Nashville, Tennessee.) What’s unclear is whether the association can get the public to understand a byzantine-seeming dispute over electronic files and the right to download them.

In a July memo addressed to Macmillan authors, illustrators, and agents, the company’s CEO John Sargent cited the “growing fears that library lending was cannibalizing sales” as a reason for embargoing libraries from purchasing more than one copy of new books during their first eight weeks on sale. “It seems that given a choice between a purchase of an ebook for $12.99 or a frictionless lend for free, the American ebook reader is starting to lean heavily toward free,” he claimed.

Many individual library systems and companies that work with libraries swiftly responded with objections. “Public libraries are engaged in one of the most valuable series of community services for all ages, for all audiences,” said Steve Potash, the CEO and founder of OverDrive, a company that supplies libraries with e-books. “The public library is just something that is underappreciated. It certainly is so by Macmillan.”

. . . .

“If you think about equitable access to information for everybody, there shouldn’t be discrimination or anything like that,” said Alan Inouye, the senior director for public policy and government relations at the ALA. “So consumers can get this book on Day 1 without limitation, but libraries have to wait for eight weeks? That’s just very wrong.”

. . . .

The controversy over Macmillan’s new policy gets at one of the central issues facing book publishing today. “There’s a tension in e-book pricing generally between consumer expectations that a digital file will be less expensive than a physical copy and the reality that very little of the cost of making a book is tied up in the physical format,” said Devin McGinley, a senior industry analyst covering book publishing for Ibisworld Inc., a market research firm. “Publishers are rightly concerned that if the price of books erodes too much, they will no longer be able to cover their creative costs and subsidize more speculative bets on emerging authors.”

. . . .

“They really did not have any reasonable data to support a narrative that if an author’s new book is withheld from public library lending when it first comes out, that might impact the author’s or the book’s sales during those first few months,” Potash said. “That isn’t borne out. The data that OverDrive has is that for every title that actually gets borrowed or downloaded, the library is engaging with dozens and dozens of readers who are discovering the book, sampling the book, or just looking for a recommendation on what to read next.” Potash said that studies consistently show library patrons to be more frequent book buyers overall—which is another reason Macmillan’s letter stung. “They are taking their readers, their customers, their fans, and intentionally trying to frustrate them,” he said.

Link to the rest at Slate

PG will state that whenever a business executive talks about making a decision to avoid “cannibalizing sales,” you will find many other stupid words and acts following shortly thereafter.

Steve Job famously said, “If you don’t cannibalize yourself, someone else will.” He made this comment when Apple was selling a lot of iPods, and had just announced the iPhone.

Did the iPhone cannibalize Apple’s iPod business? You bet. Were any Apple shareholders upset by this cannibalization? Not really. The iPhone would make Apple the most valuable company in the world.

The first iPhone was announced in January, 2007, and went on sale in June, 2007. One year after the announcement of the first iPhone and six months after its launch, in January, 2008, the value of a share of Apple stock had almost doubled. About six months later, in July, 2008, when Apple launched the iPhone 3G (the first iPhone with an app store), the stock value was 285% of the price only 18 months earlier.

Not many people were worried about iPod sales at that point.

From an interview with James Allworth, the co-author, with Clay Christensen and David Skok, of a new Nieman Reports article called “Breaking News– Mastering the Art of Disruptive Innovation in Journalism.” The Harvard Business Review published a transcript:

Well, if you can see a way of cannibalizing your existing business, then chances are somebody else can see that same opportunity too. And if it’s a choice between you or your competitor cannibalizing that business, I think in almost every instance you will be better off in the long run if you yourself choose to do it.

Link to the rest at The Harvard Business Review

Back to Macmillan, once a book is completed, PG will note that each copy of an ebook that Macmillan licenses to a user costs the company essentially nothing. This cannot, of course, be said about a printed book, each one of which carries costs for printing, shipping, warehousing, handling returns of unsold books from bookstores, etc.

PG suggests that an intelligent executive would be happy to cannibalize the sales of more copies of costly printed books by selling costless ebooks.

 

I Spent the Night at a Library in Wales, and You Can Too

7 September 2019

From Smithsonian:

Hidden behind a grove of trees in Hawarden, Flintshire, a small village in north Wales located about 25 miles south of Liverpool, sits Gladstone’s Library, the only prime ministerial library in Great Britain. Named after four-term Prime Minister William Ewart Gladstone (1868-74, 1880-85, 1886, and 1892-94), the 117-year-old stone building is home to the late statesman’s personal collection of 32,000 books—part of the library’s extensive collection of 150,000 written works focused on everything from history and politics to theology and literature.

Not only does the library house one of the most comprehensive written collections on the island, but it also offers something the average library does not: overnight stays. As a self-proclaimed bibliophile, spending the night at a library curled up with a good book sounded like a dream come true. And I’m obviously not alone in my sentiment.

