Send your own questions to me at [email protected]@TheLiB, or +Sarah Houghton.


Welcome to episode 4 of What Sarah Said, a podcast where I, Sarah Houghton, will answer your questions.

Today’s question, uhh rather questions, come from Johan, and he writes:

Ten questions for you from a fan.  Quick. Rapid fire.  Don’t think.

So to honor that I will ask each question and give my answers as rapidly as I can.

#1: What is your favorite band?  The Cure.  You know, a little competition from The Smiths or Siouxsie and the Banshees or bands like, you know, Crystal Castles or other bands I’ve discovered recently.  But man, heart of hearts, Disintegration–best album ever.

#2: Who is your favorite living author?  Neil Gaiman, hands down.

#3: Who is your favorite not-living author?  I just love the way that was phrased.  Easy answer there too as well–Philip K. Dick, who is actually local here to San Rafael and I moved here without even knowing that and that was pretty neat.

#4: What is your favorite movie?  The Piano.  Watched it in high school, fell in love with it, still love it, think it’s the best film ever made ever.  Go Jane Campion. Yay!

#5: What did you eat for dinner last night? I ate a homemade vegan pot pie.  It was frozen.  I had made a big batch about a month ago, but it was homemade to begin with so I think that still counts.  And as I recall, 1 1/2 glasses of a very thick merlot.

#6: What did you do for prom?  I did not go to prom.  So what I did for “not prom” was that I bought about $40 worth of dessert items, so this would be like ice cream, and cookies, and cake, and I remember there was some kind of big container of chocolate mousse.  I’m really not sure how that came to be. And then I also bought about $40 of illicit alcohol and locked myself down in my parents’ basement and watched Clockwork Orange over and over and over again while drinking alcohol and eating mass quantities of sugar.  So that was my prom. Not something I wished to repeat.  However, at the time it seemed like a good idea.

#7: Who is your biggest inspiration?  My maternal grandmother who passed away last year continues to be my biggest inspiration.  She faced a lot of obstacles in life, and a lot of difficulties in her private life, but always made sure in her interactions with other people–either her family, her friends, people through organizations that she was a member of–that she was always making their lives better, happier.  That she was helping them feel more empowered, stronger.  And making them feel special, making them feel loved.  That’s something that I aspire to do but I can never do it as well as she did.  But that selflessness and the kindness that she showed other people continues to be an inspiration to me.

#8: What is your favorite store?  There is a store called Stop Staring online. They’re based out of Southern California as well with a physical shop.  And that is where I buy most of my dresses.  And I love them.  I love them.  I love them.  Everything fits perfectly.  The dresses are beautiful.  Some cross between like ‘20s to ‘40s couture and gothy punky goodness.  So I love their stuff.

#9: What’s your favorite restaurant?  That would be Millennium, in San Francisco, which is a gourmet vegan place with great cocktails and even better food.

And then lastly Johan’s question #10: Why do you like libraries so much?  To me, libraries are the cornerstone of any civilization.  And I don’t say that lightly.  I actually believe that.  We level the intellectual playing field.  We democratize information and expertise, so that anyone can learn anything anytime and we will help them.  And as I often say when I speak to groups of library professionals, that is the most noble goal I can think of.  And that tells me I’m in the right profession.  I’m very happy with what I do every day.

So thank you, Johan, for your ten questions.  I hope you guys learned something about me.

We’ll see you next time for episode 5 of What Sarah Said.  Thanks for tuning into episode 4.

Send your own questions to me at [email protected]@TheLiB, or +Sarah Houghton.


Welcome to episode 3 of  What Sarah Said.  Today’s question comes from J.R., and J.R. is an author.  I get a lot of questions from authors so this is a good one.  He writes:

I am in the process of publishing my first novel, a YA fantasy.  Anyway, my larger vision for myself is playing a role in improving
teen literacy in my region…and beyond.  With my soon to be published novel, I believe I will be able to have more credibility with respect
to this endeavor. I know you are not in the Pennsylvania area but would love any suggestions you may have on where I can look to begin this process. As exciting as the publishing process can be, I’m even more excited about the potential of using it as a vehicle for helping others.  My book
has a male protagonist, which, I believe given the trend of YA novels leaning more and more toward the female reader could be both an
advantage and disadvantage. When it comes to teen literacy, I believe this is an advantage because of what the statistics say about boys
versus girls and reading/literacy. Do I begin with the library system or would you recommend looking elsewhere? On a more self-serving note, in your opinion (being an expert), what is the most effective way to reach 12-22 year-old males? Online? Somewhere else? I’d love to connect with this elusive age group but struggle to find a good place to start.  They simply don’t seem to congregate like females of the same age online.

