Tag Archives: ebooks

Links of interest: pricing, impact factors, marketing, and staplers

Acquisitions and budgets
2012 Study of Subscription Prices for Scholarly Society Journals (pdf) is out from Allen Press. “[T]he average increase in 2012 dropped, more than a full percentage point below the average, to less than 6%.” (The Consumer Price Index, according to the same figure, was less than 4%.) Much more detail, analysis and discussion is at the source (pdf).

The Librarian in Black writes I’m breaking up with eBooks (and you can too) on the poor deal that current models of ebook provision are for libraries and, by extension, our customers.

Alison Wallbutton in #brandlibraries ponders what branding is, how libraries are branded, and whether we want to reposition that branding. She argues that libraries are successfully branded – as “books”; it’s in the very word. But of course (segue to my own thoughts) we as librarians get twitchy about wanting to make sure that users know we’re not just books, so we reject that outright – often without having put any thought into what we’re going to replace that branding with. Which leaves us in a position where we can’t effectively promote ourselves because we don’t have any image to put out there.

Impact factors
Nixon, J.M. (2012). Core Journals in Library and Information Science: Developing a Methodology for Ranking LIS Journals. C&RL. Advance online publication.
–Outlines a methodology and resulting list of three tiers into which they’ve divided LIS journals according to “influence”. Uses a mix of expert opinions, impact factors, circulation rate, and acceptance rate and, unsurprisingly, comes up with a similar list as those derived from expert opinions or from impact factors.

Probably a good measure of influence; it doesn’t claim that quality follows. Which is good because Sick of Impact Factors which concludes that “if you use impact factors you are statistically illiterate” and has been so widely retweeted and commented on that the author has posted a followup summarising the long comment thread in sections: useful links; concerns about metrics; alternative metrics; and actions to take.

Just for fun
Library Shenanigans reports on The Stapler Obituaries – a mini-exhibition of dead staplers at an academic library.

Links of interest: ebooks, leadership, and change

In the Library With the Lead Pipe publishes a provocative and persuasive essay on the eBook Cargo Cult, beginning

“Libraries created the present crisis in scholarly publishing, and we are creating a similar crisis now with our approach to ebooks.”

A brief history of how libraries have handled (or given outsiders power over us by paying them to handle) the indexing of serials and how we’re doing the same with ebooks is followed by an overview of alternative models for ebook management – several great ones I’m familiar with including Unglue.It and Library License, and several more that are new to me.

Ellyssa Kroski has gathered her three posts on How To Compare e-Book Platforms (points to consider include technical requirements; content; functionality; and sales/pricing model) along with her presentation providing a background to these criteria.

Two very insightful posts: the Librarian in Black posts 7 Lessons Learned While Being The Man; the Free Range Librarian responds with her own perspective in I am The Man — and you can, too!

Jenica (Attempting Elegance) posts an 8-part blog version of her presentation on Killing Fear:

4 #blogjune

Four fantastic links I want everyone to read:

Proceedings of Codcon 2012
A virtual, hypothetical, parodic library conference held by the Library Society of the World on Twitter and Friendfeed on Wednesday, May 16, 2012.

No, we can’t do it all by Meredith Farkas
“So many of us struggle with determining priorities in teaching. Few of us have a workload that would allow us to do everything we would like to do. We hear stories about embedded librarian programs, librarians who were able to co-grade student papers with a disciplinary faculty member, libraries that have co-taught entire classes, etc. and we think: wow, I’d love to do that. But can we?”

A failure of imagination – the problem with format neutrality
“I often hear librarians promoting their ‘modern librarian’ credentials by saying ‘it’s about the information, not the container’. By this they tend to mean that […] we should not be concerned about in which formats information is available, as long as it is available somehow. But what if it is about the container?” Read more to inspire your imagination.

Collective action for ebook collections
“I still agree with the notion that unless ebook publishing and distribution changes, libraries are still screwed. So let’s change things. Here are three things *you* can do.” Read more to improve ebook access.

