After three years, World Book Night U.S.—an effort to encourage adult literacy by giving away free books—will cease operations for the foreseeable future, due to lack of sustainable funding.
Say you’re a professional or businessperson who relocated to the United States. Or you’re a student who came to the this country to study. Or you live outside the United States but deal with Americans. You’re reasonably fluent in English, but you want to improve your skills. A new tool, PenguinStacks, is for you. Launched in beta this spring in the United States and Brazil, it takes aim at nonnative readers of English. The 120 titles on the site were assessed by New York University (NYU) PhD linguistics’ candidates and grouped into three levels.
Most academic librarians are familiar with the ‘big deal’ bundles offered by large academic publishers, which grant access to a large number of journals from a particular publisher at a discounted rate. And many will also be familiar with the opacity surrounding those deals, which are often negotiated on a school-by-school basis with confidentiality clauses in place. A new study of the economics of these bundle deals suggests that variations in how these bundles are priced for different institutions mean that they are a better deal for some schools than others.
The business of university press monograph publishing has always been madness, and changing conditions have made it even less sensible than it was. Yet any suggestion that there should be fewer university presses or that they should refocus their missions is greeted with shouts of dismay that are usually reserved for heretics and anarchists. Maybe we should remember that oft-quoted definition of madness—doing the same thing over and over while expecting different results.
This year, the industry trade show Book Expo America (BEA) opened its doors to non-industry types, giving readers one day to flood New York’s Javits Center and connect with literary superstars at BookCon, a fan-driven event that grew out of the previous years’ Power Readers Day. While BookCon was a hit with many, bringing thousands of readers out to fill the show floor and rub elbows with their favorite authors, the event was not without some hiccups. Changes are already in store for next year’s iteration.
On April 30, Scribd, which launched its “all you can read” $8.99 per month ebook subscription with HarperCollins as the first (and still only) Big Five publisher last fall, announced a deal that brought 1,000 Wiley titles to its subscription service, including all those in the “For Dummies” series.
In recent years, players from many corners of the publishing and research fields have been asking what can be done to make journal articles more affordable and accessible. For Arfon Smith, a co-founder of the citizen science site Zooniverse and now resident “science guy” at Github, the question he and a few collaborators wanted to answer was more basic—what makes a journal article, and how can that process be simplified? As an answer, or at least the beginning of one, Smith and his colleagues built The Open Journal, a software prototype built on top of the arXiv, an open physics research repository, that lets researchers and peer reviewers discuss edits inside a browser-based system and publish the results.
Mission Bell Media (MBM), a new publisher with a laser-like focus on leadership, took one step further into the public eye, debuting its official website on April 22. MBM is the brainchild of veteran academic publisher Rolf Janke, who founded SAGE Reference, an imprint of SAGE Publications, in 2001 and led it from three titles to nearly 300 over the course of a dozen years. Mission Bell Media combines Janke’s two passions: his own longtime study of what creates compelling leaders and his 30-plus years in academic publishing, which, he said, gave him a unique perspective on librarians leading change in academic libraries and paving the way for the next generation.
The library community has been talking about a “journal pricing crisis” for over two decades. What we have not seen so far is any kind of concerted effort to break through this cycle. But two growing movements—the push toward open access and the growth of library publishing programs—make me think that we may be reaching a tipping point. In a white paper released last month, library administrators Rebecca R. Kennison and Lisa R. Norberg describe the need for “deep structural changes” in the systems through which scholarship is created and communicated. I honestly do not know if their proposal is the one that will trigger these changes, but I know that they are pointing us in the right direction.
On May 5, a number of law professors around the country received an email from publisher Wolters Kluwer regarding the 11 books in the Aspen Casebook series they assign to their students. The email informed the educators that the casebook, which combines lessons about the legal system with documents from cases in which those principles were applied or set, would now be sold as a physical copy bundled with an ebook edition. There was just one catch: once the course was over, students would be required to ship their physical copies back to the publisher, rather than hanging onto them for reference or reselling them on the used book market.