Joho the Blog » publishing

July 13, 2016

Making the place better

I was supposed to give an opening talk at the 9th annual Ethics & Publishing conference put on by George Washington Uinversity. Unfortunately, a family emergency kept me from going, so I sent a very homemade video of the presentation that I recorded at my desk with my monitor raised to head height.

The theme of my talk was a change in how we make the place better — “the place” being where we live — in the networked age. It’s part of what I’ve been thinking about as I prepare to write a book about the change in our paradigm of the future. So, these are thoughts-in-progress. And I know I could have stuck the landing better. In any case, here it is.

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September 22, 2013

The New Yorker’s redesign: A retreat from text?

The New Yorker has done it’s first major redesign since 2000, although it’s so far only been rolled out to the front of the magazine.

Personally, the return to a more highly stylized typeface is welcome. But I am disappointed that they’ve made the magazine look like more like everything else in the racks. It’s not a lack of originality that bothers me. Rather, it is the retreat from text.

There’s no less text and so far the writing style seems to be the same. Rather, the previous design presented a wall of text, broken up with occasional insets of text, with empty spots filled with text. For example, “Tables for Two” used to be a small, two-column insert into the Goings On section. The type size was the same as the directions on a tube of toothpaste. Now it’s a single column that takes up the entire right-hand three-fifths of a page, in a perfectly readable font, with a quarter-page color photograph at the top, as if to say, “Well look at us! We have so much room that we’re filling it up with a merely pleasant photo.”

There are at least two results in how we take that page. First, “Tables for Two” has turned from a lagniappe into a column. Second, the magazine doesn’t feel like it’s so bursting with things to write about that it had to shoulders goodies into whatever nooks it could find or force.

Sections now are headed by a graphical emblem (e.g., a Deco knife and fork on a plate for the Food & Drink section) that signals that the New Yorker thinks the section titles themselves are not enough for us. Really? What part of “Food & Drink” does The New Yorker think we don’t understand? Why does the New Yorker now believe that mere words are not up to the task?

The New Yorker used to be for people unafraid of climbing a sheer wall of text. It demanded we make judgments about what to read based solely on the text itself; this was even more the case before Tina Brown put the authors’ names at the beginning of the article instead of at the end. But now it’s pandering to the graphical-minded among us. The graphical folks have plenty of other magazines to thumb through lazily. The New Yorker was a text-based trek that had to earn our every footstep.

Don’t go soft on us, New Yorker! We’re not afraid of words. Bring ’em on!

 


More to read:

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July 31, 2012

[berkman] Brad Abruzzi on being an indie author

TITLE: [berkman] Brad Abruzzi on authorship and publishing
BODY:

Brad Abruzzi, author of the NJ Famous Turnpike Witch, a novel I really liked, is talking about the trajectory of authorship, at a Berkman lunch.

NOTE: Live-blogging. Getting things wrong. Missing points. Omitting key information. Introducing artificial choppiness. Over-emphasizing small matters. Paraphrasing badly. Not running a spellpchecker. Mangling other people’s ideas and words. You are warned, people.

Brad says that he’s not a success story. If you want to know how to make millions, thousands, or even hundreds, you should write a book about how to write succcessful books. Or vampires, he says. Instead, he’s going to give us thoughts about authorship and publishing.

He says he was in his first year at law school, interested in the history of literature. He wrote a note titled “Exploitative publishers, untrustworthy systems, and the dream of a digital revolution for artists. ” It was based on Marxist historical theory and sketched three phases:


1. Feudal: pre-modern, from antiquity to production publishing. It relied upon patrons who offered a living wage, and could bring interest and favor to the works. In return, the author might offer a celebration of the patron in the work. Or, Virgil who established the lineage of Emperor Augustus all the way back to the gods. Or dedicate the work. Brad points to Sterne’s dedication in Tristram Shandy. But this arrangement produces resentment: the authors feel they are the creators, but the patrons take some of the glory. (He reads a scathing letter to Chesterfield from Samuel Johnson in response to a request for a dedication, who lived on the cusp of Phase 2.)


