It’s mid-May, and graduations are already starting. Those of you who teach know it isn’t too soon to plan for the fall’s courses. If you’re teaching a course that touches on system management, data maintenance, or preservation issues, you should consider including Files that Last on its reading list.
Preservation Services at Dartmouth College offered a reading list in digital preservation in 2012. That list, which predates FTL, suggests several books which focus on preservation from an institutional standpoint. The Planets Project (which has become the Open Planets Foundation) has an older but longer bibliography in a similar vein. Files that Last complements books like these with its focus on a broader computer audience, the people who need to do preservation as an aspect of their regular work, rather than being primarily information curators.
If your students read Files that Last, it will help them understand the issues of data preservation and loss and appreciate the importance of good data maintenance practices, and they’ll learn habits that will let them better control the data in their own lives and their future jobs.
I’ve launched a page of updates and errata for Files that Last, with some new information on the WebP still image format. As I learn about things that have changed or mistakes in the book, I’ll add to the page.
If you spot anything that you think needs fixing, please let me know.
Smashwords was taking forever to get “technical integration” from Amazon, and when I got a query from a friend about Amazon availability, I decided to go with KDP (Kindle Direct Publishing). Amazon’s registration process isn’t more painful than you’d expect, given that they need to pay me and report my income, and the submission process gives me more control than Smashwords’ does, though it takes more work to take full advantage of it. (The best way to submit a book to KDP is as an HTML file with detailed CSS, and saving as HTML from OpenOffice gives you that. I had to make some manual changes to the CSS for a good result.) This means there are some differences in formatting between the Smashwords and KDP editions. There shouldn’t be any differences in content.
I’m not thrilled with Amazon’s commitment to DRM, closed platforms, and licensing rather than really selling e-books, but I don’t dislike them enough to cut myself off from that market. So if you’ve been holding out for the Kindle version, wait no more!
Yes, it’s only tres de mayo, but Sunday is a lousy day to hold a sale. Besides, today is International Day against DRM. For today through the 5th, you can get Files that Last on Smashwords — DRM-free, of course — for the super-low price of $2.99 instead of the usual $7.99. Enter the coupon code TT58Q when buying the book to get this price. If you already have it, why not buying a copy for a friend or colleague?
This applies only to copies bought on Smashwords, not on other sites. Sorry if you prefer to buy on the iTunes store, but I’m not able to issue coupons for other sites.
Files that Last is the first e-book on digital preservation directed at “everygeek.” In case your layout doesn’t show you the page links (e.g., on a mobile device), you can read what the book’s about and how to get it here.
Looking for a way to get the word out about digital preservation? I’ve added a new page on reviewing FTL to this site. All publicity (well, nearly all) is good!
Which way should you go? I’ll say first of all, just buy the book and I’ll be happy. Buying through Smashwords will give me a bigger cut than the other channels, but a sale’s a sale. If you’re planning to read it on an iPhone, iPod, or iPad, getting it from Apple is the easiest way to get it on there. I don’t really know anything about Kobo.
There should be more ways to buy FTL within the next week or so.
Libraries can buy Files that Last through Axis360 and Cloud Library, or will be able to at some point in the future. Since libraries are clearly key customers, both as users and as lenders, I’ve made the book available to them at a permanent discount, for $6.99. In addition to those aggregators, buyers can buy through Smashwords’ Library Direct.
Librarians, please let me know if you have good or bad experiences buying the book this way, or if you’ve had past experience with these channels.
Yes, it’s finally here! You can now buy Files that Last on Smashwords for just $7.99.
In fact, you can buy it for less than that — “for a limited time only,” as they say in the commercials. Enter this coupon code:
and you’ll get 20% off. But it’s good only till April 20. I can’t figure out whether than means at the beginning or the end of the day or in what time zone, so use the coupon before the 20th to be safe.
