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Librarian Blog

An abandoned form of speech

Political candidates may use bumper sticker slogans more now than ever, but they don't get them off bumper stickers anymore.
At least around this part of Texas, no cars have bumper stickers.
Oh, once in awhile you'll see a sticker that says "Keep Austin Weird" or "Keep Wimberley Weirder," but those are also fading away -- literally.
Four years ago, I saw only a few bumper stickers for the major party candidates, and my wife and I even had one on our only car.
Today? I see none, and I have none.
I suspect other folks are like me: They fear having their cars keyed or otherwise smashed because of what they might have on their bumper.
It's just that nasty out there, isn't it?
Too bad it's come to this.
(That sounds like a pretty good bumper sticker in and of itself, right?)

On the other hand ...

The high cost of textbooks is one thing. The new publisher ripoff called purchase access codes is another.
On the other hand altogether, there's the OpenStax online publication effort by Rice University.
Rice just released a report showing that 1.5 million college students have used a free text from OpenStax at a total savings of more than $70 million.
That's just involving 25 books, all of which are designed for introductory courses.
Yeah, but that's a huge start, isn't it?

A troubling trend line

Statistical reports are filtering in about book sales from the first quarter and the first half of the year.
Since many reporters are only semi-literate when it comes to numbers, some of these reports are confusing.
The New York Times had a piece over the weekend that tends to clarify the data. E-book sales are off for the quarter, when compared to the same quarter in 2015, for example. Audiobook sales are up. Books of hardbacks are relatively flat, and profits are down a little bit.
The Times article actually manages to paint a little brighter picture than the situation merits.
Down at the bottom of the story is the real headline.
It says:
"Some studies show that leisure reading of literature is in decline in the United States. A survey released in August by the National Endowment for the Arts found that in 2015, only 43 percent of American adults had read “a work of literature” for pleasure in the previous year. In a similar study in 1982, 57 percent of adults surveyed said they had read a literary work for pleasure in the previous year."

A new textbook fee

Many college profs do worry about how much it is costing students to take their classes.
They know that college costs have risen dramatically and that state aid has been reduced substantially in recent years. And they know that students have had to borrow unprecedented amounts of money to pay for their higher educations.
Some seem to know that a key factor in rising costs is related to textbook costs, so some of them are using open-source books to save students money. Some are not requiring texts at all, although that's pretty hard to do in some disciplines.
So what are enterprising text/materials publishers to do in the face of this revenue stream decline?
Well, rest assured they don't plan to lose money.
Come now "access fees."
Students have to pay these fees to access texts and related materials that professors require -- on the internet.
The New York Times reported Sunday that about a third of courses in a recent survey required students to buy these codes at a cost of about $100 each.
The publishers may think this is enterprising. I call it exploitation. Professors should be in the corner of their students, not in the pockets of the publishers.

Kick-start that book

Got a book you think is worthy of publication?
But, having trouble selling it to a big publishing house? Or anyone else in the legit publishing business?
Thanks to technology you have several options.
One, you can set up the book yourself in Microsoft Word or Publisher and send it to A Studio Z Printer, asking them to print and bind it.
Two, you can post your book digitally on your website or in a blog post provided at no charge by people like those who run Wordpress.
Three, and perhaps best, put the book idea onto Kickstarter and see if it will attract backers.
That option, by the way, is increasingly popular and lucrative.
Take, for example, a book called "Rebel Girls," which is aimed at girls and features stories about 100 successful women. So far, the Kickstarter campaign for this book as raised more than $1 million.
Almost 3,000 projects were funded by Kickstarter campaigns last year, making it one of the Big 4 publishers in the country, if you want to stretch and call it a publisher.
A lot of those were graphic and comic novels, which are unusually hard to get published, I suspect.
There's a market out there for just about anything, including, according to the story I read, a book about a bad dog that turns good.
 
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