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Noted with Interest, February 2012

Feb 29, 2012

Don’t tell us it’s not a class war
By Gerald Caplan. He evokes Naomi Klein’s classic Shock Doctrine, and shows how it pertains to the present. From The Globe and Mail (Canada), Feb 24, 2012. Accessed Feb 29, 2012.

Capitalism And Its Discontents: Richard Wolff On What Went Wrong
by David Barsamian. “When a system has everybody playing more or less by the rules and achieves the level of dysfunction we have now, it’s time to stop looking for scapegoats and understand that the problem is the system itself.” Hear, hear! Pardon me if I feel vindicated by this cogent, crystal-clear dissection of our current mess. From The Sun, Feb 2012. Accessed Feb 28, 2012.

The “Undue Weight” of Truth on Wikipedia
By Timothy Messer-Kruse. I like Wikipedia, and many of us rely on it. However, it is important to remember from time to time just where the articles come from and how they are maintained. Here is a credible, true-life story of a man who discovered that reliability was more important than truth on Wikipedia. It was an eye-opener for me. From The Chronicle of Higher Education, Feb 12, 2012. Accessed Feb 15, 2012.

All together now: Montaigne and the art of co-operation
by Richard Sennett. The Comments on this article are as interesting as the article itself, perhaps more so. It is an essay, and a sentiment, in support of what I have been writing about here since 2008. From The Guardian, Feb 10, 2012. Accessed Feb 15, 2012.

Contraception’s Con Men
by Garry Wills. In the wake of the recent flap over contraception coverage in health plans, Wills disassembles the opposition arguments one by one. From The New York Review of Books, Feb 15, 2012. Accessed Feb 15, 2012.

tags: Noted with Interest

The Coming of the Candidates: Introduction

Feb 27, 2012
I have often on this site urged us to find, fund, and elect1,2 a new brand of politician that will wrest our country from the grasp of the corporatocracy. I have proposed a third party, naming it the New Century Party, and provided it with a platform with ten planks that should appeal to rational individuals across the political spectrum, from conservative to progressive, from Tea Party to Occupy Wall Street.

With the 2012 election coming up, a grassroots groundswell of sorts is developing, with several candidates coming forth to challenge the incumbent Republican and Democratic minions of the corporatocracy. They share an agenda which puts the people first, and promises to reverse the disastrous trends of the last 30 years. They share an awareness of the dangers of gross inequality in income and opportunity among Americans; of the disasters we are facing from global climate change; of the evils of militarism and unregulated capitalism. They support a publicly funded health care program; a revitalized, green economy; and a return to the principles of open government, the rule of law, and adherence to due process.

These candidates are not going to be slick; they are not going to be air-brushed; they are not going to have $400 haircuts. They may sound more like your next door neighbor (if you are lucky in your neighbors) and less like the snake oil salesmen currently spending tens of millions of dollars attempting to manipulate the less worthy instincts of an undereducated and frightened electorate.

They deserve and demand our attention. If we find them credible and their campaigns viable, we should support them with our dollars, our word-of-mouth, our letters to the editor, our volunteer labor gathering signatures, our Tweets, and any other assistance we can bring to bear.

I will introduce them here, as they come to my attention. Please EMAIL ME with additional ones you would like to see featured here, providing me with at least the URL to their web page.
1 Birthers and Death Panels, from All Together Now, Aug 14, 2009.
2 Up From Slavery, from All Together Now, Sep 6, 2009.
tags: New Political Party | Congress

The End of Libraries, Part XI: KOLL vs. Bilbary

Feb 21, 2012
Although Amazon has not produced a press release on the usage of their Kindle Owner’s Lending Library (KOLL) for January, as they did for December, I have been in touch with a writer who has taken part in the program. He has been able to extrapolate numbers from his own January activity. As a result, we believe KOLL loaned about 435,000 titles in January, paying authors or publishers around $1.60 per loan. Compare these to the figures for December which Amazon announced in their press release of Jan 12, 2012: 295,000 checkouts paying out $1.70 for each.

Amazon increased the royalty pot for January by 40%, from $500,000 to $700,000, and a good thing. There were almost 50% more checkouts in January, and without that extra money, they would have resulted in considerably less payout per loan. There is no word yet on whether the pot will be increased again for February. If it isn’t, and if February lending again increases by anything like the same amount, the per-loan payout will drop considerably.