You need a Smashwords account to buy the book. It’s free, and I’ve never been spammed. In time Smashwords will make the book available through other outlets; I’ll post here as I learn about them.
I’m thrilled that the book is finally done and available, but now comes the hard work of selling it. Please mention or review it where interested people will see it. There will be ads (I’ve set up a Google Ad Words account), but the real key to the success of the book will be people who read it and spread the word.
Thanks once again to Matt Leger for the cover and Terri Wells for the proofreading, and to all my Kickstarter backers. Special thanks to Jay Gattuso, who backed the project at the Sponsor level. If you’re one of those backers at the $10 level or higher, you should have gotten a coupon code to download the book for free. If you haven’t received it, get in touch with me and I’ll see what I can do,.
I’m going through the proofread copy and making final corrections. You don’t want to know how many embarrassing typos Terri Wells has saved me from. After that, it’s a matter of getting it up on Smashwords and satisfying all their formatting requirements, and on April 18 it will be available for purchase! Everyone who pledged on Kickstarter at the $10 level or higher will get a code to download it for free.
If you’re involved in a Preservation Week event, please think about a way to include a mention of Files that Last.
I’m thrilled, if slightly exhausted, to be bringing this project to a successful conclusion. Thank you all once again for your support!
I’ve got Terri Wells’ edits back in the mail, so now I have to make a final run through the book. After making all the corrections, there will still be work to get it up on Smashwords. My experience with JHOVE Tips for Developers, which I did mostly as a practice run, shows that it will take several revision cycles to get the book’s style to satisfy all of Smashwords’ criteria. (JHOVE Tips still doesn’t qualify for the premium catalog.) Smashwords doesn’t have any provision for submitting a book as a private draft, so please don’t buy it till I say here that it’s ready.
The amount of support that I’ve gotten on this project has been fantastic. I hope you’ll be as happy with the result as I am.
I’ve just revamped the look of the blog to better call attention to the book. Let me know if you think it works or not.
The CSS on the “About” page needs reworking. I’ll get to that soon.
I’ve had to change proofreaders at a late date, but I think the new proofreader will do very well. I’m still committed to getting the book out in April.
I’d changed the default page of filesthatlast.com to point at the “About” page. Unfortunately, this left no way to get to the posts page, and every solution to this that I’ve seen requires writing PHP, which isn’t allowed on WordPress-hosted blogs. I really want to attract more attention to the “About” page, which is the one that actually promotes the book, but for the moment I’ve just changed the default page back.
The Signal is a very good blog on digital preservation. It has a serious limitation, though: it’s published by the Library of Congress, which as a government agency has to stay neutral on businesses and products. I heard at the recent OPF Hackathon that people who write for it have been required to take out comments endorsing or criticizing specific products.
I don’t have that limitation. In Files that Last, I name names and make recommendations. Here are some things in FTL that you’ll never find on The Signal:
If you want to see more statements on digital preservation with no punches pulled, you’ll be able to in April when the book comes out.
Files that Last goes to the proofreader tomorrow, but just today I came across a story that I wanted to add to it. Rather than mess with the existing text, I’m entering it as an appendix. Here it is, as it currently stands.Just a day before this book is due to go to the proofreader, I’ve come across the story of a person who really exemplifies the term “preservation geek.” A story on Reason magazine’s website, “Amateur Beats Gov’t at Digitizing Newspapers: Tom Tryniski’s Weird, Wonderful Website,” tells us of a retired computer engineer, Tom Tryniski, who has digitized over 22 million newspapers, many dating back to the 19th century, and made them available on Fultonhistory.com. It’s a truly ugly, Flash-based website, but that’s not the point here. What the site shows is that high budgets and formal training in library science aren’t necessary to doing valuable preservation work.