All right.  So…congratulations on being an author!  I don’t know if you already have a publishing venue, if you’ve got a publisher lined up.  If not, consider self-publishing.  More and more people are doing that and finding it is a very valid way to get your information and your stuff out there.  The main thing you want is people to read your stuff, right?  That’s the main thing you want.  You’re not doing this because you expect to make a million dollars off of your first book. And if you do you’re delusional.  I love you J.R., but I don’t think you’re going to make your first million here.  Having not read the book…I could be wrong, I could be wrong.  You could be the next J.K. Rowling.  I could be totally wrong.  But I do think the key to your question is that your focus isn’t on your book, your focus is on your desire to improve teen literacy.  And the book is second to that.

So whether you’re in Pennsylvania or any other part of the world, really, I think libraries are a great place to start to ask them if they would welcome an event where you’re promoting literacy, you’re inviting teen boys.  Have some kind of a pre-canned program ready to go where you say “Oh yeah, I’ll bring them in and I’ll have them write, and I’ll have them talk about the book, or read a chapter at a time…” or however you want to set it up.  I would also recommend contacting literacy programs in your area.  Many of these have become underfunded due to state and national budget issues, but I do think there are still enough of those around that it’s worth looking to see.  Now is there a literacy agency that would appeal to or attract this particular age group?  And then also the schools.  Talk to the schools.  Again, come to them with your pre-planned canned event of what you would like to bring to the table, what you can do for them.  That’s what they want to hear.  And show them how you can help boys in their school become excited about reading or writing again.

And then finally, you talk about what the effective way is to reach 12-22 year old males.  I gotta be honest.  I’m not an expert on that.  When I was 12-22 as a female, I didn’t know where to find these boys.  So definitely not an expert now as a 30-something.  Look everywhere you can–online, offline, places in the community where they tend to congregate.  I know that in the past the library has left marketing materials for middle schoolers of both genders all over the place–in pizza shops, at skateboard parks, at coffee shops, wherever you see people of this age group.  And this is a very wide group.  12-22 is huge.  I mean, that’s very different from one end of the spectrum to the other.  So think about…are you really trying to target one particular part of that segment?   Are you really trying to get 12-15? To me that’s a little bit too broad to give you one answer.  But look in as many places, be in as many places as you can and you will have the most success.  And as a library person who has tried to market to this age group for years, I’ll say that there’s no magic bullet that I’ve found so far.  But again, really diversifying that reach and hitting as many points as possible is probably your best approach.

And I just want to say good for you J.R. for being interested in improving literacy, particularly among teenage boys.  I applaud you for that and I wish you luck with your writing.

Thanks for tuning in and we’ll see you at the next episode.

Send your own questions to me at [email protected]@TheLiB, or +Sarah Houghton.


Welcome to episode 2 of  What Sarah Said, the podcast where I, Sarah Houghton, will answer your questions.  Today’s question comes from Steve, and he writes:

Sarah my dear… [that’s a little overly familiar Steve…I don’t know you, so I’m not your dear, but I’ll forgive you that slight transgression.]  I am often asked by patrons whether or not they should buy a tablet or an eReader.  What is your take on this?

OK, so this is a question I get asked a lot by pretty much everybody–family, friends, librarians, everybody…patrons.  It depends on what you want.  So it’s extremely situational.  One big question to ask people is whether or not they care if the device just does books, or has books and internet access and apps and other stuff.  Another question to ask is whether or not they prefer a back-lit display like a traditional smartphone or laptop vs. the eInk technology that you find on many of the dedicated eReaders.

