Happy New Year!

Downloads for 2013

Just a quick post to mark the New Year! I’ve just checked the number of downloads of the epub on the first day of 2014 … we broke the 1,000 mark in 2013! So in just over a quarter of a year we’ve been downloaded 1,026 times from 53 countries via the main repository it’s in. Downloads are staying high too, they don’t seem to be dropping away at all (except for Christmas week, which is fair enough!!!). Added to that were 736 unique visitors to the webpages (many of which will have followed the download link to the repository, so there is some double counting there!).

We’re also about 20 print books shy of covering costs, so with luck we’ll hit that figure over the next few months, which isn’t bad for an open access book :-)

That said, I’m happy losing a bit of money on it, so as long as I can get Innovative Libraries Press off the ground (please back the crowdfunding campaign!), any remaining income will go into an account I’m just setting up for that. So, as it continues to sell any income will subsidise production of more low cost books for the LIS profession …


Review in Journal of Information Literacy

I’m pleased to say there is another review of the book available. This time it is in the peer reviewed (open access) Journal of Information Literacy.

I won’t replicate much of it here, but it’s worth a look! Particularly pleased she pulled out Bryony’s chapter as her favourite:
“My favourite piece in the book was The Library by Bryony Ramsden. A beautifully written
fairytale involving unhelpful bears and robots , it acts as a warning to librarians not to be gatekeepers but to strive to be partners and enablers.”

Full review is at: Castle S. (2013). Book Review of Walsh, A. and Coonan, E. (eds.) 2013. Only Connect… Discovery pathways, library explorations and the information adventure. Huddersfield: Innovative Libraries. Journal of Information Literacy, 7(2), pp. 173 – 175. http://dx.doi.org/10.11645/7.2.1864

Library Camp discussion on publishing

Talked to people at Library Camp yesterday (In the new Library of Birmingham) about publishing and books aimed at library professionals, which I brought up after my experiences with ‘Only Connect …’!

In order to cover overheads (and hopefully make a profit), the UK publishers of books for library professionals are geared up to sell small quantities at quite serious amounts of money (about £50ish currently).

I feel this has a few serious impacts – it puts the books out of the reach of most professionals unless their libraries can buy them; means students on LIS courses can’t access them (especially distance learning students?); and means that the authors get read by relatively few people.

So, we talked about whether it was worth doing something different to address these issues!

There were a few things that came up around the reasons for people to publish with an established publisher, despite the drawbacks above. The key few were:

1) Money. It doesn’t bring in a great deal of money publishing a “library” related book, but it can bring in some! This is especially as the publishers can expect to sell a core amount of books based on prior reputation and contacts.

2) Respect. Writing a book with an established publisher brings a certain amount of Kudos alongside it, they bring a reassurance of a certain quality.

3) Self promotion. Something I definitely hadn’t thought of before, but which came up, was that some conference organisers look at lists of authors from library publishers when considering speakers. Writing a book with one of these can move an author from submitting papers to a conference, to being an “invited” speaker, or even Keynote.

So bearing those things in mind, did the group think it was worth doing anything different? A definite yes. If we could still make it attractive for people to write and edit books, then making them available through an alternative publisher at a minimal price would be great. The key thing would be making the books affordable and relevant to professionals and students to be able to buy for their own professional development. So not competing with the range of books from a traditional publisher, or competing for authors that are looking for the money, respect and self-promotion opportunities more likely by going with a traditional publisher, but finding an alternative way.

As such, any alternative would have to be small scale. Once you get to the stage of needing to employ staff, costs ramp up dramatically and it wouldn’t be possible to do these things. But aiming for books that are practical, include “warts and all” case studies, and perhaps aiming at supporting first time authors, could provide a small but steady stream of books that would meet the needs of students and current professionals. They would need to be free or very cheap as ebooks, with print on demand books again at a low a cost as possible.

Some key costs include ISBNs, design of covers and copyediting. To cover these, it might be necessary to create the first couple of books through a crowdfunding campaign, just to pump prime with the small amounts of money necessary.

Definitely some things to think about there, perhaps whether I should do something along these lines as a follow up from Only Connect…

European Conference on Information Literacy (ECIL)

Moo Business Cards with book imageI’m off to ECIL soon in Istanbul! It runs 22nd to 25th October, 2013 and promises to be an exciting week of information literacy goodness. In preparation I’ve ordered a few business cards from moo as a promotional item. So, in my talk (on games and information literacy) and whenever I see an opportunity I’ll be scattering these cards around to promote the book … wish me luck in spreading the word!

