Booku, Impulse, cringe covers and latte libraries

Booku, Impulse, cringe covers and latte libraries

Thursday Tidbits -- news, links and interesting thingsI’ve been meaning to post a regular round-up of interesting links and news from Twitter and various loops and mailing lists I’m on. Here are some recent tidbits.

Booku — New Australian ebook shop

The folks from Boomerang Books has launched an ebook shop, Booku (pronounced book-oo). Click here for their romance catalogue. It’s not very extensive, but a new player in the local ebook retail market can only be a good thing.

Impulse — New digital only imprint from Avon

Avon has launched a new digital imprint, Impulse, which will publish one book each week, starting next week. Their first title, a novella, goes on sale next week: A Lady’s Wish by Katharine Ashe.

A manifesto for romance readers

Kate Cuthbert wrote a brilliant essay for the New York Journal of Books on Why I Read Romance. If you’ve ever suffered from book shame, or have had to justify your reading preferences to anyone, this is a must read.

Paula Roe interview on ABC Radio

Mills and Boon author Paula Roe was interviewed by Deborah Cameron on ABC Radio’s morning program. You can listen to the podcast here: How to write a romance novel!

South Pacific book chat

Every week on Twitter, readers from South Pacific and surrounding Asian countries are invited to participate in #spbkchat. You can find out more information from the website, including round-ups of past discussions. Tonight’s chat will focus on the fantasy genre.

Linnea Sinclair book to become a film

Last month, science fiction romance author Linnea Sinclair announced that filming has begun on an adaptation of her book, The Down Home Zombie Blues. Great news for Sinclair fans.

Sydney spec fic bookclub

Nyssa (@awritingjourney) is looking to start a spec fic bookclub to be held at Galaxy books. Let her know if you’re interested!

Ebooks and cringe-worthy covers

The Associated Press released an article, Online Romance? Publisher Starts E-Romance Imprint, announcing Avon’s new digital only imprint, Impulse. This line has ruffled a few romance feathers: ‘The digital market has been especially strong for romance fiction, in part because fans can read e-editions in public without fear of embarrassment.’ As someone on Twitter (not a romance reader, but someone who was discussing this issue with me) observed, it’s ‘the righteous outrage of the unfairly accused.’ Let’s face it. We’ve heard the same comments from authors, bloggers, publishers and readers. Not everyone has an issue with romance covers, but I’m fairly sure hiding covers is a benefit that many appreciate.

Female authors in review

March 8 was International Women’s Day, and there was much discussion on sexism in literary reviews. A survey of US and UK literary publications revealed that women authors are underrepresented in reviews. Why are women missing from the literary pages? by Kirsten Tranter provides a good introduction to the debate. ABC Radio’s The Book Show covered a similar topic in Who’s writing literary reviews? I haven’t had a chance to listen to the podcast, yet, but I’ve heard that may get be…aggravating.

UNSW turning into Starbucks

The SMH recently published an article, Books get the shove as university students prefer to do research online, revealing the University of NSW’s policy of culling their collections. Critics seem to focus on several issues: people weren’t given a chance to salvage the books and papers being removed; spaces are being modernised a la Starbucks to form collaborative spaces; libraries should be about preserving books.

My feeling? The critics sound like fuddy-duddies who resent books from their disciplines being thrown into the dumpster. Fair enough; the library might have given people a chance to keep books they wanted. But to complain about modernising spaces for students to collaborate? As some librarians on Twitter commented, the library is in the business of facilitating access to the right information—not preserving old newspapers. If a book hasn’t been borrowed in two years—and remember this is a university library—then it’s probably a waste of space, don’t you think?

Image credit: spekulator via stock.xchng.

Books get the shove as university students prefer to do research online

8 comments

  1. As some librarians on Twitter commented, the library is in the business of facilitating access to the right information—not preserving old newspapers. If a book hasn’t been borrowed in two years—and remember this is a university library—then it’s probably a waste of space, don’t you think?

    No, I don’t think so. It’s quite possible for courses to change if, for example, the member of staff teaching it leaves or an academic decides to vary the syllabus. This could mean that a particular book isn’t used for a while, but it might then come back into use later. In any case, university libraries aren’t just there for undergraduate students; they’re also there for the post-graduate students and academic staff who often need rarer, less frequently used books for their research. When I was writing my PhD I needed to use some editions which were from the 19th-century. As far as I could tell from looking at the date stamps on the books, some of the books I was using hadn’t been out the library for years, even decades, but they were still of vital importance to my research. Just recently, I went up to the library to look for a specific edition of the Encylopedia Britannica. The latest edition would have been no use to me; I needed to know what information would have been available to an author writing in the late 1970s.
    There are still a lot of books which aren’t available in a digital format, and even when a book or journal is available digitally it may be costly to maintain access to it. University libraries are under pressure to cut their costs and it’s possible that a library which disposes of the paper copies of journals in favour of the e-versions may later find that they can’t afford to keep paying the subscription required in order to obtain access to the e-version.

