Friday, October 24, 2014

Homeless Outreach in Volumes: Books by Bike for ‘Outside’ People in Oregon

by: Kirk Johnson

PORTLAND, Ore. - A homeless man named Daniel was engrossed in a Barbara Kingsolver novel when his backpack was stolen recently, and Laura Moulton was determined to set things to right.

Ms. Moulton, 44, an artist, writer and adjunct professor of creative nonfiction, did not know Daniel's last name, his exact age, or really even how to find him - they had met only once. But she knew the novel, "Prodigal Summer," and that was a start. So, armed with a new copy of the book, off she went.

Such is the life of a street librarian.

This city has a deeply dyed liberal impulse beating in its veins around social and environmental causes, and a literary culture that has flourished like the blackberry thickets that mark misty Northwest woods. It has also one of the most bike-friendly, if not bike-crazed, urban spaces in the nation, as measured by commuters and bike lanes. All three of those forces are combined in Street Books, a nonprofit book service delivered by pedal-power for "people living outside," as Ms. Moulton, the founder describes the mission.

"Is Daniel around?" she asked a patron, Laura King, having just trundled up on the Street Books three-wheeler on a recent afternoon for a stop near the Willamette River northeast of downtown.

Ms. King, 41, a reader of inspirational biographies and essays, had stepped over from an area of tarps and tents, and was peering into the big wooden book cabinet mounted on the trike's front end. She shook her head.

"I have a book for him, which I'd be happy to leave with you," Ms. Moulton said.

Ms. King shrugged and said, "If something happens, and I don't see him before I see you, I'll give it back."

Ms. Moulton's reply, extending her hand with the book she had bought that morning, was pure librarian: "You ought to read it in the meantime," she said.

A concrete reality anchors Street Books to the real world: Portlanders are readers. The Multnomah County Library has the third-highest circulation among public libraries in the nation, after New York's and King County's in Seattle, according to the American Library Association's public library division. The ranking is all the more impressive for Multnomah's size, having only a little more than half of King County's population, and a quarter of New York's.

A second reality is that like so many other institutions in the digital age, libraries are redefining themselves, scrambling to stay relevant and find the toehold that keeps them linked to a city's life.

Multnomah's library, for example, helped by a grant from the foundation created by Microsoft co-founder Paul G. Allen, started a project this spring called My Librarian, which enlists library staff members as online book-list mavens who share their reding passions with library patrons by email or video chat.

Enthusiastic financial support also helps. Local voters, three elections in a row, have bolstered public library funding here in Portland. For her project, Ms. Moulton sought $4,000 from Kickstarter backers in 2011 and raised $5345. She also got a $1,000 grant this summer from the Awesome Foundation, a group that disperses funds "for the arts and sciences and the advancement of awesomeness in the universe."

"It's the beautiful messiness of human interaction," said Alison Kastner, a reader services librarian at the Multnomah library, describing the core idea of My Librarian, and the distinction between it and the coolly logical computer algorithms that comb a shoppers' tastes at sites like Amazon.

The Street Books project is nothing if not messy. The librarians - the three salaried employees, including Ms. Moulton, are paid $60 a week for a three-hour shift - fill their carts based on their tastes and their patrons' tastes. Diana Rempe, 48, a community psychologist who recently completed her Ph.D. and pedals the bike one afternoon a week, stops at a day-labor assembly site on the city's east side, where many Mexican and Latin American mean gather, waiting to be hired. So she loads up on books in Spanish. (Her proudest book coup, she said was getting a hard-to-find book on chess moves in Spanish for two Cuban players.)

"It's not just a little novelty - 'Oh, that's so Portland and cute,'" Ms. Rempe said. Takign books to the streets, she said, sends the message that poor and marginalized people are not so different from the "us" that defines the educated, literate mainstream of the city, whether in its hipsters, computer geeks or bankers.

"It transcends the bookish culture of Portland, though I think it's perfect for the bookish culture of Portland," she aid.

And maybe, to judge by people like Juliet Taliaferro, the effort also breeds new librarians.