How libraries can buy DRM-free ebooks

Libraries hate DRM because our customers hate DRM because it makes the ebooks we buy really truly appallingly horrible to use. I can never find the cartoon when I want it, but it’s something like “How to download an ebook in 37 easy steps”. It involves lots of installation of software and restarting of the computer and logging in to things and troubleshooting, and the final step is to give up and look for it on BitTorrent. (ETA: As per Andromeda’s comment, here’s the cartoon.)

But what can we do when publishers require DRM before they sell anything to us?

Well, the new venture Unglue.it could change things. The idea behind Unglue.it is that:

  • author/copyright-holders pick a lump sum that they think is fair compensation for the rights to their book;
  • people who want to read the book pledge however much they want;
  • when the lump sum is reached, the book is released as a DRM-free, open-licensed ebook, free to the entire world. (If the lump sum isn’t reached, no money’s taken from your credit card.)

This is aimed at individual readers, but why shouldn’t libraries get in on the game? There are apparently some 16,000-odd public library branches in the USA: if each one of those made a one-off pledge of US$1 then American Book Award-winner Love Like Gumbo would be available to their members (and everyone else in the world) in perpetuity. That’s one heck of a cheap ebook. You can store a copy on the library server, or just link to it from the catalogue. You can print it out, if you want – as many times as you want. And you won’t have to buy it again after it’s been borrowed 26 times.

Currently Unglue.it has campaigns for five books. (If this takes off, and I’m convinced it will, there’ll be more.) If any of these books would be of interest to the members of your library, then figure out what’s a fair price (or what you can afford — whichever’s less) and then pledge just half of that from your book budget.

If you really can’t afford it (or purchasing really has to go through approved suppliers, no exceptions ever), well, then promote the campaigns to your members instead.

Or do nothing. When the books are funded, you and your members will get them for free anyway. 🙂

I just think that this is such a natural extension of our mission to use our funds wisely to provide resources to our communities that it’s hardly an extension at all. I think it’s the answer we’ve been asking for to the problem of ebooks. And I think it’s the best consortial deal ever.

So let’s go forth and Unglue!

Links of Interest – ebook lending, web design, bibliographic software, open access

Lending eBooks
Colorado’s Douglas County Libraries has come up with a model whereby they buy, host, and manage the lending of ebooks (including DRM), rather than subscribe to publishers’ platforms. See more details on the model and a letter to publishers about how it works.

Here’s a cute way of reminding users of the value of libraries when they check out print books. It would be interesting to think of ways to make this work with e-resources…

Web design
See a demo of One-Pager, a free template for library websites designed and user-tested to make it easy to find the most important information – and to be immediately mobile-friendly and accessible. You can read more or download the code here.

Bibliographic software
Beyond Bibliographies: Collaborating with Citation Software (powerpoint) is a poster comparing Endnote, RefWorks, Zotero, and Mendeley.

Open Access
(I try to include a variety of stuff in these round-ups, but open access is kind of a strong interest of mine, so…)

Some keen-eyed librarians noticed that the previously open-access Reference and User Services Quarterly was suddenly open-access no longer; the Library Loon investigated and reported back. Apparently in future articles will be embargoed for a year, although as at writing older articles aren’t available yet either.

(This reminds me that I keep meaning to find out whether The New Zealand Library And Information Management Journal is intended to be open access or if it’s just openly accessible by default, so to speak. In any case they’re there at the moment – as are all the LIANZA conference papers from 2004. They’re not browsable/searchable in the most user-friendly format but I know from experience what the web group’s dealing with, and that just getting them all in one place is a fantastic achievement.)

The Library Loon also has a fantastic discussion about how to recognise scammy “open access” publishers.

SCORE Library Survey Report “aimed to get a national [UK] perspective on institutional engagement in Open Educational Resources through their librarians”.

Open Access in Chemistry – slides from a presentation at the 2011 ACS Spring Meeting giving an excellent overview of what it says on the tin – in terms both of numbers and of attitudes.