  2. Kat says:

    Hi, Laura. Great points. I didn’t think about postgrads doing research in very specialised topics. For context, though, the University of Sydney is less than half an hour’s drive from UNSW, and their collection is huge. Furthermore, the State Library is also about half an hour away, and they would probably have the most extensive collection in the state. I’m wondering if, in that context, the UNSW’s position seem more reasonable to you?

  3. It does make a difference, yes, but even so it’s a problematic move. For one thing it implies a change in the roles of the UNSW librarians, which is why some of them are upset. The article quotes one of them who points out that “Most libraries see their function as an archive” but the current moves seem to suggest that the library will no longer function as an archive. You can have digital archives as well as ones of paper books and journals, so this isn’t necessarily about anyone being a luddite who’s against technological progress. Archiving digital works poses somewhat different challenges to archiving paper ones (e.g. digital works may be in formats which rapidly become obsolete), but it still involves a rather different mindset from one in which the purpose of the library is to be a study-area for undergraduates. I think that’s one of the key points made in the article: it’s “an ideological row about the function of modern libraries as more research material becomes accessible online.”
    It would be different if the changes were the result of a co-ordinated policy in which librarians and academics from UNSW, the University of Sydney and the State Library had got together to co-ordinate how they’d archive important material. That could have resulted in a well-thought out initiative to prevent the duplication of effort. As it is, however, it seems that some of the UNSW  library staff have made unilateral decisions without properly consulting the academic staff and that seems like a tacit admission that some highly placed UNSW librarians don’t really think of the UNSW library as an archive and, by implication, that they don’t think of UNSW as a research university any more, at least, not in the areas in which they’re culling the texts. Again, that’s an ideological issue about the role of universities: are they places of research and learning, or are they primarily places which offer a product (degrees) to customers (students).  I think this may well be one of the underlying issues being raised via the Starbucks comparison: Starbucks sells a well-defined, standardised product to customers.
    On a practical level, there may be issues around accessing texts from the University of Sydney and the State Library. Academics from one university may not have borrowing rights at the library of another university, and if UNSW academics do have borrowing rights and they started turning up in significant numbers at the University of Sydney’s library and making use of its facilities, I think the University of Sydney’s library might want to know if the UNSW was planning to compensate them financially in some way for the extra work created for the University of Syndey librarians.
    If the academics from UNSW can’t borrow books from the University of Sydney and the State Library, that means they’re not just going to have a round trip of about an hour to get to those libraries. They’re also going to have to schedule significant chunks of time to read there. It can be difficult for academics to get significant blocks of time when they’re also teaching during the day, and doing marking and other admin tasks.

  4. Kat says:

    Laura, I think they have borrowing rights. At the very least, it’s a small annual fee, which I think it’s fair to assume their department will cover. The University of Sydney library allows for inter-library loan requests, too. The State Library is open to anyone, although you can’t always take the books out of the library.

    I must admit I don’t know the ins and outs of how libraries are administered, but I’ve always had the impression that the University of Sydney is fairly open in terms of providing access to students/staff of other universities.

  5. Hi there Book Thingo – thanks for mentioning Booku – we hope that we can provide a good Australian option for buying eBooks.  Our range of eBooks will increase over time so do be sure to check back frequently.

    Happy reading!

    Clayton Wehner
    MD, Booku
    http://www.booku.com

  6. Thanks, Kat. One of the key parts of that article seemed to me to be the bit about how

    The library can be, and should be, the intellectual commons of the university. To achieve that end, we need to foster and support the sort of collaboration, team building and inspired play in library spaces that continues our role in education. Rethinking our services and spaces is far more complex than adopting a new technology or two; it involves engaging with our community in a manner that meets real patron needs.
    While I was employed by Ford Motor Company, our library developed current awareness and digital delivery services for industry standards in consultation with our engineering community. My former colleagues at the University of Hawaii at Manoa have developed a student success center in collaboration with the Vice Provost for Academic Affairs. At Stanford, we are working with our faculty and administration to link library services to the pedagogic and research needs of our university. In each case, information and services have been adapted to meet the unique needs of the organization.

    Obviously I don’t know what the “unique needs” of everyone at UNSW are. I also don’t know what proportion of the paper books and journals were being replaced with e-alternatives and what proportion were simply being discarded without being replaced by an e-alternative. What I deduce from the first article, though, is that many people felt that those in charge of the reorganisation had not been doing what Schwarzwalder advocates; they apparently hadn’t been “engaging with our community in a manner that meets real patron needs.”

What do you think?

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