Friday, November 25, 2011

buy nothing day

Today is Buy Nothing Day.

Instead, why not go to your public library, where the books are free?

Check out a book of seasonal recipes and make something delicious.

Check out craft book for a holiday -- Chanukkah, Christmas, Winter Solstice, whatever suits your beliefs (or your fancy) -- and make something fun with a family member or friend.

Read an old favorite of your childhood to a child.

Or just find a quiet book, or an exciting one, or a purely informational one, according to your personal tastes.


Tuesday, November 22, 2011

petulant penguin books plays poorly with others

Penguin Pulls Out of Ebook Lending Over Piracy Concerns
(Nov. 22, 2011  Mashable)

IF they were trying to kill library lending of ebooks (and if anybody re-posts this, please include this "if" clause so I don't come off as a paranoid conspiracy theorist), this would be a great tactic -- one by one take away the participation of the major publishers, and thus the availability of the most popular books.

After all, one major reason some users don't borrow ebooks from the library is the sparse selection. But you know what, many (probably most) of those readers don't just cave in and buy the ebooks. I sure don't. I buy ebooks I would've bought anyway, and for books I'm not willing to pay for, I borrow a physical copy from the library.

Is there a chance of piracy? Of course. And some morons steal other types of free library books. But they are few because it takes an uncommonly low level of stupidity to do the work and take the risk of stealing something free. By far most people aren't even tempted.

Most of the people I see at the library checking out ebooks are fairly new to computers. Their previous experience is often limited to emailing their grandkids and looking at family pictures on Facebook. Sometimes the ebook reader (usually a gift) is their first computer experience. It's hard enough setting up the library account. They're not going to be pirating books -- or navigating warez or P2P sites -- anytime soon.

And anyway, illegal free copies of copyrighted books have been widely available online for years before public libraries started legally lending ebooks. Libraries aren't the problem.

Why would a publisher want to license ebooks to libraries? For the same reasons that for over a century they've been selling physical books to libraries:

Sales to libraries are sales, pretty much guaranteed for important and popular books, highly likely for many other books. Yes, this is a trade-off against possible sales to more individuals, but traditionally seen as a wise one, the way investors diversify and put some of their money into low-yielding but safe bonds and only some of their money into potentially high-profit but high-risk stocks.

Exposure. The loss of a few book sales can be cheap as advertising costs go. Lots of people see the books in libraries. People might be hesitant to pay to take a chance on a book they might not like, or to read a book once, but sometimes want to own a copy of a library book they've read and loved. And if they really love it, they buy extra copies as gifts.

Publishers, you're not manipulating me into buying. You're just making me dislike and greatly disrespect you, a business for which I used to have quite positive feelings.

Friday, November 4, 2011

ebook prices have got to go down, way down

Almost bought Brian Green's Hidden Reality and/or Fabric of the Cosmos for Kindle. It would be really cool to read this space-science stuff in a Star-Trek-ish, futuristic manner.

But this impermanent (probably unreadable with the next major upgrade of hardware or software, subject to being revoked even from within my home at the whim of the publisher, etc.) edition actually costs about half a dollar more than the relatively permanent (will probably last the rest of my lifetime, even if it's on cheap paper) paperback.

Forget it. I'm getting reliable paper.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

libraries and privacy

Got an embarrassing question? You may be better off asking a librarian than "anonymously" searching the web.

While it was once true that on the internet no one knew your were a dog, now they know what brand dog food you eat, when you got your last rabies shots, and that your name is Fido. And they want to keep that info, use it to sell you squeak toys, and sell it to others.

Even though a librarian may see your face or see your name and card number on an online ask-a-librarian form, libraries genuinely believe in confidentiality and non-judgmentalism as part of their professional goal of protecting the dignity of the patron.

You can be sure that you won't be followed for weeks by ads relating to this question on every web page you view. Your interest in this topic can't be known by your spouse, the church ladies, or a prospective employer three years hence. The librarian you talked to will be the only person on earth who knows, and will probably forget about you by the end of the day.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

overdrive for kindle

Tried downloading an ebook through the Overdrive library lending interface onto a Kindle device, a service that became available about a month ago. Anticipating problems, I haven't been able to get to it till now. (If I'm trying something new that involves business, bureaucracy, or machinery, or especially any combination thereof, I assume a five-minute chore will take an entire afternoon. Cynical as this view is, it has often proven accurate.)

I accessed Overdrive via a desktop computer and put the book on a free Kindle app on an iPhone. The process is twofold, requiring signing in to Overdrive to choose the book and then signing in to Amazon to send the book to a Kindle device.

