Even Famous Authors Self-Publish

The Burglar Who Counted the Spoons: A Bernie Rhodenbarr Mystery by Lawrence Block (copyright 2013) Lawrence Block is an award-winning best-selling author of several book series and short stories. Block is most famous for his Burglar mysteries. Block’s Burglar books feature Bernie Rhodenbarr. Bernie is a bookseller by day and high-class thief by night. This series of ten books began in 1977 with Burglars Can’t be Choosers, and seemed to end in 2004 with Burglar on the Prowl. Then nearly ten years later, in 2013, The Burglar Who Counted Spoons came out.     There were some notable difference between Prowl and Spoons.       The front covers In keeping with previous books in the series, Prowl prominently features the author’s first and last name in block letters across the top and left side of the front cover. An image with the book’s title is off-center on the right. Spoons has a single image dead center in the cover. That’s a potential tip-off of an amateur designer. There’s no artistic composition to move the eyes. Also, the author’s name is in smaller type than the title and it’s at the very bottom of the cover. The covers of published Burglar books feature the author’s name in bigger type than the titles because Block’s books were blockbuster sellers. He’s still a famous author, but the new cover of Spoons doesn’t show that. Instead, Spoons’ cover says “self-published book”. The page headings The designer of Spoons interior decided to emphasize Block’s name inside the book instead of on the cover. The header on each page uses ALL CAPITAL LETTERS in bold type and an underline to announce the book title and the author’s name. As if that weren’t enough, the header underline extends all the way across the top of each page. This kind of font emphasis overkill is also a telltale sign of a self-published book. The book’s text In spite of the published book’s play on the author’s last name with block letters, the text of a book should not look “blocky”. Spoons’ text looks quite blocky. The paragraph indents are much deeper than the usual published book. The  spacing between letters of the text (i.e. kerning) is very narrow. And to make matters worse, the spacing between lines (i.e. leading) is very small too. Each of these faults make reading the text slower. Together, they make reading...
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Walter Benjamin – Storytelling vs. Fiction

Walter Benjamin’s essay “The Storyteller” in Illuminations: Walter Benjamin: Essays and Reflections (English translation 1968), will be thought-provoking for anyone who loves to write or read fiction. Most of us think of fiction as storytelling, but it isn’t really. I can attest to this from experience. Back on a September day in 2004, my drumming mentor, Barbara Borden, gave me a day pass to “The Healing Power of Art” at Moscone Center in San Francisco. On my way to Moscone I passed an intriguing stranger. What caught my eye at first was a large patch of burnt-looking skin on his face. I recognized it immediately. Years ago I’d known one other person who had that deformity – my Mariner scout leader, a spinster who was obviously ashamed of it and never spoke of it. But that wasn’t what drew me to this fellow; it was his bright eyes. He smiled at me, and I felt as if we were kindred spirits. As I walked on, I really wished I could have gotten to know him. But he was with another man, and they quickly disappeared down Market street, I thought, probably going to lunch. I had a couple of hours to spend before drumming with Barbara. At the sign-in table I grabbed a brochure about the speakers. I picked a workshop on “Transformational Storytelling”. I found the doorway to the building the workshop was in and descended down the steps of a narrow corridor into a small basement room. About thirty folding chairs were set out. I was dismayed. There was only one other person there. But when that person turned, I was delighted. He was the man I’d passed on the street earlier. We both sat in the front row talking while waiting for the workshop leader and the others to arrive. Soon the room filled up. And to my surprise the man I’d chatted with got up and went to the front and faced us. His name was David Roche. David told the story of his face and how a doctor helped him accept it age age 19. That event was the catalyst for his career as a storyteller, a career that included four invitations to the White House. David then went over details of how to tell a story and invited each of us to tell our story. I got up and told my very first...
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Mobile Libraries on Four Legs

In What’s Going On at the Library, I noted that some librarians are making space for new kinds education within library walls while others are taking their expertise outside the library and on to the Internet. The movement to go outside library walls isn’t exactly a new trend, though. In early California librarians used to ride out all over the state on horses all to deliver books. This WPA photo below shows one of these “pack horse librarians” delivering books to her patrons.   In Northeastern Kenya librarians are using camels to deliver books to children. The librarians A documentary film from Marco Polo Film AG, “The Caravan of Books” captures the amazing dedication of the camels and men who deliver the books  in Kenya via the Mobile Camel Library. This trip starts from the library in Garissa, a small city in Kenya which has about 30,000, mostly older books, in English and Swahili on its shelves. Every couple of months some of the librarians pack two large wooden boxes with about 300 books, both fun and educational, and strap them onto the back of a camel to take into the semi-arid desert on a four hundred mile journey. Prominent in the shot of the books in the first box is  a copy of Heidi, a classic children’s book about a young Swiss girl sent to live with her grandfather in the Swiss alps where he is a bitter, reclusive man who raises goats. Ask the film progresses it is soon apparent that the lives of children in the Kenya desert are quite similar to Heidi’s in the Alps. Included in the film are two young girls from a nomadic tribe who have never seen a school or a book before the caravan arrives at a school near them. The caravan includes three young pack camels who are learning the trail for the first time. As they, their herders and the librarians walk through the streets of Nairobi they are quite skittish and balk at the idea of crossing a bridge over water. They all manage to get into the wilderness though and their four week journey begins. The children  The bush children are needed to carry out the many chores their family has to do to survive in the wilderness. They gather firewood, a scarce material in the desert. Other children including a few girls do get to...
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Building Libraries for African Children