2. The industrialization of publishing. It put the means of reproduction (Marxist pun intended by Brad) into the hands of the publishers. Thus, authors were once again dependent. This is because there’s always a super-abundance of manuscripts trying to get into the market. This selection process has of course become highly professional. “The problem is that we didn’t choose these people to be the gatekeepers…Ultimately their responsibility is to their shareholders.” This works better than the Feudal system, but the criterion is what an editor thinks will sell. (Brad points out that his work was rejected by publishers.) “The superabundance problem persists.” There are now two barriers of entry to works of fiction: Works have to come from literary agent before publishers will consider them. “If you want to be a writer, you’ll probably be better off writing for yourself and buying scratch tickets, because you won’t be as frustrated when the scratch ticket tells you that you’ve lost.”


So, he asks, is there any hope for someone like him, who thinks his works are good but who cannot get a publisher to publish them? Yes, he says, digital publishing is the hope. “We can make our works directly available to readers. We don’t need publishers any more.”


But, readers rely on publishers to winnow away at the super-abundance of manuscripts. Without publishers, “we move the slush pile to around the ankles of readers.” “We can create a ground-based, critical reader culture” in which people can publish their own reviews, accrue authority, etc. “Amazon does this a bit of course…but we can be more substantive than that.” “Everyone has the means of reproduction. So, hooray.”


So, why did it take him 11 years to publish his own work? “I’ve got all sorts of excuses…but the truth is that traditional publishing offered a better prospect for me.” First, digital reading hasn’t been as appealing. That’s obviously beginning to change. Second, publishers put their chosen works on the fast track. If you can get two people to like your work — agent and publisher — you can cut to the front of the line. So, he tried for ten years to sell his books. His agent was very good at getting flattering rejection letters from publishers. His first novel, In Defense of Cactus Kelly in the late ’90s, didn’t get a publisher. He blogged the second book — NJFTPW — and added popup multimedia. But no one came.


Time passed. Self-publishing became a more promising prospects because of the emergence of digital marketplaces where people can find what they want to read. At certain point, he decided to just publish NJTPW. He uploaded it, pressed the buttons about royalty schemes, and it’s up on Amazon. “But then there’s the super-abundance problem.”


The book is currently at #164,296 at Amazon. A couple of days ago, it was over #300,000. “It doesn’t take much to bump up your book.” “If you can use social media to overthrow an Egyptian dictator, you can probably get people to buy my book,” Brad says, adding “These are probably at comparable levels of difficulty.” He has a handful of followers at Twitter. He’s posted some ads at Facebook, and has 421 Likes. “But Likes on FB don’t translate to sales and reading of your book. Maybe they translate at a 1% rate.” Brad isn’t willing to conclude anything about the effectiveness of social media, since he is “ham-handed” in its use.


He shows his sales from the last month on Kindle, which was his worst week: 4. But in the three days he had a promo offering it for free, he had 350 downloads. The promotions get you channeled into Kindle’s promotions. During the promo, he was in the top 20 for literary fiction, along with public domain classics. He thinks he did that well in part because he has all 5-star reviews [one of which is mine].


This gets him thinking about the reader-based review culture. People do write blog posts about books, some on book sites. “Even the reviewing culture suffers from the super-abundance problem. If you want a good book blogger to review you book, you have to pitch them.” The Kirkus Indie program wants $425 to review your book. “I stand here fairly clueless…but hopeful in a general sense that we’re on the cusp of creating a situation in which publishers are not the final answer….Readers need to believe that books that are not traditionally published can still be a good book. Readers need to look outside the walled garden.” “Writers need to trust that readers will do these things.” If so, those who own printing presses won’t get decide what we get to read.

Q&A


Q: How did you pick Kindle, and not Nook, etc.?


A: It was my choice for an initial platform. You can participate in Amazon’s free promos if you commit to exclusivity to Kindle Select for 90 days. It also lets your books be lent for free to Kindle Prime program. You get paid pro rata for those loans. I am thinking about printing on demand.


Q: In the spiritual self-help area, a lot of people promote their books via their blogs. They refer to one another mutually.


