Hachette Books, one of the nation's leading publishers, has announced that effective next Thursday it will make its entire digital catalog of more than 5,000 e-books available for our patrons, as well as those of thouands of other libraries.
The bookw will be available for patrons to borrow through our OverDrive service, which can be accessed at our website.
Hachette publishes books by authors such as James Patterson, David Baldacci, David Sedaris, Kate Atkinson, Sandra Brown and Sara Zarr.
This is a big breakthrough for folks who want to read books with devices such as the Kindle or the Nook. Hachette has been one of the major holdouts on letting us buy their books so we can lend them to our patrons.
The argument they have put forward is a good one, and I sympathize with them. They fear the demise of printed versions of their books if demand skyrockets for digital formats.
And the prediction is that demand will skyrocket.
Still, thanks, Hachette, for facing reality.
The future of braille is not at all clear.
That's according to the National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped. In its latest newsletter, the NLS says that even though technology has made it easier than ever to produce a standard printed book, technological solutions have not come so easily in the braille world.
If technology is a challenge, the bigger challenge for producers of braille materials is reflective of one of the bigger challenges facing publishers of all printed materials -- a lack of copy editors and proofreaders.
Almost every publication I come across contains errors. Some have a lot of errors. I remain fairly astonished that I find so many things wrong in books published by the top houses. I found so many mistakes in articles in a recent edition of The New York Times Sunday magazine that I wrote an email to the editor complaining about them. Never heard back, of course. The guy or gal had to be mortified.
I cannot imagine how much harder it must be to edit something in braille, though.
This situation, regardless of whether in regular print or in braille, is not going to get better. As I have written here before, colleges are eliminating required editing and proofreading courses, and they were never popular to begin with.
I hope the full-page ad on the back of The New York Times Book Review section on Sunday is creating some buzz.
It certainly caught my attention, as a reader and a librarian.
The ad's main headlines say this: "Who will save our books? Our bookstores? Our libraries?"
A text block ends with this question: "What will happen if there are no more books like these?" Then, there's a list of more than three dozen best-of-all-time English-language books, everything from "The Sun Also Rises" to "The Armies of the Night" to "The Years of Lyndon Johnson."
And the ad winds up with a quote from James Patterson (of all people) that asks whether anyone really cares about the future of libraries, bookstores and books.
Clearly someone cares passionately about the subject. Ads in the Times are not cheap.
But, no one claims ownership of this particular campaign. There is no logo to indicate who paid for the ad.
Maybe it's what's called a "house ad," that is, one that the Times ran on its own without sponsorship.
It doesn't matter. The sentiments are well-stated if over-stated. Quite a number of editorialists and librarians and people in state, local and federal governments care about what happens to books and libraries. And the disappearance of books and libraries doesn't seem imminent.
But, what do I know? I worry more about the future of newspapers, a subject not addressed by the advertiser.
People around the world have so many ways to communicate these days that governments are having a harder and harder time keeping secrets.
That doesn't mean they won't keep trying to control all that information that wants to be free.
This morning's "New York Times" brings us the not-so-surprising news that South Africa's government is trying to pass tougher laws on communications, making more and more subjects taboo and subject to punishment.
The U.S. government since 9/11 has taken extraordinary steps to shut down various kinds of conversations, and now we have courts and cops that can act completely in secret.
Fortunately, there are folks out there who help us keep track of how free our speech is. Google on Thursday issued its report on government requests to take down information.
Requests by governments to restrict or remove content increased by 26 percent in the last six months of 2012.
"In more places than ever, we've been asked by governments to remove political content that people post on our services," wrote Susan Infantino, Google's legal director, in a blog post. "In this particular time period, we received court orders in several countries to remove blog posts criticizing government officials or their associates."
The powerful around the world just can't stand in the light.
Which is why we must all be vigilant to make sure that government (of the people, by the people and for the people) remains open at all levels and in all ways.
I was managing editor of the Wichita Falls newspaper when I first heard about the World Wide Web, although when I heard about it, it wasn't called that.
My copy desk was comprised of tech-savvy people who discovered "bulletin boards," especially one erected by our chief of police.
And they had learned how to use a crude version of e-mail.
They did not exactly let me in on these advances.
Instead, I stumbled into the Internet at a national Associated Press Managing Editors convention in Dallas. One of the sessions was about the Internet, although they did not call it that, and I was completely dumbfounded by what I saw presented.
I would like to say I instantly recognized the impact the Web could have on information technology ... and I did.
I hurried back to Wichita Falls and pulled together my most technologically informed staff members and tasked them with finding out everything they could, with the idea that we would explore how to use the Web to extend the reach of the newspaper, how we could monopolize it to keep our franchise.
Some months later, it appeared that our corporate managers had picked up on the potential, and they decided that all Web-oriented tech advances would be coordinated through them, thus centralizing the process and leaving me and my techies out of the whole thing.
And that's the story of my life with the Web. Corporate headquarters trying to lead innovation, but actually slowing everything down.
It was all hugely frustrating, right up to the end of my career two years ago.
The American-Statesman has some remembrances in Sunday's paper about where various folks were when they learned about the Web. Many of them had a much less frustrating time of it than I did. It's a recommended good read.
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