Review: BiblioTech: Why Libraries Matter More Than Ever in the Age of Google by John Palfrey

bibliotech by john palfreyFormat read: ebook provided by the publisher via NetGalley
Formats available: hardcover, ebook
Genre: nonfiction
Length: 288 pages
Publisher: Basic Books
Date Released: May 5, 2015
Purchasing Info: Author’s Website, Publisher’s Website, Goodreads, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, Book Depository

The good libraries in Phoenix today are more important than ever. More than just book repositories, libraries can become bulwarks against some of the most crucial challenges of our age: unequal access to education, jobs, and information.

In BiblioTech, educator and technology expert John Palfrey argues that anyone seeking to participate in the 21st century needs to understand how to find and use the vast stores of information available online. And libraries, which play a crucial role in making these skills and information available, are at risk. In order to survive our rapidly modernizing world and dwindling government funding, libraries must make the transition to a digital future as soon as possible—by digitizing print material and ensuring that born-digital material is publicly available online.

Not all of these changes will be easy for libraries to implement. But as Palfrey boldly argues, these modifications are vital if we hope to save libraries and, through them, the American democratic ideal.

My Review:

ALA_NLW2015_FBThis week is National Library Week, so it seemed logical to review a book about libraries. Not just because I am a librarian, but because I believe that libraries are important to our future as a democratic society.

BiblioTech attempts to answer a question that most librarians and library workers face multiple times in any given month: whether libraries are still relevant in an age where any information an average person (or library user) might desire ostensibly can be found in the palm of one’s hand – in other words, accessible on the internet via any smartphone.

For those who believe that libraries’ primary purpose is to provide repositories for books, especially popular books, isn’t everything anyone might want to read available for instant download as an ebook?

In the face of those two questions, the author of BiblioTech provides a plausible and mostly reasonable answer.

However, the subtitle of BiblioTech is “Why Libraries Matter More Than Ever in the Age of Google”. After having read the book, I got the sense that the question the author actually answers is “How Libraries Can Matter More Than Ever in the Age of Google”.

The words “should”, “ought” and “must” get used much too much to let this book stand as “why”. The prescription here is that if libraries make some significant and necessary changes, they are capable of mattering more in the Google Age.

We aren’t there yet.

While it seems that the intent is to reach a popular audience rather than an insider (inside libraries, that is) audience, I can’t help but wonder how much of a popular audience this book will manage to reach. I’ve read most of these prescriptions before – but then again, I feel as if I am a part of the choir that this book, intentionally or otherwise, preaches to.

So from the point of view of this librarian/reviewer, the book reads as more of a prescription rather than a description.

It is an interesting prescription all the same.

The author’s questions, and in fact most librarians’ questions, revolve around finding, creating or transforming into a mission that draws on libraries’ unique strengths instead of continuing to do what we have always done, because what we have always done is in many cases being served more ubiquitously, if not always better, by for-profit entities.

But there are things that libraries do that are not done elsewhere, or are not done as well elsewhere. Most people support their local libraries and value them highly, but that support is not translating to tax dollars or institutional budgets.

Libraries as places do provide a sense of community. They are clean, well-lighted and climate-controlled “third places” in our society where anyone can come to get in out of the sun, to find a less distracting place to read or study, and to get information assistance if one needs it.

Too many of the places that provide some of these functions are Starbucks, where you need to buy something to “rent” a table, and someone will help with your coffee but not your homework.

Also, Starbucks may provide “free” wifi, but doesn’t provide laptops for those who need a computer to apply for jobs and services, to make the leap onto that first rung of the ladder that can get a person onto the ladder of success, or simply to get help.

(The above is not to say anything terrible about Starbucks. Just that their mission is different from a library’s – and so it should be.)

There is a long-term preservation mission that libraries fulfill. The entire sum of human knowledge has not, and probably will never be, digitized. But digitization makes remote or unique resources available to a wider world. And if you believe that those who forget the past are doomed to repeat it, well, libraries and archives and museums are the places where that past is preserved and analyzed for future applications.

The irony, as the author makes quite clear, is that it is proving more expensive to preserve the current digital output of information for future researches than it ever was to preserve the paper records of the past. Paper is still readable 50 years later, but the computer files of 20 years ago may only be readable on a device that no longer exists except in museums.