So for me, you know…I’ve got a computer.  I’ve got a smartphone.  And I just really wanted to have something that wasn’t back-lit, that was a nice eReading display.  And so for me an eInk device made the most sense.

Now for a friend that I just talked to over the holidays–she doesn’t really have a computer at home.  She has a smart phone; she has an iPhone.  And she wanted to have something that was both an eReader and gave her access to email–that’s pretty much what she wanted it for.  And because she was already familiar with the iOS system it made more sense to me for her to get an iPad.  Because in that case she’s got both email and internet access but  she’s also got that capability to use it as an eBook reader as she wants.

So it really depends on what people are looking for.  The best advice I can give you is that there’s no one answer.  It really just depends on how that conversation goes with the person.  Ask questions, see what they want to do with it, see what their preferences are, see what technology they’re already familiar with and that will most likely guide you to the right answer for them.  But as with all things, we don’t tell people to buy stuff.  All we can do is give them the information and let them decide for themselves.

Thanks for tuning in to episode 2 of What Sarah Said, and we’ll hope to see you on episode 3!

Year in Review

December 30, 2011 | Comments (0)

It’s the year in review! Below are my favorites from 2011, just because:
• Book – Public Parts by Jeff Jarvis
• Movie – Melancholia
• Band – Austra
• Song – “Need You Now” by Cut Copy
• Serious Technology – Google+
• Fun Technology – Sonos system at my place
• Conference (for conference reasons) – Internet Librarian in Monterey
• Conference (for non-conference reasons) – American Library Association Annual Conference in New Orleans – (holy mother of ceiling cat, holding a conference here invites all kinds of vice)
• Fan Girl Squee Moment – appearing on TWIT’s Tech News Today
• New Service for Libraries – Open Library from the Internet Archive
• Library Innovation – Hackerspaces
• Indoor Event – An Evening with Neil Gaiman and Amanda Palmer
• Outdoor Event – Folsom Street Fair
• Play – Steampunk/Tesla themed “Tempest” from the Marin Shakespeare Company
• Concert – Ladytron with Polaris and Sonoio
• Movement – Occupy (that one was obvious)
• Support for a DRM-free Future – Louis CK’s DRM-free $5 “Live at the Beacon Theater” download
• Club – Cat Club (San Francisco)
• Bar – Bourbon and Branch (San Francisco)
• Treat – gourmet vegan cinnamon rolls from Cinnaholic (Berkeley)
• Meme – honey badger don’t care

Introducing the first episode of What Sarah Said, my new videocast/podcast/video-thingie where I answer your questions about libraries, technology, privacy, intellectual freedom, etc.  One episode, one question (or multi-part related questions).

Send your own questions to me at [email protected], @TheLiB, or +Sarah Houghton.

Text Transcription (courtesy of Ms. Andromeda)

Hi, welcome to Episode 1 of What Sarah Said, a brand-new podcast with me, Sarah Houghton, author of Librarian in Black, and a librarian in…black. This is a podcast where I will answer questions from my readers and viewers and do my best to help out.

And today’s first question comes from Suzanne, and she says: OK. So what exactly do the copyright laws say about making one coy of a magazine article for personal use, burning a CD for personal use — I know you’re not supposed to but every laptop does this — so is it really truly illegal, and finally, showing a DVD at a school as a fundraiser.

Alright, so three possible parts, three separate questions, and the answer to all three is, yes, that is a violation of copyright. So let’s take these one by one.

So, first off. Making a copy of a magazine article for personal use. If you’re not making a copy of a subscription that you already paid for yourself — for instance, if you’re making a copy of a subscription that your local library paid for, or a friend paid for, that’s a violation of copyright, because you’re making an unauthorized copy of an entire work, and in this case the work is the article.

The second question, burning a CD for personal use. You’re entitled to make a backup copy of CDs that you’ve already purchased. So, in case they get damaged or something, you can make a backup copy. Kind of an archival copy, if you will. Can’t share that copy, but you can make that copy, and keep it in case the first one gets damaged. But if you’re making a burned CD, let’s say, again, from a library copy, or a friend’s copy, that is a violation of copyright.