Our first review!

George reading a book in a casttle wall

One of our early jobs after getting the first batch of printed copies of ‘Only Connect …’ was to send a few copies out to review. Not too many as each one incurs another cost, everything comes out of our pockets and so we’re very aware we had to select carefully who to send them to!

While we were sending a handful of print copies to very serious traditional journals, we were really pleased that the lovely people at Manchester New Library Professionals Network agreed to review a digital copy. They’ve just put the review online and its a good ‘un!

As a key part of creating the book was to champion the need to look beyond reductionist, check list approaches to information literacy, it is particularly pleasing to see the conclusions they drew:

‘Viewed collectively, the variety that is present both in terms of the different methods applied in Information Literacy education and the divergent paths taken by the Travellers’,  makes plain that no approach is universally applicable; it is always dependent on person and context. A relational approach to Information Literacy therefore seems the most rewarding. This book encourages the reader to reconsider their understanding of Information Literacy and holds great potential to revitalise approaches to teaching. To conclude, the editors ask: “Has this book made you think? Edified you a little (or a lot)? Advanced the idea of information literacy at all?”  The answer to all three: a resounding “yes”.’

Thank you Manchester NLPN!


Open Access versus traditional publishing model

Creative Commons Screenshot(screenshot of cc licence)

A personal opinion by Andrew follows. (Though I suspect Emma feels something similar!).

I’ve had a few comments about how great it is that ‘Only Connect …’ is available for free online and has a good Creative Commons licence, so I’ve been reflecting on how different that is to the books I’ve published under more traditional models.

My previous books have sold a few hundred copies each. They are very expensive (to my mind!) to buy – in the UK they are between £40 & £50 (ish!). It is possible to pay (a lot of money) to buy them as ebooks for institutions, but not for individual use. The introductory chapter of each is available as a free taster after I asked for permission to upload them to my institutional repository, but that is all (and those chapters are “my” versions, not the typeset versions with proper page numbers, etc.). I suspect almost all the copies have been bought by university and college libraries (mainly in the UK & USA) and if I’m lucky they’ve been read by a couple of people at each place. At a rough guess, that means that well under 1,000 people have seen the inside of each book or directly benefited from the content. I’ve received a small income from them, but not a large amount of money – a few hundred pounds. I no longer own (the copyright on) the work that took me a MASSIVE amount of time and effort to create.

This book is very different.

Writing this one week after publishing the print and electronic version we’ve only sold 16 print copies (though it hasn’t percolated through to most of the ‘library’ type ordering databases yet). However, about 160 people have downloaded it from at least 14 different countries, and about 250 unique visitors went to the website to read it. By my reckoning that is roughly the same amount (or slightly more) than bought either of my print books in the first year. Add another week or so (being generous!) to allow for the fact that print copies  of other books may have been read by multiple people (as I suspect they are in libraries), then by the end of the first month I suspect more people will have read ‘Only Connect …’ than my other two books put together.

The content is free for as many people as possible to benefit from and this confirms we can expect many more people will be able to access that content than either of my other books. For anyone who wants a hardcopy they can buy it for roughly a third of the cost of either of my other books, so hopefully “real” people as well as libraries can afford to buy it! We’ve also put it at a minimal cost on device specific stores like Amazon for Kindle if anyone wants to buy it directly to their eReader for convenience. Instead of a small income, I start off with a small loss – a few hundred pounds to sort out ISBNs, distribution agreements, design of a book cover, legal deposit copies, etc. We need to sell about 80 print copies (which should be do-able if people recommend it to their library – HINT!) to roughly cover costs (the eReader stores are unlikely to sell enough copies to pay out!). If we sell around 100 copies it will pay for the contributing authors to have a complimentary print copy each as well. Any more and we make a small profit. Not much, but then that is the case for the traditional routes to publishing either. All the contributors retain their copyright and can re-mix and re-use the material and ideas however they want in future.

So for me, so far, this book has been a publishing success. Instead of a (pretty much guaranteed) small income I may make a small loss (but I may also make a small income!), but there isn’t a lot in it either way beyond a little up front risk. The big difference is that instead of the content being as innaccessible as possible and only viewable by the privileged few (normally in academic type libraries), it is available for free or at low costs in many formats and is as widely available as we can make it. Both now and in future guises as the copyright stays with the authors. The information is as free as possible to disseminate in the minds of others … isn’t that what writing and publishing should be about?


