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Two Reasons to Love the University of Nebraska Press @UnivNebPress

Visitors to this site will know that I am involved in a range of projects relating to reform in the scholarly communication system. University presses are a key part of that system. They bring to the current moment a lot of durable skills, values, and useful practices and they have the potential to play a key role in innovating the future.

In this note, I want to put on my author hat and celebrate two modest practices–one a tradition and the other an innovation–in the work of the University of Nebraska Press, the press that I have historically worked most closely with.

Part One: Some Things Never Go Out of Style

As an editor of a small scholarly journal with a reviews program, I spend a lot of time with what used to be called (and sometimes still are called) tear sheets. The term’s origins are in commercial advertising, but it extends logically to journal-based publishing of things like book reviews. When a publisher sends a new book to a journal in the hopes that it will be reviewed, it asks (among other things) that a journal that actually does publish a review send a copy of the final published review to the press’ attention. In the older days (and, in some cases, still today) the obligation was to send two (sometimes more) paper copies of the review to the press’ attention. These days, this task is most often accomplished electronically by sending a PDF of the published review to the attention of the relevant press’ marketing staff. The old name tear sheet refers to actual sheets of paper (with advertisements to send to buyers or reviews to send to publishers) torn from the relevant print edition so that they could then be mailed. (BTW: Shame on those journals who do not live up to their end of this bargain.)

When the reviews get to the press, there are a number of things that can be done with them. It is common for them to be harvested for favorable quotes that get added to a book’s page on the press’ website. In more elaborate operations, such quotes get pushed out to sites like Amazon. A acquisitions editor can use the incoming reviews to guide the development of their “list.” In aggregate, reviews tell editors what kinds of works (and which authors) are being well received. Such intellectual indicators complement quantitative measures as sales numbers.

At the University of Nebraska Press a tradition that many other presses have abandoned is also maintained. It is one that promotes tremendous goodwill with authors and, by extension, furthers the press’ reputation among potential authors. Judging by my experience (I have never discussed the practice with UNP staff.), the UNP marketing staff forwards incoming reviews to authors for their interest and use. Even in an era of such things as Google Alerts, this is a tremendous help to authors. In the wake of the publication of Yuchi Ceremonial Life, copies of these reviews–neatly annotated by press staff with date and place of publication–were mailed to me as they came in. Today, via email, I got from the press a PDF copy of the Chronicle of Higher Education book note appearing in the wake of Yuchi Indian Histories Before the Removal Era. This is such a wonderful courtesy. If the new (edited) book is reviewed, I will really appreciate learning of this from the press. Even today, not all journals are richly woven into the digital infrastructure and thus the press will sometimes know of a review before I will. When I mention that UNP does this for authors, all my colleagues are jealous, as few of them have experienced such attention from the presses with which they work. This service is especially valuable to pre-tenure scholars for whom reviews are a crucial resource in route to their tenure cases.

In a time in which academic author have new choices, old courtesies like this can go a long way in maintaining strong relationships with authors.

Part Two: New Things Done the Right Way

Increasingly, university presses aim to promote awareness of their titles by making sample chapters available for free via their websites. This is an inevitable outgrowth of broader practices, such as the views inside books available on sites like Amazon. Typically university presses simply (and it is not exactly simple, of course) make this material available as a PDF download from inside the press’ website on the book’s page. This is a logical thing to do, but it is also a very temporary thing to do, as press websites (like most websites) are very unstable and ephemeral things. They are breeding grounds for link rot and they just do not measure up as preservation environments.

If a press is going to let a sample chapter loose into the digital world, it should do this in a way that advances all of the goals of scholarly communication. This means that if content is going to be freely available, it should be made freely available according to professional best practices. This means curated carefully in a digital environment with attention directed to preservation, metadata, stable URLs, etc.

Kudos and thanks, in this context, to the University of Nebraska Press for working with DigitalCommons @ University of Nebraska-Lincoln (the university’s institutional repository) to make such samples permanently and properly available (with a great cover sheet and good metadata) for the long haul.. I was happy to learn about this effort when I found the introduction to Yuchi Indian History Before the Removal Era deposited there. As such samples clearly generate sales, these practices are self-interested as well as in the interest of the public good.

In a word, thanks to everyone at the University of Nebraska Press for your work to preserve what is good about university presses while we discover new paths forward.

On a Newly Published Book and a Forthcoming Paper

As noted previously here at Shreds and Patches, a paper of mine is forthcoming in the Journal of American Folklore. Today is one of those days that scholars dread: discovering–too late–the work of another scholar that deals exactly with the matters taken up in a work of their own that is now fixed in print, precluding acknowledgement of the newly discovered source. Here is the story.

