I Need a Shredder

It’s been just over a month since I started my digital migration.

I’m making slow but steady progress on getting rid of paper. I’ve been getting digital statements where possible for several years now; but the pre-digital years have been in file cabinets. I’ve gone through a couple feet of old financial data, and sorted it into trash and items to scan. I’m scanning them in, slowly, and getting rid of the originals.

Picture of Amaxon's Basic 12 Sheet cross-cut shredderI desperately need a shredder; I’ve had to stop tearing up and scissoring old statements etc. because it’s too hard on my hands. I’m looking at this Amazon Basics 12-sheet crosscut shredder because it will also shred CDs (as I destroy old backups) and easily handle the average scholarly article.

I’ve started reducing paper in terms of scholarly articles, and to a lesser extent, books.

Many of the journals most pertinent to my academic field aren’t included in the full text databases available through my local libraries. Medieval Celtic studies is a little obscure. Accessing, never mind obtaining, digital scholarly articles is difficult if you don’t have an academic affiliation with a research institution with JSTOR and Project MUSE accounts. As an individual, it’s prohibitively expensive, and often, not not even possible to buy articles, (and when it is, a single article is often $10.00 or more, none of which money goes to the scholar who wrote it).

That degree of inaccessibility means I’ll still need to keep hard copy versions of quite a few articles that I photocopied and that won’t scan well.

  • I already have an archive of .pdf scholarly articles and monographs that are indexed and listed in a spreadsheet. I’m checking printed and photocopied articles against that spreadsheet, and shredding those that I have as .pdf files.
  • I’m thinking about how to store the hardcopy articles. A filled file drawer is often difficult if not impossible for me to open and close, and doing it repeatedly is just not on. I thought about using comic book storage boxes, but they’re not quite tall enough for 8.5” x 11” paper. Still thinking about alternatives to file cabinets, including baskets with lids that will fit a standard bookshelf.
  • I’ve reduced the number of printed books I have by some hundreds. I’ve culled books I don’t need or no longer want. I’ve reduced it a bit more by replacing lots of fiction with ebooks, if they’re obtainable without DRM. I’ve lost too many expensive scholarly facsimiles, thanks to Adobe’s changing DRM, to have any faith in the longevity of DRM. I don’t mind DRM on a book I also have in printed form, but I’m no longer willing to buy DRM ebooks unless I have a printed copy too. There’s potentially a small catch to replacing scholarly books with digital versions that are Epub files in that citations are tricky, but I reckon I’ll cross that bridge when I come to it; I haven’t yet.

Converting the paper bills etc. to digital is serving as a test case for scholarly hard copy conversion. I really want the articles to be searchable, if possible, so that has me mulling over Evernote’s paid version. I’m also thinking about trying DEVONthink Personal. There’s also the possibility of relying on OS X’s Spotlight, too. I already use tags, which should help with Spotlight.

I used to use reference managers, particularly EndNote then Bookends. But after trying several, including open source reference managers, I’m not a fan. First, they don’t easily migrate. Second, I never could get the work-with-your-word-processor part to work well or predictably, either with MicrosoftWord or with Mellel. Lately, I’m using Pages for final formatting, anyway. So for now, the spreadsheet method suits me for managing bibliographic data. I like that it’s easily portable, and easily shared. No special software required.

Ebook Pricing vs Print Pricing

It really isn’t that much cheaper to produce an ebook. The binding/printing costs are depending on the book and the binding and the numbers printed somewhere around 1 to 3 bucks a book, for a Robert Jordan Hardcover with foil. The costs up to the point a file is sent to an ebook producer or to a printer are identical—and that’s where most of the costs to make a book occur. Author’s advance is often the single largest item in terms of genre fiction. Then you’ve got designer, cover artist, editor, copy editor, proofer, typesetter—and there may be other costs, depending on the book (indexer, rights licensing, compositor). The ebook has to be formatted, and done properly, it’s not just a matter of running scripts. It needs to be created in multiple formats, usually, with administrative costs related to licensing images, cover art, DRM, and QA. There are additional production costs in terms of staff and software/hardware, and in terms of archiving. The initial costs up to the fork are shared. Honestly, for genre fiction, there’s reason to base the price ebooks pretty closely on the prices for the equivalent paperbacks.

Now, what I’m not sure of is how much angst there is from publishers about day-and-date release, and issues of libraries buying hardcover in preference to softcover. Book prices at the point of a printed codex book are of three sorts:

  • Raw cost in labor/materials/costs to the publisher.
  • Price the publisher sells the book to retailers/distributors/wholesaler (discounts of various sorts).
  • Price the retailer sells the book to a customer.

Keep in mind that frequently the author is paid putative royalties on some version of 3, after the publisher has recouped the advance—at which point the publisher may still be trying to (and probably won’t have succeeded) recoup their costs and generate profit. If publishers don’t profit, they can’t pay advances, or make more books.

Harper Collins Wants to Limit Library Circulation of Ebooks

Apparently because of Overdrive’s recent release of an ebook client for iPhones and iPad (read more about Overdrive and library ebooks here and here), Harper Collins has responded by announcing that new Harper Collins titles licensed from library ebook vendors will be able to circulate only 26 times before the license expires. Library Journal wrote about the announcement here, and included a letter from Overdrive’s CEO Steve Potash which states that the Overdrive licensing terms for Harper Collins books will change

while still operating under the one-copy/one-user model, will include a checkout limit for each eBook licensed. Under this publisher’s requirement, for every new eBook licensed, the library (and the OverDrive platform) will make the eBook available to one customer at a time until the total number of permitted checkouts is reached.