Ms. Taliaferro, a high-energy red-haired 37-year-old who arrived in Portland on a bus in 1995 and never left, came by Ms. Moulton's cart this week looking to build a reading list for a friend in the low-income housing project where she lives. She said she hardly ever uses a regular library because of the rules and fines and library cards, and the worries about losing books. Street Books has no return policy at all, except a kind of when-you-are-done-reading, next-time-we-meet handshake agreement.

"You wouldn't be able to get a copy of 'Lord of the Flies' would you?" she said. "I need 'Lord of the Flies'; I need '1984'; and I need 'The Grapes of Wrath,'" she said.

"You're going straight for the summer beach reads," Ms. Moulton said, writing down the titles in her notebook.

"He's never read them, never even heard of them," Ms. Taliaferro said of her friend. So she's fixing that - building a reading list for him based on her own experiences and memories of books that resonated long after the final pages.

"I remember reading them and being changed by each one of them - how can you even know what the world is until you've got those stories in you?" she said.

Correction: October 10, 2014

A summary on the website with an earlier version of this article misstated who was staffing Street Books. They are employees of a nonprofit book service, not a Portland public library.

from: NY Times

Thursday, October 23, 2014

What the 'death of the library' means for the future of books

These are things that cannot be replaced by mere technology — not even a fully-loaded Kindle Fire
by: S.E. Smith

Forbes contributor Tim Worstall wants us to close public libraries and buy everyone an Amazon Kindle with an unlimited subscription. "Why wouldn't we simply junk the physical libraries and purchase an Amazon Kindle Unlimited subscription for the entire country?" he asks. Worstall points to substantial savings on public funds, arguing that people would have access to a much larger collection of books through a Kindle Unlimited subscription than they could get through any public library and that the government would spend far less on a bulk subscription for all residents than it ever would on funding libraries.

Is he right? Are libraries obsolete? He might be correct — but only if libraries were just about books, which they are not. Libraries are actually an invaluable public and social resource that provide so much more than simple shelves of books (or, for those in rural areas, a Bookmobile like the one this author grew up with). A world without public libraries is a grim one indeed, and the assault on public libraries should be viewed as alarming.

Humans have been curating libraries for as long as they've been creating written materials, whether they be tablets, scrolls, handwritten books, or printed mass-media. They've become archives not just of books on a variety of subjects, but also newspapers, genealogical materials, art, and more. Notably, early libraries were primarily private, with only wealthy individuals maintaining stocks of printed materials due to their expense.

That's what made the Great Library at Alexandria such an impressive, and important, resource. It wasn't just the huge volume of material on site, but the fact that any member of the public could take advantage of its resources (by demonstrating an interest and relevant skills). It hosted scores of scholars at any given time and was a critical location for research and cultural exchange.

It marked a key turning point in the history of libraries, presenting the idea that knowledge could become a public resource, and that a library could turn into a public gathering space. The ideology of the library as a place of free exchange waxed and waned over the centuries, but by the 1800s, the idea that public libraries were an important part of a free society was firmly enshrined, and numerous nations, including the U.S., made public libraries an important part of their culture.

The popular myth about the Library at Alexandria is that it was sacked and burned, but in fact, the truth of it is more complicated. It was in fact subjected to multiple raids and burnings at various points in history, after which its collections were rebuilt time and time again. What ultimately killed the Library was budget cuts.

The American Library Association has identified funding as one of the most pressing concerns for modern libraries, noting that in a nation embroiled in foreign wars and the creation of a massive security state, libraries and other public domestic resources are getting short shrift: "Libraries have seen cuts to the Library Services and Technology Act (LSTA), and many other programs that benefit libraries have been severely cut or in some cases terminated. We follow these other programs as well, because libraries are just one part of a much bigger picture that includes education, the humanities, the arts, and many other important social functions."