Building upon an aside in my dissertation (Bloomington: Indiana University, 1997) and my book Yuchi Ceremonial Life (Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 2003), my forthcoming article (“The Story of Colonialism, or Rethinking the Ox-hide Purchase in Native North America and Beyond”) is based on a lecture composed for a conference–Colonization and Narrative Migrations: Legends of Occupation from the Mediterranean to the Americas–organized by the Center for Folklore Studies at the Ohio State University and held December 12, 2005. After being presented at the American Folklore Society meetings (October 19, 2006) and to the Department of Anthropology at the University of Oklahoma (January 26, 2007), the paper was revised and submitted to the Journal of American Folklore on May 27, 2011. Following peer-review and acceptance (July 10, 2011) by the journal’s editors, a final author’s version was submitted on July 30, 2011. At this time, a projected publication date was set for early 2013. On August 5, 2011, I posted (in accord with JAF author rights policies) a open access version of the paper here on my website.

I received the copy edited manuscript on August 13, 2012 and the page proofs on November 2, 2012. On Wednesday, November 21, 2012, I recieved, in my role as editor of Museum Anthropology Review, a review copy of Andrew Newman’s On Records: Delaware Indians, Colonists, and the Media of History and Memory (Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 2012). On seeing this volume for the first time, I noticed that it covered much of the same territory addressed in my article. Interested in learning more about the author and his work, I then consulted his professional webpage and learned that the specific section of the book overlapping with my article was also presented in his contribution (“Closing the Circle: Mapping a Native Account of Colonial Land Fraud”) to the volume Early American Cartographies edited by Martin Brückner (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2011). The University of North Carolina Press website shows this volume as having been published in December 2011 (after my paper was in press).

I regret not knowing that Andrew Newman was pursuing work on these materials and issues concurrently with me. Had I known of his work in time to do so, I would have certainly incorporated it into my final version. The case offers an interesting opportunity to consider what two scholars at work independently and contemporaneously can make of the same set of cultural materials.

Congratulations to Professor Newman (and the University of Nebraska Press) on the publication of his new book.

Yuchi Indian Histories Before the Removal Era

There has been a real posting drought lately here at Shreds and Patches. In part this is due to a hyper abundance of matters worthy of posting about. So much has been going on that there has not been time to write about it all. With this note, I want to announce just one of these current events.

This month the University of Nebraska Press has published Yuchi Indian Histories Before the Removal Era. I am the editor of this book, but the real stars are (1) the remarkable Euchee/Yuchi people whose stories the book begins to uncover and (2) the nine talented, generous scholars who joined me in this undertaking. I want to thank them, the University of Nebraska Press, and the Euchee (Yuchi) Tribe of Indians for supporting this project and for being patient with me as I pushed it slowly along to publication. I have hope that the book will be useful scholars and students and, especially, to the Euchee/Yuchi community whose interests and goals prompted us to try to put it together.

One nice thing is that the press issued the book in paperback rather than in hardback, thus the price is more modest than is often the case with scholarly books. The book is also available from Amazon in a Kindle-friendly edition. (I have not checked this out myself yet.) If the book generates any royalties, all of these will be paid by the press directly to the Euchee (Yuchi) Tribe of Indians for its use in historical and cultural preservation work.

Thanks again to all of the participants in this project.

ACLS Publishes 2011 Haskins Prize Lecture by Henry Glassie in Print and Video [Free Online]

The American Council of Learned Societies (ACLS) has published the textual and video versions of the 2011 Haskins Prize Lecture by Henry Glassie, College Professor of Folklore Emeritus at Indiana University Bloomington. “Named for the first chairman of ACLS, the Charles Homer Haskins Prize Lecture has as its theme “A Life of Learning.” The lecturer is asked “to reflect on a lifetime of work as a scholar and an institution builder, on the motives, the chance determinations, the satisfactions (and dissatisfactions) of the life of learning, to explore through one’s own life the larger, institutional life of scholarship.”” Professor Glassie delivered his Life of Learning lecture during a meeting of the ACLS in Washington, DC on May 6, 2011. The first folklorist recognized with the Haskins Prize, Professor Glassie was preceded in the lectureship by many scholars of distinction, including William Labov, Clifford Geertz, Natalie Zemon Davis, John Hope Franklin, and Mary R. Haas.

Congratulations again to my friend, colleague, and teacher Henry Glassie on this remarkable honor.

AFS Releases Lay and Expert Knowledge Project Reports #oaweek

In time for Open Access Week, the American Folklore Society and the Center for Folklore Studies at The Ohio State University have just made available a collection of reports and working papers derived from the Society’s project on Lay and Expert Knowledge in a Complex Society. This two-year project was funded by the Teagle Foundation as part of its “Big Questions and the Disciplines” program and focused examined undergraduate teaching of folklore in the contemporary world.