Also, libraries provide information from all sides and in all formats, without an agenda other than making the information available and protecting the privacy of those who seek it. If Google controls the availability of information, keep in mind that their agenda is to make a profit. Things that are not profitable may be deemed of lesser importance and suppressed or simply made too difficult to find. (I am not saying this is necessarily happening now, only that it can. This is similar to the arguments about Amazon’s power over the book marketplace.)

One of the strongest chapters in the book is the chapter on copyright law and how it both affects and hinders library mission, especially in this current age where the much more restrictive law of licensing is having greater and greater control on what libraries are able to offer and the means by which they are able to offer it.

As much as I agree with the author about the need for libraries in the future, and the need for libraries to change in order to be a part of that future, I have some difficulty with the way that the author addresses how libraries should go about that change.

One of the premises is that in order to provide funding for research and development into the necessary changes, and to provide funding for capital equipment and especially for professional development (meaning training) for library staff, that libraries will need to convince their current user base to accept less and fewer services now in order to pay for this bright new future that the author envisions. I find this more than a bit too idealistic. In order to maintain funding now, libraries are generally in the position of having to maintain all their services at the current levels with shrinking budgets, just to keep those budgets from shrinking even further in the wake of dissatisfied patrons screaming at their funding bodies about what they consider poor service.

In these types of scenarios, everyone wants someone else’s ox to get gored, and not their own.

But while I think that the implementation of many of the author’s prescriptions will prove much more complicated in practice than is evident between the pages of a book, the need for libraries to change in order to continue to adapt, and to adapt faster, in the future is more than evident. These prescriptions for one such future deserve a wide readership and much further discussion.

Reality Rating B+: I agree with a lot of the message that the author proposes, but the book also reads as if the author is “preaching to the choir”, in other words, talking to believers. At the same time, as part of the choir being preached to, I have heard most of these arguments before. I found the chapter on copyright law and its effects and issues to be the most informative. It contained information that I was aware of, but found this author’s description to be both a good summary of the current state of affairs and to provide new information. I also think it is accessible for a layperson, and that is needed.

Reviewers note: In the text, the author refers to himself as a “feral librarian” because he became a library worker (in fact, director) without having ever received a library degree. As someone with decades in the field, I have never heard that terminology. Some research (i.e. Google) leads me to wonder if this is a term in currency in Boston or the New England area. I’ve not heard it in other regions. The Urban Dictionary says it applies in academic libraries, but the person supplying the definition is also from Boston.

***FTC Disclaimer: Most books reviewed on this site have been provided free of charge by the publisher, author or publicist. Some books we have purchased with our own money or borrowed from a public library and will be noted as such. Any links to places to purchase books are provided as a convenience, and do not serve as an endorsement by this blog. All reviews are the true and honest opinion of the blogger reviewing the book. The method of acquiring the book does not have a bearing on the content of the review.


Guest Post from Author Mary Ann Rivers on Why I Love Libraries and Librarians + Giveaway

Today I’d like to extend a very warm welcome Mary Ann Rivers, who recently published her terrific first book, The Story Guy (reviewed here). Her guest post topic is particularly near and dear to my heart, so let’s get right to it, shall we?


Why I Love Libraries and Librarians by Mary Ann Rivers

Libraries are the very best effort of society. The very best. Humans are very good at falling in love and at making libraries and precious little else. Everything else we do, is basically the business of filling libraries—with stories, with information about the human project. The very tiniest towns have some kind of library, and big cities have libraries that are glorious expressions of architecture and media.

I had a difficult childhood, and libraries saved me. I could be just exactly who I was in a library, or I could be someone else entirely. Physically, libraries are beautiful and safe; inside the mind they’re dangerous and illicit. As a child, the combination of that, of being safe with a free mind, was completely irresistible. Is still irresistible. I go every week, sometimes every day—even though I borrow most of my library books as digital media on my ereader (I love digital borrowing—it means the library is open 24 hours a day).

Librarians dedicate their work to the service of the very best of what it is we do as humans. It’s difficult schooling, and so librarians are obviously gorgeously smart; but also librarians have to negotiate the whole world and their community at the same time. Digital engagement is huge, but what if you serve poor rural or urban patrons? How do ereaders get in your community’s hands? If you’re serving in a world class library, you have the challenge of trying to represent your patrons, AND all other librarians.