In addition to federal funding cuts, libraries have also faced state funding shortages. Earlier this year, Democratic Governor Andrew Cuomo suggested slashing library funding in New York. In Vermont, the state government offers no funding assistance to libraries. In Oregon, the Pendleton Library was forced to beg for funds from the public, and it's not the only one; the Sharpsburg Community Library barely managed to meet a fundraising goal, while in Ohio, legislators are fighting to defend libraries.

Libraries are also being hit by privatization, with firms promising to cut costs for library services. Such companies actually tend to cost more for regional libraries, thanks to their incredibly high administrative costs.

Why are libraries so important? If the Kindle can provide immeasurable books at a fraction of the cost, why not simply turn to this option?

Setting aside the fact that the Kindle is laden with problematic Digital Rights Management (DRM) technology, which limits individual freedoms, people don't just go to libraries for books, and technology isn't the solution to every problem. The library is a social gathering place, used to conduct classes and provide people with public resources — including computers and wireless networks for those who can't access them at home, and struggle to find their footing in a world dominated by technology.

Librarians also provide highly unique and specialized services, benefiting from years of training to learn to serve patrons. It's not just that a library provides access to books, but that it also offers access to brilliant individuals who provide research assistance, guidance, book recommendations, and tools to help people empower themselves when it comes to researching and locating information. Giving everyone a Kindle doesn't solve that problem.


The library has historically been and is today a resource for low-income people, including members of the homeless community, who can't afford individual access to what libraries have to offer. It's not just tangible things like books, magazines, and research materials such as old newspapers and property records, but the intangible: The experienced librarian, the tax preparer who provides advice, the community lectures. These are things that cannot be replaced by mere technology — not even with Kindle Fire's much-vaunted Mayday Button.

Writing in defense of libraries in 1921, George Bernard Shaw said:
The debt of British literature, and indeed every department of British culture, to the British Museum Library is incalculable. I myself worked in its reading-room daily for about eight years at the beginning of my literary career; and oh (if I may quote Wordsworth) the difference to me! And that difference was a difference to all the readers of my books and of my contributions to journalism, as well as to all the spectators of my plays: say, to be excessively cautious, not less than a million people.

He spoke to the great democratizing influence of libraries. Today, facing a yawning class and culture gap, and a shrinkage of public gathering places and public resources, library patrons need libraries more than ever before — especially since many libraries are embracing the digital revolution and becoming so much more than repositories of dead tree books. Libraries are offering computer classes, access to digital resources, and so much more.

These aren't things that a Kindle can provide, and they aren't things Amazon will ever be able to offer. Rather than giving Amazon even more power over the publishing world, we should be sinking funds into libraries to shore up society and culture — and we should give thanks for all the amazing things libraries have brought us as a public resource with a value that truly can't be estimated.

From our friends at The Daily Dot, by S. E. Smith.

from: The Week

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

The Hidden Costs of E-books at University Libraries

by: Peter C. Herman

For the past few years, both the California State University and the University of California libraries have been experimenting with packages that replace paper books with e-books. The advantages are obvious. With e-books, you no longer have to schlep to a library to take out a book. You just log on from whatever device connects you to the web, at whatever time and in whatever state of dress, and voila! the book appears on your screen.

But the real attraction is price. Library budgets, along with university budgets, have been slashed, and such companies as Pearson and Elsevier offer e-book packages that make it possible to gain access (I’ll explain the awkward syntax in a moment) to lots of books at what seems like a minimal cost. The savings are multiplied when the package serves the entire system. So instead of each campus buying a paper book, all 23 CSU’s, for instance, share a single e-book. That’s the theory, at least. The reality is very different.

In ancient days of yore, a library bought a book from either the publisher or a vendor, and then did with it whatever it wanted. Patrons could borrow the book, read it at leisure, renew it, or copy excerpts. Libraries shared books they didn’t own through interlibrary loan. But that’s not how e-books operate.

Instead, a library pays to access a data file by one of two routes: “PDA,” or “Patron-Driven Acquisition,” in which a vendor makes available a variety of e-books, and a certain number of “uses” (the definition varies) triggers a purchase, or a subscription to an e-library that does not involve any mechanism for buying the e-book. Both avenues come loaded with all sorts of problems.

