How not to suppress a book

posted at 10:03 am on August 24, 2007 by Bryan

Psst. Want a copy of Alms for Jihad? That’ll be $538, please.

By suing publisher Cambridge University Press into submission, Khalid bin Mafouz has turned an obscure scholarly book on the financial workings of terrorism into a prized, rare book. So US libraries are now moving to protect it.

As of mid-August, Alms for Jihad was not available through Amazon.com, Barnes & Noble, or Alibris. (About 1500 copies of the book were sold worldwide.) Libraries suddenly have an incredibly rare book in their stacks; a WorldCat search finds the book at nearly 300 libraries. Rather than discard the book, many libraries are safeguarding it, keeping it on hold, at the reserves desk. “I have recalled the copy of this title…in order to place it in our Rare Books collection, where it may be read by anyone but not borrowed,” said Dona Straley, Middle East Studies librarian at Ohio State University’s Ackerman Library. “Several of my colleagues at other institutions have reported their copies as missing.”

There are all kinds of innocent and not so innocent reasons why the books could be missing, with the most sinister possibility being a quiet campaign to either smuggle them out of libraries entirely or just move them a few shelves from their rightful spot so they won’t be found and read. The latter is easy to do and according to a librarian who’s been advising me on guerrilla tactics in the stacks, would be completely anonymous and untraceable. Well, unless some library deploys CSI, anyway.

Regardless, it may become moot soon.

[T]he authors hope to republish Alms for Jihad in the U.S. Co-author Robert O. Collins, a professor at University of California Santa Barbara, told LJ that he and co-author J. Millard Burr, a former state department employee, are currently negotiating with CUP for a rights reversion. The authors have had several offers from U.S. publishers.

“We stand by what we wrote and refused to be a party to the settlement,” Collins said. “As soon as CUP received notice, they decided to settle as rapidly as possible despite our vigorous defense. CUP did not want to embark on a long and expensive suit which they could not win under English libel law.” Indeed, libel laws in England are far more favorable to plaintiffs than those in the U.S.

The book will probably get published in the US, but until it does, if you have a copy it’s worth a small fortune on ebay. Thanks to the libel tourist’s attempt to suppress the book, Alms for Jihad will probably sell reasonably well once it is published. The only thing I have to say to that is “Heh.”

Update: Another *librarian emails, on the subject of guerrillas in the stacks.

Bryan-at my research library here at XXXXXX, (it’s a very very large library) Robert Spencer’s book has gone “missing” and had to be re-ordered. Pratt’s book on Islam Unveiled-also “missing” and several books on Ronald Reagan that I looked up.

It’s true that all you have to do is put the book somewhere else, and then it can never be found in the library. The Spencer book was signed out once, returned into the library and then disappeared. There is no way to track a book within the library.

Fixing this problem sounds to me like a job for RFID tags or something like that can similarly send out a short range homing signal. But then you’ll get Big Brotherish worries that librarians will secretly use the tags to follow you home or something.

*Turns out, not a librarian. Just a book lover who knows libraries very well.


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Heh indeed.

shooter on August 24, 2007 at 10:20 AM

Bar codes on the spines of the books? Scan the isle ID then start scanning books. When a book is out of place you get a warning beep.

Problem solved… albeit expensively.

Hoodlumman on August 24, 2007 at 10:23 AM

538 dollars, wow!
The 33 dollars I paid for it doesn’t seem like such a large amount after all.

Laura02420 on August 24, 2007 at 10:27 AM

[[[On the way to library to "snatch" a book and post on Ebay]]]

Mcguyver on August 24, 2007 at 10:33 AM

I find it interesting that publishing houses fall all over themselves to publish garbage like Michael Moore’s books, yet ” Alms for Jihad” is not touched. Where are the Regnerys of the world and, more importantly, where is their courage?

MNDavenotPC on August 24, 2007 at 10:35 AM

I’m always suspicious of Ebay. Looks like the first bidder bid it up a few times consecutively from $25 to over $100 and another bidder bid it up like five times in a row in a two-minute span without anyone else bidding. I’ve seen so many people get ripped on E-bay that I won’t touch it.

RW Wacko on August 24, 2007 at 10:39 AM

Anyone who has ever worked retail for any amount of time comes to dread the annual Inventory, where every piece of merchandise in the store is scanned, accounted for, and located.

