Annoyed Librarian
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Pay As You Go

Before I toddled off to San Francisco I read an article about Amazon that I’ve been wanting to write about. It’s a long piece in the Atlantic about a change in Amazon’s payment policy for their self-published authors who make their writings available in Kindle Direct. In the old policy, authors were paid a set amount if their books were “borrowed” by readers. For example, the article author says that “in February, one ‘borrow’ of one of [his] books was worth $1.38.” That’s going to change, though. From now on, Amazon is going to pay authors according to how many pages of the book were read, not whether the book itself was borrowed. Another article gets more specific: “Under the new payment method, you’ll be paid for each page individual customers read of your book, the first time they read it.” Supposedly, Amazon is “making this switch in response to great feedback we received from authors who asked us to better align payout with the length of books and how much customers ...
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In San Francisco, Not Debating Our Future Relevance

I’m here at ALA in San Francisco. I haven’t been here in a long time, so I’d forgotten how generally dirty it is. And there's all the mentally ill people. I saw three people standing alone yelling at themselves, and that was before I got through my hotel lobby. Based on the size of it, I assumed we were all here to watch the Pride Parade yesterday, but instead it seems we are all here to discuss that most elusive of topics, the future. At least that’s according to the local news site, which insists that 25,000 librarians are here to “debate the future of their business.” 25,000 seems like a high number, but maybe. I haven’t seen any figures. And the sessions which these librarians will attend will all  “focus on how libraries can remain relevant in the digital age.” The only debating of the future I’ve seen is wondering whether to skip Orlando for next Annual to protest whatever group of clowns chose Orlando again after the fiasco last time. Well, that and the location ...
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Sustaining the “Unsustainable”

From the Great White North comes this lament about the high prices that publishers charge libraries for ebooks. I wanted to be sympathetic. I really did. The prices are certainly high. The Kindle edition of Lena Dunham's bestselling memoir Not that Kind of Girl retails for $14.99 at Amazon.ca. But the book's publisher, Random House, charges Canadian libraries $85 per copy of the e-book — five times more, according to the Canadian Library Association. I’m not sure a library should pay even $14.99 for that book, but $85 is definitely outrageous. Oh, and keep in mind the next sentence: “Despite the premium, only one borrower can access each copy of the book at a time.” The librarians put forth a plaintive case. According to one of them: We're very concerned about what this means for mandate of the public library in providing universal access to a diverse collection in a range of formats … we need to be able to provide customers with access to e-content in the same way that we've ...
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Lots of Stuff We Don’t Know

Glancing through the library news this week has been depressing, since much of it mentions the terrible murder of librarian Cynthia G. Hurd in the Charleston shootings. I considered writing about it, but could think of little more than what an awful world this can be, and with such hateful people in it. So I tried to find a lighter topic. Someone sent me this long article about the oppression of library workers under a neoliberal regime or something like that. I expected it to be one long whine of the sort I’ve seen from some librarians, but it’s a decent analysis and doesn’t promise a bright future for librarians. Still too depressing. Then I ran across rants by a couple of librarians on What Librarians Wish You Knew About How To Use The Library. The public librarian wants people to know that he or she doesn’t read or shelve books all day and doesn’t “need your dad’s mint-condition collection of National Geographic from 1964-2005.” By an academic librarian the people are told ...
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As Well As Can Be Expected

According to this article, libraries “are terrible at keeping track of art.” Yeah, well, maybe. The motivation for writing is the recent story of the Boston Public Library misplacing a couple of expensive paintings, which were both found after the desperate act of people actually looking for them. The author did her research, too. Not only do we find out about the Boston Public Library’s mistake, but we also find out that art and other objects have been discovered missing from libraries in Paterson, NJ, Long Beach, CA, the New York Public Library, the San Francisco Civic Art Collection, the Library of Congress, and some library in Indiana. That sure sounds like a lot. The various problems are listed as well. Librarians aren’t usually trained to catalog art or store art, supposedly. I don’t know if that’s true, but I know I wasn’t. And of course the biggest problem is mentioned: the sheer vastness of some library collections. According to Wikipedia, the “Boston Public ...
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Saving Us From Ourselves

Lots of people believe that they have a book in them, if only they had the time to sit down and write one. And they believe it would likely be better than the trash they’re currently reading, because nothing helps a budding writer more than reading trash. I’ve even encountered some of these people. I was once asked to read a manuscript by someone who said, “I could write better than this writer!” He couldn’t. Then there are the people who believe they have a book in them and try to write that book. Writing is hard, though, what with sitting down with a blank page and having to fill it with stuff. So they want someone to help them learn to write. If they’re short of time and long on cash, they might decide to enroll in a long-distance MFA program, maybe similar to this one from the U. of All People. Here’s the rationale of such programs: Rationale: The purpose of a low-residency M.F.A. program in creative writing is to empower those individuals who are tired of their boring ...
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