Links of Interest 8/9/2011 – news in e-resources

Michael S Hart, founder of Project Gutenburg, died on the 6th September – read his obituary.

JSTOR is making much of its public domain material openly accessible. (Library Journal also comments.)

The Journal of Librarianship and Scholarly Information “is a quarterly, peer-reviewed, open-access publication for original articles, reviews and case studies that analyze or describe the strategies, partnerships and impact of library-led digital projects, online publishing and scholarly communication initiatives.” It’s put out a call for submissions for its inaugural issue in [Northern Hemisphere] Spring 2012.

On the Humanities and the Innovation Adoption Curve

I’ve been catching up on my reading and am currently up to:

Herrera, G. (2011). Google Scholar Users and User Behaviors: An Exploratory Study. College & Research Libraries, 72(4), 316-330.

which looks at usage data about Google Scholar cunningly culled from link resolver logs. There’s some really interesting stuff, but something they quote in their conclusion made my mind go off on a tangent:

On the other hand, the 2009 Ithaka faculty survey concluded that humanists “have been later and slower to change in many ways than their peers in the sciences, to be sure.” –Schonfeld and Housewright, “Faculty Survey 2009,” 34.

Which is an observation that comes up time and again, and often it’s implied that this is because the humanities are inherently conservative. But is that really the case? Correlation doesn’t mean causation.

Could it instead be simply that new technologies are designed by computer scientists for computer scientists? Engineering and physical sciences work similarly enough that they can adapt their usage pretty easily. But the humanities — a few of us have been doing some mini sessions on scholarly ebooks for faculty, and what we’re hearing from faculty is that in the humanities they have completely different kinds of texts which need to be used in completely different kinds of ways, and these ways are not supported by the technology.

So I rather suspect that it’s rather less to do with the people than commonly implied, and rather more to do with systematic bias in the technology.

5 Reasons Why Print Books Don’t Cut the Mustard

(With apologies to Wired.)

No-one can dispute that print books have been pretty popular over the last several centuries. But really they are fundamentally flawed. Unless they can precisely duplicate the experience provided by an e-reader they’re doomed, because all people want the exact same reading experience and never compromise on some criteria in order to fulfill others.

Let’s skip a page of boring context and cut to the bulletpoints that are the only things anyone cares about anyway.

1. An unfinished print book isn’t a constant reminder to finish reading it.

You know the drill. You pick up a print book, start reading it, get distracted and leave it next to the sofa. Next day, when your eye’s caught by another print book on the wooden bookshelf and you open its cover, the print book doesn’t display the page of the print book you were reading yesterday to remind you where you were at. Two weeks later you’ve got a dozen half-read print books in a dozen obscure locations of your house (some of them with scraps of paper marking the point you left off – that’s right, even if you pick up the same print book you were reading yesterday, it won’t automatically remember your page number). Eventually you realise you’re never going to finish any of them and in a tidying frenzy you dump them all back on your wooden bookshelf.

2. You can’t keep your print books all in one place.

Print books on the wooden bookcase, beside your bed, in your handbag, at work, in the car, at the physical library – it’s impossible to keep track of them all. And if you finish reading a print book at the start of a commute, you can’t just open it again to choose and start reading a new print book, because all the other print books are at home, on the wooden bookshelf.

Worse yet, you can’t keep your print books all in two places. There’s no app for syncing a print collection between two locations. If your print books are on the wooden bookshelf at home, they can’t be in your handbag at the same time.

To add credibility and pathos to my opinions, I shall here mention a friend who lost access to her house post-earthquake and with it her entire collection of print books. When she got the occasional half hour to retrieve items she had to rapidly choose which to spend her time rescuing. If they’d been electronic they’d have been in her iPhone all along — and if she’d lost that, she could have retrieved her computer on which they’d have all been synced.

