Thursday, February 26, 2015

Children’s books are never just for children

Many adults – many well-known authors in fact – re-read books that in childhood had a big impact. So why is children’s literature not considered worthy of major awards?

Stuart McQuarrie as Mr Snow and Ethan Hammer as Emil in the National Theatre production of  Emil and the Detectives

Stuart McQuarrie as Mr Snow and Ethan Hammer as Emil in the National Theatre production of Emil and the Detectives Photograph: Tristram Kenton/Tristram Kenton

 Monday 16 February 2015

Who today remembers the plays of AA Milne or the political writing of Erich Kästner? Yet their children’s books are read the world over.

Salman Rushdie has suggested that of all his work – including Midnight’s Children, which won the Best of the Booker – his children’s books may last the longest. He recalled being urged to write them by publisher Kurt Maschler, who had published Kästner’s Emil and the Detectives.
“As Kurt Maschler said to me, ‘It’s the only one of his books that’s still in print!’ That was a lesson I didn’t forget. It may end up that Haroun and the Sea of Stories and Luka and the Fire of Life are the only books of mine that remain in print. And that would be fine, actually.”

Neil Gaiman tells the similar story of AA Milne, who is no longer remembered as a West End playwright or features editor of Punch, but only as “the author of two books of short stories and two books of verse for small children”.It’s striking how long children’s books can last. One explanation may be the way in which they’re read. They become part of our emotional autobiographies, acquiring associations and memories, more like music than prose.

Another explanation may lie in the fact that children’s books are designed with re-reading in mind. For all children’s writers are conscious that our books may be re-read by children themselves.
“Yes, kids read and re-read favourite books,” says Francesca Simon. “My favourite Horrid Henry books to sign are the ones which are so dog-eared and stained through re-reading they are practically translucent. When Simon Mayo interviewed me, he commented that he had read them to his kids over 200 times. He looked like a man undergoing penance …”
Enduringly odious … Horrid Henry: Tony Ross/Orion
Enduringly odious … Horrid Henry: Tony Ross/Orion
Photograph: illustration©Tony Ross/PR

A similar view is taken by Gaiman, who writes for all ages. “When I’m writing for kids,” he says, “I’m always assuming that a story, if it is loved, is going to be re-read. So I try and be much more conscious of it than I am with adults, just in terms of word choices. I once said that while I could not justify every word in American Gods, I can justify every single word in Coraline.”
Many parents will know this already. They sometimes even fear there’s something wrong with a child who re-reads favourite books rather than new ones.

“There’s nothing wrong with them,” says Charlotte Hacking, of the Centre for Literacy in Primary Education (CLPE). “Children need to read and re-read and keep coming back to books, looking at them in different ways. It’s actually a really good thing; it allows you to go deeper.”
So re-reading is a given for children’s authors. It’s one reason why we try to write books that have many layers and work on different levels, rewarding re-reading by growing richer each time.
But if this is true, then why are children’s books rarely considered for literary prizes such as the Man Booker and the Costa? This year’s Costa coverage barely considered the possibility that the children’s prize-winner, Kate Saunders’s Five Children on the Western Front, might win the overall prize.

Yet it’s an exceptional book that already feels like a classic. In a stunning twist on E Nesbit’s Five Children and It, Saunders takes those carefree Edwardian children and plunges them into the first world war. For they belonged to the generation who would die in the trenches, and she works this to devastating emotional effect.

“It’s an amazing book,” says Guardian children’s books editor Julia Eccleshare. “If that was an adult book working with Jane Austen, as it were, people would be wowing about it. The textual play on a classic, in the adult world, would receive far more praise than I think she has been noticed for – yet.”
Perhaps it’s unsurprising, given that only one winner of the Costa/Whitbread children’s book prize has ever won the overall book of the year. That was Philip Pullman’s The Amber Spyglass, back in 2001.

The Amber Spyglass
The Amber Spyglass
Illustration: PR

“It hasn’t happened since,” says Pullman. “But one day they’ll have to find a book they just have to give it to. Maybe one day a children’s book will get the Booker prize. Why not? Why not a children’s author winning the Nobel prize?”

