Justin wrote a great blog post today musing on the future of Teen Services in libraries. He sees a model of good Teen Librarianship being teams of awesome people collaborating together. It can’t be a one-man show. How can libraries do this? He writes:
Investing: To me, that’s key. Surround yourself with the people you want to work with
Yes! This reminds me of something that Austin Kleon writes in the introduction to his book Steal Like An Artist (h/t Brainpickings). It is a concept that I have been thinking about over the course of last year – especially as I move around in my profession and have the chance to meet new and cool people. The concept is this:
There’s an economic theory out there that if you take the incomes of your five closest friends and average them, the resulting number will be pretty close to your own income.
I think the same thing is true of idea incomes. You’re only going to be as good as the stuff you surround yourself with.
Remember, this is true both online and off.
Read a lot of stories and think about what the stories you encounter mean for your own life and the lives of those you love. In that way, you will not be alone with an empty self; you will have a newly rich life with yourself, and enhanced possibilities of real communication with others. – Martha Nausbaum
2012 was a big year in reading for me. I read a 63 works of fiction, 26 works of non-fiction, and 20 graphic novels.
My New Favorite Author:
This was the year that I discovered the works of Michael Ondaatje, an author that blew my heart out with every sentence. His haunting and dream-like novel Divisadero is my favorite work of fiction read in 2012. I first read it in March and then again in August after I’d cycled through all of his other novels at least once (or in the case of Anil’s Ghost, twice). I also read a lot of his poetry, though not in book form. My favorite poem by him is The Cinnamon Peeler. It makes me long to visit Sri Lanka.
I also read more contemporary books this year than in years past. There was a lot of good stuff that came out in 2012 and I didn’t get to nearly as much of it as I would have liked. Of particular note were a few debut books from authors like Christopher Beha, G. Willow Wilson, Robin Sloan, Katherine Boo, Lawrence Osbourne, and Kevin Powers. There were also some strong books by established authors like Andrew Miller, Per Petterson, Jami Attenberg, Scott Lasser, Paolo Bacigalupi, and Graham Joyce.
My Top Ten Books published in 2012:
- What Happened to Sophie Wilder by Christopher Beha
- Can Animals Be Moral? by Mark Rowlands
- Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore by Robin Sloan
- Pure by Andrew Miller
- The Yellow Birds by Kevin Powers
- It’s Fine By Me by Per Petterson
- Alif the Unseen by G. Willow Wilson
- Wild by Cheryl Strayed
- 2312 by Kim Stanley Robinson
- Behind the Beautiful Forevers by Katherine Boo
Honorable Mention: The Forgiven by Lawrence Osbourne, Every Love Story is a Ghost Story by D.T. Max, Eat and Run by Scott Jurek
Full list of stats:
All titles can be found HERE.
Total Fiction: 63
Total Non-Fiction: 26
Total Graphic Novels: 20
# of above read as eBooks: 15
Average per month: 9.1
Average per week: 2.1
Best month: November (13 titles)
Worst month: January (5 titles)
Favorite Fiction Book Read: Divisidero by Michael Ondaatje
Favorite Fiction Book published in 2012: What Happened to Sophie Wilder by Christopher Beha
Favorite Non-Fiction Book Read: *The Conversations: Walter Murch and the Art of Editing Film* Michael Ondaatje
Favorite Non-Fiction Book published in 2012: Can Animals Be Moral? by Mark Rowlands
Favorite Graphic Novel Read: Habibi by Craig Thompson
Favorite Graphic Novel published in 2012: any of The Unwritten titles by Mike Carey that came out this year
Need a concrete example of how publishers are “inserting friction” in order to make it difficult for libraries to share eBooks? Just look at the price difference.
