MARC Madness: The Tournament of Library Terminology

click to embiggen

It started off as an idea in the Library Society of the World Friendfeed.

There should be a “March Madness” style face-off of library buzzwords. Complete with voting and brackets; may the best buzzword win! What do you think, LSW?

And so it has come to pass: MARC Madness!

The picture above links to a picture that has been optimized for landscape printing. Here’s a link of the original giant bracket picture for those who are having trouble reading some of the terms. (I had to jam some of them in.)

The terms came as suggestion from LSW members plus ones I found online in various online library terminology dictionaries. I tried to group them with varying amounts of success and just named the divisions something that sounded like it described the words within. I seeded them at random so what you see is what the random generator gave me. Take it for what it is worth.

The Tournament of Terminology will start voting next Friday, March 25th. It’ll be three days of voting followed by declaring winners and starting the next vote. This cycle will continue until we have a winner.

The only instructions for voting will be “may the best term win”. I leave that open to your interpretation but imagine it as the question being asked for each choice you are faced with. Vote early, vote often, and recruit your friends. Trash talk is encouraged.

If you don’t care for this particular elimination style tournament, Andromeda Yelton is running her own similar library related tournament. Hers has well known dead library people facing off! It’s like some sort of library Fight Club meets Mortal Kombat. Perhaps not, but you have choices in your library nerd bracket tournaments.

Good luck!

Not responsible for any losses you might incur in MARC madness pools.

Addendum: The twitter tag for this will be #marcmadness.

Publishing and The Domino Project

This quote from the Social Media Examiner interview of Seth Godin got my brain working:

The Domino Project is trying to make ideas easier to spread. I think books are important and book publishers are basically trying to kill books. They’re making them too expensive, too long, too slow, too hard to spread and too hard to find. So the public is just ignoring them and moving on to the next thing. (Emphasis mine.)

To be fair, The Domino Project is Mr. Godin’s foray into publishing by experimenting with a new system of connecting authors to readers. The first book from the project, Poke the Box (written by Mr. Godin himself), is a self described manifesto on self-starting. He has taken a new approach to spreading ideas by creating packages for people to buy and share books with others. I have not read more than the preview chapter of the book on Amazon; it certainly looks like the kick in the ass that I could use. But my mind keeps coming back to that highlighted sentence and a question.

Is the publishing system itself broken?

Perhaps broken is too harsh a term. Antiquated is maybe a better term.  What has changed in the publishing process leading up to the point of sale (or in this case, license)? The new licensing arrangement is mentioned as a revenue stream, but is it supporting an old and inferior system? Could the HarperCollins’ 26 eBook checkout limit idea be akin putting giant chrome rims on a jalopy?

In applying Mr. Godin’s objections to publishers to the HarperCollins situation, is complying with the “Pretend Its Print” model (too slow, too hard to spread) and making it harder for people to borrow books (too long a wait) just a waste of the library’s money (too expensive)?

If so, then why are we doing it?

If not, then what are the limits of external control over your collection? How many conditions should material be subject to that originate from outside the policies and practices of the library?

Last year, Mr. Godin challenged us on the future of the library.

This year, HarperCollins is challenging the future of the library through its new licensing idea.

Perhaps we can challenge the librarian profession to work towards a whole new concept as to what a collection really means now.

This could be our self starter.

(h/t: Library Link of the Day)

HarperCollins and Big Tent Librarianship

Earlier today, I got some vague messages via both text and Twitter in regards to a posting by the Annoyed Librarian over on Library Journal. Generally, this is not a good sign since it can mean, well, anything from a blog whose tagline was “Whatever it is, I’m against it.” (On the day when the Movers and Shakers were formally announced, no less. Go figure.)

So, with a bit of apprehension, I went over and read the post.

After I was done, I have to admit that they made some good points. Not that I agree with all of them, but they were well reasoned and presented. It was a fair minded counterpoint argument to the Big Tent Librarianship idea within the frame of HarperCollins debate and the overall library community when it comes to what it means to talk about libraries (e.g.. saying “libraries” in most cases means “public libraries”).

Huh. That usually doesn’t happen.