Librarians help us ask questions, not just find the answer. They look at their community and try to fill the holes in it. They read to our kids, sometimes when no one else does. They figure out how and why we read so that the most perfect book is right in front of us when we explore the stacks. Carrie asks Brian if he has a librarian fetish. His answer is the same as mine, “who doesn’t?”

Mary Ann RiversAbout Mary Ann RiversMary Ann Rivers was an English and music major and went on to earn her MFA in creative writing, publishing poetry in journals and leading creative-writing workshops for at-risk youth. While training for her day job as a nurse practitioner, she rediscovered romance on the bedside tables of her favorite patients. Now she writes smart and emotional contemporary romance, imagining stories featuring the heroes and heroines just ahead of her in the coffee line. Mary Ann Rivers lives in the Midwest with her handsome professor husband and their imaginative school-aged son.

To learn more about Mary Ann, visit her website or follow her on Twitter and Facebook.


Mary Ann is giving away a NetGalley review copy of The Story Guy to ten lucky winners! To enter, use the Rafflecopter below:

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Q&A with Author Josh Hanagarne

Today I’d like to welcome Josh Hanagarne, author of The World’s Strongest Librarian (reviewed here). In addition to being a newly published author and avowed booklover, Josh is also a librarian at the Salt Lake City Public Library, which made some of his humor in the book ring particularly true for me since we share that profession. 

For those of you in the Seattle area, Josh is going to be in town and talking about his book! Tomorrow, May 18th, he’ll be at Third Place Books, and on Monday, May 20th, he’ll be at the Seattle Central Library.

And now, here’s some Q&A with Josh:

Q: Why did you decide to write this book?

The World's Strongest Librarian by Josh HanagarneJosh: Everyone loves a good story, including me.  And there’s nothing as messy and chaotic as a human life, which is why memoirs can be so engaging and surprising.  It just so happens that this story was about me and I’d be the one to write about the mess.  I started writing the book because I wanted to see where the story went.  I kept writing because I had to see how it would end.

Q: How has Tourette’s impacted your life?

Josh: Let’s get the negative out of the way: My case of Tourette’s hurts, it’s disruptive, it’s exhausting, it makes it hard to be out in public, it made me a great target for bullies, etc—Tourette’s often steals my chances to make my own first impressions. There’s this weird thing that goes out before me, announcing me, defining me, before I get the chance to explain myself. But it’s not me.

There are positives, though: Tourette’s has made me tough, stubborn, and has given me a low tolerance for whining and inertia. And it’s lead me to a lot of wonderful people in the Tourette’s community, particularly the kids who are having a tough time adjusting to the disorder.

Q: What are some of the ways you have tried to conquer your tics?

Josh: Lots of pills. A nicotine patch. A faith healer/chiropractor in Elko, Nevada, who dressed like Randall Flagg from The Stand and administered to me with ramen noodle crumbs in his scraggly beard. I got botox injections in my vocal cords for three years, which took away my voice, so I couldn’t scream, but I couldn’t really talk either.

Lifting weights helped for a while, because I would train so hard that the pain of the workouts made the tics pale in comparison, but that’s a stupid way to approach a problem. I’ve also tried to stifle the tics through willpower, but that doesn’t work for long.

Ultimately, it’s come down to a grim truce. I’m still convinced I’ll get rid of it entirely, but until then, I’ll be running on pure spite, here in the library, on full display and defiant.

Q: What do libraries mean to you? What do you think is the future of the public library?

Josh: The library is the ultimate symbol of freethinking and curiosity. Its presence in a community is a challenge to the pack mentality and an invitation to ignore ideology and explore your mind. However, it will be tragic if the library gets reduced to nothing but that symbol. The future of public libraries depends on whether people think they need a library or not. Libraries need to prove that they can offer people something they can’t get anywhere else. As long as they’re doing that, they’ll exist in some form. I hope they don’t become museums.

Q: Are you still a Mormon? How has your faith changed throughout your life?

Josh: Not really. I still go to church now and then with my family; it certainly doesn’t hurt me. I’d call myself a “heritage Mormon.” Mormonism is such a fantastic American story that I get a kick out of being from such tough stock. Those pioneers were rough customers.

At this point I’ve got some of the habits, minus the conviction.