And then lastly, showing a DVD at a school as a fundraiser. The movie companies require that you pay them a screening fee, a broadcast fee, a display fee, they call it different things, in order to make some money back on that movie. So even if you’re not showing it at the movie theater, if you’re just showing it to a room of 25-year-olds, doesn’t matter. They still require you to pay that fee in order to, to screen that film that they paid to make. And so showing it at the school as a fundraiser — or even not — even if there’s no money involved at all and you’re just showing it for free, that is still a violation of copyright, because you haven’t paid the rightsholders what they legally require you to pay in order to use their product.

So the short answer is, basically, none of those things is OK, and the lesson is that just because it’s easy to do, technically, doesn’t mean that it’s not a violation of the law. Doesn’t mean that it’s not a violation of copyright. So we all have to be very careful in both what we do as library professionals but also what we tell other people they can and can’t do. We need to be comfortable with the law, we need to understand what’s admissible and what isn’t. Otherwise we’re going to give people bad advice, and as information professionals, we don’t like that. So thanks for your question Suzanne, and congratulations on being our inaugural question for the first podcast, and I hope I’ll see everyone else for episode 2.

I’m getting ready to record some “What Sarah Said” videos, but if you just crave your daily dose of Sarah’s voice and face* before then, try these two on for size:

* In no way do I wish to compare myself to a drug, although if you were to compare me to a drug, feel free to comment below with which drug I’d be.  Because I’d love to get a t-shirt that says something like “My readers say I’m like Acetaminophen!”

I’m going to start a new feature on this site, an “ask Sarah anything” offer of sorts.

I’m calling it “What Sarah Said” (stealing the title from that soul-crushing Death Cab for Cutie song).

Ask me your library/technology/education/intellectual freedom related questions by emailing me at [email protected] with the subject line “Question for Sarah” or some such thing.  I will provide answers in either video or text format, depending on what will help answer the question best.  I will happily keep your identity out of the picture, so feel free to send me emails from anonymous/junk email accounts or ask me to keep your name out of it.  If you want to give me a pseudonym to use for you, that’s even better.  Extra credit for cleverness.

Why am I doing this?  I find that I am spending about an hour a day answering questions from people via email–library school students, patrons, futurists, library staff, educators, technologists, journalists, etc.  A lot of these questions and my attempt at answers could probably benefit many others…  And honestly, I’m spending so much time typing up one-to-one emails that the blogging is suffering.  So why not combine the two? 🙂

So bring it on–whaddya wanna know?

pile of books with lock and chain

***Update 12/12/11: Overdrive has posted a response outlining the limitations of availability of certain titles to certain libraries, as well as differing terms of use for certain publishers or titles.  See their response: Ensuring access to the largest eBook catalog for libraries.  In no way do they defend the secretive nature of concealing the effect of these terms from their customers, or answer many of the other questions I had posed to them.  They do, however, tell libraries to contact their Account Specialists with questions and to expect a response within 24 hours.  Perhaps you’ll have better luck with that than I did, as over a week was apparently not enough time for them to even acknowledge that I’d sent an inquiry.***

A couple of weeks ago I got an email from Ryan Claringbole, the Digital Branch Librarian at the Chesapeake Public Library in Virginia.  He asked if I’d ever heard about OverDrive restricting certain libraries’ access to specific publishers’ materials, or, in other words, different libraries seeing different catalogs of eBooks available in the OverDrive Marketplace.

I said “no,” and furrowed my little investigative brow, thinking something glitchy was probably happening with the OverDrive Marketplace.  I asked him to give me specifics and Ryan came through in spades–comparing the limited results found in his Marketplace to titles perfectly publicly visible in other libraries’ online collections, which I then compared to my library’s Marketplace and holdings.  I then called several other libraries and confirmed the weirdness and differences that Ryan and I were seeing.  Ryan discovered something that I have never heard discussed by OverDrive or by participating OverDrive libraries.

OverDrive has different catalogs of eBooks in the OverDrive Marketplace for different libraries.  We’re not all seeing the same title or author selections.

How many OverDrive customers knew that?  How many libraries who have been given the restricted catalogs were ever informed that this is what was happening, or why?  How many of you are right this second logging into your OverDrive Marketplace to check?