Libraries don’t have something similar to this?

Fisch on August 24, 2007 at 10:47 AM

Fixing this problem sounds to me like a job for RFID tags or something like that can similarly send out a short range homing signal. But then you’ll get Big Brotherish worries that librarians will secretly use the tags to follow you home or something. — Bryan

That’s a good use for RFID tags. But some people are going nuts with the idea of RFID and its potentially a very serious privacy and security threat. We should discuss that sometime here at HotAir.

Maxx on August 24, 2007 at 10:53 AM

538 dollars, wow!
The 33 dollars I paid for it doesn’t seem like such a large amount after all.

Laura02420 on August 24, 2007 at 10:27 AM

Funny thing, Laura, I went into the Borders Bookstore in Boston and one of the workers there said they had a couple of more copies on hold. He showed me the book but was unable to sell it to me.

I am on a waiting list at the Boston Public Library to just be able to take it out. Though this may change.

You can still download the ebook version of the book for $22.00 here.

kiakjones on August 24, 2007 at 10:56 AM

direct

Ochlan on August 24, 2007 at 11:04 AM

I’m always suspicious of Ebay. Looks like the first bidder bid it up a few times consecutively from $25 to over $100 and another bidder bid it up like five times in a row in a two-minute span without anyone else bidding. I’ve seen so many people get ripped on E-bay that I won’t touch it.

RW Wacko on August 24, 2007 at 10:39 AM

It’s not as suspicious as you might think. When you bid on eBay, you place your initial bid, and then put in another amount which is your “maximum bid”–the highest you are willing to go.

So, If I placed a bid for $25.00 and put $100.00 as my maximum, ebay would automatically up my bid as others come along. Suppose the next person bids $35.00 and puts $50.00 as their maximum. The results on the bid history page would show my original bid going from $25 to $30 to $35, etc. all the way up to $55.00 at which point the other guy would be outbid. He can of course, always come back and increase his maximum bid. All of this happens automatically.

It used to bother me a lot when I saw stuff like that until it was explained to me how it worked.

Now if you really want to have some fun on eBay, learn about sniping. It’s practically a sport and the inexperienced frequently get burned.

Back on topic: Wish I had downloaded Alms for Jihad when it was still available last week!

IrishEi on August 24, 2007 at 11:18 AM

Libraries don’t have something similar to this?

Yes, they do. On top of that, most libraries do occasional visual “scans” of the shelves to make sure books are in the right place (many end up in the wrong place purely by accident). But since that job is often left to student help and volunteers (not to mention how tedious it can be) books aren’t always found the first time through.

taznar on August 24, 2007 at 11:22 AM

Libraries, what is this that you speak of?

Actually, I like Libraries. Where else can you find collections of pirate radio stations from the 70s, 80s with call signs, descriptions and more. Plus law books full of obtuse and confusing legalese that the Man uses to oppress us all. Like the statute in Arizona that was used to stop people from selling cars on the side of the road; the actual law banned the blocking of signs on highways, not the selling of cars.

Neo on August 24, 2007 at 11:23 AM

We should discuss that sometime here at HotAir.

Maxx on August 24, 2007 at 10:53 AM

no time like the present…

urbancenturion on August 24, 2007 at 11:27 AM

Fixing this problem sounds to me like a job for RFID tags or something like that can similarly send out a short range homing signal. But then you’ll get Big Brotherish worries that librarians will secretly use the tags to follow you home or something.

If the signal is such that it won’t go further than a hundred feet or so, then I don’t see the concern.

It seems a little insane that a book can simply be put in the wrong place and thus lost. I mean that can happen fairly easy without anyone intending to hurt anything. The Dewey decimal system is a little outdated.

Esthier on August 24, 2007 at 11:28 AM

But since that job is often left to student help and volunteers (not to mention how tedious it can be) books aren’t always found the first time through.

taznar on August 24, 2007 at 11:22 AM

Maybe I should volunteer…I can usually sniff this out, as I’m used to minutiae because of my jobs and researching for undergrad & grad school.

Thanks for the idea!

Miss_Anthrope on August 24, 2007 at 11:29 AM

It used to bother me a lot when I saw stuff like that until it was explained to me how it worked.