My main point of contention with their post is over the illusion of separation between different types of librarians. The AL describes a roomful of representative librarians from different areas as only having a degree in common. I disagree. Give me that room of individuals and I’ll ask them the right questions. I’ll ask about budgets, user experience, customer service, the collection, and what trends are influencing their libraries. They may not have common solutions for all of these issues, but I believe that each of those issues will have commonalities that will lead to cross library type conversations. That’s the idea behind Big Tent Librarianship: that these conversations need to happen in order to find the common points between different librarians.

Within the context of HarperCollins, I cannot accept the position that academic libraries (or school or special libraries for that matter) are not going to be affected by a decision being made by one of the six largest publishers. The issue has drawn far too much attention within the publishing and library worlds to be set aside as passing conflict of limited consequences. While the books that the AL’s library are buying today are not from HarperCollins, the practices of one publishing giant can be duplicated by others within the industry. It may not be the same as limited circulation lifespan, but it could be something akin to  re-subscribing for the latest updated edition of a textbook. As licensed content, the “old” edition of the textbook disappears with only the “new” edition available for lease. I cannot imagine that this would not alter or disrupt collection development workflow or the integrity of an academic collection. The outcome of this boycott has ramifications for the future of the publisher/library eBook relationships across the board for libraries.

The most interesting point in their post concerns when people write or talk about libraries they actually mean public libraries and describing this as ‘public library privilege’. I have to say that I agree with that point. The public library tends to take center stage to the near exclusion (and sometimes detriment) of school, academic, and other kinds of libraries. I don’t really have an answer for this phenomena, only some questions/guesses. Is it the result of a ‘tyranny’ of the majority of the membership? Are public librarians the only ones who can get sufficient off-work time to do ALA activities? Is it because public libraries have a higher visibility and longer usage lifespan to individuals than other types of libraries? Are public libraries the linchpin in the overall library structure from which other libraries arise from? When are academic and school librarians going to rise up and make their own noise at this discrepancy?

In a tangent, this may turn into a defense of the term ‘libraryland’. I use the term because I see it as the overarching term that means ‘everyone’. Precisely because when I say ‘library’, I am usually talking about public libraries. Why? Because I’m a public librarian. I’m going to talk about what I know about because there are way smarter people who write about other library types. I try to inject those issues into my social media streams by sharing their posts with my followers and posting blurbs on my blog. For that reason, a term like ‘libraryland’ seems more inclusive and more encompassing to me. Perhaps it is the product of my own thought processes attempting to sort different areas of interest, but it works for me when I’m figuring out at what level an issue or topic ascends to discussion.

I will admit that I won’t pass up this chance to mention a gripe I have concerning the Annoyed Librarian blog. It can be summed up into a sentence: fix your damn RSS feed so that it shows more than a blurb in Google Reader. It’s not the only blog that does that out there, but I don’t have the same issue with other Library Journal blogs (like Roy Tennant’s). Unless the headline is something good, I’ll tend to skip over them. For the Annoyed Librarian blog, I always end up clicking that damn link since it is the library blog equivalent of disaster porn. I can’t help myself but look to find out what written train wreck awaits me when it scrolls up in my Google Reader. I wouldn’t consider this column’s content to rise to the level of car wreck (perhaps minor fender bender) but I know I can’t possibly be the only one who clicks on that link for that reason.

#hcod over at Publishers Weekly

If you haven’t read it yet, take a moment to read Kate Sheehan’s essay over on Publishers Weekly’s website regarding the HarperCollins boycott.

Salient quote:

The boycott of HarperCollins is not a knee-jerk reaction to feeling slighted. It is a demand to have our voices heard and to protect our already-squeezed budgets until a solution that benefits readers, libraries, and publishers can be found. I’m glad a publisher is willing to experiment with a new model for e-book circulation in libraries, though my hope is that HarperCollins will blaze a trail for collaboration with libraries, not undermine the doctrine that enables us to serve our communities. Publishers, it is not your responsibility to keep libraries afloat. But should it be your mission to close them down?

And it is here where a for-profit business conflicts with the cultural institution. If it was simply a money question, then the grumbling would be minor in comparison. But when there are core library values at risk such as literature access, the cultural record, or the overall integrity of the collection, that is where there is going to be a problem.