Sarah Churchwell, one of last year’s Booker judges, has written about the judging process. She said that it “asks of books something they’re not really designed for: to be read three times in a row by people probing for weakness. Most books just crumble under that kind of pressure: only the most rich, the most layered, continue to dazzle and reveal ever more.”
She concluded that only two books on last year’s list met this criterion. Yet as a children’s writer, I couldn’t help thinking that this is exactly what all children’s books are designed to do. They may achieve it to a greater or lesser degree, but that’s always the aim.

Children’s laureate Malorie Blackman agrees. “Call me biased,” she says, “but I find the standard of storytelling in children’s books and books for young adults second to none. I find it telling that even now, there are far more children’s books and books for teens that I’d like to re-read than books for adults.”

These are the books that get handed down through generations, becoming classics, but perhaps their readability works against them. Reflecting on the children’s books he still re-reads, Pullman observes: “Part of the joy of all these books is a sort of perfect lightness and grace in the words. Everything is in its right place. Not a comma needs changing. Things like that make it possible to read them again and again without fatigue.”

That lightness and grace is a hallmark of the best children’s writing, along with the multi-layered richness Churchwell found so rare. Yet only The Amber Spyglass and Mark Haddon’s The Curious Incident of the Dog In the Night-Time have ever appeared on a Booker longlist. Not one single children’s book has made the shortlist, let alone won, in the history of the prize.

Luke Treadaway as Christopher in The Curious Incident Of The Dog In The Night-Time

Luke Treadaway as Christopher in The Curious Incident Of The Dog In The Night-Time
Photograph: Tristram Kenton/Tristram Kenton

Meanwhile, media coverage of children’s books is vanishingly small. Former Children’s laureate Julia Donaldson has pointed out that they get less than one in 40 of all review spaces. And yet children’s books now account for one in four of all books sold in the UK. This is the most vibrant sector of British publishing, outperforming adult fiction in 2014.
A generational shift may now be occurring. For many of my generation, growing up in the 1970s with books like Watership Down, story is story, regardless of age. That’s even truer of younger writers.

“I certainly don’t see children’s books as being in any way lesser than adult literature,” says Katherine Woodfine, born in the 1980s, whose debut The Mystery of the Clockwork Sparrow is published this year. “If anything, I’d argue the opposite. Children’s books can have a hugely powerful effect on their readers, helping to shape and inform their view of the world, in a way that adult books rarely achieve. They’re the first literature we engage with, and what’s more, they’re often the first art works we ever encounter.”

Woodfine’s response to the lack of coverage is to create new media space. Together with Melissa Cox of Waterstones, she hosts Down the Rabbit Hole on Resonance 104.4FM: the only dedicated children’s books radio show. It’s part of a vibrant online community, too. Twitter, the Guardian children’s books site, and other digital spaces are connecting writers, readers, bloggers, vloggers, booksellers, librarians and teachers as never before, while hashtag chats such as #ukyachat and #ukmgchat regularly trend.

“Since JK Rowling’s Harry Potter and Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials,” Jeanette Winterson has observed, “children’s literature has been repositioned as central, not peripheral, shifting what children read, what we write about what children read, and what we read as adults. At last we seem to understand that imagination is ageless.”

It’s true that such books brought children’s fiction to higher prominence in the early 2000s, but they are part of a literature that is continually regenerating itself. And as the generation who grew up on Rowling and Pullman begin to publish their own books, it will only go further.
Yet neither media coverage nor literary prizes have kept pace. Until they do, anyone looking for the richest contemporary literature might be advised to consult the lists for prizes such as the Guardian children’s fiction award and the Carnegie medal instead. Because that is where you will find book after book that stands up to re-reading: the true classics of the future.

From: The Guardian

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Phone fiction spells the end of the professional novelist

Wattpad’s user-generated commercial fiction more than matches traditional publishing and is delivered direct to the smartphone – who needs to pay writers?

Maggie Q Shailene Woodley

Ready to download … much fan fiction on WattPad is equal to big name novel franchises such as Divergent, which was adapted into film, pictured. Photograph: Jaap Buitendijk/AP

 Friday 13 February 2015

For a few years in the mid 2000s, I was the young librarian who got sent to schools to convince kids they really did want to read books. The truth of my experience was that the kids needed no convincing. There’s an odd belief in some parts of the book world that young people have to be made to read, or made to read “good” books. If you want a really telling piece of evidence to counter this strange notion, look no further than Wattpad.

