ARC-Gate at ALA

Last week, and it is difficult to believe it was already more than a week ago, the American Library Association held its Annual Conference in the land of Mickey Mouse, Anaheim, California.

And there was a kerfuffle on YouTube about ARCs and who should be able to pick up how many on the exhibit hall floor.

Two bloggers at The Lost Lola posted a 22-minute video, since retracted, detailing their incredibly awesome book haul at ALA. They scored, and I think scored is a fair assessment, two copies of everything possible, including a lot of books they had no personal interest in.

A librarian who blogs at Stackedbooks questioned on Twitter how authors would feel “knowing a librarian couldn’t get an arc of their book at ALA, but a blogger picked up multiple copies.”

The Lost Lolas have printed an impressive and well-thought out response and clarification, but lots of questions still stand.

Let’s start at the beginning. I have described ALA as BEA for librarians, and I think it’s a fair description. ALA is a business conference for libraries, just as BEA is a business conference for the book industry. And just like the book industry, a good bit of the business of libraries happens to be books.

Not all of it, but a lot of it. That doesn’t make ALA a book convention. There was another half of the exhibits that was all about automated systems, materials-handling units, furniture, and supplies. This stuff isn’t sexy, but it was all on that floor. And those things are a significant part of the business of libraries.

Libraries do promote reading. And one of the ways we promote reading is through books. (I can hear you saying “well, duh” from here). Libraries are also part of the publishers’ ecosystem to promote books and authors. Libraries constitute about 10% of book sales in the U.S overall. For some genres and markets, like children’s books and audiobooks, we’re a lot more.

For midlist authors, libraries are a critical lifeline. Libraries provide the author, not just sales, but also word-of-mouth “advertising”. If the librarian likes the book, it gets “sold” across the desk. One enthusiastic reader puts the book directly into the hands of another. It’s a trust relationship.

We bloggers are trying to get into that “space” but we’re not there yet.

For anyone who has noticed that I’ve said we on both sides of this issue, I have. I am a librarian. I attend ALA because I am a member of the Association, and because I serve on a committee. I’m part of the business of the Association that gets done at the Conference.

And right now, most of my day-to-day work is as a book blogger.

But ALA is a business convention. It’s one of the largest conventions in the U.S. Not just for the number of people who attend (20,000!), but also for the number of simultaneous meeting rooms. On Saturday and Sunday, there are more than 100 meetings every hour.

And because it’s a business convention, if you’re there to be at a meeting, or three, or five, you can’t drop everything to stalk the exhibit halls for the author signings. People notice when you don’t show up at committee meetings, especially if you’re the chair of the committee. Or when you don’t make the presentation when you are one of the speakers.

ALA is a volunteer-run organization for the most part. The members do most of the work.

So when a librarian can’t be in the exhibit hall at a particular time for a particular signing, it’s because she or he has a commitment to keep. It’s a working conference.

But what ALA isn’t, is a book convention. It’s not RomCon or the RT Booklovers Convention or even WorldCon. There’s a picture (at right) from the RT Booklovers Book Fair, where the description touts the 100’s of authors who are there just to sign books. That’s not what ALA is.

The thing about this whole mess is that all the parties involved went in with different expectations. The bloggers saw it as a book conventions, with that set of expectations. They had a plan of attack to maximize their resources to get as much out of the book convention as possible. What they did is understandable from that perspective.

The librarians who come to the conference see it as professional development, or professional commitment. They get ARCs for a whole different set of reasons. Some are just for reading. But a lot more have to do with programming, especially YA programming. Teen librarians want ARCs to give to teen readers as prizes for book clubs, to plan programs, and just to figure out what their groups will be reading next.

Yes, the libraries that sent those librarians should find better ways to reach out to publishers, and should have better funding. And a lot of other things. But library budgets are shrinking right now. And a lot of librarians are self-funded to conferences. In other words, they pay their own way.

Just like bloggers.

The questions remain. Should ALA change their policies regarding exhibits-only passes to give preferential treatment to members and book-industry professionals? BEA has only just begun admitting the general public, and only on a very restricted basis.