The major shift in my lifetime of faith is that now I’m more interested in how I think than in what I think.

Q: Why is strength training important to you?

Josh: Training is the only time I feel like I’m in control of my body. It’s where I can actually see that I’m getting better at something. You’re either stronger than yesterday or you’re not. In any case, there’s no downside to being strong and healthy, so don’t feel like you need to have Tourette’s to take care of your body! It’s a gift you can always give yourself.

Q: How can we get kids to read more?

Josh: They need examples. If you’re a parent who loves books, your kids will probably love books. If you are in a mentor role and kids who emulate you know that you prioritize knowledge, they will too. This sounds very after-school-special-ish, but learning is fun. Kids learn and adapt by watching the adults around them. If you play Angry Birds all day in front of your kid, you don’t get to whine when his reading comprehension lags.

Q: What do you hope readers will get out of this book?

Josh: I hope they’ll laugh, hug their families, use their libraries more, read more books, and ask all of those uncomfortable questions they’ve been avoiding. And then I want them to write to me and recommend a book that I should read. Anyone can send me a recommendation through my website.

Josh HanagarneAbout Josh Hanagarne Josh Hanagarne is a proud dad, husband, writer, speaker, and librarian.He currently lives in Salt Lake City, Utah. Yes, voluntarily.He is obsessed with books and book culture. Speaking of, his own book, a memoir called The World’s Strongest Librarian, will be published by Gotham Books in 2013. This is extremely awesome.

He is nearly as obsessed with the fringe world of physical strength.

Most of the time he loves people. He is interested in helping as many of them as possible, as long as it doesn’t involve pretending he knows things he doesn’t.

All of the time he hates boredom.

He has an extreme case of Tourette’s Syndrome. He is owning it.

He loves his parents.

He likes to ask questions.

He loves big words but tries not to trot them out for casual conversation.

To learn more about Josh, visit his website and blog or follow him on Twitter.

Review: The World’s Strongest Librarian by Josh Hanagarne

The World's Strongest Librarian by Josh HanagarneFormat read: ebook provided by NetGalley
Formats available: ebook, hardcover, audiobook
Genre: Memoir
Length: 288 pages
Publisher: Gotham Books
Date Released: May 2, 2013
Purchasing Info: Author’s Website, Publisher’s Website, Goodreads, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, Book Depository

Josh Hanagarne couldn’t be invisible if he tried. Although he wouldn’t officially be diagnosed with Tourette Syndrome until his freshman year of high school, Josh was six years old and onstage in a school Thanksgiving play when he first began exhibiting symptoms. By the time he was twenty, the young Mormon had reached his towering adult height of 6’7” when—while serving on a mission for the Church of Latter Day Saints—his Tourette’s tics escalated to nightmarish levels.

Determined to conquer his affliction, Josh underwent everything from quack remedies to lethargy-inducing drug regimes to Botox injections that paralyzed his vocal cords and left him voiceless for three years. Undeterred, Josh persevered to marry and earn a degree in Library Science. At last, an eccentric, autistic strongman—and former Air Force Tech Sergeant and guard at an Iraqi prison—taught Josh how to “throttle” his tics into submission through strength-training.

Today, Josh is a librarian in the main branch of Salt Lake City’s public library and founder of a popular blog about books and weight lifting—and the proud father of four-year-old Max, who has already started to show his own symptoms of Tourette’s.

The World’s Strongest Librarian illuminates the mysteries of this little-understood disorder, as well as the very different worlds of strongman training and modern libraries. With humor and candor, this unlikely hero traces his journey to overcome his disability— and navigate his wavering Mormon faith—to find love and create a life worth living.

My Review:

Melk Abbey LibraryThe first chapter of The World’s Strongest Librarian should be required reading for people who want to become librarians. Especially the ones who have a completely romanticized view of what it is like to actually BE a public librarian on a day-to-day basis. At the end of the chapter, I think they’ll still want to do the job, but they’ll have one hell of a lot better idea of what they’re letting themselves in for.

And I laughed myself silly. On the bus. It’s too bad I wasn’t in the staff room at work. At least, then, I could have shared instead of just sounding like a lunatic.

But all professions have their in-jokes, and that’s not what’s at the heart of this book, or Josh’s story.

