Polimetrica Publisher: An Open Access Book Publisher

Polimetrica Publisher is a scientific open access book publisher. It has published a number of books in the areas of applied, pure, and human sciences.

This excerpt from its "Our Open Access Manifesto" describes its philosophy and business model:

Polimetrica Publisher works from a simple premise: that for a better future of the people it’s possible to disseminate the knowledge by publishing innovative books freely accessible to anyone in the world who might be interested.

Informed by that premise, we’re trying to build a new model of scientific publishing that embraces economic self-subsistence, openness, and fairness; the model is based on the following elements:

  1. each scientific book is published in two editions: a printed edition, available in the market, and an electronic edition, freely available through the web; both editions are identified by a different ISBN code.
  2. each scientific book is edited in collaboration with universities or with authoritative professors or specialists.
  3. the printed edition is distributed on the international market.
  4. the electronic edition is free access through the Polimetrica web site.
  5. Polimetrica pays to the author or to the academic institution on all sales of the printed edition a 10% royalty of the net receipts.
  6. each scientific publication is funded by a contribution of 1.500 Euros about.
  7. anyone interested in our activities is encouraged to buy a membership; the members will have access to special conditions. Additional information are at the page
    http://www.polimetrica.com/main/membership.php

Polimetrica Publisher currently has three membership options that provide a specified number of books on CD-ROM/DVD, discount prices, and newsletters.

To download free digital book, the user fills out a form providing name, country, and e-mail address. A download link is sent to the provided e-mail address.

A book that may be of particular interest to DigitalKoans readers is Open Access: Open Problems.

Petition for Public Access to Publicly Funded Research in the United States

AALL, ALA, ACRL, the Alliance for Taxpayer Access, Public Knowledge, SPARC, and other organizations have initiated the Petition for Public Access to Publicly Funded Research in the United States.

The petition states:

We, the undersigned, believe that broad dissemination of research results is fundamental to the advancement of knowledge. For America’s taxpayers to obtain an optimal return on their investment in science, publicly funded research must be shared as broadly as possible. Yet too often, research results are not available to researchers, scientists, or the members of the public. Today, the Internet and digital technologies give us a powerful means of addressing this problem by removing access barriers and enabling new, expanded, and accelerated uses of research findings.

We believe the US Government can and must act to ensure that all potential users have free and timely access on the Internet to peer-reviewed federal research findings. This will not only benefit the higher education community, but will ultimately magnify the public benefits of research and education by promoting progress, enhancing economic growth, and improving the public welfare.

We support the re-introduction and passage of the Federal Research Public Access Act, which calls for open public access to federally funded research findings within six months of publication in a peer-reviewed journal.

The petition follows a similar effort in the European Union, the Petition for Guaranteed Public Access to Publicly-Funded Research Results, which was signed by over 23,000 individuals and organizations.

Digitization Copyright Wars: Microsoft Blasts Google at AAP

Microsoft Associate General Counsel Thomas Rubin took off the gloves at the Association of American Publishers meeting on Tuesday. The target: Google Book Search. The goal: to contrast Google’s approach to copyright issues associated with digitizing books with Microsoft’s more publisher-friendly approach.

Rubin’s comments included the following:

The stated goal of Google’s Book Search project is to make a copy of every book ever published and bring it within Google’s vast database of indexed content. While Google says that it doesn’t currently intend to place ads next to book search results, Google’s broader business model is straightforward—attract as many users as possible to its site by providing what it considers to be "free" content, then monetize that content by selling ads. I think Pat Schroeder put it best when she said Google has "a hell of a business model—they’re going to take everything you create, for free, and sell advertising around it."

To accomplish its book search goals, Google persuaded several libraries to give it unfettered access to their collections, both copyrighted and public domain works. It also entered into agreements with several publishers to acquire rights to certain of their copyrighted books. Despite such deals, in late 2004 Google basically turned its back on its partners. Concocting a novel "fair use" theory, Google bestowed upon itself the unilateral right to make entire copies of copyrighted books not covered by these publisher agreements without first obtaining the copyright holder’s permission.

Google’s chosen path would no doubt allow it to make more books searchable online more quickly and more cheaply than others, and in the short term this will benefit Google and its users. But the question is, at what long-term cost? In my view, Google has chosen the wrong path for the longer term, because it systematically violates copyright and deprives authors and publishers of an important avenue for monetizing their works. In doing so, it undermines critical incentives to create. . . .

Google defends its actions primarily by arguing that its unauthorized copying and future monetization of your books are protected as fair use. . . .

In essence, Google is saying to you and to other copyright owners: "Trust us—you’re protected. We’ll keep the digital copies secure, we’ll only show snippets, we won’t harm you, we’ll promote you." But Google’s track record of protecting copyrights in other parts of its business is weak at best.

Rubin also discussed Microsoft’s Live Search Academic and Live Search Books in some detail.

Here are some of the more interesting articles and postings about the speech:

Meanwhile, the Bavarian State Library has just joined Google’s library partners, adding about one million books to the project.

Haworth Press Requires Copyright Transfer Prior to Peer Review

Haworth Press now has a policy of requiring a copyright transfer prior to peer review.

For example, the "Instructions to Authors" for the Journal of Interlibrary Loan, Document Delivery & Electronic Reserve states: "Copyright ownership of your manuscript must be transferred officially to The Haworth Press, Inc., before we can begin the peer-review process."