With more than 35 million users and over 100,000 stories published each day, Wattpad is staggeringly active community of readers and writers, the vast majority of whom are young adults. When I was working for libraries to engage young people with books, the idea of a website where kids could post and read stories for and by their peer group came up again and again. Wattpad is that vision made real, with the support of nearly $70m (£46m) in venture capital funding.

Much as I like the idea of venture capitalists helping kids to express themselves creatively, it seems more likely that hard-nosed investors are actually betting on Wattpad to ultimately disrupt and take a bite out of the $90bn global publishing industry. The platform’s most popular serials, such as Edward Mullen’s Prodigy, can accrue well in excess of 2m “reads”. That’s a huge number in an industry where sales of as few as 5,000 copies can make a New York Times bestseller.
But can the best of Wattpad’s stories cut the mustard against the best of traditional publishing? Much of Wattpad’s popularity is based on fan fiction, but after a month sifting through the platform’s original fiction categories I suspect that – while I didn’t find the next Hilary Mantel or Donna Tartt – in popular genres like sci-fi, fantasy and young adult, Wattpad’s best contributors are more than good enough to match their professionally published counterparts.

MJ Gary’s Flawed is a stylish, high-concept young adult thriller about a future society where those who fall below the 80th percentile in psychological tests are condemned to the subhuman status of “flawed”. It’s easily the equal of current smash hit Divergent, and has gathered over 1.6m reads to date. Tom Reynolds’s Meta is a superhero novel, a hard genre to pull off successfully, but Reynolds succeeds in giving the two-dimensional heroes of comics a more three-dimensional existence in prose – racking up another 1.6m reads which have sent the full novel soaring at the Kindle store. Sally Slater’s Paladin weighs in at No 7 on the Wattpad fantasy chart, with a whopping 9.9m reads. Imagine Game of Thrones with less blood and more gender confusion and you get a taste of this knightly epic.

Brittany “The Book Slayer” Geragotelis is a Wattpad superstar. Her first serial on the platform, Life’s A Witch, gained more than 19m reads and lead to a six-figure, three-book deal with Simon & Schuster. Geragotelis is a master of high-concept young adult fiction. Fate Reloaded follows popular high-school student Jordana Kane through three alternate realities that branch from one fateful decision, and Painless is the story of Bliss, a teen secret agent who literally feels no pain, and the odd family that help and frustrate her. They exemplify the slick, highly commercial and genuinely compelling serials that are Wattpad at its best.
The key to the site’s success is the Wattpad app, which hardwires the stories into the smartphone – the artefact that best defines the millennial generation. If you sign up to a serial, chapters arrive with a bleeping alert on to a device that occupies more of our waking attention than the television ever did. Wattpad injects bursts of fiction into the hectic digital space otherwise dominated by status updates, tweets and cat memes. Is this good for the art of fiction? No. Does it work for genre and commercial fiction already commodified by publishers to compete against television and film? Yes, and very successfully so.
As the YouTube of fiction, Wattpad has a good chance of stealing publishers’ most lucrative product from under them. Not least because while publishers are still lumbered with the need to actually pay writers, Wattpad is capitalising on the simple fact that millions of people will write novels for nothing more than the love of writing them. While publishers are still working with a system of agents and editors designed to second-guess what readers will enjoy, Wattpad and similar platforms let the crowd do the hard work of sorting the rare hits from the mass of misses.

Writing and publishing have resisted the 15-minute model of fame for longer than many other media. But Wattpad is ushering in the kind of viral celebrity for professional writers commonly associated with YouTube vloggers and the makers of crazy cat videos. Garnering 20m reads on Wattpad might well bring in a traditional book deal, or a burst of ebook sales on Amazon or its successors. But the consistency of a publishing platform that professional writers have long relied upon may well already be a thing of the past. That, of course, is an inevitable consequence of a writing world no longer fenced off for the lucky few, but opened up for the masses. My inner librarian cheers at this change, even as my inner writer feels the fear.

From: The Guardian

Friday, February 20, 2015

Forbes: E-books Aren't Killing Print

By Natalie Robehmed
February 12, 2015
This article appears in the March 2, 2015 issue of Forbes.