The whole process went surprisingly smoothly. At first it didn't look like it had worked, but I found the book under the app's "archived" items and from there loaded it onto the main list of the app's home page.

This solves the problem of Overdrive's refusal to support 3G versions of the iPhone operating system, as the books actually come from Amazon. Now they just need to vastly increase the range and number of available titles.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

a shelving problem

Recently the library just got another enhanced book, the kind with fake realia -- facsimiles of documents, maps, photos, cards, etc. -- in pockets between the pages. We now have about half a dozen or so of these, and, as they are one more trend in publishers' attempts to make print books more exciting, we're likely to see more in the future.

The problem is what to do with them.

Right now, they're behind the desk, because the loose items in the pockets are so easily lost or stolen. The problem is, no one checks them out because no one knows they exist -- which is a shame, because they're so cool.

But if we put them on the shelf, where people can stumble upon them serendipitously -- or better, on display -- the loose things in the pockets will likely get lost or stolen, and then they won't be so cool ....

Monday, September 26, 2011

a digital immigrant apologizes

Yeah. O.k. It's been awhile.

The thing is, the online world doesn't seem quite real. Even though I "moved in" years ago (if you count the pre-web internet, I've been hanging around the neighborhood about 30 years) it still has an exotic feel. Or, to switch metaphors, it seems like playing -- something to fool around with only if there's time after the real chores are done.

So, this past summer, I've been checking e-mail accounts so rarely I have to wade through hundreds of spam messages, the thought of which makes me avoid it even more.

Logging in to Facebook only once or twice a week, and then just for a few seconds to message someone instead of e-mailing, because I don't want to face the mountains of spam (see above). And then avoiding Facebook because I feel guilty for all the happy birthdays I found out about too late to wish, all the now-untimely crises and rejoicings I should have responded to while they were still timely.

Tweeting so rarely my soundbite wit has lost all momentum, so I skip Twitter for yet another day.

Blogging infrequently. In this case, very infrequently.

Some days (sometimes two or more in a row) I haven't even turned the computer on. (Yes, I sometimes turn it off. My digital native daughter laughs at me for this.)

So, I'll give it another go and try to keep better 'net habits.
(But not right now. Y'see, I've just checked out this really neat new library book ...)

Friday, May 6, 2011

may 5, 1811 (sun.)

"... [S]ober interest tells me I should leave off buying books," Mr. Jefferson wrote a few days ago in response to a friend suggesting another title to add to his library of thousands.

Yeah. Right. This has all the credibility of a drunkard swearing off rum.

Well, today's mail brought yet another offer, this time a subscription to the Edinburgh Encyclopedia. He has declined, graciously, citing a surfeit of encyclopedias on his shelves already.

He's being responsible. For now.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Friday, March 11, 2011

Monday, February 21, 2011

winter reading program

Well, the library's experiment with a different kind of winter reading program is winding down. Not that it had very far to wind.

Previously, it had been similar to the children's reading program -- list the books you've read on a paper form, and turn it in for a prize. In the case of adults, this meant about half a dozen books over two or three months, in return for a mug, or some reading-related item with the library's logo.

This year, registration was online only, and the physical prizes have been replaced by a "chance to connect with other readers ... to talk about books you love!"

This ain't gonna work. For one thing, even adults like getting rewards. Not just a "good feeling" of accomplishment, but real rewards, like physical stuff. But the physicality goes beyond that. There is the physical act of writing down the title of each book as you finish it, then physically handing the filled-out physical piece of paper to a physical librarian -- and maybe exchanging a casual comment about the books as you do so. This world of tangible books and paper and ink and librarians is comfortable, especially to older people and quiet people -- the kinds of people who are most likely to participate in reading programs. In fact, many of these people are downright uncomfortable with computers. And even for those who don't mind them, the coziness factor is missing.

I suppose a completely virtual program could be geared toward a different kind of reader -- younger, busier, at home online. But to appeal to that crowd it would have to be exciting and fast-paced. It would've been good to have a web page for the program, with a lot of glitz and glamor, and interactive cool stuff. More importantly, it would need an immersive, ongoing conversation, where participants could "show off" to friends and meet interesting new people. The Facebook discussion just didn't have enough people to sustain it. Maybe a link on the library's website directly to the discussion would've helped.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

not a real resolution 'cause that would imply a commitment

O.k., I sorta tried it for 2010 (with mixed results), but I'm gonna try this year to live more as a resident of the 21st century.

How does one do that?
Identify the customs of the "country" -- trends in thinking and values -- and follow. Among these:

Live online.
Live in the cloud.
Live mobile.
Live in the moment -- and in the cracks between moments.
Accept change.
(Without too much complaint.
Or at least with a well-thought-out blog about it.)