However, book reviewers, including bloggers, are eligible for attendance at BEA, it’s just more expensive than an ALA exhibits-only pass. Considerably more expensive.

This isn’t just a question about ARCs. It isn’t even a question about ALA policy.

Why did the issue of ARCs touch so many hot buttons  among both librarians and bloggers?

What do ARCs mean to you? What does a massive ARC haul mean to you? Why do we covet ARCs? What do we do with them after the conference?

And what will we do when publishers stop printing them?

(This post was previously published at Book Lovers Inc.)

Everybody’s Wishlist

As you read this, I am probably standing, no, make that searching, the exhibit hall floor of the American Library Association Conference, trying to find hunting down last minute ARCs.

You see, the ALA exhibits are kind of like BEA for librarians. That’s not all ALA is, but that’s definitely part of what ALA is. And on Monday morning, as the exhibitors are starting to pack up their booths, that’s definitely what ALA is. Miles and miles of books.

My kind of place.

Since I was going to send myself a box (or two) of books from the conference, I asked some non-conference going book-loving friends if there was anything they wanted me to look for, you know, while I was in the neighborhood.

The Advance Reading Copy neighborhood, that is.

Even though we are book bloggers, and we get ARCs, there are still some books we’re all chomping at the bit to get, just that teeny, tiny bit ahead. If we can. If there’s a chance.

Here’s the “shopping list” my book loving friends sent me with.

Endgame by Ann Aguirre (Ace)
Precinct 13 by Tate Hallaway (Berkley)
Temptation’s Edge by Eve Berlin (Berkley)
The Space Between Us by Megan Hart  (HQN) (2 copies)
Burning Up by Anne Marsh (Kensington)
A Dangerous Liaison with Detective Lewis by Jillian Stone (Pocket)
Outpost by Ann Aguirre (Feiwel & Friends) (2 copies)
Onyx by Jennifer Armentrout (Entangled)
Cursed by Jennifer Armentrout (Spencer Hill Press)
Throne of Glass by Sarah J. Maas (Bloomsbury)
Riveted by Meljean Brook (Berkley)
The Care and Feeding of Stray Vampires by Molly Harper (Pocket)
Trapped by Kevin Hearne (Random)
Into the Woods by Kim Harrison (Harper)
Cherished by Lauren Dane and Maya Banks (Berkley)
Gunmetal Magic by Ilona Andrews (Ace)

I was offered someone’s firstborn for the Kim Harrison. I’m not…interested. I’d rather have the book. But it says something about how passionate we readers are about getting our hands on new books. Especially ahead of schedule.

Is there anything on this wishlist that you’re waiting for with the proverbial bated breath? What books are you on “pins and needles” about?


Impossible Mission

I plan to carry out an impossible mission in this post. Not the kind where the “Secretary will disavow all knowledge of my actions,” although there will be some “Secretaries” involved. So this mission will not involve either Peter Graves or Tom Cruise. Nor will there be any spies.

By the time you read this, I will either be flying between Atlanta and Dallas, or already in “The Big D” and in the midst of the madness that comprises the American Library Association Midwinter Conference. A madness that is only exceeded by the insanity of the American Library Association Annual Conference, which will be in hot, dry Anaheim California, in June. Look out, Mickey Mouse!

ALA Midwinter originally came into being for the Association to conduct its business. And there are a LOT of committee meetings. But since everyone was there anyway, the vendors who sell to libraries also come to the conference to exhibit their latest and greatest. The publishers come to promote their new books. There are usually LOTS of Advance Reading Copies free for the taking. Stacks and stacks of them!

About that impossible mission? Attempting to make my ALA Midwinter Schedule sound interesting. Please don’t stop reading now!

I said that ALA conducts a lot of its business during the Midwinter conference. I am proud to say that I am part of that business. This year, I am the Chair of the Association for Library Collections and Technical Services Affiliate Relations Committee. Whew, that’s a mouthful. It’s abbreviated as ALCTS ARC. You can imagine why.

