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Librarian Blog

Yes, but is it free?

A report released last year was based on a survey of college students designed to find out how much they spent on average each year for textbooks.

A U.S. News story on the study said the average was about $1,200.

That corresponds with the cost of a text I decided not to require when I taught journalism at the University of Texas a couple of years ago. That book was north of $100.

I understand the forces driving textbook costs ever upward, but I fail to understand why more college deans and professors don't figure out an alternative, especially with the ubiquity of the Web and Web-based software.

Last week, Infodocket reported that the University of Texas system had launched its first all-digital no-paper textbook degree program. It's in biomedical sciences and is offered at UT-Rio Grande Valley.

The Teagle Foundation provided the UT system with a $300,000 grant to support the program.

I'd say the UT system is not exactly blazing trails with this initiative. In fact, they are probably way, way behind other colleges and are most certainly behind what would be expected of a major university. This is not cutting edge, and UT aspires to be a world-class place.

Students and their parents need a break on book costs. But the students also need to be able to live and work and study in the 21st century.

But, wait ... are these digital books free? Or half-price? Or ...

The story doesn't say.

And the winner is ...

Actually, the winner is you who participated in our adult summer reading program.

The program just ended with a drawing for a Kindle Fire. The winner of the drawing was Donna Wyatt.

But, a total of 134 adults who read and turned in their names were also winners.

They read a total of 1,071 books.

The number of participants and the number of books read were significantlly higher than the totals for 2014. Last year, 582 books were read by 73 adults. The increase was on the order of 84 percent.

Seems like everyone liked the format of the program this year, which was all put together by Sarah Davis, assistant circulation librarian.

Congratulations to all!

If wishes were horses ...

My wish list for our library is pretty long and getting longer all the time thanks to Moore's Law and its impact on prices for technology gear.

Moore's Law, you may recall, states that computing power doubles on a routine basis and quickly.

Prices go down as costs go down.

So now we have a video camera, and that's nice, but it's just not enough. I'm reading in American Libraries Magazine about libraries around the country that have full-scale video and audio recording studios complete with green walls and Mac Pro laptops, wonderful software, etc.

They're letting adults and kids really get creative.

I mentioned in this space last week lusting after a book printer that had a pricetag of only $85,000.

Let's just add another equivalent amount to that and I'll be happy ... for the very short time being.

Kind of sad ...

We get, literally, thousands of books that are donated to the library each year.

I have no idea how many are fiction or nonfiction, how many are children's books, how many are new, how many old. I just don't keep track of these things.

I do sometimes browse through the boxes that have been dropped off, though, mainly looking for books I can take to one of our Little Free Libraries (we have four around town now).

I was doing a little trolling in the piles this week and found two copies in the same box of a book that set me to wondering.

Both were pristine copies of a book called "The Grandparents' Treasure Chest."

The idea of this kind of  book is that a grandparent will fill in the blanks on hundreds of pages, including a family tree. The pages are for memories and photos, and the titles on the pages are intended to jumpstart the mind.

The books were blank.

Which means that somewhere out there is a grandchild, maybe two, who don't know everthing about Grandpa or Grandma that they could have had Grandpa or Grandma bothered to write on those pages.

At first, I thought this was sad.

But, then, I reflected on how much my own grandkids want to know about my life: Not much, really.

I guess that's just the way it is today when family members live so far apart and have so little regular interaction.

Maybe that's the sad part.

Talking about books

I guess I thought book discussion clubs had been around since, well, stone tablets.

Who could resist talking about what you've just read to a person or two of like  mind?

Not so, I learned, thanks to an article in JSTOR Daily online.

In fact, the first book discussion clubs were centered in coffee houses or the actual homes of authors. Books were passed around and shared because they were very expensive in the 1700s and 1800s.

I found this reference to the earliest of what today we think of as book clubs: According to Brad Hooper ("The Mother of All Book Clubs," Booklist, Sept. 15, 2001) perhaps the earliest community book discussion club like those meeting in today's living rooms was founded in 1877, by the ladies in the small Corn-Belt town of Mattoon, Illinois (the club still meets). Beaufort, SC was not far behind: Mary Elizabeth Waterhouse founded the Clover Club literary society in 1891.

The rise of cheaper books has likewise given rise in the number of book clubs, especially, for some reason, since 1989.

JSTOR quotes The New York Times as estimating book club membership at 5 million. A large number of them, it seems, are made up for and by women.

In fact, a 2014 surbey found that among American women who read at least one book a month, 56 percent were in book clubs.

I don't know why.

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