First, reading an e-book is a different, and lesser, experience that reading a paper book, just as watching a movie at home differs from watching one in a theatre.

There’s a huge difference between casual and college reading, and recent studies prove beyond doubt that while e-books are perfectly fine for the latest John Grisham or Fifty Shades of Grey, they actively discourage intense reading and deep learning.

For example, a 2007 study concluded that “screen-based reading can dull comprehension because it is more mentally taxing and even physically tiring than reading on paper.” And a 2005 study by a professor at San Jose State University proved that online reading encourages skimming while discouraging in-depth or concentrated reading.

The solution might be to print out the chapters you want to read. But e-book packages intentionally make that as difficult as possible.

Paper books have no limitations since the library owns the book. But as Clifford Lynch recently put it, “nobody buys an e-book: one licenses it under typically very complex terms that constrain what you are allowed to do with it.” For example, at UCSD, Ebrary (now owned by Proquest), limits e-books to one user at a time, allows users to save a maximum of 30 percent of a book, “though some publishers have set more restrictive limits,” and allows you to copy only 15 percent of a book, text only, no illustrations.

At SDSU, Ebrary also limits the number of pages you can download. The amount varies by publisher. One book allows up to 89 pages, but with another, Victoria Kahn’s The Crisis of Political Obligation in England, an especially complex work with very long chapters, you get only 19 pages, and the printout comes defaced with a code plastered across the page.  There’s also a limit to how many pages you can download per session, and the total is not large. I downloaded less than 20 pages before I exceeded my quota.
The 19-page limit of an Ebrary  book.
The 19-page limit of an Ebrary book.
E-books also do not circulate beyond the institution, which effectively kills interlibrary loan. As for one book serving the entire CSU or UC systems, many come with one-user restrictions, which means that only one user at a time in the CSU or the UC can read the book. Of course, Ebrary might say that the publisher imposes these restrictions. And that’s the point: publishers do not impose restrictions on paper books. E-book packages also compromise the stability of the library’s collection since the vendor can remove one at their discretion, without notice. So one day you can access a book, the next day, it has disappeared.

E-books prevent deep reading, their use is highly restricted, and they can vanish without notice, so why are the CSU and the UC libraries experimenting with replacing paper with computer files? Is the e-book phenomenon yet another example of university administrators chasing after the latest e-fad? Like MOOCs (which even Sebastian Thrun of Udacity called “a lousy product”), e-books trade something that works for something that doesn’t, and even worse, threaten to destroy the very notion of a library. What’s the attraction?

The answer is that e-books seem like a cheap way to access hundreds, if not thousands, of expensive books essential for research and teaching. Right now, the subscription packages Proquest and Ebsco offer may sound like they cost a lot (between $500-$800,000 a year), but the price is “extremely low relative to the number of books acquired,” to quote the CSU report on the e-book pilot project.  The average cost per book for Ebrary’s package is between $5 and $9, a spectacular savings given that the average price for a hardcover scholarly book in the humanities is around $100, and many are much more expensive.

Then again, payday loans also seem like a cheap way to deal with, shall we say, a period of financial embarrassment. But the long-term costs of these loans can be ruinous, and the same goes of e-journal article packages. In the beginning they too were priced “extremely low relative to the number” of journals acquired.  But they did not stay “extremely low” for long. Today, the exorbitant amounts such companies as Elsevier and Springer charge eat up a greater and greater percentage of library budgets, and their contracts usually last for three to five years with built-in increases of 6 percent per year, well above inflation.

Lured by the initial low price and the promise of convenience, university libraries are now trapped, since they cannot risk losing access to all the major journals.  As prices rise and budgets either stay the same or drop, a greater and greater percentage goes toward servicing the package journal subscription, less and less toward staffing, hours, and the like.

The same thing will happen with e-book packages. In the past, once the library purchased the book, that was the end of the transaction. The library didn’t have to keep sending the publisher money to keep the book in circulation. No matter what happened, no matter how great the budget cut, the book stayed in the library, because the library owned it.