When Amazon launched the Kindle in 2007, book purists bemoaned the imminent demise of print. Yet far from heralding a publishing apocalypse, e-books have been adopted only gradually despite their affordability. Although half of U.S. adults own a tablet or e-reader, e-books make up only an estimated 23% of the $35 billion industry–and Pew Research reports that just 4% of Americans are e-book only.

Sales show digital market share differs greatly by genre, though: While guilty readers of dog-eared Harlequin romances have flocked to the format– Nielsen notes 36% of units sold in that genre in 2014 were e-books–most nonfiction and school textbooks are still purchased in print, per PwC research. The tame-looking Kindle hides many a cheap thrill, too: Digital mysteries accounted for 32% of the genre’s units last year, while e-books made up more than a quarter of young-adult units sold, up from just 8% in 2012, according to Nielsen. Three of the top five Kindle bestsellers of 2014 were YA novels; Gillian Flynn’s Gone Girl and Donna Tartt’s The Goldfinch were the only grownups included. John Green’s teen weepie The Fault in Our Stars was the true standout, however–it was both the top print and e-book seller of 2014.

Source: Forbes

Thursday, February 19, 2015

New York Times: Really? You're Not in a Book Club?

Blogger's note: This article ran in March 2014, but is still relevant, and hasn't been previously posted here. 

By: James Atlas
March 22, 2014

“WHAT’S your book group reading?” I say to a friend encountered on the street. Not: “Are you in a book group?” I have no idea whether Clara is in a book group. We’ve never talked about it. All the same, I just know. Why? Because it’s a safe assumption to make these days.

By some estimates, five million Americans gather every few weeks in someone’s living room or in a bar or bookstore or local library to discuss the finer points of “Middlemarch” or “The Brothers Karamazov.” (A perfect number is hard to pin down because some people belong to two or three clubs, and of course, there’s no central registry of members.) Among them is Clara, whose book group even has a name: the Oracles. They’re reading “The Flamethrowers,” by Rachel Kushner.

I used to think that the popularity of this institution was a quirk of life in New York, like restaurants where you can get a reservation only by calling a month in advance or parties where every single person you meet is smarter than you are. But the book-club boom is nationwide. Should you live in the Miami area, you can hang with “Book Babes”; in San Francisco, drop in at “The Mind-Benders Book Club.”

And it’s not just a big-city thing: In the event that you find yourself in Waco, Tex., check out “A Good Book and a Glass of Wine,” which has 21 members (women only) and is always looking for new ones. All you have to do is go online.

You can find book clubs that appeal to gender- and sexual-preference constituencies (“The Queer Lady and Lesbian Book Club”); African-Americans (“Sassy Sistahs Book Club”); the young (“The Stamford 20s/30s Book Club”) and the old (every town seems to have a senior citizens club); proponents of porn (“The Smutty Book Club”); and fans of a single author (“The Roberto Bolaño Book Club”). All that’s missing, as far as I can tell, are book clubs officially organized by class: There seem to be no 1 percenter book clubs.

Since we live in a world where you don’t have to actually “be” anywhere, it’s not surprising that virtual clubs have lately appeared on the Internet. ZolaBooks bills itself as a “social eBook retailer” that connects readers; Goodreads gives members the opportunity to read a book together, install books they’ve read on their “shelves” or find “friends” with whom to share discoveries. (I just joined and have “no friends,” according to the site.)

Or you can navigate to lists like — useful this winter — “Best Books to Read When the Snow Is Falling.” These sites aren’t just for oddball bibliophiles: Goodreads claims to have 25 million members and was sold to Amazon last year for a number rumored at $150 million or above.

Some book groups merge the virtual and the “offline community,” as Nora Grenfell, the social marketing manager at the digital media news site Mashable, calls its estimated 34 million monthly unique visitors. The site’s Mashable book club started out as an informal, internal group that met at its offices in the Flatiron district, but after members began to write about it online, followers asked if they could participate. Thus was born MashableReads, a monthly gathering for a small number of invited members joined by a guest writer. So far writers like Ishmael Beah, Malcolm Gladwell and Chang-rae Lee have appeared. Mashable followers can participate in the discussion on Twitter.

