On Publishing Conflicts

The thirty-fourth day of #stayathome was spent mostly focused on copyright issues surrounding a successfully defended dissertation. The good news is that the dissertation was not only an academic success but was already under contract with a university press. The bad news was that the university press used a terrible boilerplate contract and the dissertation had received incorrect information from university personnel. (This happened prior to me coming on board as chair of the dissertation.)

This has resulted in something of an impasse: the press claims complete copyright for the manuscript and the university requires that the manuscript be submitted to ProQuest. Now the rules of ProQuest are that copyright remain with the author, but ProQuest still offers the option of buying a copy of the submitted manuscript, so they are in fact able to make copies. A ten-year embargo is possible, but it’s not clear if the university press is likely to budge. The university uses ProQuest because as a public university it feels that knowledge created here should be publicly available. The mandate comes down to a sentence in one document and a sentence in another.

The big picture is easy: the university’s mandate is to make public the knowledge it produces. In being published as a book, the dissertation accomplishes that and more: it will be more widely available, and at a cheaper price, than it would in ProQuest. The publisher’s mandate is to maximize the profitability of publishing this book. This can be accomplished by the ProQuest embargo — surely, the principal profit in the book will be in its first ten years!

The takeaways are many:

  1. For dissertators: read all the fine print at your institution. Do not depend on anyone’s advice unless they are, one, in a position to give it, and, two, they give it to you in writing.
  2. For all dissertations, and really all academic authors: read the contract. (More on this below.)
  3. For university presses: revise your contracts to be human.

In addition to the inflexible guidelines maintained by the university, there is the inflexibility of the contract. The particular press here is not alone. I’ve seen similar language in other contracts, and, indeed, when the press that published The Amazing Crawfish Boat first sent me a contract, it looked like this. Here’s the thing: I revised the contract, sent it back, and they were fine with the revisions. Here are the revisions I would suggest:

  • Copyright: Depending upon the severity of the contract, most presses want the copyright to your book. Some will recognize that there’s a span of time, but many will not or they will use the fuzziest of notions: that they maintain copyright “so long as the book remains in print.” Here’s the thing: in the digital era, books remain in print forever. The cost of maintaining an ebook approaches zero, and with print-on-demand, a publisher need not keep inventory of a book. I recommend you strike this out and change this to a flat “ten years or when the book goes out of print, whichever comes first.”
  • Derivative Works: Publishers like to act like they are going to do all kinds of things, but they aren’t. They are going to publish the book. Unless they have committed to publishing an audiobook version, then you should maintain that right. Also, if you plan to publish follow-on work or companion works, which should actually help to drive sales of the original, be sure to maintain that right. (The changes in wording here will depend on the contract.)
  • Subsidiary Rights: I think it’s fair to allow a publisher to keep whatever percentage, usually it’s half (50%), of the proceeds of subsequent print versions of the book, but I would cross out the clause involving other adaptations (video, audio, whatever). Also, the clause that says something like “we get half of net proceeds from anything not specifically set out in this paragraph”? Cross that out, too.

As you can probably tell, much of this language is drawn from industry presses and university presses have simply adopted it whole cloth because, in being oppressive, it works entirely in their favor. In my experience, having a conversation is pretty easy: common sense works here. Too many academic authors, especially first-time authors, are so excited about their book getting published or so worried that should they ask a question or request a change in the contract that the publisher is going to suddenly change their mind about publishing the book. No sensible press would: they have invested time and energy in lining up the manuscript for their press. They are not going to suddenly throw up their hands and yell: “That’s it! We’re out!” They are simply going to say “No.”

What you rights you are comfortable giving to them and for how long and with how much of the possible revenue … well, that’s ultimately a decision you alone can make. All I am suggesting is that you think about it, at least some, before signing your name.

Randy Schekman Responds to His Critics

For those who don’t know who Schekman is, use the search feature, for those of you who are somewhat familiar with Schekman, here’s a link to his response to the feedback he has gotten so far: [Ars Technica coverage][at] — which appears to be taken from _The Conversation_.