This is completely indefensible bullshit.  I am not easily shocked by corporate greed and unethical behavior, but this business practice shocked me.  Shame on you OverDrive.

Instead of trying to explain all of this second-hand, I invited Ryan to tell his story directly.  Below is what he sent me, followed by screenshots from his library’s Marketplace and my library’s Marketplace for three different popular authors. Hint: They’re not the same.

Ryan’s story

The Chesapeake Public Library partnered with OverDrive in the summer of 2011. We were very excited about increasing our eBook access with the largest provider of eBooks for public libraries. We had been in partnership with NetLibrary/EBSCO eBooks for a couple years, but the selection they had was geared more towards technical non-fiction eBooks. OverDrive was touting the best selection of fiction and popular non-fiction eBooks.

We decided to divide up the selection process by Fiction, Non-Fiction, Teens and Children. The selectors began placing orders immediately with the $9,000 collection credit that OverDrive gave if we signed up. The selectors came to me stating that they were surprised that there wasn’t a better selection of items. We at first thought that this was more of an eBook/publisher issue, that the items, specifically newer ones, were not available in digital format right away. But then the selectors started checking out our neighboring city, Virginia Beach, OverDrive site. The selectors contacted me saying that Virginia Beach had items available to checkout and download on their OverDrive site that was not showing up in our OverDrive Marketplace.

I contacted our liaison at OverDrive to inquire why certain items were showing up on other library’s OverDrive sites, but not showing up in our Marketplace. OverDrive wasn’t sure at first, but then informed me it had to do with our non-resident cards. Since the Chesapeake Public Library System allows reciprocal cards and purchased full service cards for patrons outside of the City, certain publishers won’t allow access to their eBooks at all, according to OverDrive. And by “no access” it means that those items won’t show up in our Marketplace.

I asked a legal representative for OverDrive about the full service cards, as they are purchased by patrons for an annual non-refundable fee of $35.00. The legal rep. said that, unfortunately, even the paid full service cards violate this restriction and they would be blocked as well.

Basically the Chesapeake Public Library System has two options when using OverDrive:

  1. We can keep everything as it is and have access to a limited amount of items. The cost of the product does not accurately reflect what we have access to.
  2. We can ask OverDrive to restrict access to the OverDrive site by a specific field in the accounts. This would mean that patrons that live outside the City do not have access. The Chesapeake area is part of Hampton Roads, a large metropolitan area that has many commuters, and it is also on the North Carolina border, meaning we get many patrons from NC. I’m not sure of the statistic, but a large slice of our patron pie comes from outside the City.

Since I was not originally on the committee that went through and signed the contract with OverDrive I asked to see a copy of our contract to see where it specifically is stated that we cannot give access to OverDrive to patrons that are outside the City. I did not find anything until near the very end:

Access to the Application Services shall be limited to those patrons of the Library that have the required relation to the Library to receive a library card (“Authorized Patrons”). Library shall not provide access to the Application Services to any end users who are not Authorized Patrons. Authorized Patrons shall be defined as individuals who can provide proof of residency, employment, or enrollment in school or similar institution in the Library’s service area. Online library card applications and issuance, with or without any fees, that provide access to the Application Services without proof of the required library relation (as referenced in the foregoing sentence) shall not be permitted. OverDrive reserves the right to immediately terminate this Agreement if Library provides access to the Application Services to end users who are not Authorized Patrons.

In discussing this with other librarians within the system, one pointed out that technically the “library service area” is not defined in the contract, and we don’t define it as within the City limits. By definition, the library service area could be anywhere in the country if they decide to purchase a full service card. Our Director asked the OverDrive legal representative about this and he said that they (OverDrive) define it as the area that provides the majority of funding to the library system. In our case, it’s the City.

I have asked many librarians if they know if their systems are under the same restrictions with OverDrive. I have yet to find one that has even heard of such a restriction. I find this restriction misleading and poorly worded in the contract, and I find it baffling that the items that are restricted won’t even show up in the Marketplace.

But even if the restriction is poorly worded and not pointed out, even if the items are completely hidden in the Marketplace, why this library system has been singled out is the one question I’d like answered. And are any more libraries going to be victims of this restriction?

