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Above the Fold

A weekly newsletter for the changing world of libraries, archives and museums

May 10, 2010
Vol. 3, No. 16
ISSN: 1943-1457

In this issue:


Steve Wilson of Fast Pencil: Why the Next Chapter of Book Publishing Is 'Going to Be Monumental'  (External site)

Knowledge@Wharton   •  April 14, 2010

"Write once, publish anywhere." Next-gen publisher FastPencil has found its niche—tucked between authors, multiple formats and marketing. CEO Steve Wilson's startup works with authors to reformat content to fit any channel, from hard copy to iPhone, and uses social networking as well as traditional media to get the word out. This is one example of a fresh new business model for a tired old publishing industry.

This is a pretty complicated offer. In some ways this feels like 2.0 blather (getting your audience excited and involved as the authoring unfolds) but it's also a repackaging of traditional publishing added value (editorial, channel identification, sales support, etc.). When is the vanity press not a vanity press? I don't think this will be "monumental". For monumental, and what was called " a new world order" in the book publishing world by Evan Schnittman of Oxford University Press you just have to wait for the launch of Google Book Editions. ( Michalko)


Do Your Knowledge Workers Have a "Bitsmith"?  (External site)

Harvard Business Review   •  April 21, 2010

Productivity booster. Using the analogy of construction workers with backhoes, blogger John Sviokla says "high value-added knowledge workers" can boost the bottom line when provided with an enhanced information environment crafted by a "bitsmith"—a hybrid geek-content expert. As IT budgets continue to shrink, it's important to remember their vital role in making all of us more productive.

Agreed. We should have more of these in our work teams and in the library world generally. I liked their extra computer screen test—how hard is it for someone in your institution to get one? ( Michalko)


The Imitation Economy  (External site)

The Boston Globe   •  April 18, 2010

Sincerest form of getting ahead. Innovation has been touted as the winning business strategy of the last decade, but sometimes imitation can yield better results. Not only is it less risky and costly, but it can also occasionally lead to its own kind of serendipity. "At its best, copying spreads knowledge and speeds the process by which insights and inventions are honed, eliminating dead-end approaches and saving time, effort, and money."

This is a thoughtful antidote to the unending admonitions that innovation is everything. Being reminded that the "fast second" can often be much more productive is heartening. It's clear to me that the library is not going to be an innovator in the ways beatified in business books. Can we be a successful imitator marrying the innovative with our assets and values? ( Michalko)


Patrons are Consumers, and Consumers are Patrons; Or, How Publishers Can Learn to Stop Worrying and Love Libraries Again  (External site)

Tools of Change   •  April 26, 2010

Librarians unite. Library advocate Heather McCormack points out that libraries play a key role in book marketing and urges librarians to take a more active role in discussions over e-book business models. But, she notes, "public librarians strike me as individually disengaged from the ongoing pricing debate. Anger over expensive content licenses, complacency in their young marriages with Overdrive and NetLibrary, and an almost fatalistic attitude about DRM—all of these are reasonable reactions to an issue that has probably exploded a dozen of my synapses. But as service strategies, they're epic fails. To me, a library has a responsibility above all else to remain relevant to its community. In most cases, this will mean making like Roman gladiators and grappling with ebooks, no matter how ridiculous their cost, formats, or readers."

That there is a reading ecosystem and that the library is an important part of that system seems to me unarguable. What looks to be missing from the dynamic described in this blog post is the actual mechanisms whereby publishers and library advocates can have substantive discussions about these shared topics. In the academic publishing world there are a variety of venues in which research librarians participate. And in the specialist hothouse of university press publishing the proper ecological term is mutualism heading towards commensalism. Where does the interaction and participation between publishers and the broader library community happen? ( Michalko)


Stars of the Stalls  (External site)

Intelligent Life   •  Spring 2010

Second-hand tales. This article chronicles an informal survey of four New York sidewalk booksellers' inventory, and what it says about the enduring literature of our times.

You're book lovers out there. You'll like this. Before you click through to read, guess three authors that you think will be in the top 10 by volume count at these used booksellers. ( Michalko)


Science & Shelley: What Mary Knew  (External site)

History Today   •  May 2010

"The monster" deconstructed. The creature in Mary Shelley's Frankenstein has been demonized in modern culture to represent the evil results of science run amok, but Patricia Fara's thoughtful article analyzes the novel's themes of science, society and alienation in a broader historical context. Read on for an insight into the role classical mythology, women's suppression and an early work of science fiction played in influencing her work.

I used to be a fool for science fiction until the forms became too familiar. Throughout I'd been interested in its history and the evolution of those forms. Consequently I was surprised that I had never come across The Journey of Niels Klim to the World Underground by Ludvig Holberg which features in this essay. Now I know that until this reprinted and translated 2004 edition I would have had to get one of the nineteenth century editions from my research library. Maybe even in microfilm. ( Michalko)


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Above the Fold is a Web-based newsletter published by OCLC Research. It has been developed to serve a broad international readership from libraries, archives and museums. News items are supplied weekly under contract by Suzanne Douglas, Ibis Communications Inc. Research items are supplied by staff in OCLC Research. Please send comments and questions about this or other issues to rlg@oclc.org.
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