Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Your News Report

The National Yiddish Book Center is online and functional. The project began over a decade ago and now contains over 10,000 titles in Yiddish. But do they have The Yiddish Policemen's Union?

Anderson News makes news of its own by discontinuing distribution for at least a few days while they come to terms with a charging more money. I'd expect retailers to pay the extra money as Anderson is a major company in the realm of periodicals.

The Missouri Department of Revenue is no longer giving out tax forms at libraries and post office branches. I suggest you use their online site.

We've seen it before and we're seeing it again; people are going to libraries for more than just books. This article however, take libraries and architecture and gives you different perspective.

Congratulations to the Rosedale branch of the Baltimore County Public Library system for winning the 2009 John Cotton Dana Library Public Relations Award. Their Storyville learning center has done wonders.

USA Today is reporting that libraries won't be prosecuted for lending books printed after 1985. And in general it sounds like they'll be pretty lenient even if they did. Why the hubub? Because some of those older books you check out from your local library may have lead in the ink.

And delving yet again into the world of e-books, take a look at Tobias Buckell and how his print sales were impacted by a free e-book from his publisher. Tor, Buckell's publisher, had several books released in e-book format last year. Enough to keep anyone in front of a computer busy for some time (unfortunately, the e-book links have been removed).

And just in time for Valentine's Day, we have Harlequin giving away sixteen titles (free and in e-book format). And while there are not many truly free books out there, you can find a few with some hunting. Or you can let someone else to the legwork and visit sites like Hey, It's Free! Then there's rumors that Barnes & Noble will join the ranks of e-book sellers (the same article also talks about "shortcovers," a new e-book concept). Plastic Logic also emerges as a new producer of e-book readers. Time will tell how they fare.

Finally, Mike Elgan of Computerworld has a super-awesome article on e-books. I highly, highly suggest you read it. Twice. He mentions Amazon's new version of the Kindle (big news by itself), but I think the bigger news is the e-book revolution. I'll delve into it a bit here and give my own opinions on his points.

First, he talks about the economy. Last year, book publisher TOR released a decent number of titles in PDF format for free. Ironically, I've seen an increase in free books and free samples lately (both inside and outside of the book industry). This leads me to believe that indeed, readers are looking to cut costs. I've seen (and practiced) this mostly with libraries. But I could see people buying an e-book reader to save money in the long term. e-books in any format are cheaper for the reader.

Second, Elgan talks to the environment. I can see the point, but find it hard to say that printed books are a serious environmental hazard. Sure, cutting down trees and the plants that make paper out of them and the presses that print on the paper could use some tuning up. But rarely do I see a person shell out twenty-five dollars on a new hardback only to throw it away a few months later.

The publishing revolution, now that I'm seeing a heavy dose of. Not many publishers are doing well enough to ignore an opportunity to cut costs. Shipping reviewers, editors, and printers a PDF version of the book is much easier than a printed version. And think of the money that could be saved with the ARCs/Galleys! In fact, netGalley is taking this part to task and doing well from what I see.

Aggressive e-book marketing it a bit of hit or miss with me. I see little aggressiveness, but I do see marketing. I think if Sony or Amazon dropped the price of their readers, we'd see more conversions with customer and even more marketing. Which leads me to believe that whichever publisher pushes this wave hard could end up on top.

Availability of e-books is certainly growing. Books in PDF, Word, RTF, and various other formats are available out there now. You can download full novels, read books online, read sample chapters, and even read draft versions. And I think those freebies are great marketing levers. It's the mainstream titles that are cropping up on Kindle and Sony Reader sites that are starting to draw more attention. In fact, I'd guess that nearly every mainstream title and author carried by major publishers is or will be available in some form of e-book format.

The death of newsprint is hard for me to swallow. I think part of me never expects the newspapers to die off. After all, they've been around for decades. And make for great research tools. But having something in your hand as you read the news is comforting to me. Getting my news via RSS feeds or Wikipedia or my Wii just doesn't quite feel right. I think time will tell on this one. And our newspapers of the future may be nothing more than a piece of plastic that's a touch screen that gives us all the news we sign up for and nothing more.

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