Some negative sides to self-publishing

Error message(Image from cowbite under cc licence)

I know we’ve sounded very positive about this whole process, which we are, but there are downsides to self-publishing! Here are a few for starters:

1) Getting to grips with self-publishing sites. We looked at a few self-publishing sites and ended up with Lulu. It seems set up for beginners (which we were!); included options for worldwide distribution both directly from their site and via book distributors (so libraries could buy copies); and you could bring your own ISBN along (which means we were the publisher, not the site). It was still hard work though! It wasn’t obvious how certain things worked or how to fix them … and we were responsible for everything. No-one to complain to or pass things to. It took a long time and lots of work to get files to work okay through the self-publishing site – which we wouldn’t need to worry about if we went to a traditional publisher.

2) Ebook standards! Blimey, it was hard work producing an ebook in multiple formats using free software on evenings and weekends. Again, passing the work onto other people just isn’t possible when you self-publish, unless someone with those skills owes you a favour or (more likely) you are willing to pay. The ebook still doesn’t do all the things we’d like it to, but at least it should work on most devices :-S

3) Promotional work. No chance of adding the book to a professional looking catalogue which is sent out to thousands of libraries. No staff waiting to take copies or take leaflets to major conferences on our behalf. No press releases sent out for us. We’ve had to do it all ourself. That said, although it was extra work, we think we’ve done a more focussed job than a publisher could have. It’s been sent for review to journals that match up well to our potential audience in Australia, USA and the UK. It’s been advertised on mailing lists in the UK and US. It’s been widely picked up on Twitter, We’ve written short articles and blog posts for people that have helped promote it. Just a lot more work than having a commercial publisher do it for you!

4) Cost. Instead of the only real cost being time, it has cost both more time (see above points!) and also money than if we went to a publishing house. We’ve had to pay for various things up front and it is a gamble whether we will cover costs at all. Still, at worst we’ll make a small financial loss as opposed to a reliable small profit with a traditional publisher.

5) Ongoing commitment. We can’t just sit back and relax once the book has been completed. We’re the publishers and have to make sure we keep an eye on things! Do we need more promotion? Is the platform we’re hosting the book on stable? Should we be pulling reviews into one place so we know how things are going? Should we update the book and bring out a new edition? What else do we need to worry about?!

These are a few negatives as the popped into my head, but the good news is they are outweighed by all the positives. Plus the negatives will be even less significant if we do another book in the future, as hopefully we now have a better idea of what we’re doing ;-)

Creating an (un)book

chatterbox chapter chooserThis has been the best bit of the project! The freedom to create an (un)book rather than one that fits a publisher’s expectations has been wonderful.

Instead of set expectations, restrictions, and set publisher models we’ve been able to create something that simply wouldn’t be possible without self-publishing.

We’ve got some chapters that look fairly traditional in style (though may struggle to find a home elsewhere because of subject matter); some that are textual, but are still completely different in style to any “library science” book we’ve ever seen (e.g. a library fairy story?) and some that mix text and multimedia in a way you won’t often find in a book. In the process we’ve created something a little bit hard to define, an eclectic mix of styles and contributions that do EXACTLY what we wanted – reflect part of the richness of information literacy and the information discovery journeys people set out on every day.

I’m really proud of our contributors for stepping up to the mark and giving us such a wonderful mix of material to share with the world.


We’ve published it!

Screenshot of book for salePhew! We’re about done!

The book was made live to buy on Lulu a week or so ago, it’s appeared on Amazon for the Kindle, it should appear on Nook and iBook stores soon and is available to download free as ePub and PDF.

All being well, in a few weeks time the print version will appear on bibliographic databases for libraries to buy and on Amazon as well (worldwide).

Besides a little tinkering it is also all online (with multimedia nicely embedded) on the innovative libraries website.

We’ve sent out a small number of review copies to journals and announced it to mailing lists and social media.

There is a copy sent off to the British Library for legal deposit and five more put to one side for the other legal deposit libraries.

It’s been a great and rewarding process to do, so the next few posts are likely to be reflections on the process :-)

Editorial meeting!

Chapter ChooserGetting there with the book now! We have the final versions of most of the contributions and are well on the way with our editorial text to tie the whole thing together (introductions, etc.).

The pair of us (Emma & Andrew) are meeting on Friday to finalise as much as we can and tie things up. With luck, everything for the print version will be done and dusted by September – looks like we may be able to get that version out by mid to end of September (with luck), with the ebook following as soon as possible afterwards in September / October (formatting looks like being a bit more complicated for electronic, so doing the easier print version first!).

The image above is the first attempt at a “chapter chooser” as an alternative table of contents :-D