This raises the interesting question of what happens when a paper is rejected: Haworth now owns the copyright, so how can the author now submit the rejected paper elsewhere?

Postscript: Haworth has posted a liblicense-l message indicating that it is clarifying its copyright transfer requirements.

Rice University Names Head of Its Digital Press

Fred Moody has been chosen to head the reborn-digital Rice University Press. Based in Seattle (where he will remain), Moody is a journalist and author of books such as I Sing The Body Electronic, Seattle and the Demons of Ambition: From Boom to Bust in the Number One City of the Future, and The Visionary Position: the Inside Story of the Digital Dreamers Who Are Making Virtual Reality a Reality. Moody holds an MLS from the University of Michigan.

Below is an excerpt from the Rice News article ("Moody Tapped to Head Rice University Press"):

The press will start out publishing art history books and grow as peer review panels are added. A second imprint at the press—called Long Tail Press—will be added so publishing can be done in partnership with other university presses. It will allow for previously published books to be published again on a digital platform. It will also allow for books that have been accepted at fellow university presses, but haven’t been printed because of cost, to be published.

"My goal is to grow Rice’s reputation for quality first, and to grow the size of the press—in terms both of number of books published and number of disciplines published—almost as fast," Moody said. "The idea is not so much to grow a huge business as to grow the best forum in the world for scholarly research."

(Prior postings about digital presses.)

AAUP Statement on Open Access

The Association of American University Presses has issued a statement on Open Access. Peter Suber and Ben Vershbow have commented the statement. Also, there was an article about it in Inside Higher Ed ("University Presses Take Their Stand").

Here is an excerpt from that statement (minus footnote numbers):

From the founding of the first American university presses in the late 19th century, the purpose of the university press has always been to assist the university in fulfilling its noble mission "to advance knowledge, and to diffuse it not merely among those who can attend the daily lectures—but far and wide," in the famous words of President Daniel Coit Gilman of the Johns Hopkins University. Universities acknowledged then that for most scholarly works there was insufficient commercial demand to sustain a publishing operation on sales alone, and recognized an obligation to establish and subsidize their own presses in order to serve the mission of universities to share the knowledge they generate.

Knowledge is expensive to produce, and requires—in addition to the scholar’s own work—knowledgeable editorial selection and careful vetting as well as a high level of quality in copyediting, design, production, marketing, and distribution in order to achieve the excellence for which American universities have come to be widely praised. Universities have made substantial investments in their presses, and the staffs who run them are expert at what they do. The system of scholarly communication that these presses support has played a vital role in the spread of knowledge worldwide. Calls for changing this system need to take careful account of the costs of doing so, not just for individual presses but for their parent universities, and for the scholarly societies that also contribute in major ways to the current system.

And, indeed, while proud of their achievements, university presses and scholarly societies have never been averse to change. Rather, being embedded in the culture of higher education that values experimentation and advances in knowledge, presses have themselves been open to new ways of facilitating scholarly communication and have been active participants in the process. Prominent examples from the last decade include Project MUSE, the History E-Book Project, the History Cooperative, California’s AnthroSource and eScholarship Editions, Cambridge Companions Online, Chicago’s online edition of The Founders’ Constitution, Columbia’s International Affairs Online (CIAO) and Gutenberg-e, The New Georgia Encyclopedia, MIT CogNet, Oxford Scholarship Online and Oxford’s recent experiments with open access journals, Virginia’s Rotunda, and Michigan’s new press and library collaboration digitalculturebooks.

The phrase "open access" has come to symbolize the pressure for change in the system, largely in response to the financial burden on academic libraries of maintaining subscriptions to commercially published journals in science, technology, and medicine (STM). Without reform to this system many fear that the results of new research will increasingly be accessible to an ever-shrinking number of the wealthiest universities. Hence the call has arisen for a new publishing model of open access that will ensure the continued ability of universities to disseminate knowledge "far and wide."

The well-known Budapest Open Access Initiative (BOAI), in promoting a solution to the high price of STM journals, defines open access as "permitting any users to read, download, copy, distribute, print, search, or link to the full texts of these articles, crawl them for indexing, pass them as data to software, or use them for any other lawful purpose, without financial, legal, or technical barriers other than those inseparable from gaining access to the Internet itself." In principle, this definition of open access could be applied to all types of scholarly publishing, and calls for widespread use of institutional repositories and for self-archiving by individual scholars in order to promote such open access are by no means limited to just STM journal literature. Although the debate over open access has centered almost exclusively on one sector of publishing, STM journals, there is no reason to limit the discussion to that sector and indeed, given the interconnectedness of knowledge, it is unwise not to explore the implications of open access for all fields of knowledge lest an unfortunate new "digital divide" should arise between fields and between different types of publishing. The recently proposed legislation known as the Federal Research Public Access Act of 2006 (FRPAA) would affect a wide range of research that receives funding from 11 federal agencies, including the National Science Foundation, the Environmental Protection Agency, and the Departments of Energy, Education, and Defense. The American Council of Learned Societies, in its 2006 report on "Cyberinfrastructure for the Humanities and Social Sciences," has advocated such open access for all social science and humanities scholarship. However, there is a wide range of models that can be subsumed under the generic term "open access," with both risks and benefits to the entire system of scholarly communications that are as yet not fully understood.