A: I experimented with posting at FB under the name of the Turnpike Witch, trying to get this character communicating with people.


Q: I appreciate your intersection of analysis and emotional experience. What you say about publishing is the same as in music. And Louis C.K. And Patton Oswald a couple of days ago gave a keynote called “A Letter to Gatekeepers,” saying that if they continue to think narrowly, they’ll kill their industry. Also, on FB you can pay to promote your post. Finally, people want to participate in things that other people are participating in. That can work for us or against us in the attention economy. Finally finally, a combination of all three of your phases: fan-funding, kickstarter.com, etc. This gets people in as patrons, and then they evangelize for you.


A: Publishers encourage you in their rejections not as a tactic to maintain hegemony, but because they’re being polite. BTW, my agent left the biz, and went back to school in anthropology.


Q: What about copyright? People can disseminate it without your knowledge. We’re looking at self-publishing because the royalties are better, but are you protected?


A: I’d take the trade in a minute. It’s not a coincidence that the first copyrights were given first to the publishers (“stationers privileges”). They wanted to avoid undercutting each other, and the Crown wanted to keep an eye on what was being published. The copyright concerns come first and foremost from publishers…


Q: Creative people are concerned also.


A: I won’t say categorically they’re not. But many of us would put it out for free, since I’m not depending on my books to make a living.


Q: [doc searls] Cluetrain is free online but still sells well. But, Brad, why not just make it freely available in an open format, and put out a tip jar? How comfortable to do you feel inside the silo that is Amazon?


A: I’m trying to understand how useful it is to have Amazon. It might be a deal with the devil.


Q: [me] How many of you here in the audience are going to buy the book? [About 5 hands go up.] Why not?


Answers: It’s not on Nook. …I’ve got too much to read…I don’t know enough about it…


Q: Publishers play an important curatorial function. I’d love to circumvent it because they look for a formula. But putting it on line isn’t enough. Where is the inter-connect?


Q: I edit an online literary magazine. Finding folks who are already reading at open mics, making a connection is great. We have gatekeepers of a sort, but they’re made up of writers and readers already in the community. Also, there are independent publishers who are not motivated by profit. Getting the novel excerpted in a journal like ours helps. Also: BestIndieLitNewEngland.org There’s something inbetween self-publishing as an individual and commercial success. There are communities.


A: Yes, my social media work was aimed at reating a community.
ti


Q: Have you tried open mic readings? Or do you need to be a published author?


A: One of the reason I write is because I do it better than I speak. A judge once told me to find a job where I write things to people, rather than talking to them, I elected to take it as a compliment. I still see myself as someone who’ll put something out and broadcast it, stand behind it. T’hat’s not getting me to where I need to be. I thought maybe I’d get NJFTPW out of the way so I could write the next thing to submit to a conventional publisher. Now I’m not sure. I’m trying throwing our more content.


Q: Your expectations of traditional publishers are overstated. Publishers often do nothing but print. Also, digital publishing has taken us to a place as bad as traditional publishing. Charlie Stross (sf writer, former sw guy) has an excellent analysis of what Amazon is doing to the market. Single publisher, single format, own their own hardware.


A: Traditional publishing has worked wonderfully for us. People can make a living as a writer. The Amazon issue is a trade-off, which I re-examine all the time. People complain that there’s too much junk at Amazon., e.g. people re-selling Wikipedia content. Rather than putting in a spam button, let people write reviews.


Q: I’m writing a book for a publisher. Even with a publisher, it’s up to the author to build a market. I’m writing a memoir of my father, a queer poet, self-published before the digital age. It was all shoe leather: printing stuff up, going to bookstores, doing readings. It was about finding community, promoting writers like himself, and putting out ideas.


A: Copyright is an incentive for people to do something creative, but I don’t think it’s anything close to the whole ball of wax. E.g., I enjoy communicating to myself — re-reading something I wrote when younger. But, more important, I want to communicate something.


Q: My new startup is trying to enable readers as reviewers. Our tech helps lend credibility to reviews. Self-publishing has grown 400% since 2010, approaching a $4B market. Your 2001 article described the problem perfectly.