Josh does share his profound love of reading in a way that is joyful. He obviously deeply loves reading, but uses it to escape from a world that has often contained it’s share of difficulties. While his memoir covers his struggle with Tourette Syndrome, I think that a lot of us who have become librarians have, in one way or another, found an escape from something in the pages of books that we have loved.

Josh just has a more compelling way of expressing both his love of the books that he is diving into, and the sometimes seemingly overwhelming challenges that he faces, than most of us do.

Josh HanagarneThis is a hard book to review. It feels as if I’m reviewing Josh’s life as well as the way he wrote about it, and that seems like a double-whammy. It’s not quite fair.

Josh writes in a way that makes the reader empathize with his struggles, even when, occasionally, you aren’t able to 100% understand the pain, only that there is a tremendous amount of it. And, like anyone else writing their own story, one suspects that it was probably even worse than Josh writes it, and he’s none too kind to himself at some points.

Although he talks a lot about his physical strength training, it’s Josh’s inner strength that shines through.

Reality Rating B+: The strength in Josh’s writing is his sense of humor. His biggest target (no pun intended, he’s 6’7″) is always himself. He never intentionally aims his wit to laugh AT anyone else. He doesn’t place blame.

And without fail, he credits the support of those around him, particularly his parents and his wife. It’s refreshing to read about someone with any kind of difficulty who isn’t playing the “blame game” and who isn’t going overboard in the other direction, claiming that he’s doing everything all by himself.

For a reader who isn’t into strength training, the details can be a bit eye-glazing, but I wouldn’t be surprised if some readers find the library details somewhat mind-numbing. And vice-versa.

It’s hard to bare your soul as openly and Josh has in this book and make it readable. He writes about seemingly everything; his parents, his doubts about his Mormon faith, his Tourette’s and the problems it causes, his search to find a meaningful career, everything. And he makes the reader want to keep reading.

I’m glad that he went into the reasons why he thinks that books and reading are important, and makes an impassioned plea for the future of libraries. For that, I thank him from the bottom of my library-loving heart.

But most of all, his is an amazing story. You’ll be glad you read it.

***FTC Disclaimer: Most books reviewed on this site have been provided free of charge by the publisher, author or publicist. Some books we have purchased with our own money and will be noted as such. Any links to places to purchase books are provided as a convenience, and do not serve as an endorsement by this blog. All reviews are the true and honest opinion of the blogger reviewing the book. The method of acquiring the book does not have a bearing on the content of the review.

Stacking the Shelves (43)

Stacking the Shelves

I cut the stack off at 24 and move to the next list. I’m not sure what that says about what except that after 24, the picture gets WAY too big.

Books Cats Edward GoreyEspecially when it comes to books, too much of a good thing is wonderful. I read about half of what I get. I like to have choices. Somedays I feel like a romance. sometimes I feel like reading an urban fantasy. It used to be that I’d pick from a pile of books. Now I check my iPad and my list of potential review books. Same principle.

Edward Gorey was right. “Books, Cats, Life is Good.”

Stacking the Shelves Reading Reality May 4 2013

For Review:
Against the Wind (Agents of the Crown #2) by Regan Walker
Big Girl Panties by Stephanie Evanovich
Bite Me, Your Grace (Bite Me, Your Grace #1) by Brooklyn Ann
The Dark Water by David Pirie
The Final Sacrament (Clarenceux #3) by James Forrester
Femme Fatale (Hard Bodies #1) by Cindy Dees
Master at Arms (Dragon Knights #2.5) by Bianca D’Arc
Matchpoint (Matchmaker #2) by Elise Sax
Maxie (Triple X #2) by Kimberly Dean
The Night is Watching (Krewe of Hunters #9) by Heather Graham
The Red Plague Affair (Bannon & Clare #2) by Lilith Saintcrow
Relatively Risky (The Big Uneasy #1) by Pauline Baird Jones
Shapeshifted (Edie Spence #3) by Cassie Alexander
South of Surrender (Hearts of the Anemoi #3) by Laura Kaye
A Spy to Die For (Assassins Guild #2) by Kris DeLake
Sweet Revenge (Nemesis Unlimited #1) by Zoe Archer
Wife in Name Only by Hayson Manning
The World’s Strongest Librarian by Josh Hanagarne

Lord of Devil Isle by Connie Mason and Mia Marlowe

Borrowed from the Library:
Assassin’s Gambit (Hearts and Thrones #1) by Amy Raby
Dark Triumph (His Fair Assassin #2) by Robin LaFevers
The Eyes of God (Bronze Knight #1) by John Marco
Scarlet (Lunar Chronicles #2) by Marissa Meyer
The Sword of Angels (Bronze Knight #3) by John Marco

In My Mailbox #1

In My Mailbox is a weekly meme hosted by The Story Siren.  Every week (or so), book readers and bloggers get to share what books they bought, borrowed, or received.”