The member presses of AAUP, which include scholarly societies, recognize that they have an obligation to confront the many challenges—economic, legal, and technological—to the existing system and to participate with all willing partners, both within and outside the university, to strengthen and expand scholarly communications. Many of them, often in collaboration with research libraries, are already experimenting with new approaches, including varieties of open access that seek to balance the mission of scholarly communication with its costs.

Those costs today are covered by a combination of institutional subsidies and sales in the marketplace. On average, AAUP university-based members receive about 10% of their revenue as subsidies from their parent institution, 85% from sales, and 5% from other sources. Therefore the AAUP believes it is important to keep an open mind about what constitutes open access, since some kinds of open access are compatible with a market-based model. The National Academies Press, for instance, makes all of its books available online for free full-text browsing worldwide while offering both downloadable PDFs and print copies for sale.

For the more radical approaches that abandon the market as a viable basis for the recovery of costs in scholarly publishing and instead try to implement a model that has come to be known as the "gift economy" or the "subsidy economy," the AAUP urges that the following points be kept in mind:

1) BOAI-type open access will require large contributions from either the authors or other sources (including foundations and libraries, which pay "member" fees instead of paying for subscriptions). Scholars at less wealthy institutions or those with no institutional affiliations may experience greater difficulty in publishing unless fees are waived or reduced (a process that will increase the burden on other authors, who will have to pay higher fees to offset the waivers). This will be especially true for monographs, the publishing cost for which now runs around $25,000 to $30,000 (for an average monograph of 250 pages with no illustrations) and would still be close to $20,000 to $25,000 if no printing were done or inventory maintained by the publisher. While inequities among users may be resolved by open-access publishing, they may resurface as inequities among authors.

2) Costs for scholarly communication overall will not change radically, but merely be shifted from one sector of the university to another. For university presses and scholarly societies currently, only 17% to 20% of the publishing costs of monographs are spent on manufacturing, so most of their other expenses will still need to be covered Even so, many end users will prefer to print out what they want to read, especially longer articles and books, using printing devices that are less economical than dedicated printing presses. Moreover, since traditional print publishing will not disappear overnight, there will be the continuing costs of maintaining that part of the system in addition to the new costs of supporting online publishing ventures. Finally, if faculty are asked themselves to become publishers, they will spend more of their time performing tasks for which they are not trained and less on the teaching and research for which they are, resulting in an overall loss in economic efficiency for the university as a whole.

3) Requirements for fully free-to-user open access publishing of journal articles, whether through the journals themselves or by way of open institutional repositories or authors’ self-archiving, will undermine existing well-regarded services like Project MUSE (the electronic database of more than 300 journals in the humanities and social sciences jointly operated by the library and press at Johns Hopkins) that rely on institutional site licensing to be sustained. BOAI-style open access is inherently incompatible with site licensing as a model for journal publishing and archiving.

4) In 2005, university presses recovered 90% of their operating costs, roughly $500 million, from sales. Of that $500 million, sales to libraries account for 15% to 20%, or $75 to $100 million. The rest comes from sales to general and college bookstores, to online retailers, and directly to individual scholars. Under free-to-user open access, universities that operate presses would need to be prepared to decide how much of the cost of maintaining the system they would want to continue bearing and how much they would expect other universities to absorb by providing full or partial faculty subsidies for publication of both journal articles and monographs. Any university opting for full support could expect its costs to rise dramatically. Conversely, if any parent university decided to maintain only its current support, other universities not now supporting the system, or doing so only through small and occasional subsidies for faculty publication, would also see their costs increase. Offsetting these costs would be whatever amounts their libraries would save in journal subscriptions and monograph purchases, but since commercial publishers (and many society publishers) would not have the option of converting to a full "subsidy economy," those amounts would be equivalent to only what libraries currently spend on university press publications.

5) If commercial publishers should decide to stop publishing research under the constrained circumstances envisioned by advocates of free-to-user open access, what happens to the journals abandoned by these publishers? How many of them could universities afford to subsidize through faculty grants? How much could universities with presses increase the output of their presses to accommodate the monographs now published commercially? The answers to these questions could involve significant new capital investments. In addition, the case of scholarly societies under BOAI-style open access is particularly worrying. As non-profit organizations committed to supporting effective scholarly communications and professional standards in their fields, these societies provide a wide range of services to scholars and scholarship, including annual conferences, professional development opportunities, recognition of scholarly excellence, and statistical information on such matters as enrollment and employment in their fields, as well as respected publishing programs. Whether a given society’s publishing activities underwrite other services or must be supported by other revenues, funding for essential professional and scholarly activities would be jeopardized by a mandated shift to free-to-user open access, increasing the financial burdens on individual scholars as both authors and professionals.

For university presses, unlike commercial and society publishers, open access does not necessarily pose a threat to their operation and their pursuit of the mission to "advance knowledge, and to diffuse it. . . far and wide." Presses can exist in a gift economy for at least the most scholarly of their publishing functions if costs are internally reallocated (from library purchases to faculty grants and press subsidies). But presses have increasingly been required by their parent universities to operate in the market economy, and the concern that presses have for the erosion of copyright protection directly reflects this pressure. Any decision to switch from a market to a gift economy requires very careful thought and planning. The AAUP and its member presses welcome the opportunity to collaborate with university administrators, librarians, and faculty in designing new publishing models, mindful that it is important to protect what is most valuable about the existing system, which has served the scholarly community and the general public so well for over a century, while undertaking reforms to make the system work better for everyone in the future.