Q: I’m intrigued by the two sides of your personality: button-down and creative. This book is very readable. Could you get a celebrity do the reading?


A: I think a lot of this has to do with authority. People with broader authority can move copies.

TAGS: -berkman

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April 29, 2012

[2b2k] Pyramid-shaped publishing model results in cheating on science?

Carl Zimmer has a fascinating article in the NYTimes, which is worth 1/10th of your NYT allotment. (Thank you for ironically illustrating the problem with trying to maintain knowledge as a scarce resource, NYT!)

Carl reports on what may be a growing phenomenon (or perhaps, as the article suggests, the bugs of the old system may just now be more apparent) of scientists fudging results in order to get published in the top journals. From my perspective the article provides yet another illustration how the old paper-based strictures on scientific knowledge caused by the scarcity of publishing outlets results not only in a reduction in the flow of knowledge, but a degradation of the quality of knowledge.

Unfortunately, the availability of online journals (many of which are peer-reviewed) may not reduce the problem much even though they open up the ol’ knowledge nozzle to 11 on the firehosedial. As we saw when the blogosphere first emerged, there is something like a natural tendency for networked ecosystems to create hubs with a lot of traffic, along with a very long tail. So, even with higher capacity hubs, there may still be some pressure to fudge results in order to get noticed by these hubs, especially since tenure decisions continue to place such high value on a narrow understanding of “impact.”

But: 1. With a larger aperture, there may be less pressure. 2. When readers are also commentators and raters, bad science may be uncovered faster and more often. Or so we can hope.

(There is the very beginnings of a Reddit discussion of Carl’s article here.)

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August 10, 2011

[2b2k] Tim O’Reilly on the end of paper books

My interview of Tim O’Reilly for the Harvard Library Innovation Lab podcast series is up. Tim begins by arguing that paper books will go away before our culture is entirely ready for it because the disappearance will be driven by the publishers, not by demand. Good point.

The conversation ranges wider than that…

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March 28, 2011

ePublishing business models

I’m at an education conference put on by CET in Tel Aviv. This is the second day of the conference. The opening session is on business models for supporting the webification of the educational system.

NOTE: Live-blogging. Getting things wrong. Missing points. Omitting key information. Introducing artificial choppiness. Over-emphasizing small matters. Paraphrasing badly. Not running a spellpchecker. Mangling other people’s ideas and words. You are warned, people.

Eli Hurvitz (former deputy director of the Rothschild Foundation, the funder of CET) is the moderator. The speakers are Michael Jon Jensen (Dir of Strategic Web Communications, National Academies Press), Eric Frank (co-founder of Flat World Knowledge) and Sheizaf Rafaelli (Dir. of the Sagy Center for Internet Research at Haifa Univ.)

Michael Jensen says he began with computers in 1980, thinking that books would be online within 5 yrs. He spent three yearsat Project Muse (1995-8), but left because they were spending half their money on keeping people away from their content. He went to the National Academies Press (part of the National Academy of Science). The National Academies does about 200 reports a year, the result of studies by about 20 experts focused on some question. While there are many wonderful things about crowd-sourcing, he says, “I’m in favor of expertise. Facts and opinions on the Web are cheap…but expertise, expert perspective and sound analysis are costly.” E.g., that humans are responsible for climate change is not in doubt, should not be presented as if it were in doubt, and should not be crowd-sourced, he says.

The National Academy has 4,800 books online, all available to be read on line for free. (This includes an algorithmic skimmer that extacts the most important two-sentence chunk from every page.) [Now that should be crowd-sourced!] Since 2005, 65% are free for download in PDF. They get 1.4M visitors/month, each reading 7 page on average. But only 0.2% buy anything.

The National Academy Press’ goal is access and sustainability. In 2001, they did an experiment: When people were buying a book, they were offered a download of a PDF for 80% of the price, then 60%, then 40%, then for free. 42% took the free PDF. But it would have been too expensive to make all PDF’s free. The 65% that are now free PDFs are the “long tail” of books. “We are going to be in transition for the next 20 yrs.” Book sales have gone from 450,00/yr in 2002 to 175,000 in 2010. But, as they have given away more, they are disseminating about 850,000 units per year. “That means we’re fulfilling our publishing mission.” 260,000 people have opted in for getting notified of new books.