For this blogger, that “or so” is going to be every week. Let’s be real here, people!

I’ve been thinking about joining In My Mailbox for quite a while as a way to do a shout out to the books I’ve picked up but might not get to read for a bit, or might read but not review. I’ve always acquired books faster than I can read them, and it’s even more true now.

There are at least two shipments coming from PLA.  Yikes! But they aren’t here yet. They will be in my mailbox when they actually arrive. (Lalalalala)

These are this week’s actual arrivals:

The first of the many PLA pickups…(because it somehow ended up in my suitcase)

After Life by Rhian Ellis: print book giveaway at a lunch at PLA. For the librarians, this is the second book in the reprint series Amazon is publishing with superlibrarian Nancy Pearl, as one of her Book Lust Rediscoveries.



Only one from NetGalley this week. (It’s an addiction. But I’m trying to cut back.)

Railsea by China Miéville.




Jade Lee sent out coupons to pick up the prequel novella free for her new Bridal Favors series. I “cashed in” the coupon and got this book:

Engaged in Wickedness by Jade Lee.





For my reviewing gig for Library Journal, I received:

Random Acts by Alison Stone: ebook from Samhain.




Courtesy of the author I have the following ebook:

The Watchmaker’s Lady ARC by Heather Massey. I requested a copy from Heather because I loved Queenie’s Brigade.




And last but not least, I bought this ebook-only prequel novella from Amazon. I’m reviewing Brockmann’s Born to Darkness (finished this morning) and I just couldn’t start it without reading the prequel first. And yes, the prequel story is worth the 99 cents.

Shane’s Last Stand by Suzanne Brockmann.


Question: What do you think? Should I hope the boxes from PLA arrive soon, or should I hope they take a while in transit?


On My Wishlist #1

I give in!

Instead of buying more books to add to the ever-growing TBR piles and electonic ion storms, I’m joining On My Wishlist, a terrific meme that’s hosted by Book Chick City.

So instead of putting it on my Nightstand and buying it, I’m listing it here and saying why I want it. It doesn’t even have to be a new book. I just have to want it.

So not at problem! My problem is that I want to read more books than I have hours in the day.

Crystalfire by Kate Douglas
DemonSlayers #4
April 3, 2012
Kensington Zebra
Paranormal Romance

This is book four of the DemonSlayers series. I loved books 1, 2 and 3 (Demonfire, Hellfire, Starfire). Any time a sword talks back, and it’s snarky, I’m laughing. (Swords with attitude are fun, if you don’t believe me, read Mercedes Lackey’s Tarma and Kethry books in the Valdemar universe) But I’m also a pushover for romances and fantasies that cross over from a magic universe to ours.

Worldsoul by Liz Williams
June 6, 2012
Prime Books LLC
Science Fiction

This one had me at the opening of the description. I’ve got to find out what’s going on. Besides, I love Liz Williams’ Snake Agent/Detective Inspector Chen series, even if (ahem) I’m not caught up. I have The Iron Khan and haven’t gotten around to it yet.

What if being a librarian was the most dangerous job in the world?

Worldsoul, a great city that forms a nexus point between Earth and the many dimensions known as the Liminality, is a place where old stories gather, where forgotten legends come to fade and die—or to flourish and rise again. Until recently, Worldsoul has been governed by the Skein, but they have gone missing and no one knows why. The city is also being attacked with lethal flower-bombs from unknown enemy. Mercy Fane and her fellow Librarians are doing their best to maintain the Library, but… things… keep breaking out of ancient texts and legends and escaping into the city. Mercy must pursue one such dangerous creature. She turns to Shadow, an alchemist, for aid, but Shadow—inadvertently possessed by an ifrit—has a perilous quest of her own to undertake.