Last December I published a post about an inspiring documentary featuring librarians In Northeastern Kenya who walk hundreds of miles with camels to deliver books to children. This year, along with part of that post below, I’m including ways you can help build African libraries. In the US the African Library Project coordinates book drives here and partners with African schools and villages to start small libraries. In Africa, some of the African Library Project’s partners include Peace Corps volunteers and school administrations. Former Peace Corps members and others request books that are organized into libraries serving local African communities. One such Peace Corps volunteer was my sister-in-law Ginnie Humphreys who served in Lesotho about a decade ago. Lesotho is a tiny inland African country surrounded by South Africa. Ginnie’s project, Friends of Lesotho, founded in 1986, is a partner with The African Library Project. Friends of Lesotho also provide scholarships to secondary school students. You can donate to this charity or others by using Amazon’s Smile link. AmazonSmile donates a part of its profits from each sale to the charity of your choice. The price you pay is NOT affected, and you can change charities at any time you wish. The link to sign onto  AmazonSmile is https://smile.amazon.com/ If you’ve heard Nobel Prize winner, Malala Yousafzai, speak out against violence against girls and seen news about the kidnapping and murder of young women in Africa seeking an education, know that these two projects, both of which include African girls and women are one way we can all fight back. The Camel Librarians A documentary film from Marco Polo Film AG, “The Caravan of Books”  captures the amazing dedication of the camels and men who deliver the books  in Kenya via the Mobile Camel Library. This trip starts from the library in Garissa, a small city in Kenya which has about 30,000, mostly older books, in English and Swahili on its shelves. Every couple of months some of the librarians pack two large wooden boxes with about 300 books, both fun and educational, and strap them onto the back of a camel to take into the semi-arid desert on a four hundred mile journey. Prominent in the shot of the books in the first box is  a copy of Heidi, a classic children’s book about a young Swiss girl sent to live with her grandfather in the Swiss alps where he is a bitter, reclusive man who raises goats. Ask the film progresses it is soon apparent that the lives of children in the Kenya...
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What is Metadata?

Working both as a librarian and as a computer network manager, one of the most annoying things in my job(s) was learning a second vocabulary for computing. Every field of study has its jargon. So, at the end of this post, I’ll tell you how I think librarians and computer programmers came to use such different words for such similar things. But first, a look at library metadata. Library science is the study of all existing fields of knowledge. For lack of a word, let’s call that the study of “meta-knowledge”. Metadata is a way of describing the meta-knowledge that librarians work with. Librarians who create metadata Catalogers are technical services librarians who work with the print materials, digital files, and media that come into a library. Catalogers create metadata for “documents” provided directly to patrons or for public services librarians to use in answering questions from their library patrons. If you have ever used a library catalog, you are already familiar with metadata. There is no need to feel intimidated by this word!  Likewise, if you’ve ever used back-of-the-book indexes to non-fiction, you’ll also be familiar with some kinds of metadata already. For example, a names index or a bibliography in a scholarly book is metadata. So is a subject index. Visible and invisible metadata Basically, library metadata is a standardized vocabulary for describing any document, i.e. printed materials, books, digital files, artwork, or electronic media  that can be found somewhere in a library or that’s for sale to those who want to read, view, or listen to it —or if it’s rare, bought by collectors who want to own it. In essence, metadata is the description of each piece of meta-knowledge that librarians provide access to for library patrons. Knowledge can be gained from either non-fiction or fiction. Common metadata that’s visible in a library catalog includes: author name, title, the ISBN number, format, date of publication, name of the publisher, number of pages or “locations” in the document, a list of up to six terms describing the contents of the document, and a unique number (accession number or call number) that tells library staff and patrons where the book can be found in a library. But be aware that library catalogers add a number of other pieces of data to electronic library catalog records that public service librarians, but not the public, will be able to see. The same thing is true for publisher and book-seller metadata that gets created...
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