Being Chair of an ALCTS committee means that I go to the ALCTS Board meeting on Friday afternoon and Monday afternoon. This year, ALA is promoting the theme of “Transforming Libraries” and a big part of that theme is “Transforming Collections”. ALCTS, well, remember that word “Collections” in the name? We’re all over that “Collections” thing. So we’ll be talking about our role in ALA’s initiative.

The Affiliate Relations Committee is something different. We gather information about continuing education that happens all around the country, and distribute it to everyone. So that folks in California know what’s going on in Maryland and vice-versa. You might think that’s not all that relevant, but with webinars, location is not quite the factor it used to be. And if someone in Oregon knows of a good speaker on a hot topic, the speaker might very well be willing to travel to conduct a similar workshop. Networking is everything!

(I’ll be doing two webinars for the Maryland Library Association, one on genre selection on Jan. 31 and one on Ebook Collections on Feb. 9. The webinars are from Maryland, but I’ll be in Atlanta!)

What else will I be doing in Dallas? Seeing colleagues I only see at conference. Going to sessions on topics that interest me, like ebooks and collection development.

And oh yes, I’ll be walking the floor. Not like that. The exhibit hall floor. A chunk of the publishers I regularly cover in Ebook Review Central will be at the Conference. Kristina from NetGalley will be there. And I want to visit all the print publishers and get on their lists to get review copies, too.  There’s miles of walking in my future, but it will be so worth it.

I just have to restrain myself from bringing home too many ARCs. Those suckers are heavy.

A billion wicked thoughts about ebooks and libraries

On October 12 I attended the second annual virtual conference about ebooks and libraries, sponsored by Library Journal and School Library Journal. The title of the conference was Ebooks: the New Normal, and I wondered, is it really?

The conference itself was really cool. This is a conference about ebooks, after all. It should be a virtual conference. Requiring a physical conference to talk about a virtual product would be either ironic or contradictory. The sessions were great! At the same time, as one of the attendees pointed out on Twitter, it’s hard to sit down for drinks together afterwards to rehash the conference. Putting it another way, hash tags just don’t taste as good as a glass of wine with new friends after the conference is over.

But back to that thought about whether ebooks are the new normal, or not. Ebooks are definitely a permanent part of the library landscape. Ian Singer of Media Source quoted adoption rate statistics that ebooks are in over 90% of academic libraries and over 80% of public libraries. But “in” and “integrated” are two different things. A lot of academic library ebook collections are mostly for research. And a lot of public library ebook collections are just getting started.

What about those “billion wicked thoughts”? One of the speakers in the afternoon Pecha Kucha session was Ogi Ogas, author of A Billion Wicked Thoughts: What the World’s Largest Experiment Reveals About Human Desire. His advice to libraries regarding ebooks is that we need to not just stock a lot of ebook romances, but that we need to get involved in archiving fanfiction. Wow! Why? Because men like pictures and women like stories, meaning romance fiction. His research follows the publishing trends, and the library ebook circulation trends, that romance sells, and romance circulates. Ebook romances of all stripes and types are the hottest circulating genre of ebooks, and romance authors are the hottest circulating authors except for the big name bestsellers like Patterson and Roberts. Except, hey wait a minute, Nora Roberts is a romance author.

Robin Bradford, Fiction Collection Development Specialist at the Indianapolis-Marion County Public Library, said something similar in her earlier presentation. She said that purchasing for the ebook collection isn’t like buying for the print collection. She showed the top 20 ebooks from IMCPL, and there they were, hot romance authors in the top 20. Lauren Dane had 4 books in the top 20. (Go Lauren, she’s really good!) Robin’s point in general was that the ebook audience may be different from the print audience and we have to purchase what will circulate. Another one of her comments that was clearly a big takeaway based on the Twitter chat was that the ebook users want the authors’ backlist if it’s available. And it increasingly is thanks to publishers like Open Road Media.