Sample of Authors Affected with Screenshots

[Update: Commenter Doug pointed out that Ryan had limited his results to eBooks only while I had not, which was a good point. I have updated the screenshots as a result. The differences in availability still apply, but the screenshots are more comparable now. Thanks Doug!]

1) Results for Kathryn Stockett

Kathryn Stockett results from Ryan's library

Kathryn Stockett results from Ryan's library










Kathryn Stockett results from Sarah's library

2) Results for Stieg Larsson 

Stieg Larsson results from Ryan's library

Stieg Larsson results from Ryan's library

Stieg Larsson results from Sarah's library

Stieg Larsson results from Sarah's library

3) Results for Janet Evanovich

Janet Evanovich results from Ryan's library

Janet Evanovich results from Ryan's library

Janet Evanovich results from Sarah's library

Janet Evanovich results from Sarah's library

What is happening?

In short, depending on the library card policies of your library and how you’ve set up authentication (e.g. do you somehow limit either cards or authentication to only people in “your jurisdiction”) you will see different publishers and titles available in your OverDrive Marketplace.  I’ll tell you one thing…this limitation is definitely not specifically mentioned in your contracts.  The closest you’ll get is the section Ryan quoted above.  There is pretty much zero information in the standard OverDrive contract about the content itself–it’s all about the platform.  There are no publisher guarantees, or guarantees of availability.  In fact, the contracts (depending on which version your library signed) say something along the lines of “OverDrive can add and remove content at will.”

One author in our brief list of three samples is from Putnam, one from Random House, and one from Knopf (a Random House imprint).  We were also able to track a few additional authors with problems.  But I’m wondering now which publishers exactly are affected.  Actually, I’m left wondering a lot of things because OverDrive hasn’t ever made this information available to its customer libraries.

Basically, OverDrive can and has created agreements with publishers that allow them to prohibit certain libraries’ ability to license their titles.  Except OverDrive never tells libraries this is happening.  The only way we’d know is by librarians like Ryan stumbling over inconsistencies in title availability and investigating.

And I hate to call attention to this, but nearly every library in California allows any California resident to get a library card–which means that unless every single California customer is authenticating based on zip code or another location-specific field in the patron record (which I know they’re not), then pretty much the whole state of California should be getting the limited catalog (according to what OverDrive’s legal representative told Ryan).

OverDrive has sold their “selection of digital titles” to libraries as though everyone is seeing the same thing, as though access is equitable across the board.  Pieces started to fall together, though, as I remember some librarians complaining bitterly about how horrible the selection is in OverDrive and others looking at them incredulously and saying they thought it was fine. Now we know why different people had different impressions of the selection of materials–because the selection of materials was not the same from library to library.

Why would OverDrive do this?

Money.  Why else?  They’re a for-profit company.  I’m guessing here, but I would venture that either OverDrive was told by publishers it had to agree to these limiting terms in order to get any of that publisher’s content for any of its customers and/or OverDrive got more money from these publishers if they put that limitation in place.  Now here’s the danger–how many more publishers are going to follow suit?

Why wouldn’t they tell us? Because, as usual, companies make risk calculations and decide in favor of obscuring facts about their services rather than being open and transparent about them with their customers.  The calculated risk here was whether anyone would figure out that there were differences in our catalogs of available eBooks, and if so, if we shushy-quiet-bound-librarians would be loud about it or do anything substantive that would cost them money.  And just as with the Amazon and user privacy issue with OverDrive–we’re going to start getting loud, aren’t we?

As for doing something about it, if you take the Kindle privacy violations and combine them with this news–anybody tempted to cancel their library’s OverDrive contract?  I know I am.  And if you’re looking at renewing or signing a new contract with OverDrive, watch out.  Look for the clause Ryan cited in your contract and be sure to ask your sales representative point blank whether or not your access to the catalog is a full or restricted version and get a response in writing.

Attempts to get OverDrive’s Comments

It is critical to note that I contacted three different OverDrive staff (Director of Marketing, our local collections rep, and our regional sales manager) and gave them ample time to respond to the issue, asking them specific questions to help sort the mess out in case something was just glitchy, or in case they wanted to comment on the reasons for these differences.  I never received even an acknowledgement of my emails.  Bad form, fellas.


