Nuke Indigo

What I mean is “Eliminate Indigo ‘affiliate links.’ ” It can be done! If you don’t like the fact that the library is now a de facto Heather Reisman sales arm, you can block those links from appearing in your browser.

I noticed the affiliate links a few days before they were announced:

‘Chasing the Perfect’ with buy box

Let’s start a few steps back, though. Goldsbie’s piece in Now does a good job situating the TPL Board’s two obnoxious money-raising gestures – ads on due-date slips and shilling for Indigo – as the aftershock of the budget earthquake of two years ago. Except it took that long for the budget to really be reduced, so I guess the fear was simply ahead of its time.

At any rate, we have here a quote from Janet Davis, the lady who once lectured me in that condescending low voice she has (it’s preferable just to get yelled at).

“If people who can afford it start purchasing and not contributing a cent to the collective borrowing,” Davis says, “the demand will decline so you would have fewer people borrowing, fewer users. It would worry me if users declined because a certain slice of that group purchases as opposed to borrowing.”

This doesn’t make any sense.

Purchases through the affiliate program contribute “cents.” “Collective borrowing,” a meaningless phrase, costs the library money. Demand, in the form of circulation, is down a reported 10% in Pape district, attributable in my opinion to the $1 ding on unclaimed holds. “Users” are not “fewer” now or at any time in the last decade viewed year-over-year.

It stands to reason that the only books people will buy via affiliate link are those they’ve already read, presumably after borrowing them from the library. But that would need to be surveyed by the library itself.

I sent along a question about the foregoing to Davis’s office, but have not heard back, nor am I likely to.

In the meantime, I posed this to Vickery Bowles of TPL:

It seems the most important questions to ask those who actually buy books via the affiliate program are:

  • Did you buy the book without borrowing it first? (Displaces circulation.)

  • Did you borrow the book, then buy it? (Complements circulation.)

  • Did you buy it without reading it first? (In some ways the purest form of “affiliate” linking.)

  • Did you buy it for yourself or for someone else? (Can combine with the previous questions.)

Will these questions actually be asked of users? What other questions will be?

She replied:

The plan is to evaluate the affiliate program one year after implementation. We have not established the evaluation process but will take your suggestions into consideration.

I think they should be surveying people as they go, but at least there’s a plan.

Of course we know what the outcome will be

These affiliate links will pull in a pittance. But they’ll be re-upped as long as the current board, overrun as it is by seat-fillers, pols, hacks, and the fierce! ly independent Mike “Don’t Stand So Close to Me” Foderick, is in place. We’ll have to wait till Ford is deposed and a new Board is in place, ideally with me on it, to shitcan this idea for good.

Everyone who reads this Weblog knows that dinging people for holds not picked up and dinging them extra because their choice of “container” was DVD and spamming people with ads on the obverse of thermal paper and half-assedly inviting people to buy books from somebody else for pennies on the dollar are no substitute for spending good, honest taxpayer dollars to fund the system properly. Those really are your tax dollars at work and yes, even the fulminating washups known as Ford Nation can afford to properly and fully fund the only city service people actually love.

If you don’t ever want to see an Indigo affiliate link again

You can make them disappear forever by setting up or editing the user.css file in your browser.

Browsers use CSS (the Ss stand for “stylesheet”) to determine the appearance of Web sites. Your browser has a built-in stylesheet, the effects of which you rarely see. Essentially every Web site has its own stylesheet, whose effects you definitely do see. The last link in the chain (actually the cascade – that’s what the C stands for) is a stylesheet you the user specify. Hence the user.css file. Since it’s last in sequence, it overrides all the other stylesheets.

If you’re a super-advanced kind of person and you already have a user stylesheet, add this to it:

/* TPL affiliate links */

div#affiliate-area, { display:none !important; }

If you don’t have a user stylesheet, you can just download this one:

user.css (text file)

Remember where you put it, because now you have to tell the browser to actually use it. This is not remotely easy in a lot of browsers. Look at your preferences or settings.

Anyway, it works:

‘Chasing the Perfect’ with no buy box

What’s next?

A boycott campaign against the opportunists with bad enough taste and judgement to actually advertise on the back of due-date slips. It will have no effect beyond the symbolic.