These materials are available now as volume 2 of the series Working Papers of the Center for Folklore Studies under the editorship of PIs Dorothy Noyes and Timothy Lloyd. This working paper series is made available through the OSU KnowledgeBank (the OSU institutional repository) and are harvested for search (OAI-PMH interoperability!) through the Open Folklore portal.

It has been an honor to participate in this project and I am super happy that first rate open access strategies are being used to make the work more accessible.

Loans and Books: Two Brief Observations Made During the Student Debt Revolt

Many excellent graduate students with whom I have the honor of working receive only modest or no assistantship or fellowship aid. Historically, many have supported themselves in part during graduate school with government-backed student loans. This has always been a source of anxiety for me, but matters grew worse for U.S. students earlier this year when the major federal loan program changed its structure so that graduate students receiving such loans must begin paying them back immediately rather than after graduation. For students studying in the world in which I work, such a scenario is hardly possible. Even students with assistantships are just above the poverty line.

Meanwhile, more and more excellent scholarly resources ideal for the training of these students are being produced. But they are on the market at a price that no starving graduate student can afford and at which most professors would feel guilty assigning them. This reoccurring thought returned to me when I noted the publication of a very impressive looking ethnobiology textbook. It was also on my mind when I spoke last week to an editor of what promises to be the absolutely essential handbook for folklore studies. That volume will be rich beyond measure, but at 680 pages and 29 cents per page how will any of us afford to purchase it? If my library can afford it, I plan to sit and read it cover to cover in the stacks. Excellent scholars are producing excellent work, but the business model fails us, or at least our students.

A glimmer of hope came during the #AFS11 meetings. A group of folklorists have begun discussions aimed at creating an free and open access textbook for undergraduate folklore studies. One possible publication platform being discussed is connexions centered at Rice University. Hopefully folklore studies can become a leading field in the cultivation of Open Educational Resources. I cannot see how we can continue down the path that we are heading.

Book News: Yuchi Indian Histories Before the Removal Era

I just discovered a nice sign of progress on a long simmering book project for which I am the editor. (Its long simmering status was my fault, not that of the authors or publisher.) Yuchi Indian Histories Before the Removal Era is presently being copy-edited by The University of Nebraska Press. I am looking forward to reviewing the edited manuscript next month. Looking for something else, I was pleased, just now, to discover that the book now has a page on the UNP website. I had not know the format that the press was going to choose, so I am very pleased to see that it is slated to appear in paper. Thanks to everyone who has worked on this project. More news here as it develops.

On Museum Anthropology Review

I am very happy to report that the final material for Museum Anthropology Review 5(1-2) was published today, bringing the 2011 volume/issues to a close.

This was the first time that an issue was published with an initial bundle of content and then added to as the year progressed. This represents a kind of transitional strategy bridging older journal publishing norms, in which an issue is prepared and then released into the world as a fully prepared bundle, and the newer pattern in which content is prepared and released into the world as soon as it is ready, item by item. The older pattern has certain hallmarks that many are still fond of, including sequentially paginated pages (in paper-like PDF format) and a table of contents in which articles appear at the top and reviews appear at the bottom. For authors, this format makes for objects that look familiar (to custom-minded observers) on such things as C.V. and annual reports. The cost, of course, is delay in publication, as works pile up in preparation for being bundled up as issues.

The newer approaches leverages the advantages of digital publication platforms and get information in circulation as quickly as possible, something that helps the research community in many ways.

MAR is moving from the older to the newer framework and will probably use the approach adopted for volume 5 again at least for volume 6 next year. This means that volume 6(1) will appear as soon as possible and will initially contain a group of materials from the “top” of the table of contents. Additional reviews will be added to the issue’s table of contents up until the point that additional articles or other content from the top of the table of contents are ready. At that point the effort will switch over to issue 6(2).

Publishing a combined “1-2″ issue for 2011 was a valuable step for me personally–beyond these considerations. It allowed me a bit more time this summer to work on other projects, something that I have sorely needed to do. While I had the help of a wonderful graduate student/editorial assistant through the middle of 2010, last academic year (2010-2011) was the first in which I handled the day to day editorial tasks on my own. This was fun and informative, of course, but there is only so much time in the day and it was nice to be able to focus this past summer on other obligations. The combined issue helped make that possible.

From a substantive point of view, 5(1-2) is full of interesting stuff and I am very thankful to the many authors, peer-reviewers, librarians, editorial board members, publishers, and other friends of MAR who have made it possible.