Stanford’s President and the Google Book Search Library Project

The Wall Street Journal ran a lengthy article about the personal finances of John L. Hennessy, president of Stanford University, today ("The Golden Touch of Stanford’s President"). It kicks off by noting that Hennessy made $1 million last November that didn’t come from Stanford.

The last seven paragraphs are of interest, since they discuss Stanford’s relationship to the Google Book Search Library Project. The Executive Director of the Author’s Guild says that Hennessy’s Google holdings are a "great concern" and there "seems to be both a personal and institutional profit motive here." The Stanford general counsel indicates that Hennessy was not part of discussions about Google Book Search Library Project. Another issue is Google’s $2 million gift to the Stanford Law School’s Center for Internet and Society to promote fair use. Lawrence Lessig denies that the Google gift had any "quid pro quo" implications, and the former Law School Dean indicates that Hennessy had no part in the Google gift.

Concerns about potential conflict of interest may be fueled by Hennessy’s $11 million gains from sale of Google stock and use of stock options, his current Google stock holdings valued at $2.3 million, and his Google stock options that may be worth $15.8 million if exercised.

Source: Hechinger, John, and Rebecca Buckman. "The Golden Touch of Stanford’s President." The Wall Street Journal, 24 Febuary 2007, A1, A10.

Swinburne Online Journals

The Swinburne University of Technology’s Information Resources Group is leading ARROW’s (Australian Research Repositories Online to the World) open access journal publishing effort.

Using Open Journal Systems, Swinburne Online Journals currently publishes 4 open access journals:

  • The Australian Journal of Emerging Technologies and Society: "The Australian Journal of Emerging Technologies and Society (AJETS) is a multi-disciplinary journal, focusing on the complex relationship between science and technology and their wider socio-cultural contexts. Perhaps more importantly, AJETS is designed as a forum for informed discussion and debate about the role of technology in society, drawing on a variety of viewpoints from all branches of the social and behavioural sciences and humanities."
  • Cosmos and History: The Journal of Natural and Social Philosophy: "Cosmos and History is a peer-reviewed, open-access journal of natural and social philosophy. It serves those who see philosophy’s vocation in questioning and challenging prevailing assumptions about ourselves and our place in the world, developing new ways of thinking about physical existence, life, humanity and society, so helping to create the future insofar as thought affects the issue. Philosophy so conceived is not exclusively identified with the work of professional philosophers, and the journal welcomes contributions from philosophically oriented thinkers from all disciplines."
  • E-Journal of Applied Psychology: The E-Journal of Applied Psychology: "The E-Journal of Applied Psychology (E-JAP) is a web-based international outlet for original research articles which apply psychological theories to clinical and social issues."
  • Bukker Tillibul: Peer-reviewed journal about online writing that includes scholarly articles and creative works.

(Prior postings about digital presses.)

National Library of Australia’s Open Publish Service

Using Open Journal Systems, the National Library of Australia’s Open Publish service currently publishes five open access journals:

  • » Australasian Victorian Studies Journal: "The Australasian Victorian Studies Journal is published by the Australasian Victorian Studies Association whose inter-disciplinary nature it reflects: articles from disciplines as diverse as archeology, architecture, art, economics, history, landscape gardening, literature, medicine, philosophy, psychology, science, sociology, spiritualism, town planning and theatre are likely to appear in its pages. The journal is refereed and each issue is normally devoted to a theme." Archived using the LOCKSS system.
  • » Gateways: "Gateways is the National Library of Australia’s online journal for the Australian library profession and community."
  • » Harold White Fellowship Journal: Publishes articles by fellowship holders. Archived using the LOCKSS system.
  • » Journal of the Association for the Study of Australian Literature: "JASAL is a peer-reviewed journal, published annually by the Association for the Study of Australian Literature. JASAL welcomes essays that consider Australian literature in all its forms (fictional, critical, print, filmic, and so on) and in terms of its socio-political and cultural contexts."
  • » Reviews in Australian Studies: "Reviews in Australian Studies is a journal of the British Australian Studies Association (BASA). BASA was established in 1982 to bring together individuals and institutions concerned with the study of Australia, and/or the teaching of Australian topics in secondary and tertiary education." Archived using the LOCKSS system.

You can read more about Open Publish in Bobby Graham’s Information Online 2007 paper "Open Publish: Open Access to Scholarly Research."

(Prior postings about digital presses.)

All Hindawi Journals Now Open Access

Hindawi’s EURASIP Journal on Advances in Signal Processing and International Journal of Mathematics and Mathematical Sciences journals are now open access, finishing the conversion of Hindawi’s 64 journals to the open access model.

Excerpt from the press release:

"We didn’t have a firm time frame for completing our OA transition when we started this process in late 2004," said Ahmed Hindawi, co-founder and CEO of Hindawi. "However, we are pleased to have completed the process in a bit over two years. Now that we have the legacy publishing model behind us, it is time to fully concentrate on aggressively growing our OA publishing program."

Washington DC Principles for Free Access to Science Coalition Statement

Hard on the heels of the "Brussels Declaration on STM Publishing" by STM publishers, the Washington DC Principles for Free Access to Science Coalition has issued a statement condemning the Federal Research Public Access Act and similar measures.