  • How many different versions of your catalog of materials are there?
  • Are some publishers not willing to license content to certain types/sizes of libraries?
  • What is the limitation based on?
  • Is this information shared with OverDrive clients during the contract negotiations?
  • Is the limitation on selection noted in the contracts with affected libraries?
  • What publishers/authors/titles does this apply to?
  • Does OverDrive have a list of affected library clients?

I once more call on OverDrive for a formal statement.  Your customers are impatiently tapping their feet, and that may lead to those feet moving from tapping to marching into an Occupy OverDrive movement if you’re not careful.  Your corporate headquarters are in Suite N of the Valley Tech Center, at 8555 Sweet Valley Drive, in Cleveland, Ohio, right? I don’t particularly want to visit Cleveland in December, but hey…worthy causes and all that.

Ryan Claringbole is a rock star

I want to congratulate Ryan Claringbole on singlehandedly making a difference in libraries and revealing deceptive corporate practices for a company that has a virtual monopoly on popular eBook distribution in libraries.  Ryan broke this story wide open and I want to commend him for being a stellar library professional and noticing something the rest of us did not, and for having the courage to come out publicly about what he found.  Ryan, I salute you sir.

What you can do

Finally, I ask all of you library users and library staff to help us figure out what’s happening.  You can do three things:

  1. Check your own OverDrive Marketplace and see what results you turn up for these three authors.  What are you seeing?  Then check your own contracts to see if this limitation is in your contract, and talk to whoever negotiated and signed it to see if they understood what it meant and/or were possibly told they were getting a limited catalog of materials to choose from.
  2. Post your findings in the comments section of this blog post.
  3. Tell your OverDrive rep what you think, whatever that may be.  And just in case anyone wants to take that extra step to contact Corporate Headquarters, always a good thing to do when you feel strongly about something, here’s their phone number: (216) 573-6886. And why not go old school and also send a fax? (216) 573-6888.  Who knows? Print might get their attention better.  How ironic would that be?

This is the fourth post in my new Sarah’s Gadget Showcase series. #1: Audio Gadgets, #2: Cooking Gadgets, and #3: Reading Gadgets are also available.

This installment of the Gadget Showcase is a collection of random miscellaneous things I use…stuff that works well for me. This is truly a list of “a few of my favorite things.” Enjoy…and tell me what your favorite things are too in the comments section!

solar chargerFreeLoader Pro Solar Charger ($79.99)
As I often travel and run out of power for my laptop or smart phone, a portable power supply is super useful. I have started using this great solar charger. It will charge up just about any device and has a dozen or so little adaptors so it will fit whatever weirdo power input your device has. And hey—it’s solar, so you can get your green on.



led clockTIX LED Clock ($39.99)
I love this clock because it makes me think. Many people mistake it for a binary clock at first glance, but in fact you read the clock by counting the lighted boxes in each column…and that’s the time. I like that it’s colorful (the only colorful thing in my house). And I like that the lighted boxes rotate and move around.



RoombaiRobot Roomba 530 ($349.99)
Why have a vacuum when you can have a robot? It cleans the floors probably better than I would with a manual vacuum cleaner. I love just pushing the little button and letting it do its thing in the room. It handles hard floors and carpeting well. I also love that it doubles as a ride for my cats (little Fiona has figured out that pushing the button will start it up and she’ll ride it around). I have the basic level Roomba, but if you want to throw another $200 at a purchase you can get a super advanced Roomba instead with fancy scheduling features and what not. Yay for robots!