IrishEi on August 24, 2007 at 11:18 AM

Except, wouldn’t the history show those other bids? I mean if your max is 100, but your starting bid is 25, wouldn’t the history show the bid that outbid your initial bid?

Shouldn’t it look like this?

bidder 1: 25
bidder 2: 30
bidder 1: 35
bidder 2: 40
etc….

Back on topic: Wish I had downloaded Alms for Jihad when it was still available last week!

It seems to still be available for download:

http://find.franklin.com/search?ts=custom&p=Q&w=alms+for+jihad

Esthier on August 24, 2007 at 11:33 AM

no time like the present…

urbancenturion on August 24, 2007 at 11:27 AM

That’s Off topic for this thread, I’m sure they will get to it later.

Maxx on August 24, 2007 at 11:35 AM

Did they put a jihad out on libraries now?

gabriel sutherland on August 24, 2007 at 11:46 AM

Fixing this problem sounds to me like a job for RFID tags or something like that can similarly send out a short range homing signal. But then you’ll get Big Brotherish worries that librarians will secretly use the tags to follow you home or something.

RFIDs can’t be used to track you out of the building, just inside. Good idea to use them.

PRCalDude on August 24, 2007 at 11:47 AM

I’m a librarian at a large university research library. We have almost 3 million books in our building alone, so it’s quite easy for books to be misplaced – or deliberately hidden.

It’s easy to hide a book. Just take it off the shelf, move it to another floor, and stick it on another shelf. Now you are the only person in the world who knows where it is. Even if we knew the book wasn’t where it should be, how could we possibly find it without looking at all 3 million books in the building? It has nothing to do with the Dewey Decimal System (which incidentally is no longer in active use – we do have some Dewey books, but the vast majority are cataloged using the Library of Congress system).

In fact, grad students in the same research subject who are competing for scarce copies of out-of-print books do this all the time.

Although we do have ongoing shelf-reading to catch mis-shelved books, we have limited funds to spend on this. We might be able to get through one floor per year (using low-paid students) if we’re lucky, and it’s an error-prone manual process. So keep moving that book, and you’re pretty sure to evade what little checking goes on. This is the reality of a large research library.

RFID carries major privacy concerns for librarians. Maybe for a small subset of rare or expensive books, the idea might be tolerated. But for all 3 million (8 million total in the system)? No way would we ever have the money to even begin, even if we were okay with the privacy issues. Using the concept of appropriate technology, it’s far cheaper and easier – and a better use of taxpayer and tuition money – to replace lost/stolen books than to revamp the entire system for dubious benefits.

Sorry for the long comment, it’s rare that I actually have any pertinent information to share!

Missy on August 24, 2007 at 12:09 PM

The Dewey decimal system is a little outdated.

Esthier on August 24, 2007 at 11:28 AM

Disagree. The Dewey Decimal System is no more out of date than number themselves. There are an infinite number of numbers between any two numbers, and that fact lends itself well to a never ending succession of books being organized and cataloged onto shelves so they can be found. But the system was never intended to defend itself from malicious acts, or even mistakes in re-shelving the books.

Combine RFID with the Dewey Decimal System and you fix that problem too.

Maxx on August 24, 2007 at 12:19 PM

Missy on August 24, 2007 at 12:09 PM

Why not for the rare, scarce, or competively-sought books?

Miss_Anthrope on August 24, 2007 at 12:27 PM

competitively-sought – whoops.

Miss_Anthrope on August 24, 2007 at 12:29 PM

Missy on August 24, 2007 at 12:09 PM

There are no privacy issues with RFIDs, unless somehow the government has an antenna network throughout the entire country that can be tuned to the same frequency that excites the RFIDs in your library. Perhaps you need to actually understand what they are. They’re used in bookstores and shopping malls all the time with no problems.

PRCalDude on August 24, 2007 at 12:54 PM

Heh!! For making it a book that will be in demand.

Not sure I understand the privacy concern. It follows the book, not the person. Is one forced to sign out books? You have a choice, do you not?

There certainly seems benefits in thwarting those that would choose to place their standards on others via misplacing, theft, etc of controversial books.

MarkB on August 24, 2007 at 12:56 PM

Why not for the rare, scarce, or competively-sought books?