An excerpt from the press release follows:

"The long tradition of methodical scientific inquiry and information sharing through publication in scholarly journals has helped advance medicine to where it is today," said Martin Frank of the American Physiological Society and coordinator of the coalition. "We as independent publishers must determine when it is appropriate to make content freely available, and we believe strongly it should not be determined by government mandate."

The Coalition also reaffirmed its ongoing practice of making millions of scientific journal articles available free of charge, without an additional financial burden on the scientific community or on funding agencies. More than 1.6 million free articles are already available to the public free of charge on HighWire Press.

"The scholarly publishing system is a delicate balance between the need to sustain journals financially and the goal of disseminating scientific knowledge as widely as possible. Publishers have voluntarily made more journal articles available free worldwide than at any time in history — without government intervention," noted Kathleen Case of the American Association for Cancer Research.

The Coalition expressed concern that a mandatory timetable for free access to all federally funded research could harm journals, scientists, and ultimately the public. Subscriptions to journals with a high percentage of federally funded research would decline rapidly. Subscription revenues support the quality control system known as peer review and also support the educational work of scientific societies that publish journals.

Undermining subscriptions would shift the cost of publication from the publisher who receives subscription revenue to the researcher who receives grants. Such a shift could:

Divert scarce dollars from research. Publishers now pay the cost of publication out of subscription revenue; if the authors have to pay, the funds will come from their research grants. Nonprofit journals without subscription revenue would have to rely on the authors’ grant funds to cover publication costs, which would divert funding from research.

Result in only well-funded scientists being able to publish their work. The ability to publish in scientific journals should be available equally to all.

Reduce the ability of journals to fund peer review. Most journals spend 40% or more of their revenue on quality control through the peer review system; without subscription income and with limitations on author fees, peer review would suffer.

Harm those scientific societies that rely on income from journals to fund the professional development of scientists. Revenues from scholarly publications fund research, fellowships to junior scientists, continuing education, and mentoring programs to increase the number of women and under-represented groups in science, among many other activities.

Prominent open access advocates Stevan Harnad and Peter Suber have both critiqued the statement in detail.

The Brussels Declaration: You Don’t Need a Weatherman to Know Which Way the Wind Blows

The recent "Brussels Declaration on STM Publishing" by major scholarly publishers, such as Elsevier and Wiley, can be boiled down to: the scholarly publishing system ain’t broke, so don’t try to fix it. It provides an interesting contrast to the 2004 "Washington DC Principles for Free Access to Science" by not-for-profit publishers, which outlined a variety of strategies for making content freely available.

Sadly, it suggests that the "Brussels Declaration" publishers fail to fully understand that the decades-old serials crisis has deeply alienated several generations of librarians, who are their primary customers. Publishers count on libraries being captive customers because scholarly publishing is monopolistic in nature (e.g., one journal article does not substitute for another article) and, consequently, demand is relatively inelastic, regardless of price. However, it is a rare business that thrives by alienating its customers. As the SPARC initiative and similar efforts illustrate, many librarians want to dramatically change the existing scholarly publishing system.

Driven by endless library serials cuts for journals in their disciplines, a growing belief that scholarly literature needs to be freely available for global scholarship to flourish, and excitement over the new potentials of digital publishing, scholars increasingly want to change the system as well. As has often been noted, the open access movement is not anti-publisher, but it is publisher-neutral, meaning that, as long as certain critical functions (such as peer review) are adequately performed, it does not matter how freely available scholarly works are published.

In my view, publishers add significant value to scholarly journals and other works. Some of these value-added functions are currently difficult to replicate; however, given technological advances in open-source digital publishing software, the number of these functions has been dwindling. A key question is: How long will it be before the most difficult production-oriented functions can be easily replicated, leaving non-technical functions, such as branding and prestige, to be dealt with? Another is: How long will it be before viable new modes of scholarly publishing, supported by open source software, are developed that compete with existing publishing models?

The clock is ticking. The more intransigent publishers are, the stronger the incentive for those who want change to improve open source publishing tools, to fund low-cost or open access publishing alternatives, to seek remedies from governments and other organizations that fund research, and to develop new modes of scholarly publishing.

Dialog, openness to new funding strategies and publishing practices, compromise, and imagination may serve publishers better in the long run than denial, rigidity, and attack. A more flexible outlook may reveal opportunities, not just dangers, in a scholarly publishing system in flux.

NISO Shared E-Resource Understanding Working Group

If you are tired of negotiating a license for every commercial information product that you purchase, there may be hope on the horizon.

The NISO Shared E-Resource Understanding Working Group (SERU), co-chaired by Karla Hahn, Association of Research Libraries, and Judy Luther, Informed Strategies, is addressing this issue.

Here is the group’s charge:

The working group is charged with developing Recommended Practices to be used to support a new mechanism for publishers to sell e-resources without licenses if they feel their perception of risk has been adequately addressed by current law and developing norms of behavior.

The document will be an expression of a set of shared understandings of publisher and library expectations regarding the sale of an electronic resource subscription. Negotiation between publisher perspectives and library perspectives will be needed to develop a useful set of practices.

The working group will build on considerable work to identify key elements of a best practices document already begun during a one-day meeting sponsored by ARL, ALPSP, SSP, and SPARC. All of the participants in that scoping meeting expressed a strong desire to continue to work on this project and form the proposed working group to develop best practices.