Dyson Air MultiplierDyson Air Multiplier ($299 and up)
Space age air circulation baby! I am very sound sensitive (and smell sensitive, light sensitive…I’m just a sensitive girl!). The sound of fan blades drives me nuts…that “whoomp whoomp” grates on my nerves. But when it’s hot and you’re lacking AC, you need a fan (and icy drinks, cold showers, and popsicles). The Dyson Air Multiplier works as well as a fan, is quieter, creates a more consistent white noise sound, and is much easier to clean since there are no blades. And it looks cool and space-agey. One problem: it’s crazy expensive. The one I have I got with a stockpile of Best Buy gift cards that I didn’t have anything else to spend them on. I don’t know that I’d buy another unless the price goes down.

sleep machineAdaptive Sound+Sleep Therapy System ($99.99)
Insomnia, anyone? This is the best sleep machine, bar none, that I’ve ever heard. It has 10 different sounds to pick from (my favorites are rainfall, ocean, and white noise). The sounds are also all naturally recorded, so it’s not some stupid 60 second loop of mechanically-generated “rain noise” or something. The speaker system is of a totally decent quality. You can set it to a timer. But here are the two coolest features: 1) The Adaptive Setting will set the system to increase or decrease the volume as the ambient room volume goes up or down (read: neighbors upstairs stomping around = volume goes up to cover it); and 2) The Richness Setting will add more or less complexity to the sound you choose, e.g. thunder or bird noises to the rainfall sound. I want to offer up a huge thanks to Michael Porter for introducing me to this gem of a sleep-assisting gadget.

heating padTheraTherm Digital Moist Heating Pad ($74.95)
It’s a heating pad. How cool can it be? Answer: pretty freaking cool. This heating pad draws moisture from the air to provide a moist heat, which is better for your skin and is more penetrating as well. In addition, this bad boy has a programmable digital controller where you can set the exact temperature (I hover around 128 but it goes all the way up to 166) and the time duration (from 1-60 minutes). When my back is sore or even when I’m just a little chilly, I use this heating pad and can fall asleep without worrying about burning myself or setting fire to my bed. Avoidance of accidental fire and skin grafts is always a plus.

dr. riter's real easeDr. Riter’s Real Ease ($35.99)
Keeping on the pain relief theme, this neck support is the magic bullet that fixes most of my computer-use-induced neck problems. I’ve probably tried a dozen different neck stretchers, massagers, supporters, pillows, you name it. This is the only one that does a thing for me. It’s just some foam on top of a curvy piece of plastic—that’s it. But you lay down on the floor with this supporting your neck, and minutes later all that tension just flows out and those muscles reconfigure themselves into the spots they’re supposed to be—you know, supporting your spine instead of wrenching it out of place.

littermaid litter boxLitterMaid Elite Self-Cleaning Litter Box ($129.99)
I love cats. I hate cat litter. I think training your cat to use a human toilet is just weird. So, I deal with the litter. When I got my new kittens, I thought I’d try a self-cleaning litter box. This one has definite pros and cons. Pro: It scoops itself (most of the time). Con: It misses my kittens sometimes because they’re so small they still don’t trigger the sensors, so stuff builds up. Pro: You can set a sleep timer so it doesn’t go off in the middle of the night. Con: When it does go off it is crazy loud. I’m not sure if I’ll stick with this or go back to a normal box. But it’s interesting…and the principle of it is a good one—make a robot do something I’d rather not do. And let me offer advanced apologies to future sentient AI species reading this; I value your existence and worship my superior robot overlords.

I’ve appeared on three notable shows recently that I wanted to plug and mention because they’re great shows.  So check out the other non-Sarah episodes–they’re stellar!  Good shows to subscribe to, for sure.

Circulating Ideas (podcast hosted by Steve Thomas) – I appear on Episode 6 talking about digital content, Star Trek, readers’ privacy, and other related stuff.

Bibliotech (podcast hosted by Kayhan Boncoglu) – I appear on Episode 8 talking about my very angry reaction to the Amazon and Overdrive partnership to lend Kindle eBooks, and some other non-grumpy things as well.

And lastly I got to fulfill a longtime geek girl dream by appearing on the TWiT network on the Tech News Today show (w00t!) along with the amazing Tom Merritt, Sarah Lane, Iyaz Akhtar, and Jason Howell.  I’m on Episode 367 where we talk about a whole bunch of stuff (including eBook reader market share).  See below for video.  I’ll also be appearing on TWiT again on Monday on the FourCast show (a future-prediction show with Tom Merritt and Scott Johnson).  Watch live at 4pm PST Monday!