I’m with Kate and others that, while we appreciate publishers wanting to try something new in terms of pricing models, this isn’t going to cut it for some very core mission based reasons. It’s just not going to work with libraries as they step into an age of digital collections. Perhaps this new digital age does mean that book will never be out of print, but it shouldn’t mean that they are not worthy of collection in a publically accessible space. The collection still matters, even if it is stored on a server.

Sorry, HarperCollins, but the future of your pricing models is in another castle.

SunSpec: Nearly Non-Existent

The helmet in the picture above belonged to my great-grandfather, Bayard Randolph Kraft Sr. From the design, you can guess that it was the helmet he wore while serving in the Army during World War I. He served as a medic, on the front in France to aid and evacuate the wounded and dying. Given the descriptions of trench warfare that have been written, I can’t even imagine what that was like.

In picking the helmet up, the first impression I get is how rough the metal feels under your fingertips; it has a gritty feel to it akin to very coarse sandpaper. The padding within has hardened over time and the chin strap buckles are pretty worn and frozen into place. The helmet doesn’t feel heavy, but it has a certain weight to it, one that makes you think that you’d be protected if something happened. But given the relatively thin metal involved, it’s a fleeting bit of confidence.

But this helmet is more than a war souvenir from a relative. It’s the story that goes with it that makes it an important sentimental piece.

As the story goes, my great-grandfather was moving through the trenches to get to where there had been a German assault. When he came to an intersection in the trenches, he paused for a moment to figure out which way to go. He did not realize it at the time but a German sniper saw his head poking out above the trench walls at the intersection. He took aim on my great-grandfather during his momentary pause.

As the sniper fired, my great-grandfather heard a noise to his right and turned his head to look at it. The bullet entered the helm by his ear, grazed his left temple, and exited through the front of the helmet, knocking him over in the process. What you see of the helmet above is the damage the bullet caused on its way out. The edges are still sharp, even after nearly a hundred years.

When I think about the generations that proceeded me, there are certainly an innumerable amount of close calls that must have been experienced stretching backwards through time. It’s a little different when you have the evidence of a close call in your hand, especially when it is just slightly remotely removed in connection to a great-grandparent. I can remember my grandfather wearing the helmet and telling the story dozens of times for family and friends. I can actually retell it by heart, that’s how much it impressed me as a kid and later as an adult.

For me, it’s a bit strange to look at this helmet and see the moment of time it represents. It’s a moment where the other outcome means that I wouldn’t exist. It’s one thing to have come and gone, it’s another to be a ‘never was’. And since the universe has a habit of not noticing such transactions, it is truly an isolating thought. It has an Alice in Wonderland quality to it as an “impossible thought”; how can one imagine something like that?

I’ve added a few pictures to show you the helmet and how it looks on someone (it’s not one of those ‘smile and take a picture’ sort of moments).

I’m curious if there are others out there with similar family tales. I’d love to hear them or if people have other thoughts on non-existence.

Weekend #hcod & #ebookrights

This article from the Wall Street Journal:

Some publishers, which are monitoring the sites closely, say they fear that making books available for loan may deter people from buying physical and digital books.

Despite an American Library Association study to the contrary, publishers believe that lending books represents a lost sale. But when you have quotes like these:

ebook sales in general are rapidly gaining on print sales. Forrester Research reports that ebook sales in the United States hit $966 million in 2010, up from $301 million the year before.

In Canada, HarperCollins says it’s seen a 500 per cent increase in ebook sales since 2009, while Random House Canada has seen a 400-percent jump. (The Province)

It’s not hard to see why they make statements like this:

We have serious concerns that our previous e-book policy, selling e-books to libraries in perpetuity, if left unchanged, would undermine the emerging e-book eco-system, hurt the growing e-book channel, place additional pressure on physical bookstores, and in the end lead to a decrease in book sales and royalties paid to authors.

Right. I have yet to see a study or statistic which proves their last point that lending (library or otherwise) leads to less buying. My understanding is that reading leads to more reading, especially when there is a favorite author involved. As evidence I offer my anecdotal experience in lending out Game of Thrones to people and seeing a number of them buy it for themselves or the sequels.