Miss_Anthrope on August 24, 2007 at 12:27 PM

Sorry, maybe I wasn’t clear. I think it’s a financial possibility to use RFID to track those books. I still think there would be a privacy concern, though. Considering how strongly librarians have fought the Patriot Act because it contained the ghost of a possibility that librarians could be asked for a patron’s checkout records, RFID would likely be considered a Big Deal. Even if the concern isn’t justified.

Librarians (myself excluded) are a seriously lefty crowd. Fahrenheit 9/11 was shown at the annual meeting of the American Library Association a few years back, if I’m remembering correctly…ugh.

Missy on August 24, 2007 at 1:01 PM

Librarians (myself excluded) are a seriously lefty crowd. Fahrenheit 9/11 was shown at the annual meeting of the American Library Association a few years back, if I’m remembering correctly…ugh.

Missy on August 24, 2007 at 1:01 PM

Great. The editors of Scientific American are left-wing moonbats also, and they would think this is a good idea. They’ve done several articles on why RFIDs are so great. Passive RFIDs only work for inventory control inside a building, because that’s where the antennas are that excite them. These are the ones we’re talking about, not the active kind. I understand the concern, but they have to understand how the technology actually works before they condemn it.

PRCalDude on August 24, 2007 at 1:10 PM

I understand the concern, but they have to understand how the technology actually works before they condemn it.

Point well made. Perhaps there is an issue with the fact that you are passively ‘tagging’ people as they walk around outside the library…somebody with a suitable RFID scanner might elicit useful information…perhaps.

I don’t think it’s a big deal myself…if the data on the RFID is only a library name/address and a Dewey ID, that’s not much of a privacy leak.

Ochlan on August 24, 2007 at 1:37 PM

Point well made. Perhaps there is an issue with the fact that you are passively ‘tagging’ people as they walk around outside the library…somebody with a suitable RFID scanner might elicit useful information…perhaps.

They’re putting the tags in the books, not on people. Just like the book store, except a little more complex because they could help locate the book inside the library.

PRCalDude on August 24, 2007 at 1:48 PM

Right…that’s what I mean…tag in book, book in bag, walk out library, down street, into mall…the tag goes with you.

Not much of an issue IMHO, but I daresay somebody will use it as ammo…

Ochlan on August 24, 2007 at 1:58 PM

RFIDs are perfectly usable to track inventory … not people.

I don’t have the slightest problem with using them for inventory control. The library already knows you checked out the book, so worrying about privacy here is kinda silly …

If you are worried about some blackhat scanning your books after you leave, bring some tinfoil for your books … and yes, you have to have serious paranoia issues to go there …

Kristopher on August 24, 2007 at 2:01 PM

They’re putting the tags in the books, not on people. Just like the book store, except a little more complex because they could help locate the book inside the library.

You’re right that this would be much less controversial. I admit to not having previously known the difference between passive and active RFIDs, so thanks for the clarification. I would certainly support RFID for inventory control as long as we are only tracking the book within the building.

We’ll see, maybe it’ll happen someday. I’m skeptical because I see “privacy concerns” thrown around a lot as a reason not to adapt new technology. The concerns don’t have to be legitimate to raise general resistance (tinfoil hat types abound in libraries). That tendency, in combination with small budgets and a ponderous bureaucracy, manages to kill a lot of promising ideas, unfortunately. It’s surprisingly hard to get anything done around here even when the culture is solidly behind it.

Missy on August 24, 2007 at 2:28 PM

Missy on August 24, 2007 at 1:01 PM

I see what you’re saying. But honestly, the FBI has no interest in what people read, unless libraries ar chock-full of bomb-making manuals. That’s when they’re concerned, based on what I know…you know, the potential for terrorist attack knowledge & means??? (Not directed at you personally, just a general comment!)

Miss_Anthrope on August 24, 2007 at 2:46 PM

are

Miss_Anthrope on August 24, 2007 at 2:46 PM

kiakjones on August 24, 2007 at 10:56 AM

When I called that book store to try to buy the book I the sales lady told me she had only one copy on the shelf, so I snapped it up.
I’m glad they have more copies for sale, maybe they were hiding under stuff in their back room.

Laura02420 on August 24, 2007 at 8:44 PM

damn. It’s 272 miles to the nearest copy, for me.

Mephistefales on August 24, 2007 at 8:46 PM

Still available for download here

lsutiger on August 24, 2007 at 8:54 PM