For those who don’t want to RTFA, the four points below seem to be central to his program:

1. Academics who serve a role in research assessment could shun all use of journal names and impact factors as a surrogate measure of quality. New practices and processes must be devised and shared so that we can rapidly move forward. My Berkeley colleague Michael Eisen has added an important point: we must speak up in appointment and funding committees when we hear others use journal names this way. Here we need peer pressure as much as we need peer review.
2. Researchers applying for positions, funding, and tenure should avoid any mention of impact factors in their applications or CVs. Article metrics might have a role to play, but narrative explanations of research significance and accomplishments would be more helpful.
3. Funders, universities, and other institutions should make it clear to their review committees that journal brand cannot be used as a proxy for scientific quality. If reviewers object, they should find different reviewers.
4. Many of us serve as editors or editorial board members of journals—and we could insist that the publishers of these journals stop promoting impact factors. Instead, the journals could emphasise the other valuable services they provide to authors and readers to promote their worth to the community.

[at]: http://arstechnica.com/science/2013/12/nobel-laureate-break-free-from-the-stifling-grip-of-luxury-journals/

The Copyright Valley

> Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I fear no evil. (Psalm 23:4)

Some are calling it “the copyright hole”, but I think the copyright valley describes the graph’s appearance, especially when you mash it up with Psalm 23 (above):

The graph, based on recent research using Amazon's database, reveals the drop in sales of texts published between the years 1910 and 1990.

The Copyright Valley

_The Atlantic_ has [the report][], with a link to [the study][].

[the report]: http://www.theatlantic.com/technology/archive/2013/07/the-hole-in-our-collective-memory-how-copyright-made-mid-century-books-vanish/278209/
[the study]: http://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=2290181

More on University Presses

Jennifer Howard of the CHE attended the annual meeting of the American Association of University Presses and [reported][] on some of the more provocative things being said and discussed at the meeting. Apparently there was a lot of talk around some points made by Ian Bogost — check out the links in the article for more — but I was mostly struck by the fact that I’ve heard many similar things by smart publishers already. I’ll even go so far as to say that I think someone like Craig Gill at University Press of Mississippi is already trying to think about much of what’s mentioned in Howard’s report. I have no idea if he was at the meeting, but I hope the two eventually compare notes. (Note to Howard: I bet I’m not alone in wanting more dispatches from the meeting.)

[reported]: http://chronicle.com/blogs/wiredcampus/big-ideas-and-a-microrant-for-university-presses/44585

Edwin Mellen Press Doesn’t Like It When You Call Them a Vanity Press

Inside Higher Ed has [coverage][] of Edwin Mellen Press filing suit against an academic librarian for a blog post from two years ago. One wonders if the good folks at Mellen Press have heard of the [Streisand effect][]?

[coverage]: http://www.insidehighered.com/news/2013/02/08/academic-press-sues-librarian-raising-issues-academic-freedom
[Streisand effect]: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Streisand_effect

Microtome

Speaking of publishing, [Microtome Publishing](http://mtome.com/) bills itself as “publishing services in support of open access to the scholarly literature.” From the about page:

> Microtome Publishing was founded in 2002 by Stuart M. Shieber on the premise that scholarly publishing should have different goals from traditional publishing; works that have been written without consideration for monetary gain by the authors should be disseminated to the greatest number for the lowest cost to the greater good of all. To that end, Microtome publishes monographs using nonstandard distribution methods such as making its books available at no cost in digital form. Microtome publishes print versions of open access journals to provide for efficient and cost-effective archiving of freely available journal materials.

Free and Open Source Journal Management Software

A list of free and open-source journal management software from the [Open Access Directory](http://oad.simmons.edu/oadwiki/Free_and_open-source_journal_management_software).