Eric Hellman has a theory about why HarperCollins put limitations on their eBook sales:

[..] HarperCollins has played a neat trick. By focusing our attention on the books that are lent many times, supposedly shortchanging the publisher and the author, HarperCollins has gotten us to overlook the 80% of books that don’t circulate much at all. Libraries pay full price for those, too, and it’s pretty clear that publishers make infinitely more money on books that don’t circulate in libraries than on books that don’t sell in bookstores!

On balance, the economic effect of libraries, in addition to those I’ve discussed before, is to shift money from very popular books to those that are less popular. It can be argued that libraries support a breadth of culture that would go away without their support. Guess who publishes those very popular books? The Big 6 publishers, of course. They pay the big advances to authors, the big coop advertising fees to bookstores, they get their authors on talk shows and their books reviewed in the Times. That takes a lot of money, but the expenditure is richly rewarded by a "vital few" or "smash hit" economy.

So here’s the cunning. By focusing on popularity-driven revenue mechanisms, HarperCollins is pushing money towards the smash hits and away from the long tail. Libraries may be adversely affected, but they’re collateral damage. It’s the long tail publishers that HarperCollins is trying to destroy.

Read his whole post. While the math makes my eyes cross (it’s not him, it’s me), I can understand the point that he is getting at. That when you have a limited budget and must consider re-buys of a popular license, you’re going to divert it away from the eBooks that do not circulate as well. That Janet Evanovich eBook will have a high enough demand to warrant a re-buy (at a lower price point: “If a library decides to repurchase an e-book later in the book’s life, the price will be significantly lower as it will be pegged to a paperback price point.”) while the midlist authors that don’t get the same demand may get squeezed out by collection development money headed towards Janet.

That makes sense to me. Personally I hope it’s not the real reason although my cynical side was doing a jig while I read it. We’ll just see how it plays out.

Ebook Reader’s Bill of Rights Interview with The Pod Delusion

This past Sunday, Sarah Houghton-Jan and I did an interview with Salim Fadhley of The Pod Delusion about the eBook Reader’s Bill of Rights. You can listen or download our interview from the link above. (It should be noted that Salim has licensed the interview under Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike which is frikkin’ sweet!) We had a great chat with him about the eBook Reader’s Bill of Rights and I was very pleased in how it came out.

Before the interview, we chatted a bit about the continuing plight of libraries in England. They are still on track to close approximately 1 in 3 public libraries over there as they wrestle with government cuts.  So, just when you thought it was tough here in the States, you’re not alone in the budget struggles.

So, enjoy listening to Sarah, Salim (who has a great podcast voice) and I!

Open Thread Thursday: Boycott, #hcod, etc.


[Note: the actual website still says "YES”. Click the picture to see for yourself!]

It’s an open thread. The starter topic is the HarperCollins boycott. The encouragement is to call it like you see it. Will it work? Will it fail? What do you think will happen?

Or talk about something else. And now, your comments, please.

The Other Shoe of #hcod

Lest anyone forget that there was more than one outrageous aspect in the Overdrive dispatch to libraries over eBooks, Karen Schneider reminded me that there was another bombshell that went with the limited eBook checkouts. I’ll quote the blurb on Bobbi Newman’s post and keep the emphasis that she added:

In addition, our publishing partners have expressed concerns regarding the card issuance policies and qualification of patrons who have access to OverDrive supplied digital content. Addressing these concerns will require OverDrive and our library partners to cooperate to honor geographic and territorial rights for digital book lending, as well as to review and audit policies regarding an eBook borrower’s relationship to the library (i.e. customer lives, works, attends school in service area, etc.). I can assure you OverDrive is not interested in managing or having any say in your library policies and issues. Select publisher terms and conditions require us to work toward their comfort that the library eBook lending is in compliance with publisher requirements on these topics.

My gut answer is “Um, how about no?”

