Looking back, the irony is so heavy-handed that it seems contrived. As my colleagues and I were preparing for our MOOC on Copyright for Educators and Librarians, which launched for the first time last week, the only resource that we wanted to use but could not successfully negotiate the permission for was Susan Bielstein’s book about negotiating permissions. It would have been great for us and, I am convinced, for the Press if we could have offered a single chapter of it for our over 8,000 MOOC participants to read. In the event, however, we rediscovered the fear and lack of sound business sense that grips the publishing industry, but also discovered the richness of the free resources that were available to us.
Last month I enjoyed the distinct privilege of keynoting the Conference for Law School Computing (also known as “CALIcon”), a gathering of legal educators, law librarians, and IT professionals in law put together by the Center for Computer-Assisted Legal Instruction (CALI). I can’t say enough in praise of the ever-present spirit of sly spirited fun at this conference.
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.