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But the most prevalent way of conducting a book club is still in someone’s living room. The basic ritual is the same all over: A small group gets together every few weeks to discuss a pre-assigned title; to eat, whether that means noshing on cheese and crackers accompanied by a glass of wine or a four-course dinner; and to gossip in a dedicated way. It may be social, but it’s also serious; members devote long hours over many weeks to getting to the last page. For most of them, it’s all about the book.

Reading is a solitary act, an experience of interiority. To read a book is to burst the confines of one’s consciousness and enter another world. What happens when you read a book in the company of others? You enter its world together but see it in your own way; and it’s through sharing those differences of perception that the book group acquires its emotional power.

“There’s a way of interacting through books that you don’t get through any ordinary transaction in life,” suggests Robin Marantz Henig, a journalist who is in three book groups: a women’s group, a couples’ group and a coed and intergenerational group with her daughter, an editor at The New York Times. “It’s like sitting around gossiping about people, only you’re gossiping about characters in fiction, which is more meaningful.”

In book clubs, things can get intense. “We had the most incredible discussion of art, and beauty, and loving something bigger than ourselves,” says Tracy Trivas, whose Los Angeles group often finds itself grappling with “giant issues about the inner life.” When they read aloud a passage from Colum McCann’s novel “Transatlantic” — the scene where Lily, an Irish immigrant, reflects on a painting she’s received from her husband — “half the women had tears in their eyes.”

Ms. Trivas represents a new phenomenon: the professional book group facilitator. A writer with a master’s degree in English literature from Middlebury, she presides over three adult groups, for which she charges up to $300 per session. She also runs a group for children, who nestle under a tree with their parents and read books like “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.”

“They felt empowered sharing their opinion of the book,” she told me. “I asked them who they would rather have a play date with: Veruca Salt or Augustus Gloop. And if they could make up a different ending.”

We’re also beginning to see authors themselves taking on the role of facilitator. Established writers like Alexandra Styron command $400 to show up and talk about their own books — and that’s after the commission given to Book the Writer, an agency founded recently by the novelist Jean Hanff Korelitz. Authorial proximity has its drawbacks. “No one tells the truth when the author is present,” says a book grouper who has witnessed this phenomenon. “No one is going to insult the author when he’s two feet away from them.”

But there are good things about these home visits, too: They’re a new source of income for writers, and they offer insights into the book that come straight from the source. Book groups are like friendships: Some coalesce and die out in a few years, others last a lifetime. Susan Shapiro, an artist whose group has just celebrated its 40th anniversary, recalls that it started with “young moms in the park who wanted to have more to talk about than kids in the sandbox.”

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Members have come and gone — “no one has died” — but the format remains the same: “We take turns leading the discussion, and two members have to read a book before it can be adopted. Some do scholarly research, others are more informal. We have an easy flow of ideas.”

I heard about a group that had been around even longer. Founded in 1971 by a group of Ivy League graduates, it has been meeting once a month ever since. The passage of 43 years has had inevitable consequences. On the positive side, members of the group can claim to have read all the books and not be exaggerating; on the negative, encroaching senility; a death or two; an acrimonious divorce that had the couple fighting over who would get to stay in the group. One experiment that failed was calling in “professional help,” a group leader to set the course. “That didn’t work out at all,” said one male member. “The men didn’t like being told what to think.”

The reading experience — let’s admit it — is less pure in the mature atmosphere of Book Club World than it was in the intellectually heady days of college. Diversions from the matter at hand are inevitable. When you have 10 lively people in a room and a good meal on the table, it’s sometimes hard to remember why you’re there. “It’s all about the dinner,” says the novelist Sally Koslow, a member of a Manhattan group.

My own group is highly disciplined, and we talk about the work under discussion with admirable fervor, but we do like to eat. Our meetings remind me of a restaurant I pass on the Connecticut Turnpike that has a sign out front saying FOOD and BOOKS. The gossip-prone among us are kept in line by the presence of our kindly but firm moderator, Ilja Wachs, a professor of comparative literature at Sarah Lawrence whose enthusiasm for the classics is infectious. By the end of one meeting, I had gone from resisting “The Mill on the Floss,” which I associated with seventh grade, to admiring it as a grim study in thwarted passion. (Maybe if I hadn’t skimmed the last chapter on my iPhone while riding the crosstown bus to the meeting I would have figured this out for myself.)