Tryniski started by digitizing old postcards for neighbors in Fulton, New York. Then he spent a year digitizing the entire run of the Oswego Valley News by hand on a flatbed scanner. In 2003 he got a microfilm scanner at a fire sale and started getting microfilms of newspapers from libraries and historical societies in exchange for the digitized copies. He’s paying its own expenses, apparently less than $1000 a month. The setup sounds very fragile; he has a “server that’s located in a gazebo on his front deck,” and the article doesn’t say a word about offsite backup for his growing farm of computers and drives. If anything bad happens to him or his house, the whole archive might vanish.
What one person does, though, someone else can do better. It would take more money, but not a lot more, to set up a better server environment and a secondary backup, and it would just take a little taste and programming skill to set up a better-looking site.
The article raises the question of how much supporting metadata is needed:
Asked for the rationale behind this byzantine system, a spokesperson for the NEH denied that breaking up the funding into small grants drives up costs, adding that the goal is partially to teach small libraries how to digitize newspapers in accordance with the Library of Congress’ “high technical” standards. That way they’ll be able to take that know-how and apply it to other projects.
But [Brian] Hansen [the general manager of Newspapers.com] says the Library of Congress’ detailed specifications for analyzing each newspaper page are of questionable value to users and a major reason his firm has to charge so much.
“Why not use the money for a lighter index to get more pages online? It would be interesting to sit down with the Library of Congress and the NEH and have a conversation about what’s the best thing we can do for consumers,” says Hansen.
Even so, less than one-third of the funding goes to the actual scanning and indexing by firms like iArchives. The NEH says the remaining money—more than $2 per newspaper page— goes for “identification and selection of the files to be digitized, metadata creation, cataloguing, reviewing files for quality control, and scholarship on the scope, content and significance on each digitized newspaper title, and in some cases specialized language expertise.”
Certainly there’s value in all that information, but it adds cost. The approach which the Library of Congress takes isn’t necessarily the approach that you should take as a Level 1 archivist with a server in a gazebo. Having a little information on a lot of newspaper pages is better in some ways than having a lot of information on relatively few pages.
There are high and low roads, and the efforts of eager amateurs can make a significant contribution to the retention of information. Preservation geeks, go forth and archive!
Please get in any last-minute comments on the advance draft by the end of tomorrow (Thursday). Thanks to those who already have given feedback, and to those who are looking it over now. More feedback means a better book in April.
I’m planning to send Files that Last to the proofreader on March 7 or 8, before I go to the OPF Hackathon. She’s set aside a block of time for it, and I don’t want to mess up her schedule if I don’t have to. If those of you who have advance copies could send feedback by then, that would be great. I can sneak in changes after that, but the closer the proofreader’s copy is to the final copy, the easier it will be all around.
The pre-publication version of Files that Last is now done, and instructions for downloading it have been sent to all backers at the $25 level and higher. If you didn’t get that message and think you should have, let me know.
This week I attended the Personal Digital Archiving conference at the University of Maryland and was glad to see how digital preservation is starting to catch on with non-library people! The things I learned there resulted in a few last-minute additions to the book.
Thanks to all of you who backed Files that Last at any level. All of you helped to make it possible. It’s still on target for an April release.
On Saturday I was on a panel at Boskone on “Dataliths: Digging the idea of the programmer/archaeologist,” along with Vernor Vinge, Charles Stross, Dana Cameron, and Janice Gelb. As you’d expect at a science fiction convention, the discussion got very speculative at times, with ideas like “life recorders” that keep a complete record of each person’s activities and “data diamond” that stores 1′s as carbon-13 atoms and 0′s as carbon-12 atoms. Vinge brought up some interesting ideas about how to provide bootstrapping information for an archive that might be read after the collapse of civilization, and Stross showed he’s quite an expert on computer issues. This was my first opportunity to show off the cover of Files that Last and give out promotional cards at a convention.
The high point for me came later on, when Vinge thanked me for inventing the term “datalith.”
The advance version for people who pledged at the $25 level will be available this week. Those of you who’ve seen the pre-advance version, I’d appreciate it if you could send me any comments on it as soon as you can.