Michael goes through the available business options. NAP’s offerings are too broad for subscriptions. They will continue selling products. Authors fund some of the dissemination. And booksellers provide some revenue. There are different models for long-form content vs. articles vs. news vs. databases. Further, NAP has to provide multiple and new forms of content.

General lessons: Understand your mission. Make sure your strategy supports your mission. But digital strategies are a series of tactics. Design fot the future. and “The highest resolution is never enough…Never dumb down.” “The print-based mindset will work for the next few years, but is a long-term dead end.” “‘Free’ of some kind is required.” Understand your readers, and develop relationships with them. Go where the audiences are. “Continue experimenting.” There is no single best model. “We are living in content hyperabundance, and must compete with everything else in the world.”

 


Eric Frank of Flat World Knowledge (“the largest commercial publisher of” open source textbooks) says that old business models are holding us back from achieving what’s possible with the Net. He points to a “value gap” in the marketplace. Many college textbooks are $200. The pain is not evenly distributed. Half of college students are in 2 yr colleges, where the cost of textbooks can be close to their tuition costs. The Net is disrupting the text book market already, e.g.,through the online sale of used books, or text book rental models, or “piracy.” So, publishers are selling fewer units per year, and are raising pricves to protect their revenues. There’s a “vicious downward spiral,” making everyone more and more unhappy.

Flat World Knowledge has two business models. First, it puts textbooks through an editorial process, and publishes them under open licenses. They vet their authors, and peer review the books. They publish their books under a Creative Commons license (attribution, non-commercial, share-alike); they retain the copyright, but allow users to reuse, revise, remix, and redistribute them. They provide a customization platform that looks quite slick: re-order the table of content, add content, edit the content. It then generates multiple formats, including html, pdf, ePub, .mobi, digital Braille, .mp3. Students can choose the format that works best for them. The Web-based and versions for students with disabilities are free. They sell softwcover books ($35 fofr b&w, $70 for color) and the other formats. They also sell study guides, online quizzes, and flashcards. 44% read for free online. 66% purchase something: 33% print, 3% audiobooks, 17% print it yourself, 3% ebooks.

Second business model: They license all of their intellectual property to an institution that buys a site license at $20/student, who then get access to the material in every format. Paper publishers’ unit sales tend to zero out over just a few semesters as students turn to other ways of getting the book. Free World Knowledge’s unit sales tend to be steady. They pay authors 20% royalty (as opposed to a standard 13%), which results in higher cumulative revenues for the authors.

They currently have 112 authors (they launched in 2007 and published their first book in Spring 2009). 36 titles published; 42 in pipeline. Their costs are about a third of the industry and declining. Their time to market is about half of the traditionals (18 months vs. 40 months). 1,600 faculty have formally adopted their books, in 44 countries. Sales are growing at 320%. Their conversion rate of free to paid is currently at 61% and growing. They’ve raised $30M in venture capital. Bertelsmann has put in $15M. Random House today invested.

He ends by citing Kevin Kelly: The Net is a giant copy machine. When copies are super-abundant, and worthless. So, you need to seel stuff that can’t be copied. Kevin lists 8 things that can’t be copied: immediacy, personalization, interpretation (study aids), authenticity (what the prof wants you to read), accessibility, embodiment (print copy), patronage (people want to pay creators), findability. Future for FWK: p2p tutoring, user-generated marketplace, self-assessment embedded within the books, data sales. “Knowledge is the black gold of the 21st century.”

[Sheizaf Rafaelli’s talk was excellent — primarily about what happens when books lose bindings — but he spoke very quickly, and the talk itself did not lend itself to livebloggery, in part because I was hearing it in translation, which required more listening and less typing. Sorry. His slides are here. ]

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April 20, 2009

Pam Samuelson on the Google Books settlement

Pam Samuelson has written a brilliant piece about the Google Book settlement. It goes in the must-read (and highly readable) pile along with Robert Darnton’s eloquent NY Review of Books piece and James Grimmelmann’s more wonky explanation.

