Annoyed Librarian
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All You Can Read Unless You Read a Lot

I’m not usually prone to schadenfreude, and I wouldn’t want to see any business in the service of reading fail, but I have to admit I found this story amusing. It’s about how Scribd’s “Netflix for books” service is “planning to pull thousands of romance titles because their popularity was costing the company too much money.” Scribd pays publishers after a certain amount of a book is read. Since romance novels are the book equivalent of cotton candy, their diehard readers consume a lot of them, so much so that the company has been losing money. Thus, the irony that a service that is supposedly “all you can read” can only survive if people don’t read very much or they charge a high enough price that nobody would want the service anyway. Some have seen services like this as a challenge to libraries, from unbelievably obtuse people doing their best to ruin Forbes’ good name to librarians who think Amazon’s Kindle Unlimited will provide a “disruptive challenge to ...
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How to Protect Little Free Libraries

It’s not easy running a library. Sure, people on the outside think it’s easy. They think librarians sit around all day reading novels and drinking tea. But they don’t realize that librarians have all sorts of problems to deal with, including theft. Sometimes the theft is high profile, like some missing rare book worth thousands of dollars. Sometimes it’s low profile, like that copy of The Anarchist Handbook that keeps going missing. Some people think it’s so easy running a library, they start one right in their front yard and call it a “little free library.” Then they get upset when people start taking the “free” part seriously. That link is to a story from Milwaukee by a woman asking “is it stealing if you empty a Little Free Library?” If you want to see what some nefarious little free library thieves look like, click through and check out the picture. Her “Little Free Library has been completely cleaned out three times” in just a month, so restocking it is, like ...
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“Suppressed” Books

Despite the hyperbolic rhetoric of the ALA when Bland Books Week comes around, you really have to go out of your way to find a book that’s not easily available in the U.S., and it’s almost impossible to find one that has actually been censored rather than removed from a handful of libraries. But still, people persist. Whoever wrote the Wikipedia article on “book censorship in the United States” has clearly drunk the ALA kool-aid. There are plenty of examples in that article of books that are and have always been available for sale and in libraries all over the U.S. Pretty frightening stuff. I thought I was about to be proven wrong when I ran across this headline: US Still Bans, Suppresses Books Despite The First Amendment. I’m willing to be proved wrong, though, so I read it. The latter part is more ALA propaganda about bland books, but the first part is about a professor of media studies who has built a collection of so-called “forbidden books,” which is now up to a whopping ...
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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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