Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Free: Why Authors are Giving Books Away on the Internet

John Hilton III and David Wiley published the article "Free: Why Authors are Giving Books Away on the Internet" in the March/April 2010 issue of TechTrends. The authors interviewed ten writers who had made their works freely accessible on the web. They sought the answers to five questions:
  1. What motivates authors to provide free digital versions of book?
  2. How does free digital distribution affect the distribution of a work?
  3. How does free digital distribution affect the impact of a work?
  4. Are authors glad they made their books freely available?
  5. What effect does free digital distribution have on print sales?
The article's abstract:
With increasing frequency, authors in academic and non-academic fields are releasing their books for free digital distribution. Anecdotal evidence suggests that exposure to both authors and books increases when books are available as free downloads, and that print sales are not negatively affected. For this study we interviewed ten authors to determine their perceptions of the effect free digital distribution has on the impact and sales of their work. In addition, we examined the sales data of two books over a two year period of time, in which one book was freely available for the second year. All of the individuals we surveyed felt free digital downloads increased the distribution and impact of their book. None of the authors felt that print sales were negatively affected. Data from our book sale comparison suggest that in the case we studied, free digital distribution did not negatively affect sales.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

"Toward a New Alexandria"

Take a break, kick back, and read a fascinating article appearing in The New Republic titled "Toward a New Alexandria: Imagining the Future of Libraries," by Lisbet Rausing. The first part gives a mind-bending view of the rapidly expanding universe of information made possible by the digital revolution. But the meat of Rausing's essay is her argument against the restrictions in place for accessing scholarly work. While the argument is familiar - the harm done by such restrictions defeats the creative growth of new knowledge - it benefits from being well written. E.g.:
Excepting the odd Wykehamist or yeshiva boy, our children—always on, multi-tasking, mobile—will not engage with a body of scholarship their elders have incomprehensibly surrounded by barbed wire. But they will remain engaged in learning. The question is not whether there will be future scholars. It is how these future scholars will remember and integrate previous scholarship. And in pondering that, which means pondering our own scholarly legacy, it is worth remembering that “the generational war is the one war whose outcome is certain.”

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Moving Books Off-Site and E-Books; An OnGoing Struggle

In an article, "E-Library Economics", recently published in Inside Higher Education Steve Kolowich discusses two studies due to be published in April by the Council on Library and Information Resources that examine the implications of shifting to digital library collections. While the authors of the two studies "acknowledge that libraries seem to be headed in the direction of primarily digital infrastructures, they also note that the journey is slow going." The main challenge to moving large quantities of books off-site is the recalcitrance of academics. Though the latter embrace the searchability of electronic databases and other digital resources, they "still prefer holding a book in their hands to read it."

Friday, March 19, 2010

MIT’s Open Access Policy, One Year Later

In today's press release MIT reported that over 850 articles have been added to MIT's digital repository, DSPACE@MIT, a year after MIT faculty voted to adopt an open access policy to their scholarly articles:
Publishers who are fully supporting the MIT Policy include:

* American Economic Association
* American Institute of Physics
* American Mathematical Society
* American Meteorological Society
* American Physical Society
* American Vacuum Society
* Beilstein-Institut
* BioMed Central
* Hindawi Publishing
* The Institution of Engineering and Technology (IET)
* The Optical Society of America (OSA)
* Public Library of Science (PLoS)
* Rockefeller University Press
* Society for Industrial and Applied Mathematics (SIAM)
* University of California Press

Many of these publishers allow the MIT Libraries to capture copies of the final published PDF for deposit, so that authors do not need to take any action in order to have their articles openly accessible.

“We are learning that many other publishers are also friendly to the policy as we continue our conversations, and we expect this list to grow over time,” said Ellen Duranceau, MIT Libraries’ program manager for scholarly publishing and licensing. “We want to thank all of the publishers who have cooperated with us thus far, and we look forward to collaborating with others as we move forward.”

The MIT Libraries, with the guidance of the Faculty Committee on the Library System, continue to work with MIT faculty to help further the policy’s goal of broadening access to MIT’s research and scholarship.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Nature Chemistry Commentary on Scholarly Communication in Chemistry

In its Dec. 20th, 2009, issue (pp 673 – 678), the journal, Nature Chemistry, published “Communicating Chemistry” (by Theresa Velden and Carl Lagoze), a commentary on the recent workshop, “New Models for Scholarly Communication”, held in Washington, D.C., Oct. 23 – 24, 2009. (This workshop is described more fully in the publicly-accessible white paper, The Value of New Scientific Communication Models for Chemistry.) The paper discusses characteristics of the discipline of chemistry and how communication patterns, rewards systems, research practices, reliance on proprietary databases for literature and data access, strong scholarly societies (the American Chemical Society and the Royal Society of Chemistry, in particular), and the balance between industry and academia might all have an influence on the acceptance of public access to literature and data in the chemical sciences, as well as on adoption of newer web-based scholarly communication models.
Discussions leading up to the final publication of the white paper showed the controversy surrounding the questions of whether and how chemistry might benefit from new models for science communication, and about what the characteristics of chemistry research and scholarship are that will shape its future communication system. As a result, the white paper reflects some of the aspects of this controversy and presents a perspective on it, rather than a consensus among all of the workshop participants.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

New Technology Promises to Prolong the Life of the Book

The Economist recently published an article on the Espresso Book Machine that produces on demand and within minutes a paperback book that's indistinguishable from the publisher’s version.

ESPRESSO might seem an odd name for a bookmaking machine. But the wardrobe-sized apparatus at Blackwell, a bookstore in central London, and 30 other locations worldwide can print a paperback in about the time it takes to make and drink a shot of caffeine. A black-and-white printer produces the pages; a colour one the cover; they are then glued together by a third device which sits behind Plexiglas for passers-by to admire.

To some this is just "retail theatre", a clever way to lure people into bookstores. But others view it as the logical step in a development that has picked up speed recently, yet has not received nearly as much attention as electronic readers or touch-screen tablets: the printing of books on demand, rather than on a publisher's hunch. . . .

Click here for full article.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Is Your Book Out of Print?

At Texas A&M, if a faculty member's book has gone out of print, it may be republished digitally thanks to a service being offered by the university's library. All the author needs to do is to check the contract he or she signed with the publisher and see if it has a clause stating that the copyright reverts back to the author when the book goes out of print. If that is the case at Texas A&M, the book can get a new lease on life via the library's digital repository. It serves as another example of how academic libraries are finding innovative ways of serving their users. More details about this service is available.

Friday, March 5, 2010

New SPARC Site Focused on Campus-Based Open-access Publishing Funds

SPARC, the Scholarly Publishing and Academic Resources Coalition, has published a web site devoted to Campus-based Open-access Publishing Funds. These are funds set aside by an institution in support of publishing models providing public-access to scholarly output. The site serves as a guide to this type of funding effort, with an overview, institutional examples, template documents for use in creating such funds and recent news.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

March Issue of SPARC Open Access Newsletter

Peter Suber has published the March issue of the SPARC Open Access Newsletter. "This issue takes a close look at how 'market-oriented' economic sectors differ from 'mission-oriented' sectors, and where scholarly publishing belongs on this spectrum."

Monday, March 1, 2010

500,000 journal articles listed on RePEc

Christian Zimmermann recently announced in the RePEc Blog that "the number of articles indexed on RePEc has recently surpassed half a million, with 88% linked to an online version. All these articles have been published in over 1000 journals listed on RePEc."