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April 13, 2009

Bricklin on blogs into books

Dan Bricklin carefully recounts what he went through to turn blog posts into a book, including those durn typographic issues. Learn from Dan!

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March 3, 2009

Radio Berkman: Peter Suber on open access

Peter Suber gave a terrific talk last week, hosted by the Berkman Center. Afterwards, I sat down with him for a podcast on the politics around open access.

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February 26, 2009

[berkman] Peter Suber on the future of open access

Peter Suber, Research Prof. of Philosophy at Earlham College, a visiting fellow at Yale Law’s Information Society Project, and blogger of open access news, is giving a full-house lecture at Harvard, sponsored by the Berkman Center. [Note: I’m live blogging, making mistakes, leaving things out, paraphrasing ineptly, etc. POSTED WITHOUT PROOFING or even with a basic re-reading. Speed over accuracy. Welcome to the Web :(]

Peter says he’s going to assume that we know what open access is, etc. But he does want to define Green Open Access (= open access through a repository) and Gold OA (= OA through a journal). There’s also Gratis OA (free of charge but may be licensing restrictions) and Libre OA (free of charge and free of licensing restrictions).

Peter says he doesn’t know the future of OA. He likes Alan Kaye’s comment that the future is easier to make than predict. He’s going to talk about 12 cross-over points in OA, in rough order of when they might occur:

1. For-pay journals allow green OA. About 63% of these journals already do this.

2. OA books:: When there are more gratis OA books online than in the average university library. We crossed this a couple of years ago. “The permission problem is harder than digitization.” The next cross over point here is getting more libre OA books online, which we are quite a distance from.

3. Funder policies: “When most publicly-funded research is subject to OA mandates.” This seems to be spreading, Peter says. Today, 32 public funders and more than 3 private funders have OA mandates.


4. Green OA deposits: “When most new peer-reviewed manuscripts are self-archived when accepted for publication.” In particle physics, this happens routinely. If 20% of researchers publish 80% of the articles, we could reach cross-over fairly quickly in some fields.

5. Author understanding: “When most publishing researchers have an accurate understanding of OA.” This is happening, but notvery quickly.

6. University repositories: “When most universities have institutional repositories,” individually or as part of a consortium. This is happening slowly. In the absence of a universal repository, every university ought to have one. Universities will get to this point more slowly than funders because they move more slowly than funders. And we ought to ask why. Aren’t universities interests in line with OA?

Libre gold OA: “When most OA journals are libre OA.” Most OA journals are still merely gratis, but curb copying to drive traffic to their site. This crossover could happen overnight if the journals understood the issues. They’d lose a little traffic, but nothing else. There are grounds for optimism: Open Access Scholarly Publishers Association is an assoc of OA journal publishers and it requires libre gold OA. The SPARC Europe program sets standards for what a good OA journal is, and it recommends CreativeCommons attribution licenses. These two orgs are helpful because there’s no topdown org defining OA, so we rely on bottom up orgs like these two to set the standards.

8. Journal backfiles: “When most TA journals have OA backfiles.” This is expensive to do. Google will do it, but Google’s terms are difficult: They don’t give the journal a copy of the digital files. (Libraries do get copies of the files of the books they let Google scan.) The OCA focuses on public domain literature. “Once digitized, the benefits of increased visibility and citations should outweigh the trickle of revenue.” Journals make most of their money from new issues, so having greater presence should help. In physics, almost 100% of articles are available OA but the publishers can’t see any dip in subscriptions.

9. Author addenda: “When most new research is covered by author addenda” (i.e., additions that grant OA permission, tacked onto standard publisher-author contracts). Now there are few adopters. It’d be good to standardize these. The cross over will come when universities or funders require it. If enough journals allow green OA, that’d make addenda unnecessary.

10. University policies: “When most university research is subject to university-level OA mandates.” Today, 27 universities and 4 depts have these mandates. It’d help to have the largest/most productive universities move on this first.

