07 February 2014

The Art of Reviewing

I recently finished a collection development article for the February Library Journal, covering a couple of my favorite topics: urban gardening and homesteading.

Looking at this made me realize that I have been reviewing and writing professionally now for several years, and sometimes it is still amazing to me that I am actually doing it.

Anyone who has followed this blog for a while will know it has taken a lot of different paths through the years. I started reviewing titles on the blog because I wanted to bring more of my professional interests into it, and because I wanted to share my thoughts on the books I read and was interested in.

If you look at the archives, you will see a lot of science fiction and fantasy and LGBT titles, plus urban farming, gardening, and homesteading. A bit of an eclectic mix, I know, but I wanted to talk about what appealed to me, as opposed to keeping to one "theme" for reviews.

In 2011, I saw a call from Library Journal for new reviewers for a brand new format: e-originals. Books that were only being published digitally were really taking off, and Library Journal knew that reviews would be needed for collection development. At the time, I still had my previous job at the network, which included working with our shared OverDrive catalog. As libraries were seeing demand for ebooks grow and the limits in effect by publishers who (at the time) were not providing access to a lot of the frontlist titles, a lot of titles were sitting under the radar. So, I joined a merry band of librarians to review digital romances. Since then, I have read and reviewed a range of romance from historical to fantasy to erotic, but have really enjoyed covering the LGBT titles, especially M/M, romances, of which there are certainly plenty.

Not long after, I responded to another request (on Twitter, actually) by Library Journal for someone to write the Mystery Preview for the April 2012 issue, then jumped on the call for the SciFi/Fantasy/Horror Spotlight in August. These long articles really stretched my skills as a reviewer, as I was looking at trends more than actual titles. I know that without my wonderful editor, I would be up a creek without a paddle (and probably without a boat or life jacket either). I was honored to be asked back to write those same articles in 2013, plus I also ended up joining the science and technology reviewers, writing reviews of artisan cooking, beekeeping, and the like. All similar to the titles I loved reviewing on my blog and that are of personal interest to me.

This has all led to some fun things, for example:

I was thrilled to be chosen as one of Library Journal's Reviewer of the Year. To have this work that I do validated in this way really makes me believe that I am making a solid contribution to the profession.

When I was young, I dreamed of being a writer. While this is not the bestselling novel I expected to publish, I am a writer, and happy to be one such as this.

04 February 2014

Lock and Load: Questions about the new Adobe DRM

Today I caught a tweet from a colleague to make sure that librarians dealing with ebooks took a look at the new announcement by Adobe that they were going to update their DRM.

What Anne was talking about is this article: The Digital Reader: Adobe to Require New Epub DRM in July, Expects to Abandon Existing Users.

Now, programs and such get updated, I know, but the problem with this announcement is that Adobe has stated that after July, it will no longer supported the previous version of DRM. This is problematic for quite a few reasons:
  • People that have older dedicated ereaders, such as the Kobo or discontinued Sonys, could find they are not going to get any kind of update. This means that they will not be able to read new EPUB titles on their devices.
  • Third-party apps should be able to be updated, however it is unsure how soon that will happen. This delay would definitely affect library ebook readers, which means library staff will bear the brunt of trying to explain it.
  • One thing that was mentioned by Toby on Twitter is that some vendors, like OverDrive, store their EPUB copies on their own servers. This brings up the question of how all of these titles will have their DRM updated -- and how long it will take. I do not know enough about the application of rights management to know if it is a simple change or not, however, I am kind of leaning toward...not.
  • Another unknown is the effect this will have on independent bookstores that are selling ebooks. Many of them will have to front the costs, which could mean a hit to them.
Now, of course this is all supposition at this point, and some may think that we are just waiting for the sky to fall. I hope that there is little fallout to this issue, but as a librarian who works almost every day with patrons who are just holding the tail of the ereader tiger, this could slow things down even more in libraries.

What are other people's thoughts on this? Are you expecting smooth waters or a rough road ahead with the new Adobe DRM?

02 January 2014

New Year, New Stuff

Whoops! Where did the time go?

I have to admit, it has been a really busy last couple of months, the biggest one being this:

We welcomed my grandson, Duncan, on December 9th. Yup, I said grandson. "Why Kristi, you don't look old enough to be a grandmother?" 

Y'all are saying that, I know. Right? I hope? Well, in this day and age, I am not, not really, yet such is life. I knew that 2013 would be a year of changes, however this one really was not expected. 

Really though, how could one not love this cynical face?

So, this really put a crimp in my December, however I did accomplish a lot with the library. Our fundraising continues for a Mobile Laptop Lab. We received a Challenge Grant earlier this year for 50% of the funds if we raise the other half. We are almost 3/4 of the way there as of today! We had some big technology changes with going to Envisionware for print and time management, and moving to our consortium's wireless network as opposed to our own line for the public computers. This will definitely help when the MBI Broadband Project completes the final segments and we have a dedicated fiber line into the building. We expect this in the next couple of months. 

Also, January means we start planning for our Summer Reading Program! Judging by the current weather conditions (schools are closed the next two days because of the storm coming through New England), thoughts of summer will not be unwelcome. I hope I can plan some fun things for the adults to do this summer. My Youth Dept. Supervisor and I also plan to hold an SRP for teens for the first time, so we are really going to be in planning mode this winter and spring.

Of course, a new year brings thoughts of new beginnings and the resolve to start new things. While I could regale you with my plans on improving my mental and physical well-being, my desire to actually complete some knitting projects, and a clean out of my attic and basement (exciting stuff, no?), I think that what I will actually share is my reading plans.

This year I want to work on improving my reader's advisory skills, and a big part of that is breaking out of my comfort walls and taking on different genres and stories. Obviously my heart belongs to science fiction and fantasy, mystery and homesteading, but that does not work for everyone that crosses the library's threshold, sadly. 

Part of my plan was to make sure to read one or two of the titles on each LibraryReads list this year. Many are from genres that I do not frequent, so that will be one direction to go. Then yesterday I discovered a Tumblr post by my friend surlyspice, about A Year of Reading Suggestions, which seems to hit all of those sweet spots that I have missed throughout the years. Each month is a different suggestion, and January starts off strong:

In January, read a book published the same year you were born.What was the world like the year you were born? Get in a time capsule and read a book that reflects the culture, views, and lifestyle of the era of your birth. Tip: Google search for best seller list [year].
Goodreads has done a lot of "Most Popular Books Published In [Year]", including my own birth year. There are some interesting looking titles, and some that I have already read, go me! I am leaning towards the top title, Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas by Hunter S. Thompson, because I have to admit I haven't read it yet, and so many of my library- and age-related compatriots have.

What do you think of the choice? Any others on the list deserve more of a chance?