A recent article provides more details about SERU as does its FAQ.

There is also a mailing list. Send a message to SERUinfo-subscribe@list.niso.org to subscribe.

American Society for Cell Biology Issues Open Access Position Paper

The American Society for Cell Biology (ASCB) has issued an open access position paper ("ASCB Position on Public Access to Scientific Literature").

Here is an excerpt:

The ASCB believes strongly that barriers to scientific communication slow scientific progress. The more widely scientific results are disseminated, the more readily they can be understood, applied, and built upon. The sooner findings are shared, the faster they will lead to new scientific insights and breakthroughs. This conviction has motivated the ASCB to provide free access to all of the research articles in Molecular Biology of the Cell two months after publication, which it has done since 2001. . . .

Some publishers argue that providing free access to their journal’s content will catastrophically erode their revenue base. The experience of many successful research journals demonstrates otherwise; these journals make their online content freely available after a short embargo period that protects subscription revenue. For example, as noted above, the content of Molecular Biology of the Cell is free to all after only two months, yet the journal remains not only financially sound, but profitable. The data clearly show that free access and profitability are not mutually exclusive.

Our goal should be to make research articles freely available as soon as feasible so that science and the public benefit from their expanded use and application. At the same time, it is important that nonprofit societies and other publishers generate sufficient revenues to sustain the costs of reviewing and publishing articles. We believe that a six-month embargo period represents a reasonable compromise between the financial requirements of supporting a journal and the need for access to current research.

New Yorker Google Book Search Article

The New Yorker has published an article about Google Book Search by Jeffrey Toobin in its February 5, 2007 issue ("Google’s Moon Shot: The Quest for the Universal Library").

Here’s a quote from the article:

Google asserts that its use of the copyrighted books is "transformative," that its database turns a book into essentially a new product. "A key part of the line between what’s fair use and what’s not is transformation," Drummond said. "Yes, we’re making a copy when we digitize. But surely the ability to find something because a term appears in a book is not the same thing as reading the book. That’s why Google Books is a different product from the book itself." In other words, Google says that being able to search books on its site—which it describes as the equivalent of a giant library card catalogue—is not the same as making the books themselves available. But the publishers cite another factor in fair-use analysis: the amount of the copyrighted work that is used in the creation of the new one. Google is copying entire books, which doesn’t sound "fair" to the plaintiff publishers and authors.

Blackwell Synergy Based on Literatum Goes Live

Blackwell Publishing has released a new version of Blackwell Synergy, which utilizes Atypon’s Literatum software.

From the press release:

Blackwell Synergy enables its users to search 1 million articles from over 850 leading scholarly journals across the sciences, social sciences, humanities and medicine. The redesign provides easier navigation, faster loading times and improved access to tools for researchers, as well as meeting the latest accessibility standards (ADA section 508 and W3C’s WAI-AA).

Recently, the University of Chicago Press picked Atypon as a technology partner to provide an e-publishing platform for its online journals.

digitalculturebooks

The University of Michigan Press and the Scholarly Publishing Office of the University of Michigan Library, working together as the Michigan Digital Publishing Initiative, have established digitalculturebooks, which offers free access to digital versions of its published works (print works are fee-based). The imprint focuses on "the social, cultural, and political impact of new media."

The objectives of the imprint are to:

  • develop an open and participatory publishing model that adheres to the highest scholarly standards of review and documentation;
  • study the economics of Open Access publishing;
  • collect data about how reading habits and preferences vary across communities and genres;
  • build community around our content by fostering new modes of collaboration in which the traditional relationship between reader and writer breaks down in creative and productive ways.

Library Journal Academic Newswire notes in its article about digitalculturebooks:

While press officials use the term "open access," the venture is actually more "free access" than open at this stage. Open access typically does not require permission for reuse, only a proper attribution. UM director Phil Pochoda told the LJ Academic Newswire that, while no final decision has been made, the press’s "inclination is to ask authors to request the most restrictive Creative Commons license" for their projects. That license, he noted, requires attribution and would not permit commercial use, such as using it in a subsequent for-sale product, without permission. The Digital Culture Books web site currently reads that "permission must be received for any subsequent distribution."

The imprint’s first publication is The Best of Technology Writing 2006.

(Prior postings about digital presses.)

Has Authorama.com "Set Free" 100 Public Domain Books from Google Book Search?

In a posting on Google Blogoscoped, Philipp Lenssen has announced that he has put up 100 public domain books from Google Book Search on Authorama.

Regarding his action, Lenssen says:

In other words, Google imposes restrictions on these books which the public domain does not impose*. I’m no lawyer, and maybe Google can print whatever guidelines they want onto those books. . . and being no lawyer, most people won’t know if the guidelines are a polite request, or legally enforceable terms**. But as a proof of concept—the concept of the public domain—I’ve now ‘set free’ 100 books I downloaded from Google Book Search by republishing them on my public domain books site, Authorama. I’m not doing this out of disrespect for the Google Books program (which I think is cool, and I’ll credit Google on Authorama) but out of respect for the public domain (which I think is even cooler).

Since Lenssen has retained Google’s usage guidelines in the e-books, it’s unclear how they have been "set free," in spite of the following statement on Authorama’s Books from Google Book Search page:

The following books were downloaded from Google Book Search and are made available here as public domain. You can download, republish, mix and mash these books, for private or public, commercial or non-commercial use.