Full version of above picture from American Libraries Magazine (pdf)
Ursula K. Le Guin says this of “frictioned” eBooks in libraries:
If the part libraries play in distributing ebooks gets “frictioned” into insignificance, it will be easier for the corporations to take further control of what ebooks you personally can obtain, how long a book will stay on your reader before you have to pay for it again, and whatever else they want to control. If they see profit in doing any of this, they’ll do it. If small publishers try to sell the books they don’t sell, the big corporations will eliminate the small publishers.
We’d be wise to keep our information base as broad as possible, by supporting the existing public libraries in their heroic and amazingly successful effort to carry on their job in the electronic age.
The goal of the public library has been to give anyone who needs or wants it permanent, unlimited, free access to books. All books.
The goal of the public library in the electronic age is what it always was: to give permanent, unlimited, free access to books — print books, ebooks, all books — to everyone.
Cory Doctorow’s recent talk at the EBLIDA-NAPLE 20th annual conference in Copenhagen is worth spending 14 minutes on. He addresses the issues that librarians should be thinking about in regards to the future of e-books in our libraries. The first 13 minutes lead up nicely to his final plea to librarians (emphasis mine).
It is a feature and not a bug of ebooks that two people can read them at the same time…We are the people of the book and it’s time to start acting like it.
In conclusion, I have a simple but radical proposal for you. Stop buying ebooks with DRM on it. Period. I know it’s not easy, librarianship is not easy, librarianship has never been easy – ask the people at Alexandria. You are, after all, the specialists who safeguard information in the information age. Access to information has always been a radical political act. But you wouldn’t accept a publishers demand that its representatives be allowed to put hidden cameras in your collection to discover who was reading which books. You wouldn’t accept a publishers demand for access to your circulation records. You wouldn’t accept a journal publisher who said that your physical copies had to be confiscated and burned if you terminated your subscriptions. The digital equivalents are no more acceptable than the physical ones.
Last Sunday’s Ethicist column in the NYT’s featured a question about eBooks and the lending loopholes for Kindle users.
Through my public library, I can check out a book on my Kindle for 21 days. Then the system sends a signal to erase the book and make it available for someone else. But there’s a loophole: if my Kindle is offline, the book isn’t deleted and is still available for another reader. So if I need another day, I leave the Kindle offline and continue until I’m done. When I go back online, the book is deleted. I say that’s fine. But my co-worker says that I promised to return it after 21 days — just like a physical book — and I must honor that promise.
The Ethicist uses an excellent example to approach an answer to this question. To paraphrase: Suppose your physical library book is due on Sunday, but you do not return it until before the library opens on Monday as you know that it the book is not counted until then. Is your reading of the book on Sunday afternoon wrong? It seems rather clear that most people would say this is acceptable; your holding it through Sunday evening in no way impacts your agreement with the library (to return it in a certain amount of time) or hinders another person from checking it out.
However, I think that this question and how one answers it gets to another point about eBooks in libraries: the seemingly arbitrary idea of lending limits on something that is not subject to the same scarcity problem that a physical copy is. Leaving out the real world matters (libraries pay the publisher for rights to a certain number of eBooks, &tc, &tc…), limiting access to digital content feels strange and antithetical to the times we live in today. It feels like the dying swings of an institution trying to keep content “institutional” when everything in the world is pushing in the opposite direction – towards openness.
This is why I would expect that the co-worker, the one who wanted the woman posing the question to turn her Kindle on and allow her book to be deleted after 21 days, is probably in a small minority with her opinion. This worries me for another reason. On a certain level, agreeing with the woman’s use of the loophole says everything libraries need to know about patron’s view of lending limits on eBooks: it is an artificial limitation not worth full compliance.
This is a small but important point. Perceptions of libraries and librarians are changing. Information is no longer limited to the physical. It’s no longer hidden behind walls or cloistered in a room somewhere. What happens when patrons embrace this faster than libraries?