But that is not the case with an e-book subscription. Right now, prices seem entirely reasonable, but once a library or a library system gets hooked, then they must continually pay the rising subscription fee or else a huge number of books will just disappear. With a traditional book, the costs end once the purchase is complete. But with e-book packages, the costs never end. They just keep rising.

Even worse, by replacing paper books with e-book packages, university libraries will have outsourced the collection of knowledge to multinational, private corporations whose primary goal is not advancing knowledge, but profits. E-book packages are another step in transforming libraries from centers of scholarship, teaching and research into cash cows for Proquest’s bottom line.

Why would libraries even consider such a Faustian deal? Simple: they are trying to make the best of a very bad situation. University budgets have in no way recovered from the financial crash, which reduced funding by two billion dollars. True, some money has been restored, but the CSU’s budget now matches what we had in 2007, and we have to teach 90,000 more students. If e-book packages sound like a poor idea, then the answer is to restore higher education funding to a level where we don’t have to make such terrible decisions.


Peter C. Herman is a professor of English Literature at San Diego State University. He works on Shakespeare, Milton, and the literature of terrorism. 

from: Times of San Diego

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Censorship of books in US prisons and schools ‘widespread’ – report to UN

Free-speech organisations find US government is ‘failing to protect the rights of its most vulnerable citizens’ as popular books – including Shakespeare – are banned from institutions
by: Alison Flood

There is “widespread censorship” of books in US prisons, according to a report submitted to a UN human rights review, which details the banning of works about artists from Botticelli to Van Gogh from Texan state prisons for containing “sexually explicit images”.

The report from two free-speech organisations, the New York-based National Coalition Against Censorship and the Copenhagen-based Freemuse, to the United Nation’s (UN) Universal Periodic Review states that the Texas Department of Criminal Justice (TDCJ) lists 11,851 titles banned from its facilities. These range from the “ostensibly reasonable”, such as How to Create a New Identity, Essential Throwing and Grappling Techniques, and Art & Design of Custom Fixed Blades, to what it describes as “the telling”, including Write it in Arabic, and the “bizarre” (Arrival of the Gods: Revealing the Alien Landing Sites at Nazca was banned for reasons of “homosexuality”).

Prisoners in Texas are entitled to be mailed books and magazines, but the titles are checked on arrival against a “master list” of acceptable works. If they do not appear on the list, then it is the decision of the post-room officer as to whether they are objectionable.

“Of the 11,851 total blocked titles, 7,061 were blocked for ‘deviant sexual behaviour’ and 543 for sexually explicit images,” says the report, naming artists including Caravaggio, Cézanne, Dallí, Picasso, Raphael, Rembrandt and Renoir among those whose works have been kept out of Texas state prisons.

“Anthologies on Greco-Roman art, the pre-Raphaelites, impressionism, Mexican muralists, pop surrealism, graffiti art, art deco, art nouveau and the National Museum of Women in the Arts are banned for the same reason, as are numerous textbooks on pencil drawing, watercolour, oil painting, photography, graphic design, architecture and anatomy for artists,” states the submission, with prohibited literary works by Gustav Flaubert, Langston Hughes, Flannery O’Connor, George Orwell, Ovid, Philip Roth, Salman Rushdie, John Updike, Shakespeare and Alice Walker also on the banned list.

“To survey the list of works banned by the TDCJ is to appreciate the dangers of the broad discretionary powers granted to prison officials under the concept of legitimate penological interest,” says the report.

The UN’s Universal Periodic Review is a review of the human rights records of all UN member states. As well as prisoners, the NCAC and Freemuse’s joint submission to the review also claims the US is failing to protect the right to read of children in public education. Citing titles including Mark Twain’s Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, Kurt Vonnegut’s Slaughterhouse-Five, and Alice Walker’s The Color Purple, the report says “hundreds” of books are challenged and banned in America’s schools and libraries every year, with objections centring around moral and religious reasons.