Leaving aside the above statement, Lenssen’s action appears to violate the following Google usage guideline, where Google asks that users:

Make non-commercial use of the files We designed Google Book Search for use by individuals, and we request that you use these files for personal, non-commercial purposes.

However, in the above guideline, Google uses the word "request," which suggests voluntary, rather than mandatory, compliance. Google also requests attribution and watermark retention.

Maintain attribution The Google ‘watermark’ you see on each file is essential for informing people about this project and helping them find additional materials through Google Book Search. Please do not remove it.

Note the use of the word "please."

It’s not clear how to determine if Google’s watermark remains in the Authorama files, but, given the retention of the usage guidelines, it likely does.

So, do Google’s public domain books really need to be "set free"? In its usage guidelines, Google appears to make compliance requests, not compliance requirements. Are such requests binding or not? If so, the language could be clearer. For example, here’s a possible rewording:

Make non-commercial use of the files Google Book Search is for individual use only, and its files can only be used for personal, non-commercial purposes. All other use is prohibited.

Will Self-Archiving Cause Libraries to Cancel Journal Subscriptions?

There has been a great deal of discussion of late about the impact of self-archiving on library journal subscriptions. Obviously, this is of great interest to journal publishers who do not want to wake up one morning, rub the sleep from their eyes, and find out over their first cup of coffee at work that libraries have en masse canceled subscriptions because a "tipping point" has been reached. Likewise, open access advocates do not want journal publishers to panic at the prospect of cancellations and try to turn back the clock on liberal self-archiving policies. So, this is not a scenario that any one wants, except those who would like to simply scrap the existing journal publishing system and start over with a digital tabula rosa.

So, deep breath: Is the end near?

This question hinges on another: Will libraries accept any substitute for a journal that does not provide access to the full, edited, and peer-reviewed contents of that journal?

If the answer is "yes," publishers better get out their survival kits and hunker down for the digital nuclear winter or else change business practices to embrace the new reality. Attempts to fight back by rolling back the clock may just make the situation worse: the genie is out of the bottle.

If the answer is "no," preprints pose no threat, but postprints may under some difficult to attain circumstances.

It is unlikely that a critical mass of author created postprints (i.e., author makes the preprint look like the postprint) will ever emerge. Authors would have to be extremely motivated to have this occur. If you don’t believe me, take a Word file that you submitted to a publisher and make it look exactly like the published article (don’t forget the pagination because that might be a sticking point for libraries). That leaves publisher postprints (generally PDF files).

For the worst to happen, every author of every paper published in a journal would have to self-archive the final publisher PDF file (or the publishers themselves would have to do it for the authors under mandates).

But would that be enough? Wouldn’t the permanence and stability of the digital repositories housing these postprints be of significant concern to libraries? If such repositories could not be trusted, then libraries would have to attempt to archive the postprints in question themselves; however, since postprints are not by default under copyright terms that would allow this to happen (e.g., they are not under Creative Commons Licenses), libraries may be barred from doing so. There are other issues as well: journal and issue browsing capabilities, the value-added services of indexing and abstracting services, and so on. For now, let’s wave our hands briskly and say that these are all tractable issues.

If the above problems were overcome, a significant one remains: publishers add value in many ways to scholarly articles. Would libraries let the existing system of journal publishing collapse because of self-archiving without a viable substitute for these value-added functions being in place?

There have been proposals for and experiments with overlay journals for some time, as well other ideas for new quality control strategies, but, to date, none have caught fire. Old-fashioned peer review, copy editing and fact checking, and publisher-based journal design and production still reign, even among the vast majority of e-journals that are not published by conventional publishers. In the Internet age, nothing technological stops tens of thousands of new e-journals using open source journal management software from blooming, but they haven’t so far, have they? Rather, if you use a liberal definition of open access, there are about 2,500 OA journals—a significant achievement; however, there are questions about the longevity of such journals if they are published by small non-conventional publishers such as groups of scholars (e.g., see "Free Electronic Refereed Journals: Getting Past the Arc of Enthusiasm"). Let’s face it—producing a journal is a lot of work, even a small journal that only publishes less than a hundred papers a year.

Bottom line: a perfect storm is not impossible, but it is unlikely.

Journal 2.0: PLoS ONE Beta Goes Live

The Public Library of Science has released a beta version of its innovative PLoS ONE journal.

Why innovative? First, it’s a multidisciplinary scientific journal, with published articles covering subjects that range from Biochemistry to Virology. Second, it’s a participative journal that allows registered users to annotate and initiate discussions about articles. Open commentary and peer-review have been previously implemented in some e-journals (e.g, see JIME: An Interactive Journal for Interactive Media), but PLoS ONE is the most visible of these efforts and, given PLoS’s reputation for excellence, it lends credibility to a concept that has yet to catch fire in the journal publishing world. A nice feature is the “Most Annotated” tab on the home page that highlights articles that have garnered reader commentary. Third, it’s an open access journal in the full sense of the term, with all articles under the least restrictive Creative Commons license, the Creative Commons Attribution License.

The beta site is a bit slow, probably due to significant interest, so expect some initial browsing delays.

Congratulations to PLoS on PLoS ONE. It’s journal worth keeping an eye on.