In the same paragraph in which Overdrive assures that they are not interested in being involved in library policies, they accede to the publisher’s concerns by making it is a requirement to cooperate with those terms. I can only presume this was in done in the absence of consultation with their library “partners”. I’m not super familiar with partnerships in which one party simply tells the other what the deal is going to be without recourse; perhaps I cling onto an antiquated definition of partnership which includes bilateral communication. But if there had been some form of consultation as to the viability of these publisher fears, I would imagine their shock when they found out that what publishers want already exists.

First, libraries can pretty damn good at identifying who gets borrowing privileges. Whether it is a school, town, county, college, or hospital, one of the things that is well established in policy is who gets a card and who doesn’t. Generally this is shaped around who pays taxes or membership fees, who has active employment or enrollment at the school, or who simply works there, but I will concede there are a few exceptions. However, since library privileges are built around the concept of “who is in and who is out”, the publisher’s concerns have already been addressed. It’s a policy that is enforced everyday in libraries across the United States. Case closed.

Second, libraries already enforce patron qualifications as to who can remotely access materials through the library website. Long before eBooks appeared on the scene, databases were the outreach resource that could be accessed from outside the library walls. As a subscription service, libraries were pretty keen to ensure that only qualified parties could use these materials (especially there were a limited number of logins permitted). In order to access this content, an individual needs a library card; the same would be true with eBooks. As the issuance of library cards was handled in the previous point, the publisher’s concern is moot.

It really makes me wonder if publishers who are expressing these concerns are out of touch with libraries. They could walk down to their own public library or their kid’s school library or call up a university library and ask the very basic question as to what it takes to get a library card. Library card issuance policies are as clear cut as they get in the library world.

As to Overdrive, a little more consideration might be in order. Seriously, before making the mistake of rolling over to some unwarranted hand wringing, a little research might be in order. The answers might surprise you or already be in place.


So, here are my remaining questions as it pertains to this other shoe that Overdrive dropped:

(1) Who are these publishers that have concerns? Names would be good.

(2) What are these concerns in detail? What are these nebulous terms and conditions? Some details would be illuminating.

How The eBook Reader’s Bill of Rights Benefits Authors

About a week ago, Sarah and I posted the eBook Reader’s Bill of Rights. We’ve watched it bounce all over the blogosphere much to our mutual delight. But there has been a recurring question in some of the discussions as to what this document would mean to authors. I will try now to explain how authors would benefit under the terms outlined in the eBook Reader’s Bill of Rights. Here’s my breakdown:

the right to use eBooks under guidelines that favor access over proprietary limitations

As a librarian, I have a carefully honed monologue to inform people who come to the library why or why not their chosen ereader device will be able to download eBooks or audio eBooks. (At present, the Kindle one is the shortest at “Sorry, no can do”. The iPod is the longest since it starts out with a short shopping list of programs needed and permissions required.)  I am the de facto technical support for these devices and yet I am left holding the bag when it comes to explaining the convoluted jargon of Digital Rights Management, proprietary devices and software, and why’s and how’s of loading content into their devices. Now, imagine this interaction happening beyond the walls of the libraries as people look to purchase eBooks.

As an author, these limitations do you no favor when your readers cannot access your literature. When the effort eclipses the reward, people will forgo the attempt to get your work on their ereaders in favor of easier fare. I have seen people give up on trying to download library eBooks; I would hope that they would not give up on authors as easily.

the right to access eBooks on any technological platform, including the hardware and software the user chooses

Ebooks should transcend platforms. What you buy on the iBookstore or the Kindle should be readable on the Nook or Kobo and vice versa. Ebooks should be platform neutral and portable. As an author, in order to reach the widest audience possible, your books should be able to travel wherever your audience wants them to be. You’ve put in the hours and the hard work; why should something like software or technology get between your prose and the reader?

the right to annotate, quote passages, print, and share eBook content within the spirit of fair use and copyright

At present, there is an inconsistent ability to do any of these aspects across all of the devices and eBooks. While fair use and copyright should be respected, these limitations work against the reader and their interaction with the text of the eBook. They stifle potential discussion regarding book passages by the inability to copy and share with others. They frustrate the reader by disallowing annotations about significant passages and recording their thoughts or reactions. Finally, in preventing the printing of parts of the eBook, they keep the words in a virtual space when the intention of printing is to share with others for further discussion or commentary. Think of every work space you’ve ever seen where a line of poetry or novel passage has hung; that is one of the beneficial aspects that this is preventing. People find significance in those words and make them part of their daily life. The prevention of printing usurps that urge.