Svetlana Mintcheva, director of programmes for the NCAC, said the US federal government could do “much more” to prevent this. “A good start would be a ‘key policy letter’ by the secretary of education encouraging school districts to adopt formal review policies to ensure greater transparency in their enforcement,” she said.

The report states that the US is “failing to abide by its international commitments to protect fully the fundamental rights of some of its most vulnerable citizens” – prisoners and children – and that “this failure diminishes vital artistic and creative freedoms that are both integral to the dignity of the person and instrumental to the enjoyment and defense of a culture of human rights”, the two organisations make a number of recommendations. These include a call for the attorney general and Offices of the US Attorneys to “investigate violations of incarcerated citizens’ artistic freedoms”, and a call for the Obama administration to “submit for ratification the Convention on the Rights of the Child, which provides in Article 31(2) for ‘the right of the child to participate fully in cultural and artistic life’”.

“The right to read and to experience art is protected by the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which guarantees the freedom to seek, receive and impart information and ideas of all kinds ‘in the form of art’,” said Ole Reitov, executive director of Freemuse. “The US must honour its obligations to its vulnerable citizens under the care of state institutions.”

from: Guardian

Monday, October 20, 2014

Indie Bookstores Aren't Dead -- They're Making A Comeback

by: Kevin O'Kelly

"The Death of the Independent Bookstore?"; "Is the Bookstore Dead?"; "Why Bookstores are Doomed": those headlines are from Slate (2006), Jewish Journal(2011), and Business Insider (2013). For years, journalists have made these types of predictions about the death of independent bookstores: if the chains didn't crush them, Amazon would. If Amazon didn't, they would die anyway because people just weren't reading.
For a few years, facts on the ground seemed to support this dire prognosis. During the early years of the new millennium, bookstore after bookstore closed in some of the most reading-friendly cities in America: the Madison Avenue Bookshop in Manhattan (2002), The Oscar Wilde Bookshop in Greenwich Village (2003), Wordsworth's in Cambridge, Mass. (2004), Cody's Books, Berkeley, Calif. (2006). "Every month, it seems, another landmark independent bookstore closes its doors," remarked a contributor to Poets & Writers in 2009.
But around the time of that lament, a sea change occurred. Bookshops continued to close, but others began to open. In 2009, the number of independent bookstores in the nation stabilized at around 1,400, and then slowly began to grow. As of last May, the number of indie bookshops in the U.S. was 1,664.
Why the turnaround? Part of the reason was the long, slow implosion of one of indie bookselling's biggest competitors: Borders went heavily into CDs and DVDs only to find itself competing with iTunes, and then outsourced its online bookselling to Amazon. The company's last profitable year was 2006. It filed for bankruptcy in 2011.
Other factors, such as the buy-local movement and an increase in reading among adult Americans, have helped as well. But the biggest reason independent bookstores are still around is that the store closures of the previous decade alerted people to what they were in danger of losing. Author Ann Patchett wrote that when the last two bookstores in her hometown of Nashville closed, "The Nashville Public Library organized community forums for concerned citizens to come together and discuss how we might get a bookstore again." When I first read that passage two years ago, I was struck by the public reaction. A community wouldn't respond like this to the loss of just any business.
That's because books, by their very nature, are communal. Reading itself may seem a solitary act, but when we read a book we open ourselves up to the mind of another person, to his or her ideas, to the stories this writer has to tell. And when a book is good, people want to talk about it. Therefore, bookstores themselves are social spaces. Often when I go into a bookstore I notice people animatedly talking in a way they don't in any other type of shop. For avid readers, a bookstore is as much part of the social fabric of the community as is an old-fashioned town square or a beloved park.
For the past year I've been talking to bookstore owners around the country, and it's clear that although bookstores are businesses, a good bookstore is never just a business.
Matthew Norcross owns McLean and Eakin in Petoskey, Michigan, a summer resort town with a permanent population of 5,000 people. He cites the advantage of living in a "very literate community attuned to the need to buy locally." But it's also clear that his love of books is contagious, and that's made McLean and Eakin a very special place.
Many of the town's vacationers become year-round customers. "We do more online selling than ever before," Norcross says, adding that shopping at McLean and Eakin becomes a habit that spans not only the seasons but also generations. "I see customers I first saw as kids in our children's section bringing in their own kids."
And that love of the store has a ripple effect.. "One time a woman came in mid-September," Norcross told me, "and said, 'I had to come here because one of my students came back from summer break and now he's a reader, and I had to see this place that made this kid who hated reading into a reader.'"
Like other successful bookstores, McLean and Eakin has also become a venue for literary events. Norcross and his staff bring authors to northern Michigan to do readings, hosting local book clubs as well as internationally known events such as the roving book lovers' retreat Booktopia.
John Evans, the owner and founder of Lemuria Books in Jackson, Mississippi, echoed Norcross' sense of bookstores as a place that matters to people. He founded Lemuria in 1975, back when "you had to hunt down books and hunt down records; you couldn't just look stuff up." He says his store has survived the "super-storing of America" and the "Amazon-ing of America" because it's a place where people want to be.
"The customers who have stuck with me feel like they're part of the store," Evans said. "It's not really my store, it's their store. It's a business, but hopefully it's a meaningful part of their lives."
And what helps make Lemuria a place where people want to be? Not only its collection of books, also its knowledgeable staff. " I have to figure out what books I need to buy to support the good books that don't sell very often. That's the only way we can have a good bookstore, and that's one of the ways we compete with Amazon. "You come in and explore and prospect and hopefully find something to read you didn't know you wanted to read. That's the magic of it."
As a veteran bookseller, Evans was eminently established and experienced when the funeral bells began to toll for the independents. But when David Sandberg and Dina Mardell bought Porter Square Books in Cambridge, Mass., in 2013, the conventional wisdom was still against the indies.
If you ask Sandberg why he and his partner decided to buy Porter Square Books when it went on the market, he'll admit it was on impulse.
"We bought it without a particular rationale. We thought [running a bookstore] would be a great thing to do, even though we had never thought about it before. We just did it."
But he doesn't regret the decision. "We love owning a bookstore," he says.
It's obvious to Sandberg that the store provides people with more than just a way to buy a book: "The previous owners and their staff created a community. And the customers appreciate the expertise of the people who work here. They like knowing someone is going to help them, and that's hard to do in an online environment."
As for the business end? "The store's never had a year when sales have gone down."
from: HuffingtonPost