The Seduction of Phaeton Black: Paranormal Investigator by Jillian Stone
April 1, 2012
Paranormal/Steampunk/Erotic Romance/Urban Fantasy/All of the above???

This is the one that got away at the Public Library Association Convention March 14-16. The cover looks so incredibly cool. And I tried to convince the folks at the Kensington booth to just let me have the display copy to review, but they weren’t having any of it. (I did cart away oodles of review copies, this was my only turndown).  Now I want to find out if the book is half as good as the cover.

There’s an additional thing on my wishlist that is not a book. We came back from the conference last night to discover that there’s a water pipe wonked out in our subdivision. We have no water. So the biggest thing on my wishlist today is for the plumbers to fix the pipes!


Amazon and the library redux

Not surprisingly, there has been a lot of commentary in the library world about Amazon’s Kindle Lending Library.

Most of the the library and ebook pundits go over the nitty-gritty details of the Kindle Lending Library, compare the extremely restrictive terms of Amazon’s initial foray into lending services with the vast array of library offerings, and pronounce that libraries have nothing to worry about.

ReadWriteWeb warns its readers “not to get too excited” about the prospect of rushing out to join Amazon Prime and tearing up their library cards.

My personal favorite is the post at Agnostic, Maybe that The Amazon Lending Library is NOT the Library Apocalypse. For one thing, the library apocalypse is more likely going to come as a result of shrinking budgets than anything else.

But to stretch the apocalypse metaphor further, is Amazon helping to feed the Four Horsemen’s horses? That strikes this particular pundit as a much more likely scenario.

The particulars of the Amazon deal as currently stated are very restrictive.  However, many patrons think that library policies are very restrictive. I’m not saying that they are, I am saying that everything is a matter of perspective. How many patrons have we lost for life over arguments about 15 cent or 25 cent overdue fines?

Amazon will change the structure of the deal as soon as it decides it is beneficial for them to do so. I would be willing to bet that the one book per month limit is the first thing to go. One book at a time, like Netflix, will make more sense to most users. But Amazon had to start somewhere, and they can afford to think about the very long term. Their point is to sell Kindles and to get more Prime Members. (And now, to win the probable court case.)

What members of the general public have to say is quite informative. Amazon has a lot of mindshare and the lending program has generated a lot of interest. Lending books for no additional charge used to be one service that libraries offered that was not available on the net. It was a counter to the argument that “why do we need libraries, everything is on the net now?”

The Amazon Lending Library publicity means that people know there are other alternatives on the net for borrowing books. Just because that alternative is not available to everyone now, doesn’t mean that it can’t be expanded later. And people who are making the argument to cut library funding will NOT dive into that detail. The sound bite will be enough.

Libraries do lend ebooks, and thanks to services like OverDrive and Project Gutenberg, a library’s collection can be larger and more diverse than Amazon’s, especially since OverDrive was more careful about actually securing rights instead of just assuming it could do whatever it felt like.

But commenters on the Amazon kerfuffle make the point over and over that if a user wants anything popular from the library, they have to get on a long wait list. No one likes that. What Amazon is offering, limited as it appears to a librarian, is available to any qualified user who wants it, right now. The whole point of ebooks is that a reader can have what they want, when and where they want it.

Over on Librarian by Day, a lot of statistics are used to make the case Why Amazon’s Lending Library is Not a Threat to Public Libraries. The problem is that these kind of statistics don’t move people. Sound bites and stories move people. Every statistic is absolutely correct, and it all sounds like “preaching to the choir”. Anyone who is already convinced that libraries are necessary will be swayed by these facts. Anyone who wants to believe that we can all be replaced by an electronic device, or who just loves bright, shiny toys, or who is simply willing to be convinced because they want to lower their taxes, is going to follow the marketing, and Amazon does great marketing.

We can expect that Amazon will learn from the rollout of its lending program, make changes, and improve it, making it more attractive to its users.  But as was asked over at the E-Content blog at American Libraries, “Can we learn from it?

Amazon presents a challenge to libraries, not because this particular service is better than what libraries currently offer, but just because they generate a huge amount of press and they used the word “library” in their announcement. But what will we as librarians make of this challenge?

Introducing Ebook Review Central

So what is “Ebook Review Central“? I’m so glad you asked.