At 154 pages volume 5 is only #4 of 5 in terms of page length, but with 42 discrete contributions it covers a lot of interesting territory, from Captain Cook to the alternative globalization movement; from the history of shoes to the material realities of the current economic crisis. As has been true throughout the MAR experiment, contributions cover a wide diversity of world regions and theoretical, topical, and disciplinary concerns. I am especially proud of the ways that the journal continues to showcase work by the most distinguished senior scholars–generous colleagues such as Richard Bauman, Keith Hart, Marsha MacDowell, Edward T. Linenthal, and Aldona Jonaitis–alongside leading younger scholars, including folks like Karin Zitzewitz, Beth A. Buggenhagen, Elizabeth Hutchinson and so many others. I am also happy that the journal brings together, in what I think is a healthy way, the twinned and entwined concerns that are its focus—museum studies and material culture studies. Rooted in anthropology and folklore studies, MAR has been an effective meeting ground for scholars working in a great many fields. Alongside its folklorists and anthropologists, 5(1-2) features scholars representing the fields of comparative literature, history, art history, fashion studies, architecture, design, communications studies, and religious studies. This diversity is a great strength.

Also speaking to the journal’s diversity aspirations, 5(1-2) was the second issue to feature content in a language other than English. MAR 4(1) had included both French and English versions of Christian Bromberger’s commentrary on the Musée du Quai Branly and now, with 5(1-2) MAR has published a book review concurrently in Portuguese and English. Thanks go to author Lori Hall-Araujo and translator Roberta Crelier for the work on Lori’s review of Mestre Vitalino e artistas pernambucanos.

In conclusion, I wish to especially thank the authors of the issue’s peer-reviewed articles. Richard Bauman’s “Better than any monument”: Envisioning Museums of the Spoken Word is a great contribution to the history of the field, exploring the intersections of linguistic anthropology and museum anthropology. The paper continues his vital research work on the social history of early recording technologies and their intellectual and cultural ramifications. Thanks go to Carrie Hertz’ for her Costuming Potential: Accommodating Unworn Clothes. The article is a rich contribution to contemporary material culture studies, particularly relating to questions of consumption, circulation, reuse, and disposal.

The submission mailbox is always open. Please consider Museum Anthropology Review as a robust not-for-profit, gold open access publishing option for your work in museum and material culture studies.

On Hacking the Academy #hackacad

I am very pleased to note that the edited book version of Hacking the Academy appeared online today. The online version lives on a site built by the volume’s publisher Digital Culture Books, an imprint of the University of Michigan Press. The volume has been edited by Dan Cohen and Tom Scheinfeldt, both of the Center for History and New Media. It is based on contributions submitted during one week–May 21-28, 2010.

I am very pleased to have been included in this volume and I want to thank the editors, the publisher, and all those who supported the project, including the many readers and cheerleaders who offered encouragement to the effort.

My chapter in the volume is based on an essay that originally appeared on this site (where the longer, older version can still be found). In the book, it is the first chapter of the “Hacking Scholarship” section. As with the earlier version, it is titled “Getting Yourself Out of the Business in Five Easy Steps” and it offers an argument for withdrawing, where possible, from entanglements with commercial academic publishing in favor of lending energy, support, and resources to the strengthening of the existing public-sector scholarly communications system and to the building of a more democratic, ethical, sustainable, and open one for the future. It thus relates directly to my more recent post on the enclosure of scholarly journals in anthropology (and to other things that I do, including working on the Open Folklore project and editing Museum Anthropology Review.

I am so thankful to everyone who has engaged not only with the essay but with me in the larger work of understanding and reshaping the ways scholars share their work with the world. The biggest shout out of all, in this regards, goes to my colleagues at the Indiana University Libraries and the IUScholarWorks program. They have been my teachers and tremendous partners in the work. They are awesome!

The old-fashioned version of Hacking the Academy will be published next year. Find the online version here: http://www.digitalculture.org/hacking-the-academy/

Dan Cohen’s reflections on the project can be found online here: http://www.dancohen.org/2011/09/08/some-thoughts-on-the-hacking-the-academy-process-and-model/

Preprint: The Story of Colonialism, or Rethinking the Ox-hide Purchase in Native North America and Beyond

It will be more than a year and a half before my paper on the ox-hide purchase story is published in the Journal of American Folklore. Since my revisions are now complete, I am happy to temporarily post a preprint here. I am a big advocate for institutional repositories such as IUScholarWorks Repository and my fellow repository boosters may wonder why I have not (as I so often preach) placed the preprint there. In this case, the American Folklore Society is transitioning to a new author agreement that will, when the time comes, allow me to post the final published version to IUSW. For that reason, I am making the preprint available in a way that will be easy to take down once the paper is published.

This is a paper that many great people helped me work on over many years. To all of them, thank you!

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