But about that whole normal thing? One of the issues that’s part of the old normal, and an even bigger part of the new normal, is budget limitations. Ebooks may not take up any room, and genre fiction can be less expensive than hardcover books, but library budgets have shrunk. We can reallocate money from some other places, like periodicals, and standing orders, and reference books. But databases also cost more, and that expense isn’t going away.

Libraries do a lot of their collection development from reviews. Not for the upcoming bestsellers, the sure things, but authors and titles they don’t know and have never heard of, they do. When a library is looking at an ebook collection, as Robin Bradford and other speakers pointed out, the library shouldn’t be duplicating its print collection. There are a lot of titles from publishers such as Carina and Dreamspinner and Samhain that are ebook-only, and many are written by new or relatively unknown authors. In other words, if these were print, collection development would look for reviews. Even when the individual titles cost less than $5, the money does add up. There are reviews out there, if a librarian is willing to go hunting through the blogosphere, but that takes a lot of time. Or it’s a labor of love.  Library Journal has been reviewing ebook-only titles in their Xpress Reviews online since July 2011 (full disclosure: I am one of their reviewers), but libraries need more resources in order to integrate ebook ordering into collection development. We need the equivalent of AudioFile or VOYA for ebook only titles, except online, of course!  When that exists, ebooks will  truly be the new normal in libraries.

Who’s with me on this?

A Post of Bloggers

We seriously need a collective noun for a group of bloggers.  Maybe it should be a post of bloggers? Or a specialty application, a shelf of book bloggers? After all, there’s a term for every other type of conglomeration–a gaggle of geese, an exhaltation of larks, a parliament of owls, an unkindness of ravens. I’ve even seen “a hush of librarians” proposed. That’s  evocative but seriously inaccurate.

This morning at the New England Library Association Conference, four noted YA book bloggers presented an awesome panel, and there certainly was no hush in the room, or anywhere at the NELA Conference. But about those book bloggers…

First of all, I found two terrific new book blogs that I hadn’t heard of before. I say two, because two were already on my list of daily “must reads”.

And one of those two “must reads” was the reason I was willing to attend a panel, any panel, at 8:30 am. I can be bright, or I can be early. I can’t be both at once. But I have read Leila Roy’s Bookshelves of Doom since I found her blog while researching for my YA “creature-feature” table talk for South Carolina, and I just couldn’t miss the opportunity to hear her in person. Her speaker’s “voice” is just as witty as her writing, But it was her reasons for starting her blog that resonated with me as a fellow blogger. The desire to share knowledge, the need to talk about books. The craving to remain part of the book community.

Jennifer Rummel’s “voice”, and her blog, were new to me, but now that I know about her, I’ll be keeping track of her blog, too. Not just because I liked what she had to say about books and reading, but also because her advice about keeping up with her blog was practical and helpful. All those thoughts about sitting in front of a keyboard 4, 5 or 6 days a week are daunting. I’ve been wondering about whether or not to participate in some of the blogging memes, and if so, which and how many. Hearing another librarian blogger discuss the subject, and say how valuable they are, provided a lot of insight. It was good to hear another blogger’s thoughts. And her site at YABookNerd is cool.

Andrea Graham’s blog, 4YA, is more about services to people who serve youth, than it is about books. But it contains some very neat links. And I’m fascinated with the way she markets her services. She also showed us all a really cool site. Pinterest, which is an online pinboard. It doesn’t necessarily have anything whatever to do with libraries, but it looks like a whole lot of fun. And we all need more fun.

Last, but not least, was Josie Leavitt, one of the bloggers at ShelfTalker at Publishers Weekly. I read all the blogs at PW, so I did know about ShelfTalker. Josie’s take on blogging was slightly different, since she blogs from a bookstore rather than a library. She doesn’t so much review books as talk about bookselling in general and the industry as a whole. So not an individual book about angels and werewolves being good or bad, but a teen coming into the store saying, “if I read one more book about an angel and a werewolf I’m going to puke,” or words to that effect.

Josie left all of us with some great advice, something all bloggers should keep in mind. “Never blog when you’ve been drinking.”

Definitely words to blog by.