Again, while copyright and fair use should be observed, authors should be mindful of accommodating the habits and actions of their readers that have grown out of print editions of their materials over many years.

the right of the first-sale doctrine extended to digital content, allowing the eBook owner the right to retain, archive, share, and re-sell purchased eBooks

Now, I will admit this is the tricky one that has gotten people tripped up over this document. Retaining and archiving are common practices for people with software; it allows them to make a backup copy in case something happens to the original. There shouldn’t be a problem with that as it ensures the future of the eBooks that they have purchased.

As to sharing, I’ll put it this way: authors benefit from sharing. Neil Gaiman makes a note of it specifically in his Open Rights Group video where he asks audiences how many people found their favorite author through a friend lending them a book as opposed to buying it at a bookstore (I’ve linked to the specific part of the video). The American Library Association has a 2007 study which shows that people who borrow books are likely to buy those books for themselves or purchase them as gifts for others. Libraries are an integral aspect of word of mouth marketing for authors.

“Word of mouth is still the best form of advertising. The forces unleashed by new media technologies seem to have never changed the truth behind this age-old wisdom dating back to the times when human culture was largely oral.” (ComCorp) With the new communication and social media possibilities, people are not simply telling their immediate friends and family about books; they are telling everyone about books. People are sharing the books that they love through sites like Facebook, LibraryThing, Goodreads, Shelfari, and their own blogging. The Twitter hashtag #fridayreads (up for a Mashable award for Best Internet Meme) shows how people can make recommendations for books to their followers and to the people who follow the hashtag. That recommendation carries weight with others as depicted by this survey from eMarketer and presented as this graphic:

The 2009 Nielsen Global Online Consumer survey shows that 90% of consumers trust recommendations from people they know and 70% trust fellow consumer opinions posted online (think #fridayreads, sites like Goodreads, and Amazon/B&N user book reviews). This 2010 Guardian/ICM survey gives similar supporting results of this trust in others (especially question 4).

Sharing eBooks would be word of mouth on steroids for authors since it means  making a recommendation and the ability to put the book almost instantly in the (virtual) hands of another. Sharing is not a lost sale, but a new marketing foray into a previously unrealized potential fan.

As to the question of eBook re-selling, I will admit that I do not have a perfect answer on this point. If there was a limited DRM system that would enable people to do so (ensuring that the old copy is destroyed while transferring a copy to the new owner), I think it would be a fair trade-off to confer ownership and greater content rights.

My primary concern is less about re-selling and more in regard to people being given control over their own reading content. While I’m hesitant to engage in what may be construed as hyperbole, I appeal to you to consider the emotional connections to your own personal libraries and the importance of every book that you have selected to be a part of it. I would implore authors to consider how they would consider outside removals or modifications on your own book collections. Ownership matters, quite frankly, and it is an expression of intellectual pride.

As it concerns the passage of text that followed the rights in the initial document, I personally believe in every word written there. I believe authors can flourish when their work is available on the widest range of media and when readers are given the maximum amount of freedom to access and share with others. I believe in creating the best possible market for authors to live by and thrive. I also believe eBooks are an important new part of the greater cultural cornerstone of society; and I believe that a document like the eBook Reader’s Bill of Rights works towards that goal.

For myself, there are farther reaching issues at stake here since the written word lives on long after our bodies have turned to dust. As a librarian, I strive to preserve the work of authors for future generations. It is a matter of great import and one I do not take lightly. It only gets more complicated when eBooks are locked behind formats and proprietary ereaders. It is my hope that the actions we take today will cultivate a vibrant literature market while increasing access to readers and allowing libraries to maintain their traditional societal role in maintaining the literary and cultural record.

I thank the authors who came here to read this post. I hope I made the meaning of the eBook Reader’s Bill of Rights and the benefits authors would derive from it a bit clearer and show that it was constructed around the best of intentions. I welcome any author feedback on this post so that I can further refine the eBook Reader’s Bill of Rights.