11. OA journals: “When most peer-reviewed journals are OA.” “I don’t expect this for a long time.” Now 15% are OA. Progress is slow, but there is progress. High prestige journals are likely to hold out for a long time.

Libre green OA: “When most green OA is libre OA.” Today, only a small fraction is libre OA because most OA repositories depend on permission from publishers. UKPMC Funders Group demands green libre. We will reach the cross-over “when it’s safe.” Harvard has taken the lead on this, Peter says, and it will spread as another large university takes this step, then another one … “It becomes self-fulfilling leadership.”

Q: Are we stuck with the Sonny Bono copyright extension act?
A: Yes. All copyright reform in the past few decades have been in the wrong direction. And it’s very hard to roll back copyright terms. The only silver lining is that when we have a consenting partner, we can bypass copyright via contract. The problem is that they’re not the default.

Q: Under libre OA, how are our scholarly attributions protected?
A: It’s a range. One end is public domain, which does not preserve attribution. But all the CreativeCommons licenses preserve attribution. Most scholars don’t want public domain; they want CC-attribution.”Creative Commons attribution license provides everything a scholar could want.”

Q: [me] Conyers!
A: The Conyers bill would tell agencies not to require OA for works they fund. [I’ve put this badly.] The OA advocates are fighting it, but the agencies affected are not yet. I think Conyers is serious about it. I think he introduced it early because we don’t have a Sect’y of Health and Human Services or of NIH. Conyers may be fighting a turf battle. [Paraphrasing!] “He’s motivated primarily to protect the jurisdiction of his committee.” Peter thinks it won’t pass, but it might be introduced into another bill. “We’d like to spread the NIH policy to the rest of the government.”

Q: Is the economic downturn accelerating the adoption of OA?
A: The NIH just got $10B in the stimulus, which means there will be more and more OA articles. NSF also, but not as much because NSF requires OA for reports generated by those they fund [may not have gotten this right]. But, Peter thinks the downturn strengthens the case for OA. Libraries are going to be canceling subscriptions. And the Stimulus’ emphasis on green research will be more valuable if it’s OA. Open access to research amplifies its value.

Q: [jpalfrey] You’ve noticed there’s no OSF equivalent for OA. But I’d argue that the people in this room — librarians — are your OA OSF. What do you say to these librarians to advance our common cause?
A: Librarians are among the most important allies in the OA movement. But put all the allies together and you still don’t have OSF. Libraries should be sending letters against the Conyers bill. When you negotiate subscriptions you should negotiate the right to pur articles from your authors into an OA repository. Libraries are the only buyers of peer-reviewed journals. When you’re the only buyer, you can dictate your terms, subject to anti-trust. Obama says that we have the right to demand transformation from the banks we’re saving. Librarians can do the same thing for journals. Journals are not serving all of our interests and are acting against other interests. Use your bargaining power. Get the right of self-archive, and, when the time is right, get the right of libre self-archive. Network with one another when you launch repositories. And, btw, every school with an enlightened OA policy had librarians in the head of the charge.

Q: Can you give an example of an archive that works?
A: Universities that have mandatory language still have to supplement the language with incentives and education. As you go from unmandated to mandated, it goes from 15% toward 100%. (15% is the average for voluntary, spontaneous archives.) It works best in the Dutch universities that let the “cream” of the article rise to the top. Every week they feature good work in public. This gets academics to archive their work without a mandate.

Q: Might universities work with publishers collaboratively to create new business models?
A: Publishers differ in their attitudes toward OA. Some are experimenting in good faith. Some, in bad faith. Some who do OA are actively lobbying for the Conyers bill. Librarians understand the scholarly landscape better than publishers and could educate publishers. Society publishers [i.e., societies that publish] could be told that they’re threatened not by OA but by the “big deal” that brings in academic journals.

Q: Is Springer’s taking over of BioMed Central a good thing?
A: Yes. BMC is for-profit. BMC was the world’s largest OA publisher. Now Springer is. Springer says that OA is a sustainable part of their bsiness. My reading is that Springer is preparing for an OA future. [Tags: ]

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