Friday, October 17, 2014

JukePop Wants To Bring Indie Titles To More Libraries

Finding authors from small presses might be getting easier.
by: Alice Truong

It's tough being an indie author. These writers lack the marketing resources of those working with big publishing houses, making it difficult to get their works on the shelves of bookstores and libraries. Readers, meanwhile, often have no idea where to start when navigating all the self-published content that exists on the web.

And this issue may be even worse now that e-books have changed the market.

JukePop, an analytics and distribution platform for independent authors, is hoping to chip away at the discoverability problem by partnering up with libraries. The startup piloted a program with the Santa Clara County library system, making 1,000 e-books available to the library for free. On Tuesday, it launched a Kickstarter campaign to expand its program to more libraries across the country.

"There's some key reasons why libraries haven't been able to jump on the e-books wagon," JukePop cofounder Jerry Fan told Fast Company. "A large part of that is because it takes a lot of infrastructure to set up some sort of repository for e-books."

Instead, JukePop is building out the infrastructure and hosting the books itself, requiring no resources on the libraries' part. The startup has more than 1,000 authors on board who distribute serialized content one chapter at a time. Using its reader analytics, authors can see how readers respond to their plot lines. Currently, neither writers nor readers pay to use the platform, though authors can set up paywalls for their completed books.

Library patrons can read from the web or send the e-books to their reading apps or devices. If a reader downloads a book that is still being written, JukePop will send them the latest, most completed version, along with update notifications.