Surely I’m not alone in my dereliction. I was chastened by a stern directive I came across from the head of “The Sweetness: Astoria Book Club”: “Please make sure to read the book! Even if you hate it and have to choke it down, we’d love to hear about why you hated it.”

This is a perfectly reasonable request, but not always easy to fulfill. One thing that’s rarely talked about is how time-consuming book groups are. (One group I heard about, discouraged by the time commitment of big novels, has taken to reading poetry.) Mine has a penchant for plump Victorian novels like “Nicholas Nickleby” that were serialized. Everyone in 19th-century London read these novels. “Great Expectations” was their “House of Cards.”

It’s harder now, given the pace of modern life, but we hunger for it more. In the end, book groups are about community. The success of the One City, One Book initiatives in Chicago, Seattle and smaller towns across the country, where everyone is encouraged to read the same book, reflects the longing to share. So does Oprah; her book club binds together a nation disparate in its customs, classes, religions and ethnicities by putting it in front of the TV and telling it what to read.

We spend our days at airports or commuting to work; our children come and go; our friends climb up and down the social ladder; we change jobs and move house. No one knows their neighbor.

But a lot of us are reading “The Goldfinch.”

Source: The New York Times

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Northampton (UK) Chronicle: New cancer service in Northamptonshire libraries will help teens be themselves

Teens and other young people in Northamptonshire from today have an informal service based at libraries to help them deal with cancer.

The C Word, run by Macmillan Cancer Support, will offer activities from 36 libraries and aims to let 13 to 24-year-olds with a friend, parent, brother or sister with the disease -or who have it themself - to be themselves.

They will be offered a range of free activities from film-making to occupational therapy, with people on hand to answer any question they may have about cancer.

Part of the reason for the need is that NHS cancer care is firmly split into adult and child care, with nothing in between.

Macmillan and Northamptonshire County Council saw there were gaps in both support and information, which often led to behaviour problems.

Beth Harrison, aged 16, from Kingsthorpe, had leukaemia from being an 11-year-old in 2010 until 2013 and said she struggled to find anyone who understood her ordeal.

She said: “I suppose there were doctors and Clic Sargent, but nowhere I could go to talk to people my own age.

“I would be on Disney Ward at NGH and the only people going through the same thing would be 10 years younger.

“You really want someone who isn’t a friend of family member who you can just chill with and who won’t judge you for having to wear a hat or because you face has gone all puffy through steroids.”

Teenagers who know someone with cancer may not even realise they need support.

Often, the parents of teenagers try to shield them from information if their sibling has cancer but teens are actually of an age where knowing as much possible is helpful.

The scheme can also help young people who have found themselves as carers for a relative or who find themselves split from the family for long periods (a recurring theme in Northamptonshire which has no principal cancer treatment centre for the immediate period after diagnosis).

The help offered by The C Word (the name was chosen by young people because they find that the word ‘cancer’ is often skirted around, and this service aims to bring it to the fore) is varied.

It can also include:

- emotional support

- help with school, university or work,

- advice on finances,

- information from the unique experience of Macmillan Cancer Support about a relation or friend’s condition,

- or just an opportunity to escape for a while.

Abbie Weaver, the project manager, said: “The diagnosis is like a pebble splashing into a pool then the ripples spread out and get wider. It affects teenagers even when it isn’t obvious.

“We want to give help but at the same time be somewhere they can just be themselves.”

To make sure The C* Word properly meets their needs, young people affected by cancer are being invited to join the project’s focus group to help identify the type of services and activities that should be delivered

The C Word also needs help from any group or organisation that can provide activities for the services young people. The only criteria is that teh activity is something people aged 13-24 migt be interested in.

Source: Northampton (UK) Chronicle

Monday, February 16, 2015

Richmond (BC) News: E-books proving costly for Richmond Public Library

E-books proving costly for Richmond Public Library

Library asks for $200,000 boost to compensate for decline in late fees and cost of e-books

By Graeme Wood / Richmond News

Rising salaries, electronic book costs and a steep decline in book fines are putting financial pressure on the Richmond Public Library.

On Monday, the city’s finance committee approved a $200,000 temporary boost to the library’s collections budget, but not before questioning its practices.

The library has an annual budget of $9.37 million, $8.54 million of which is paid for by the City of Richmond.

