Tag Archives: other blogs

The Worth of a Book

The price of e-books has been in the news quite a lot due to the Department of Justice suit and has created a huge amount of amazing posts. To begin with, I’m going to link a few of the posts that helped me make sense of the issue and then I want to write about some of the intangibles of what makes a book and what defines a book’s worth.

Today is not Tomorrow-a great article about Amazon’s weaknesses
The Department of Justice and Publishing from Smart Bitches Trashy Books, one of the best round ups of links and explanations that I’ve found so far.
Why e-books cost so much? from CNet is a highly informative article and part of the genesis of this post.

What I wish to look at is the question of who is putting value into the books and what do we as readers and librarians need to be thinking of as the world of publishing keeps shifting. This breakdown is based on the classic model of an author working with a publishing company but I will try to work in some of what has changed.

The Author-Every book begins with an author and to that author, their book is the culmination of an idea that they have worked on for possibly years. As the book is being published, that means that they have had the joy of hearing a publisher go, yes, we want to make sure this is made available to the public.

The Editor-They have taken on a book and helped an author through the journey of preparing their book to be released upon the world. The editor is an ally for the writer as they help them polish and craft their work so it can be the best shape possible.

The Publishing House-The editor and the author are within the publishing house but they are only a small part of what it takes to see a book come together. Cover artists, marketing, other editors, they work with the author to figure out how best to share the book with the world. Publishing houses come in all shapes and sizes, the same considerations occur whether the publisher is a dedicated group of five or a huge company with hundreds of staff. One of these considerations is how to profit off of the book finding its proper audience. They are all the allies of the author and they will make certain that the final result of the book in whatever format is the best that it can be.

The Intermediaries-I consider the intermediaries the ones who get the book into the hands of the perfect reader for the book. This grouping is where the world has changed because for a long time intermediaries were only bookstores and perhaps libraries. Publishing houses aimed most of their publicity at them and still do as they will see the right book put into the right hands. Due to the advent of the internet, the intermediaries have grown to include bloggers, online retailers, friends, the author who promotes the book on Twitter and Facebook and many other variations. Now a publishing house and author have a harder time knowing who should they be aiming their publicity at and how many formats should be possible for this book to be read in.

One of the most worrying parts of many e-book discussions is how often these intermediaries are taken out of the picture instead the ideal seems to be the reader finds the book. This is certainly possible but its not as simple as it seems. Every e-book reader is a device that requires time to learn how to use it properly, if there are no intermediaries to help a reader understand their device, there are more steps to the book. Also one of the greatest voices for a book is a reader who has read it and says to their friend, you read it too. With a print book, this step is easy, you lend the book to your friend or tell them where to get it, yet with an e-book, there might or might not be multiple steps before it can be lent. This is where I believe the first article I linked presents some of the best ideas of how to make sure that a company like Amazon doesn’t dominate the conversation. E-books shouldn’t be anymore complicated than they need to be or else they become something that gets in the way of the reader getting to the book.

The Reader-To a reader the book might be many things; a chance to discover a new world, a return to a world they enjoy, a way to connect with a friend who said read this and know me. The end result of the work of the author, editor, publishing house and intermediaries is to get the book into the hands of a reader who will enjoy it. One of the amazing aspects of how the internet has changed the book world is now a reader can become an intermediary as well. They can praise a book on multiple platforms, connect to the author on social media and thus find the best audience for the book.

The digital world of e-books, social media and other venues of publishing all present new and fantastic opportunities for the book world along with confusion. How can a self-published author best connect with their audience? How can a publishing house stay connected to their readers? How can an author balance their public and private lives? How can the steps between each piece be done well and easily for all involved? How can we get the right book into the hands of the right reader?

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The Power of a Link

One reason I haven’t fully blacked out my blog today is that I want to use it to write about the power of connecting, which is what SOPA and PIPA are threatening. The strength of the internet is that it is a web of links and it’s possible to trace a link back to its original source. Sometimes this is harder than others but if links in these chains began to disappear then conversations and sources would be lost. It is important to protect the property of creators, but creativity also requires connections to shift and grow. None of these are new ideas, but they’re important to recall when the discussion becomes one of right and wrong.

My professional life and my personal life are enhanced and grown by links to people, organizations, authors and patrons. I want to look into how some of these links have added to my profession as a librarian and my growth as a person, because mine is just one of many stories of linkages across the internet.

As a reference librarian who works primarily for students along with researchers at the University of Michigan, my job is to help along the path of searching out sources. In this moment in time that is mainly done by tracing a citation to a full text article or learning to navigate a database or catalog to find what’s needed. Each step of the process is made up of links beginning with the researcher explaining what they’re looking for, I need to understand them and we create a human connection. From that point, we have to translate questions into language that will be understood by our search tools such as Proquest and there the links become incredibly powerful. Once the right phrase is found, it’s possible to go ever deeper and seen multiple pathways to explore a question and follow the chains of thoughts. The reverse of this is using a citation to trace back to a source and here the power of links is staggering. I’ve had people grading papers ask for my help to track back a citation and when the right one is found, there’s a moment of oh, I see how they got there.

The other side of this story for me is the links of the world of fandom where thanks to the internet creators and fans find new ways to connect and fans are constantly connecting with each other. It’s possible for me to let an author know that I loved their newest book through a tweet and know they received the compliment. I can also find new shows and books thanks to the web of connections of my friends who all have different networks and we touch at many points. We encourage each other to keep looking and searching and make the world smaller. As I’ve learned, you never know what image or music will inspire you or change your day, but I know that on the internet if I find something that touches me, I can find where it began. From that source I can found out how to follow the creator or purchase from them just as a citation shows a teacher how you began. We can’t lose any links in these chains.