Every Monday, Ebook Review Central will publish a list of all the ebooks published by a particular publisher the previous month, with links to all the published reviews.  Today’s first issue contains all the Carina Press titles for September 2011, along with links to all the reviews as of Sunday, 10/23/11.

In the upcoming weeks I will do the same thing for Dreamspinner Press and Samhain Publishing. I would be interested in hearing from you, the readers, your suggestions for which publisher or publishers to include for week 4. After the 4th week, I’ll cycle around to Carina’s October titles, and back through Dreamspinner and Samhain and “the player to be named later” again.

Why am I doing this? People decide what books to buy based on browsing at a bookstore or recommendations. Ebook-only books can’t be browsed in a bookstore, so we all blog to create more recommendations when we like a book. But each of us blogs about the books we like, and it’s fantastic.

But, when a reader is undecided, where do they go? Amazon or Goodreads, and not all of us post our reviews there. Sometimes none of us. And that debate is for another post someday. Yet an ebook may have tons of reviews.

Also, I’m a librarian by training. Librarians need a place where they can find reviews of ebooks, just like they do print books.  Their budgets are tight. They want to add ebooks from ebook-only publishers, but if they can only buy 3 or 5 Carina Press titles this month and 3 or 5 Dreamspinner titles this month, there is no place to go to find which ones were the best. Ebook Review Central will be that place.

A question that will be asked, because I had to ask myself when I created this, is why the one month delay? Why am I only publishing the September titles now, when it’s already mid-October?

It takes about a month for the blogosphere to generate reviews for all the titles. I wanted to put up last week’s titles this week, but when I started my research, half the titles weren’t reviewed yet.  When I looked at last month’s titles, almost everything had a review someplace. That won’t always be 100% true, but at least it turns out to be a reasonable way to bet.

One other note: Amazon and Goodreads will not be listed as review sources unless that was the only thing I could find.

If you have suggestions, let me know. If you find this useful, definitely let me know. I will update published lists, so if later reviews are published, or if you have a review that should be listed but I missed (Google is good, but it is not perfect), send email to

Banned Books and the literature of ideas

September 24 – October 1, 2011 is Banned Books Week.

What is Banned Books Week? Or maybe the question should be, why is Banned Books Week?

Banned Books Week is sponsored or endorsed by the American Booksellers Association, the American Booksellers Foundation for Free Expression, the American Library Association, the American Society of Journalists and Authors, the Association of American Publishers, the National Association of College Stores, the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund, the National Coalition Against Censorship, the National Council of Teachers of English and the PEN American Center.

These organizations all have something in common. They all want to protect everyone’s freedom to make their own reading choices.

The U.S. Constitution, in the Bill of Rights, protects the freedom of speech and freedom of the press. It says nothing about the listener’s right to hear what is said, or the reader’s right to read what that free press publishes. If a tree falls in the forest, and no one hears it fall, does it matter whether the tree fell or not? Writers write so that their words are read, so that their voices are heard. If their works are suppressed, then the tree might as well not have fallen.

Every year books are challenged, and sometimes banned, from libraries across the United States. In a case this summer, the Republic Missouri School District banned two books from their high school library. Twenty Boy Summer, by Sarah Ockler, an extremely well-reviewed book targeted at grades 9-11, is still banned. Slaughterhouse-Five, a classic from Kurt Vonnegut, has been placed on such restricted access it might as well be banned. What do I mean by restricted? In order for a high-school student to check out Slaughterhouse, their parent has to come to the high school library to check it out for them.

Slaughterhouse-Five is Vonnegut’s science fictionalized version of his experiences in World War II. It is not the only work of science fiction on the frequently challenged list. Far from it. This week, SF Signal put together an incredible flow chart of the top 100 science fiction and fantasy books from the recent NPR poll. Looking at the chart, it’s amazing, and frightening, how many of those works overlap the banned and challenged list. Not just Brave New World and Animal Farm and 1984, either. But also Flowers for Algernon and The Handmaid’s Tale. Even The Lord of the Rings has been challenged more than once. And there’s always the never-ending irony that Fahrenheit 451 gets challenged frequently.

But it’s not really surprising if you think about it. Science fiction is the literature of ideas. New ideas are always challenging. And challenged.

As part of the observance of Banned Books Week, there is a Virtual Read-Out on YouTube of participants reading from their favorite Banned Books. Check it out.