JSTOR to Offer Purchase of Articles by Individuals

Using a new purchase service, individuals will be able to purchase JSTOR articles for modest fees (currently $5.00 to $14.00) from publishers that participate in this service. JSTOR describes the service as follows:

An extension of JSTOR’s efforts to better serve scholars is a new article purchase service. This service is an opt-in program for JSTOR participating publishers and will enable them to sell single articles for immediate download. Researchers following direct links to articles will be presented with an option to purchase an article from the publisher if the publisher chooses to participate in this program and if the specific content requested is available through the program. The purchase option will only be presented if the user does not have access to the article. Prior to completing an article purchase users are prompted to first check the availability of the article through a local library or an institutional affiliation with JSTOR.

STARGATE Final Report and Tools

The STARGATE project has issued its final report. Here’s a brief summary of the project from the Executive Summary:

STARGATE (Static Repository Gateway and Toolkit) was funded by the Joint Information Systems Committee (JISC) and is intended to demonstrate the ease of use of the Open Archives Initiative Protocol for Metadata Harvesting (OAI-PMH) Static Repository technology, and the potential benefits offered to publishers in making their metadata available in this way This technology offers a simpler method of participating in many information discovery services than creating fully-fledged OAI-compliant repositories. It does this by allowing the infrastructure and technical support required to participate in OAI-based services to be shifted from the data provider (the journal) to a third party and allows a single third party gateway provider to provide intermediation for many data providers (journals).

To support the its work, the project developed tools and supporting documentation, which can be found below:

Under the Hood of PLoS ONE: The Open Source TOPAZ E-Publishing System

PLoS is building its innovative PLoS ONE e-journal, which will incorporate both traditional and open peer review, using the open source TOPAZ software. (For a detailed description of the PLoS ONE peer review process, check out "ONE for All: The Next Step for PLoS.")

What is TOPAZ? It’s Web site doesn’t provide specifics, but "PLoS ONE—Technical Background" by Richard Cave does:

The core of TOPAZ is a digital information repository called Fedora (Flexible Extensible Digital Object Repository Architecture). Fedora is an Open Source content management application that supports the creation and management of digital objects. The digital objects contain metadata to express internal and external relationships in the repository, like articles in a journal or the text, images and video of an article. This relationship metadata can also be search using a semantic web query languages. Fedora is jointly developed by Cornell University’s computer science department and the University of Virginia Libraries.

The metastore Kowari will be used with Fedora to support Resource Description Framework (RDF) http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Resource_Description_Framework metadata within the repository.

The PLoS ONE web interface will be built with AJAX. Client-side APIs will create the community features (e.g. annotations, discussion threads, ratings, etc.) for the website. As more new features are available on the TOPAZ architecture, we will launch them on PLoS ONE.

There was a TOPAZ Wiki at PLoS. It’s gone, but it’s pages are still cached by Google. The Wiki suggests that TOPAZ is likely to support Atom/RSS feeds, full-text search, and OAI-PMH among other possible features.

For information about other open source e-journal publishing systems, see "Open Source Software for Publishing E-Journals."

QuickTime Videos and PowerPoints from the Transforming Scholarly Communication Symposium

When I was chairing the Scholarly Communications Public Relations Task Force at the UH Libraries, the task force initiated a series of projects to increase awareness of key issues on the UH campus under the name "Transforming Scholarly Communication": a Website, a Weblog, and a symposium.

I’m pleased to announce that both the PowerPoint presentations and the QuickTime videos of the symposium speeches are now available. Thanks again to our speaker panel for participating in this event.

Ray English, Director of Libraries at Oberlin College and Chair of the SPARC Steering Committee, kicked things off with a talk on "The Crisis in Scholarly Communication" (PowerPoint, QuickTime Video, and "Sites and Cites for the Struggle: A Selective Scholarly Communication Bibliography").

Next, Corynne McSherry, Staff Attorney at the Electronic Frontier Foundation and author of Who Owns Academic Work?: Battling for Control of Intellectual Property, spoke on "Copyright in Cyberspace: Defending Fair Use" (PowerPoint and QuickTime Video).

Finally, Peter Suber, Research Professor of Philosophy at Earlham College, Senior Researcher at the Scholarly Publishing and Academic Resources Coalition (SPARC), and the Open Access Project Director at Public Knowledge, discussed "What Is Open Access?" (PowerPoint and QuickTime Video).

Rice University Press Publishes Its First Open Access Digital Document

The recently re-established Rice University Press, which was reborn as a digital press, has published its first e-report: Art History and Its Publications in the Electronic Age by Hilary Ballon (Professor and Director of Art Humanities at the Columbia University Department of Art History and Archaeology) and Mariet Westermann (Director and Professor at the Institute of Fine Arts, New York University).

The introduction notes:

Just as we were finishing our report, Rice University Press announced that it would re-launch itself as a fully electronic press with a special commitment to art history. We were delighted to find Rice willing to partner with the Council on Library and Information Resources (CLIR) to publish our report electronically, with the kinds of hyper-linking, response capability, and print-on-demand options we consider vital to the success of scholarly publication on line. At Rice University Press, Chuck Henry, Chuck Bearden, and Kathi Fletcher generously steered us through the technological and legal process. We received enthusiastic support at CLIR from Susan Perry, Michael Ann Holly, Kathlin Smith, and Ann Okerson.

Like all digital works to be published by the press, this one is under a Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 license. At this time, it does not appear that a print-on-demand version of the work is available from Rice University Press.