As part of the program, JukePop will provide libraries with a list of its most popular content, as determined by reader analytics and votes. The librarians use that short list as a jumping-off point to curate a collection for their readers. None of the stories will include copyright protections, which most of JukePop's authors see as a hinderance to discovery, said Fan.

"Libraries are a great, tremendous resource," he said. "Publishers know this, so they actually spend years building up relationships with libraries. Even though they don't necessarily make a lot of money from libraries, the people who read at libraries will talk about [their books]."


JukePop hopes to meet a minimum fundraising goal of $15,000, which would go toward building a user interface and to scale the program to 60 libraries. With $25,000, the company said it could serve 200 libraries. A much-more ambitious goal of $150,000 would fund the development of a tool that lets authors publish to libraries, Amazon, iBooks, and other e-book sellers with the click of a button.

from: Fast Company

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Have we fallen out of love with e-readers?

by: Caroline Corcoran

"Print is where words go to die." So went the theory in 2007 when Amazon launched the Kindle. In fact, so sure was the world that books were dead that when Ikea redesigned its ubiquitous Billy bookcase in 2011, it was thought to be so that it could accommodate knick-knacks rather than "archaic" paperbacks.

But while it's true that e-books show no signs of disappearing – the new Kindle Voyage launches next month hot on the heels of the "Kindle Unlimited" subscription service that came to the UK last month – neither does print.

Recently, I realised that I had become so addicted to the speed of new book buying on my Kindle that I had barely bought anything in print in the past year. I had read Americanah and The Luminaries and tens of others on my e-reader, and I was sad that such great books were missing from my bookshelves. Worse than that, though, was a feeling that plots had started to blur, even with books that I had loved. The only way I could explain it is that they had never had a physicality. Not like the black and gold cover of The Secret History, or its weight when I picked it up from my bedside table.

So I decided to go back to books. On my first trip to Waterstones, I left with a hardback of the new Howard Jacobson that there is absolutely no way I can take on the bus. But I don't care – somehow a story like that should have weight, and it feels so luxurious to get into bed and prop up that beast of a dystopia on my knees.

In 2013, British consumers spent £2.2bn on print, compared with just £80m on e-books and last November, statistics by the Association of American Publishers showed that adult e-book sales were up just 4.8 per cent in a year, while hardcover book sales had risen by 11.5 per cent. Nielsen BookData analysis showed e-book sales in May and June last year fell by 26 per cent from 2012.

So have Kindle converts returned sheepishly to the book shop? And if so, why? The theory that the e-book reading experience simply isn't rich enough is a popular one. There is no "book smell"; no rustle of pages that can't be turned quickly enough.

One study showed that in a group reading the same book, e-readers had a lower plot recall, which was credited to a lack of "solidity". When we can't see the pile of pages growing on the left and shrinking on the right, the book is, apparently, less fixed for us.

Scott Pack, publisher at HarperCollins imprint The Friday Project, isn't surprised. "I retain a very physical memory of a book for some time after reading it," he says. "I can recall whether a particular scene or quote appeared on the left- or right-hand page, towards the top or bottom, and sometimes the page number, too."

In September this year, The Bookseller conducted research that found nearly three quarters of 16- to 24-year-olds preferred print to e-books and when asked why, the sentence "I want full bookshelves" cropped up, bringing to mind Tracey Emin and Damien Hirst's recent "shelfies" at the London Art Fair. What better route into people's minds than via their bookshelves? Piled up Lonely Planets, a well-thumbed Maya Angelou... our personal libraries give an insight into who we are. And if our bookshelves stop being updated, we may be eternally identified by our university penchant for Mills & Boon, even if most of what we have read in the past five years is contemporary American dystopia.

"I believe the reader of 2020 or 2030 will have two libraries, print and digital, with different types of books and publications in each," agrees Scott Pack. "While I have no qualms about trying out a debut author on e-book or loading up some holiday reading on to my Kindle, when it comes to my favourite authors I have to own the print edition, and I remain a sucker for a beautifully designed and printed book."

Somebody had better tell Ikea to redesign that Billy bookcase again.

from: Independent