Last year the library collected $67,000 less in book fines, representing a 25 per cent drop from 2013. Another added pressure is a $165,000 — or 2.5 per cent — salary and benefit hike for library workers this year.

All in all, the city is paying $289,000 (3.5 per cent) more this year than it did last year just to keep operating at the same level of service.

Chief librarian Greg Buss also said an electronic book can be, on average, five times more expensive than a hard copy.

Furthermore, Buss is faced with the challenge of transitioning to e-books while still maintaining a print collection.

In a report to the committee, he noted the library’s print collection had declined by 33 per cent since 2009.

“The shift to digital services has had a significant impact on library revenues. As an increasing proportion of the book budget is reallocated to digital services, the quality of the book collection is declining,” noted Buss, who wanted the extra $200,000 to supplement the increasing costs of maintaining both collections.

“The collections budget has remained constant for many years and is no longer at a level to support both print and digital collections,” wrote Buss.

The library allows people to take out as many as 25 books and 10 e-books at one time for three weeks, a policy Mayor Malcolm Brodie says needs re-examining.

“You have to use the resources you have more effectively,” said Brodie.

Buss said the library has reviewed that policy and noted that decreasing those limits would affect a small minority.

E-books are digital files that expire on a reading device (Kindle or iPad) after 21 days, so the library can’t collect late fees. Furthermore, the library cannot lend an e-book to more than one person at a time; upon expiration the e-book file is subsequently restored in the library’s central database (hosted by a third party).

Buss said publishers may charge more for e-books because they can’t generate revenue from books being lost and damaged and subsequently re-purchased.

While the finance committee discussed possible revenue streams, the Richmond News asked Buss if the library was on a slippery slope when it’s being expected to generate funds. Buss said libraries have traditionally been funded by cities and act like a community co-operative.

“The whole idea of late charges wasn’t to make money or revenue. It was to ensure the material is fairly distributed. But then you become dependent on it,” said Buss, who told councillors there are opportunities to make money via 3D printing.

Buss said the library is still well used.

Source: Richmond (BC) News

Saturday, February 14, 2015

Edmonton Sun: Edmonton Public Library unveil two sound booths

By: Kevin Maimann | 02.12.15 | 2:41 PM

The days of being relegated to whispers in the library are over.

Edmonton Public Library unveiled two sound booths at its Stanley Milner branch Thursday, where local musicians can practise and record for free.

EPL provides acoustic and electric guitars, amps, a bass guitar, a keyboard, microphones, and a computer equipped with GarageBand -- all in two soundproofed booths inside the library's Makerspace.

Peter Schoenberg, EPL's manager of digital literacy and web services, believes Edmonton is the first city in Canada to offer such a service.

"It very much fits into the Makerspace idea of citizens being engaged and creating, as opposed to just borrowing our content and taking it home," he said.

Musicians only need a library card to book time for jamming or recording, which is generally a pricey endeavour.

The Makerspace is already equipped with a 3D printer, a book printer, a green screen for photography, a robotics program, and tools to create video games.

"Free means there's no barrier to creation," Schoenberg said.

"This is a facility for people who are getting started - people who want to make their first album, make their demo track, print the first copy of their book. This is a place for firsts and creation and new beginnings."

The creative tools have an added entrepreneurial aspect, he said, as projects created at the Makerspace could lead to bigger commercial entities and ultimately help diversify the local economy.

Coun. Scott McKeen, who laid down some licks on his Fender LSL electric guitar Thursday, said the sound booths help the city in its aim to foster more live music and keep successful bands from leaving for bigger cities.

He called the project "a tremendous opportunity" for young Edmontonians.

"I think there's probably a line you could draw from a place like this, maybe to the Grammys someday," he said. "I know that sounds like an over-reach, but where does that start out? It starts out somewhere."

McKeen, for the record, played Jimi Hendrix and Deep Purple covers with a band called Foxx in his high school days.

"We weren't very good," he said. "I think we probably drank more beer when we were rehearsing than anything else."

Recordings made in the sound booths could one day turn up on EPL's new Capital City Records online music archive.

EPL is taking submissions at for a digital music library that will allow users to stream music by local artists as well as find posters, photos and videos.

Submissions are open until Feb. 23 for the site's first batch of music, and Capital City Records will add 100 albums a year to its collection.


Source: Edmonton Sun