I predict Amazon will sweeten the pot in order to retain their list of titles. Authors who entered the program in December will have the option of dropping out in early March (after their 90-day commitment). At present, there are just over 110,000 titles in KOLL. We will see how those numbers hold up as we move into March.

Meanwhile, we have discovered a new threat to libraries over the past two weeks. Bilbary is a commercial startup that has reportedly signed agreements with five of the Big Six publishers and is negotiating with 2,300 others. (See Bilbary Seeks to Heal the Digital Rift Between Publishers and Libraries, by Mercy Pilkington, on GoodEReader (undated).

Although paying lip service to the importance of libraries, Bilbary founder Tim Coates plans not only to sell titles on Bilbary, but to offer a lending component as well, probably on some pay-per-loan fee structure. Unlike Library Ideas’ Freading, which we reported on in Part IX, Bilbary is also wisely reaching out to self-published authors who, probably not coincidentally, provide the majority of the titles offered on KOLL.

This second commercial resource for eBook lending, if it actually materializes, is potentially an even bigger threat to public libraries than KOLL, as it will undoubtedly relax the restrictions—one checkout per month from a smaller pool of largely self-published titles—which are enforced for KOLL customers, who must also be affiliated with Amazon’s Prime service ($79/year).

I expect publishers are attracted to Bilbary as a potential antidote to the monopoly Amazon is pursuing in the book-selling, book-publishing, and book-reading businesses. Those 110,000 titles participating in KOLL, remember, can only be purchased at Amazon (in print or eBook format), and the eBook version will only run on the Kindle line of products.

Where does this leave public libraries? Where we have been throughout, I fear: Out in the cold. Unless we become better organized and more militant, entities such as KOLL and Bilbary threaten to both balkanize and commercialize the business of accessing eBooks, to the detriment, and possible dissolution, of our public library network.
tags: Books and Libraries

The End of Libraries, Part X: A Call to Action

Feb 11, 2012
Macmillan and Simon and Schuster have never sold eBooks to public libraries. Penguin yesterday ceased selling eBooks to public libraries. Brilliance Audio (owned by Amazon) and Hachette Book Group (which includes Little Brown) do not sell eBooks to libraries.

Many publishers who do sell eBooks to libraries charge much more for them than they charge you or me when we purchase the same product, or, in the case of big six publisher HarperCollins, restrict the number of times an eBook can be loaned out before it has to be repurchased. And even charging libraries two or three times the price an individual pays, libraries are still forced to treat eBooks like they treat their print books, loaning them to only one reader at a time.

Overdrive, which acts as the middle man in most eBook lending by public libraries, charges our state public library consortium $12,000 a year just for the platform, never mind the cost of the books. Now, Overdrive is no longer accepting consortia, and every tiny public library in the nation that wants to loan eBooks is going to have to go it alone.

Meanwhile, Amazon’s Kindle Owner’s Lending Library now lists over 103,000 titles in its collection, each able to be loaned to as many Amazon Prime customers at one time as want them (though each customer is still limited to one loan per month).

For those of you who are following this issue, and have read the first nine parts of this series, you know that things are getting worse, not better. The public needs to take a stand, and they need their libraries to lead the way.

I propose a boycott on any and all book purchases from all publishers, regardless of format (print, eBook, audiobook), until such time as the publishers respond to the outcry from readers and writers which is sure to result. And when publishers do come around, I propose holding out for a sane lending policy for digital materials, similar to the AmPLE procedure proposed in Part II of this series or the Freading model described in Part IX. Both are pay-per-loan models, advantageous and fair to all parties. In addition, I would require publishers to make all their books available in all eBook formats, from the date of print publication. In other words, nothing more nor less than the privilege libraries (and their readers) enjoy today for print materials.

Remember the bottom line: Writers want readers and readers want eBooks. Facilitate that relationship and you will thrive. Stifle it and you will die. Publishers and Overdrive are stifling it and libraries, as much as they would wish to facilitate it, cannot in the face of publishers’ intransigence. And meanwhile, Amazon marches on, adding on average more than 1,500 titles every day to its lending library since its inception in early December 2011, and poised to grab all the marbles. The Big Six publishers will not be missed after they self-destruct. But threatening the continued existence of our public library system imperils our democracy.
tags: Books and Libraries

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The End of LibrariesNew Political PartyNoted with Interest


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