Gladstone’s Library welcomed its first overnight guests on June 29, 1906, right around the same time the library opened the doors of its current building. (The library’s history actually dates back to 1894, when it was housed inside the “tin tabernacle,” a corrugated metal structure located near the library’s current site.) Now, more than a century later, the library’s onsite 26-room B&B still draws guests from around the United Kingdom, Europe and United States who’ve dreamt of sleeping in a library for the night.
. . . .

[A]s a writer I couldn’t think of a better place to stay the night than a library. (Is experiencing writer’s block even possible inside a library?) After getting my room key and dropping off my bags in my guest room, I descend down the building’s wooden staircase to the main Reading Room. The only noise is the sound of the wood floorboards creaking beneath my feet. The sweeping, two-story room with its massive windows and arched ceiling feel like a scene pulled straight from fiction. Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry immediately comes to mind.

Link to the rest at Smithsonian

Wikimedia Commons CC0 1.0 Universal (CC0 1.0)
Public Domain Dedication

How the New York Public Library Guards Privacy in the Digital Age

12 August 2019

From The Wall Street Journal:

The ever-changing digital landscape poses a challenge for libraries: How do they enter this new world—while staying true to their public mission and preserving the privacy of patrons online?

It’s a question Tony Ageh, chief digital officer at the New York Public Library, has spent a lot of time thinking about. Mr. Ageh has supported a number of digital initiatives, including an expansion of digital lending. The library, which currently gets 300,000 visits to its website each week, now offers borrowers 1.7 million e-books.

At the same time, Mr. Ageh says, it’s crucial to maintain the trust that the public has in public libraries. For instance, unlike many other sites and search engines, the New York Public Library’s online system doesn’t store personal data about users.

“People expect us to be kind of the same level of security as a bank,” he says.

And Mr. Ageh stresses the library’s role as a home for authentic scholarship at a time when counterfeit books have become a rising challenge for Amazon, publishers and writers.

. . . .

WSJ: What role does the library play in maintaining readers’ trust and setting standards around that as you expand online and digitize more books?

MR. AGEH: I think the most trustworthy and reliable organization when it comes to this sort of thing is the library. If [a hard copy of a book has got] a library stamp on it, we will guarantee that book is the real book. You can tell if anybody had doctored it, because if a page is missing, the numbering would be missing. That is an authentic copy of that book.

There is no way that any organization at all could make that claim for a digital copy of the same book. Kindle renumbers the pages, you wouldn’t know if somebody had taken a word out, you wouldn’t know if they changed the order, so the ability to verify the authenticity of a fundamental work can only be done, hand on heart, by a librarian. Even if we digitize the books ourselves and publish them, we would still need to think very seriously about how we are certain that, when it’s out in the web, that nothing changes it.

WSJ: Do you think people overlook the trust that libraries offer?

MR. AGEH: If I told you to close your eyes and think about a library, and I asked you what you could see in your mind’s eye, you’d say, “I can see books,” probably. But there are two things you can see, and the other one is so big you can’t see it. It’s the building the books are in. Once you’re inside the walls of a library, you are safe.

It’s a sanctuary of sorts. The thing that makes you safe in the library is that you know that nothing is trying to exploit you, that everything in there is reliable, every person in there is on your side, that we’re not going to ask anything back apart from, maybe, “Would you mind bringing the book back, and be respectful of other people.”

WSJ: How are you bringing that same feeling of security online?

MR. AGEH: I won’t lie, it’s a challenge. If I asked librarians, ”What do you want the technology to do?” None of them would say, “I want the technology to secure the position of the library in the hearts and minds of the public.” But it’s a matter of the library understanding the thing they need most, and the thing they need most is an environment where you could trust what’s going on.

WSJ: How do you make the New York library a digital sanctuary as much as a physical sanctuary?

MR. AGEH: Physical libraries are one of the last noncommercial public spaces, accessible to all and free of distractions. We hope to replicate this in our digital spaces. This manifests primarily in what we choose not to do—we don’t incorporate digital advertising, we don’t try to force user actions like checking out one book or another. So much digital technology—social media, e-commerce, mobile gaming—is trying to manipulate the user. We hope to build trust and create that sense of sanctuary by not engaging in such practices and letting people accomplish what they want to accomplish.

Link to the rest at The Wall Street Journal (Sorry if you encounter a paywall)

Citing Embargo, Libraries Plan Boycott of Blackstone Digital Audio

31 July 2019

From Publishers Weekly:

The Washington Digital Library Consortium (WDLC), a statewide coalition of some 44 public libraries across Washington state, is organizing a potential six-month boycott of Blackstone Publishing’s digital audiobooks. The move follows Blackstone’s decision, announced last month, that as of July 1 it would embargo selected new release audiobook titles in libraries for 90 days. The WDLC is urging libraries across the nation to join them in their protest, which is set to begin on August 1.

