Not-So-Balanced Libraries

Previously on The Invisible Library: After discovering that a two year old blog post of mine had been citied in a book on how to make libraries work better in the web 2.0 world, I wondered aloud about the context of such citations and the weird gray area inhabited by blogs in the academic world.

Like any good librarian, I did a little more research. Naturally, I found Walt Crawford’s website and a link to his book, Balanced Libraries, which is self published on This in no way invalidates his book, or thesis, but neither does it really inspire much confidence. Let’s be honest–and this is coming from a fellow Lulu author–self published academic work tends to have a certain… charm, shall we say. It’s good to know others are getting their work out there independently and for all I know, Walt Crawford is the unsung, Tom Paine of the library world. But seriously, Walt, $29.50 for a paperback is bad enough but $20 for the download? Downloads are free. I could understand maybe asking for donations. Charging a buck or two is acceptable, if you want to be a dick. But $20 for a PDF is madness. Like, RIAA suing tween music downloaders for their parent’s retirement fund level of madness. Cory Doctorow explains why. Bad form, Walt.

The only thing worse than not making an ebook available (especially when self publishing the book on Lulu, where that option is free and as easy as clicking a single button) is charging such a ridiculous price for it. This is one of those really easy web 2.0 ideas that often get ignored by library administrators because they either can’t or won’t change their minds about access and distribution models. If charging people for ebooks is part of your idea of creating a balanced library, I’m not impressed. And neither am I willing to spend $30 bucks for some out-to-lunch academic’s pet project.

2 thoughts on “Not-So-Balanced Libraries”

  1. Wow. Just…wow.

    Not only is $20 an insane amount of money to charge for a download, but if you figure in the cost of of printer cartridges and paper to print out 252 pages, it’s actually more expensive than the paperback version.

    I’ll be referring to this phenomenon as “Library 1.87” from now on…*

    *The term “Library 1.87,” which I just made up three seconds ago, is now a trademarked copyright of Semiconcious Dot Org Industries, Inc. I’m afraid I’m going to have to ask you for $20 for the rights to display it on your blog.

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