* Ambra. Formerly part of Topaz (below), but forked.
* CLEO Various tools related to revues.org and Lodel (see Lodel below) can be found in this site. In French.
* DiVA. From the the Electronic Publishing Centre at Uppsala University Library.
* DPubS. From Cornell University Library and Pennsylvania State University Libraries and Press.
* E-Journal. From Drupal.
* ePublishing Toolkit. From the Max Planck Gesellschaft.
* GAPworks. From German Academic Publishers (GAP).
* HyperJournal. From the University of Pisa.
* Lodel is the publishing software behind Revues.org.
* OpenACS
* Open Journal Systems. From the Public Knowledge Project.
* SOPS. From SciX.
* Topaz. From the Public Library of Science. Also see Ambra, above.

The Scholarly Publishing and Academic Resources Coalition also maintains a list of [Journal Management Systems](http://www.arl.org/sparc/publisher/journal_management.shtml).

[James Wharris has a thoughtful post](http://jameswharris.wordpress.com/2012/03/24/what-is-the-kindle-doing-to-the-science-fiction-genre/) on how the Kindle is changing what science fiction gets read. There’s been a lot of discussion lately — Google it — on the rise of self-published authors, the bundling of public domain works, and how established authors and established publishers are responding to the dynamic publishing landscape. Wharris’ focus on one genre allows him to be a lot less shrill about the whole matter.

[Open Book Publishers](http://www.openbookpublishers.com/). Someone from the Open Access publishing Zotero group sent me an invite and then sent me a link to this site. Interesting. I have to assume that Jason Jackson knows about this, but I’ll drop him a note anyway.

→ Nicholas Carr: Why publishers should give away ebooks

Carr’s argument is, in part, that the music industry is already doing this: buy the atoms (the physical copy) get the bits (the digital copy). It is also, in part, the sense that many of us have: why do I have to pay twice for the same content?

I am a big fan of both [Pragmatic Programmers][pp] and [O’Reilly][op] because both will bundle bits with atoms, or atoms with bits, for a discount that varies by title. In fact, O’Reilly deserves an especial tip of the hat for their recent move to make buying eBook versions of some of my shelf favorites so easy and so affordable. ($5 for a number of my favorite titles.)

Sometimes I want paper, sometimes I want my phone or my Kindle or my computer. The publishers that give me that choice will quickly become my favorites. (And so I am buying more books from [O’Reilly][op] in particular.)

[pp]: http://pragprog.com/
[op]: http://oreilly.com/

No, Amazon, I don’t want to have to pay to subscribe to only those blogs you have approved and priced yourself so that I can read those blogs on *my* Kindle. (Remember, I bought the device *from* you. The prepositional operation is important there.) I am thus thankful for Dan Choi and his [KindleFeeder][kf] service. KF is not perfect — it doesn’t recognize quite a number of blogs which I like to read on occasion — but it does gather up a good assortment of blogs that I would like to have pushed to me.

[kf]: http://kindlefeeder.com/

Tim O’Reilly on Piracy, Tinkering, and the Future of the Book

O’Reilly is someone I admire deeply. He is an amazing thinker and perhaps one of the few folks out there who really deserve the label “visionary.” I especially appreciate remarks like this:

> At O’Reilly the way we think about our business is that we’re not a publisher; we’re not a conference producer; we’re a company that helps change the world by spreading the knowledge of innovators.

Scholarly Electronic Publishing Bibliography presents selected English-language articles, books, and other printed and electronic sources that are useful in understanding scholarly electronic publishing efforts on the Internet. The bibliography covers a wide range of topics, such as digital copyright, digital libraries, digital preservation, digital repositories, e-books, e-journals, license agreements, metadata, and open access.

Glimpse Journal

Fellow folklorist Lisa Gabbert has an essay in Glimpse. A free, full-screen preview of the journal is available, but that does not include all of her essay. The journal appears to be a good size and is full-color. It looks great. I like that her essay explores onomastics with a non-scholarly audience. (I am not, to be clear, exactly sure who the audience for Glimpse is, but I like that they are trying something like this.)