** I realize that there are important and difficult questions libraries need to deal with in regards to digital content and I do not mean to make a simple or reductive point. But, in the end, the point is both rather simple and reductive (maybe libraries need to get better at phrasing the issue?) for many people: making it difficult to access or imposing seemingly arbitrary limitations on content is not acceptable. Patrons, especially of the younger generation, will not even put up a fight about this. They will simply find what they need elsewhere, legal or not.
Last night I put up a short post at Tame the Web. Reproduced below:
Clive Thompson recently gave an excellent interview on the findings tumblr as part of their “How We Will Read” series. In the interview, Thompson discusses his ideas on eBooks, social reading and the future of print. But I think that his thoughts about print on demand books are the most interesting.
What you see with print on demand in the last couple of years is that there’s been explosion in the number of things printed, but they’re printed in small quantities: three, four, five copies total. They tend to be things like very specialty books; weird memoirs only three or four people want to read; mementos: people put together photographs of their vacation with a little writeup. You get books that get updated in curious new ways. The University of Calgary hosted the former prime minister of Canada, Kim Campbell, and offered to sell copies of her book at her event. But her book was out of print. So she got the digital file, wrote two new chapters, a new introduction, and they printed 50 copies of it for the event.
Justin Hoenke‘s recent webinar has me thinking about the idea of libraries as “content creators.” This is probably why I get so excited to read Thompson’s thoughts and then connect them with the video from the Sacramento Public Library that I’ve embedded below. The possibilities with a print on demand machine in a library are many, and the programming and communities that could spring up around it would be fun, creative, and informative – for all ages.
Number of books read in 2011: 62 (full list of titles found HERE).
Average per month: 5.17
Average per week: 1.19
Worst month: July (2)
Best month: September (9)
Favorite fiction book: *The Pale King* by David Foster Wallace
2nd favorite fiction book: *Freedom* by Jonathan Franzen
Favorite nonfiction book: *The Ecstasy of Influence: nonfictions, etc* Jonathan Lethem
2nd favorite nonfiction book: *A Field Guide to Getting Lost* Rebecca Solnit
Favorite new authors discovered: Jonathan Lethem, Patrick Rothfuss, Paul Auster, Dan Simmons
Favorite book gifted to me by a friend: *The House on Mango Street* Sandra Cisneros
This is the post-artifact system. A system of unlocking. A system concerned with engagement. Sharing. Marginalia. Ownership. Community. And, of course, reading. - Craig Mod
This morning Craig Mod published another beautiful and thought-provoking essay called Post-Artifact Books and Publishing: Digital’s effect on how we produce, distribute and consume content. Like his other writings, this essay examines the future of the book vis-a-vis traditional and new publishing models. The essay addresses ideas about social reading, where and how books will live and the best format for digital books. All said, it is a sprawling but inclusive essay that, I think, all librarians need to read. Now.
In the opening Mod quotes Matthew Battles Library: An Unquiet History. After that little is expressly mentioned about libraries, forgivable since Mod, primarily a writer, publisher and designer, is not a librarian nor writing about what role they should play in shaping the future of books. However, the essay contains concepts that libraries are going to struggle with in the near future (if they are not already struggling with them now).
A few questions:
Libraries have always been somewhat social but what happens when the social is moved to the digital realm? How can libraries be a part of this. More importantly, how can libraries shape and connect this?
Mod points to several examples of how books are being created and published by alternative publishing formats largely through reader interaction. How can libraries be sure that these important books that are either POD or produced by smaller publishers are made available?
What are libraries doing to help shape the new systems in which books and ideas will be distributed? Working for rather than reacting to (or against)?
How can libraries promote the de-emphasis of authority surrounding access to information and materials?
I finished reading the fantastic science fiction novel Hyperion last night. Dan Simmons weaves several wonderfully complex and touching narratives within the narrative. It takes all 482 pages to really start to understand the world and the characters that Simmons has carefully crafted.
For anyone who has read or plans to read Simmons inventive and exciting work, this short animation will help immensely with the concept of time dilation, which Simmons uses to great effect in the novel.