3. Notes on paper margins are pointless

You spend hours reading a print book and making ink notes in its paper margins and what have you got at the end of it? All that useful information is still stuck inside the print book. You can’t click and drag it into your word processor where you actually need it. You could cut and paste it and make a nice collage, but even librarians who appreciate marginalia are likely to look askance at that.

4. Print books are priced as disposable, but aren’t marketed that way.

I talked with someone today who had some print items he no longer wanted and wanted to donate them to the library. The library didn’t want them and I couldn’t think of any library or used bookstore that would. The best thing to do would be to throw them in the recycling bin. But he hesitated, and I found even I hesitated to make this suggestion in so many words. Because we’ve developed this utterly idiotic idea that the print book, each with runs of thousands or millions, is nevertheless a priceless artefact whose destruction is a kind of sacrilege.

5. Print books can’t be used as a clock.

Look at the bottom of your print book and you won’t see the time – only a page number. You can’t go back to the title page and open up a game of sudoku. Storing too many polaroids in it makes the pages bulge. If you want to check a definition, you have to fetch an entirely different print book. The only thing a print book does is let you read that one novel.

Well, not quite the only thing. It does make nice kindling.

Links of interest 26/8/10

Scandal du jour (aka the power of social media)
JSTOR’s new interface made searches default to covering their entire database – so results might include articles students didn’t have access to on JSTOR and which wouldn’t even be linked via OpenURL to the library’s subscription in another database. (Meredith Farkas describes the problems neatly.) Librarians complained loudly on blogs, JSTOR’s Facebook page, and elsewhere, and a day later JSTOR has announced that they’ll change the default while they continue work on OpenURL.

WolframAlpha has added widgets that focus on a specific kind of data and can be embedded into a webpage by copying and pasting the code. Categories cover all kinds of subject areas – some widgets might be relevant in a subject guide. (You’d need to add a new rich text box, then select the plain text editor and copy/paste in the embed code from WolframAlpha.)

Librarian as resource
University of Michigan Library’s search results now bring back subject librarians as well as relevant databases, catalogue items, subject guides, institutional repository hits, and external websites. Their blog about this links to some examples.

eBooks and compatibility
Jason Griffey writes a clear explanation about why ebook filetypes and digital rights management means that purchasing an ebook doesn’t mean you can read it on any old e-reader.

Library instruction
Cooke, R., Rosenthal, D. Students Use More Books After Library Instruction: An Analysis of Undergraduate Paper Citations College and Research Libraries (preprint)

“In Fall 2008, students from first-year Composition I and upper level classes at Florida Gulf Coast University participated in a citation analysis study. The citation pages of their research papers revealed that the students used more books, more types of sources, and more overall sources when a librarian provided instruction. When these results were compared to those produced by students in upper level classes (all of whom received instruction), it was discovered that as the class level increased, the number of citations and the percentage of scholarly citations generally increased and there was a high preference for books from all disciplines, especially history.”

(They compared classes which received library instruction with identical classes which didn’t.)

Links of interest 11/8/10 – open access, accessibility, statistics and more

Open Access


  • Char Booth writes about e-texts and library accessibility including a great quote that “ebooks were created by the blind, then made inaccessible by the sighted.”
  • NZETC has just posted about the 1064 works in DAISY format available in their collection for people with print-related disabilities. (DAISY = “Digital Accessible Information SYstem”)

Library statistics


  • The first year of research on the Researchers of Tomorrow (pdf) study finds that “in broad approaches to information‐seeking and use of research resources, there are no marked differences between Generation Y doctoral students and those in older age groups. Nor are there marked differences in these behaviours between doctoral students of any age in different years of their study. The most significant differences revealed in the data are between subject disciplines of study irrespective of age or year of study.”
  • Assessments of Information Literacy collects links to infolit tests, assessments, rubrics and tutorials available online.
  • Christina Pikas lists a Rundown of the new [database etc] interfaces this summer. There were some surprises, including a ScienceDirect/Scopus merger apparently due August 28…

[Edited 12/8 to fix broken links]