“As advocates for equitable access for our residents, we protest your decision and, as a result, will boycott Blackstone’s e-audiobooks for six months (August 1, 2019, to January 31, 2020). We ask you to reverse the embargo and to refrain from creating future barriers for libraries,” reads a draft letter making the rounds in the library community. “We take these steps because we truly believe that services without special barriers to libraries are best for both for our patrons and your business.”

In urging other library systems to join the boycott, the WDLC offers a range of resources, including an FAQ for patrons, talking points for stakeholders, and even sample press releases. “We will communicate this boycott,” the letter reads, “and the reasons behind it, to library patrons and community stakeholders through press releases, reports via social media and other digital platforms, and in one-on-one conversations with patrons, community leaders, and elected officials.”

. . . .

Blackstone quietly announced its 90-day window on new audiobook releases last month in a message to library customers delivered through its vendors. But that message did not mention that the 90-day window appears to be tied to an exclusive deal with Amazon’s Audible subscription service. In a subsequent message explaining the change to librarians (seen by PW), a rep for Blackstone explained that the publisher “was recently given the opportunity to enter into an exclusive deal” with an unnamed “important strategic partner,” and that under terms of the deal, “audio editions of selected Blackstone Publishing titles will be available exclusively in digital format on our strategic partner’s platform for 90 days upon initial release.”

Link to the rest at Publishers Weekly

ALA Statement on New Macmillan Library Lending Model

29 July 2019

From The American Library Association:

On July 25, Macmillan Publishers announced a new library ebook lending model. In response, the American Library Association’s Public Policy and Advocacy Office released the following statement:

The American Library Association (ALA) denounces the new library ebook lending model announced today by Macmillan Publishers. Under the new model, a library may purchase one copy upon release of a new title in ebook format, after which the publisher will impose an eight-week embargo on additional copies of that title sold to libraries.

“Macmillan Publishers’ new model for library ebook lending will make it difficult for libraries to fulfill our central mission: ensuring access to information for all,” said ALA President Wanda Kay Brown. “Limiting access to new titles for libraries means limiting access for patrons most dependent on libraries.

“When a library serving many thousands has only a single copy of a new title in ebook format, it’s the library—not the publisher—that feels the heat. It’s the local library that’s perceived as being unresponsive to community needs.

“Macmillan’s new policy is unacceptable,” said Brown. “ALA urges Macmillan to cancel the embargo.”

The new Macmillan ebook lending model is an expansion of an existing policy that went into effect in July 2018, when the company, without warning, issued a four-month embargo applying solely to titles from the company’s Tor imprint. At the time, ALA stated that the delay would hurt readers, authors, and libraries.

Since last fall, Hachette Book Group and Penguin Random House have eliminated “perpetual access” for libraries and replaced it with a two-year access model. Simon & Schuster changed from a one-year to two-year access model. While reevaluating their business models, none of these firms implemented an embargo—deciding that equitable access to information through libraries is also in their business interest. HarperCollins continues with its 26-loan model. Macmillan now stands alone in its embargo policy among the largest Big Five publishers.

Macmillan will decrease its price to $30 for the single initial copy of an ebook. Unlike other Big Five publishers, this copy of Macmillan titles come with perpetual access. After the embargo period, additional copies will be available for $60 per copy for two years of access.

“This new embargo is the latest evidence of a troubling trend in the publishing industry,” said Brown. “ALA is developing a strategy to address this trend in the long term. Following the model of ALA’s former Digital Content Working Group, this advocacy effort will extend several years, not several months, and will not be limited to one company in the publishing ecosystem. ALA will push harder and explore all possible avenues to ensure that libraries can do our jobs of providing access to information for all, without arbitrary limitations that undermine libraries’ abilities to serve their communities.

“In the short term, ALA calls on library customers of Macmillan Publishers to tell CEO John Sargent they object to the publishing company’s new policy.”

Link to the rest at The American Library Association

In the US and, perhaps, elsewhere, the community public library stands with mom, apple pie and the flag as a loved and respected institution, especially in smaller communities.

The library often sponsors a children’s story hour during which a librarian will read a children’s book to any children who wish to attend. While the children are listening, the parents are chatting in the background, usually talking about their children and challenges, community happenings, etc.

The library will also often have a space for small meetings that is available at no charge in the evenings so community groups can gather to further their various purposes.

For lower-income patrons, the library may offer the only high-speed internet access available. Libraries also often host adult-learning classes, both online and in person.

Suffice to say, in a public relations battle between Big Publishing and community libraries, the libraries will win hands-down.

PG’s only criticism of the OP is that it didn’t include an email address where complaints could be sent to Macmillan and a hashtag for social media use.

 

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