Harper Collins issued a statement that

HarperCollins is committed to the library channel. We believe this change balances the value libraries get from our titles with the need to protect our authors and ensure a presence in public libraries and the communities they serve for years to come.”

According to Library Journal, Harper Collins President of Sales, Josh Marwell, said that “the 26 circulation limit was arrived at after considering a number of factors, including the average lifespan of a print book, and wear and tear on circulating copies.”

In other words, they assumes a mass market paperback with a circulation period of two weeks per loan would be checked out 26 times a year. This suggests to me that they didn’t talk to any librarians; I’ve seen a Harlequin category romance, a paperback with fairly low-end paper and binding, be checked out for three to five years. A book with sturdier binding—for instance a mass market paperback from Harper Collins will typically be checked out repeatedly for two to five years, often circulating as many as 100 times. And then there are the library bound mass market paperbacks which can last much much longer.

I want authors to be paid; I want publishing professionals to be paid. This is not the way to do it. This serves to limit circulation—and limit readers, while essentially punishing libraries who are already under siege.

The truth of the matter is that ebook readers buy print books more frequently than the average print book reader. This is a foolish decision on Harper Collins’ part, and I supect it’s one that will be followed by other publishers.

Instead, they should look to Baen, who has found ebook sales (and free ebooks) are driving sales of print books.

There’s already a backlash on Twitter where users are responding the hashtag: #hcod.

Neil Gaiman‘s response: “I think it’s incredibly disappointing.”

You can read more about the Twitter reaction at Toby Greenwalt’s The AnalogDivide “The Publisher that Kicked the Hornet’s Nest.”

ETA: Cory Doctorow weighs in here. Doctorow suggests that

libraries should just stop buying DRM media for their collections. Period. It’s unsafe at any speed.

I mean it. When HarperCollins backs down and says, “Oh, no, sorry, we didn’t mean it, you can have unlimited ebook checkouts,” the libraries’ answers should be “Not good enough. We want DRM-free or nothing.” Stop buying DRM ebooks.”

It’s a nice idea in theory, but libraries buy what their users want to read. If users want books that are only available in DRM crippled versions, and libraries don’t buy them, users will retaliate by crippling library budgets even more than they have already, via numerous tax and budget decisions. Libraries are closing, all over. This kind of activism isn’t really helpful because it’s naive and privileged. Libraries are locally controlled, right down to what books they buy&mdah;and don’t buy.

Why Technology Fails to Stop Book Theft

Various forms of technology intended to control who could read books have failed.

All of them have failed, and largely, for the same reasons.

We have first the book curse, sometime called a fiat. Then we have chained libraries.

DRM doesn’t work because it is as easily broken as the medieval chains were broken—which is why so many medieval book collections were ravaged for their valuable covers and the contents between the covers casually disposed of, which is exactly what happened to The Book of Kells in 1006.

DRM doesn’t stop thieves. It just stops honest people from buying and reading DRM books.

On the other hand, giving away books without DRM encourages people to buy more books. It works. And while I absolutely don’t think giving away books for free is a tactic for everyone, it’s awfully interesting that Cory Doctorow and Baen’s books seem to be less frequently pirated not because they’re free (not all of either entity’s books are free) but because good reasonably priced DRMless content does seem to drive out cracked illegal content on the basis of ease of use, and production quality/readability.

Thieves are thieves; they’re not new. Talk to a librarian or to someone who works in a bookstore. Thieves will steal.

Technological anti-theft methods fail because the genuine paying customer is alienated, annoyed and frustrated and so doesn’t buy or read the protected book. We buy and read another book—it’s not like there’s a shortage of books readers want to read.

The remedy is to concentrate on appealing to the majority customer–the honest people who want to pay for their books–and making them available without DRM. People like me who love books will buy multiple copies of the same book—we did this before ebooks, and we do it now. We’re the real customer‚we actually read our books as well as pay for them.

Baen Books Ebook CD-ROM Images

They’re here.

Here’s the host’s statement:

The Baen CDs hosted here are freely-distributable disks provided to promote the sale of the books contained within. Baen allows these CDs to be distributed not simply to provide free electronic copies of their books, but to generate sales for those same books. They are a medium of advertising.

These CDs are generally available bound into the first edition of the books they are titled for. A few of the CDs (those marked with the P prefix) are not bound in any book and were made available as publishing industry promotional material.

Please remember that just because these books are being provided at no cost does not mean that they are in the Public Domain. Just because Baen isn’t asking for any money for these copies doesn’t mean that they are giving up any of their copyrights. Copyright doesn’t mean that you have to pay for something, it means that someone legally owns the right to distribute something (or not) in any fashion they desire – including doing so at no charge. So all the rules that apply to an ebook you bought and paid for also apply to these titles.

If you download any of the disks, please take the time to go to the Baen Webscription site and buy a copy of at least the CD’s primary ebook. For a modest investment of about $6, you can buy the book, which gives you access to a downloadable copy of the CD, anyway. Or you can buy the entire Webscription month that the CD accompanies for $18 and/or buy the book in paper form.