A difficult part of this is figuring out which links to present for extra information as there are some incredibly good ones out there. I’m going to link a lot of them.

From Wikipedia, definitions: SOPA, PIPA

From Pajiba.com, one of the best write ups I’ve read: The Stop Online Piracy Act and the Protect IP Act explained with profanity

From Google: Take Action

From WordPress.com: SOPA Strike

Please think on how you connect and trace links and take action.

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But its not accurate! The joys of anachronism in historical shows and fiction.

I was recently introduced to an amazing show on CBBC called Leonardo! by a friend of mine who wrote a fantastic post about it, which I highly recommend though it is full of spoilers. Reading her post got me thinking about how my levels of forgiveness in terms of anachronism depend on the work and its attitude. I studied Classics’ as an undergraduate, but do not consider myself a historian though I love history. I love the idea that the past is another world and when we try to put it into a form that will be recognizable to a modern audience, it changes due to what we expect to see or the story requires. Examining how this plays out is the beginning of my idea for this combination program watching/book group.

The power of historical fiction in print or on TV is that it invites you to enter the world of the past on street level and amongst perhaps characters who are even your age. As a librarian, I started to wonder what programming possibilities might be lurking in one of my favorite genres. In college one of my favorite experiences was social watching, sharing a new episode of a TV show together is a simple joy. My thought would be to combine that joy with a show like Leonardo or a book group about a fairly historical series and go from there. With every episode have the watchers pick on something to pay attention to, are they curious about art or clothing? Then before the next meeting, they do some research enough to find out what’s real and what’s not.

As my friend showed in her entry, a lot of these answers are easy to find online, but the joy comes in discussing them. To think about not only why was this presented this way but does it make sense? Was it done because the creators don’t have a large budget or did they change the story to involve more characters? What’s the driving force? As historical fiction or fantasy in a historical setting is a common setting in books and television shows, this could become a long running program with changes of medium depending on what the group finds interesting.

It also draws out ideas about what is important to us as the watchers in terms of what is acceptable to change and what isn’t? In terms of how people interact with media, we all have our points that make us go, no. These are key things that we learn as we’re growing and testing out genres to find out not only what do we enjoy but what pulls us out of a work. To create programming that gives young people a chance to discuss and experience various genres and think about how they work will help them become better readers and writers. At this point in time I don’t have a library to run this program at but someday I hope to as historical anachronism is a gateway to research and discussion brought by statements like, “But he’s wearing sneakers!”

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Reflection-Twitter and the power of background networking

I started on Twitter last year thanks to 624, where we looked at blogs and Twitter feeds. Since then its always on for me either in the corner of my browser or in a tab when I’m not on my own computer. I appreciate it since it leads me to links and people that I might not think of.

One of the things I enjoy a lot is how things get retweeted and Twitter suggests people that I might follow. That way I’m seeing the networks of the organizations I follow and so my own network grows. In terms of my professional life, the various ALA tweets combined with librarians lead me to new ways of thinking about being a librarian.

Though I always find it interesting how something will pop up in one of my other feeds like the whole complication over a YA editor denying a same sex relationship within a story. Its something I’ve seen in other avenues and thanks to Twitter, I’ve been able to follow the cascading effect as other authors pull stories out that are connected with that editor. I first found out about this through a blogger who focuses on fandom issues but its spiraled out and I think is a powerful thing to look at in terms of how powerful social networking can be. The blogger is Cleolinda and her recap of the situation can be found here. I retweeted one of her updates on this as she’s been keeping track of which authors are dropping out of anthologies.

In terms of what the class has been retweeting, its fascinating the wide range of things that are appropriate for this class. Its been a wonderful reminder that being a librarian covers so many different things and Twitter is just one way of getting access to a lot of them.

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The Disappointment of Borders

One of the great things about living in Ann Arbor is that there’s a Borders and I have a Borders’ Rewards cards, so they’re always sending me great coupons. Today I went into Borders with a coupon and a vague plan.

Lately I’ve been reading some amazing blogs and really thinking about reading outside of my normal range of fantasy books. I had in mind two books in particular, Bleeding Violet by Dia Reeves that was recommended on Reading in Color, a blog that I can’t recommend enough. Yet I went to Borders and couldn’t find it or her previous book, I checked their computer and it was supposed to be there but wasn’t. So I went searching for the second one I had in mind, White Cat by Holly Black that was reviewed and recommended on The Book Smugglers, there was a larger selection of Holly Black books but not that one. So I sighed and just did my normal wander through the YA section which is in two sections: regular and sci-fi fantasy, I was struck by just how many white faces there are. I had been aware of it before, but after reading these blogs and taking the course I have been. It becomes even more striking to realize just how many white girls in pretty dresses are on the covers of YA novels.

In the end, I picked up the Rick Riordan book and Lies My Teacher Told Me, but those two books by Dia Reeves and Holly Black are going on my amazon wishlist. I’m going to keep looking and even request a few books from Borders to keep learning so that when I become a librarian, I’m doing more than just introducing the same old books. Since I know there’s so many experiences I don’t truly understand and that the best way to learn is to read wonderful books written by authors who really know. I want any young person to walk into my library and think, oh look, I’m on the cover of that book and for that book to be a good read.

The internet is such a wonderful way to find out all the great books out there that don’t get displayed on the Borders’ shelves or Amazon’s front page, the shame is that I can read about these books but buying them is a treasure hunt. I guess I’ll just keep doing most of my book shopping at used bookstores, because I know they’ll have a greater selection and search online and at my local libraries for the books I really want to read.

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