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Posts from the ‘OA Books’ Category

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.

Open Research and Learning: Collaboration, Connections, and Communities

I am very happy to be again visiting the University of Minnesota in the Twin Cities. Over the weekend, I participated in a wonderful conference on the “Anthropology of Performance” organized by the industrious undergraduate students in the Department of Anthropology here. The conference included work in all four of anthropology’s four sub-fields, plus folklore studies and social psychology. The student presentations were outstanding. The number of soon to finish students reporting on nearly complete senior theses was amazing and the quality of their research and presentations was very impressive. Congratulations to the students and to the faculty and advisers who are supporting them.

Today I get to reconnect with my friends at the library here. I will be participating in a very promising event on “Open Research and Learning: Collaboration, Connections, and Communities.” The event includes an amazing group of people. David Ernst, Director of Academic Technology in the UM College of Education and Human Development will discuss open textbooks. Astronomer Lucy Fortson will discuss open data, and University of Minnesota Press Director Doug Armato will discuss open publishing projects at the press. Copyright librarian Nancy Sims–whom you should certainly be following on Twitter (@CopyrightLibn)–will be the moderator. I will be talking about the ways that open access projects foster richer forms of scholarly collaboration. I am really looking forward to it and I am thankful that the kind invitation from the anthropology students has allowed me to reconnect with the scholarly communications community at Minnesota. Thank you to all of the faculty and researchers who have signed up for today’s event. Information on the event is online here.

Open Access Interview Part Two @savageminds

Thanks again to Ryan Anderson for working with me on an interview exploring the basic issues relating to open access in anthropology and folklore. The second part of three has now been published on Savage Minds. As always I appreciate Savage Minds for hosting such considerations of these issues.

Interview on Open Access @savageminds

Thank you very much to anthropologist Ryan Anderson for inviting me to do an interview on open access issues in anthropology. He has begun publishing it on Savage Minds and re-broadcasting it on his weblog ethnografix. Ryan is also one of the organizers of the online anthropology magazine anthropologies. The current issue focuses on Appalachia and includes essays by Britteny M. Howell, Ann Kingsolver, Tammy L. Clemons, Shaunna L. Scott, Amanda Fickey and Lynne Rieske-Kinney, and Sarah Raskin. Check it out.

Follow Ryan on Twitter at @ethnografix

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.

On the Harvesting of Low Hanging Fruit #oaweek

In disciplinary contexts, community discussions of open access and related issues in scholarly communications often get bogged down and then stall out. The reasons for this seem to me to be many. For example, participants rooted in their own particular discipline often guess about the meanings attached to key terms rather than finding, and then working from, common definitions established outside their own fields. Similarly, they often approach the various issues as if their subject area was the first, or only, field confronting these issues. In this spirit, considerable effort is then devoted to reinventing the wheel. Beyond the simple fact that the issues are really complicated and can be approached from a large number of perspectives, another problem stems from an all or nothing sensibility. The largest or most intractable problem is often quickly put on the table for consideration and proceeds to becomes a conversation stopper.

Its this last dynamic that I would like to briefly address. Put simply, we do not have to solve the most difficult problems first. Instead, we can search out and harvest the low hanging fruit. Low hanging fruit is easy and inexpensive to gather. Gathering it, we learn and gain experiences (and buy time) that will allow us, eventually, to tackle bigger challenges on the basis of experience gained and lessons learned. When we spend little or no time/money pursuing the smaller, easier prospects, we put less at risk and we can afford to learn from our mistakes. A single fall out of the top of a tree can be catastrophic. Standing on the ground, we can usually stumble and fall countless times without doing ourselves any great harm.

It is in the spirit of making progress in the harvesting of low hanging fruit–wherein significant good can be done in an easy and inexpensive way–that I recently suggested a way in which the conference programs and abstracts of the American Anthropological Association could be made freely available online to all interested users as part of the HathiTrust Digital Library. My recent suggestion of this strategy was offered as small part of an important discussion of the future of the AAA publishing program that was begun on the AAA weblog. It can be found there attached to the first of two posts by Michael F. Brown. The first (on which I commented) can be found here and a second post, dealing with the expense picture for the total AAA publishing program, is here.

Starting with the easier and less risky tasks is also the strategy underpinning the American Folklore Society/Indiana University Bloomington Libraries’ joint project called Open Folklore. Now entering its second year, most of the progress that the project has made so far could be understood as gathering low hanging fruit. What is exciting is that if enough such modest efforts are pursued concurrently, they add up to results that are definitely not a small matter.

Readers interested in looking at the basket into which a large amount of low hanging fruit has been gathered, can consult the project reports of the Open Folklore project. Over the course of three narrative accounts–the first offered at launch, the second offered at the six month mark, and the most recent at the twelve month point–a large diversity of open access accomplishments are described. In and of themselves, each represents a relatively modest resource and a readily accomplished task. Taken together, they represent significant progress towards the goal of making folklore studies a more accessible discipline. No make-or-break revenue streams were harmed in the making of the Open Folklore portal and the work that has been accomplished is as robustly and professionally preserved as is possible in the year 2011.

Like all scholarly societies confronting these questions, the AFS faces giant uncertainties in the years and decades ahead. There are many questions that will eventually need to be faced. For instance, will it ever be possible to make The Journal of American Folklore accessible in a gold OA fashion? Probably, but the pathway to getting there is hardly clear and, for the present, solving the riddles of revenue, expense and organizational sustainability in that context is too big a task. My argument is that there are other ways to make steady progress that do not require us to take on excessive risk or to immediately untie the tightest, most complicated knots.

I encourage interested anthropologists to join the conversation that Michael F. Brown is hosting at the AAA weblog. Folklorists with thoughts on the future of scholarly communications in our field are invited to comment here or to write to me privately.

This post reflects my own thinking on the questions that it addresses and should not be read as an official statement by any of the organizations or projects with which I am associated.

Open Access Week + Occupy Scholarly Communications #occupyscholcomm #oaweek

My job is eating my lunch at present so I have not yet had time to engage properly with open access week, which began today (well, yesterday since it just passed midnight where I am). Learn more from the Open Access Week website here ( ) and by searching “Open Access Week” on the open web and by looking for “open access week” and “#oaweek” on Twitter. Thankfully many good folks are working hard to get the word out.

If you think that the Occupy Wall Street (etc.) folks have anything like a point in their concerns about the unsustainable nature of the status quo or the need to acknowledge the influence that a small number of large corporations have in our lives and work, then the open access movement, together with the critique of, and efforts to reform, the scholarly communications system are for you. Above and beyond discussions of open access, a taste of the Occupy Scholarly Communications conversation can be found in Heather Morrison’s October 23, 2011 post “High Profits for Commercial Publishers-or Jobs for Academics Let’s #occupyscholcomm”

Next year, when open access week comes again, lets hope that some of the most vocal, articulate, and visible scholars working on questions of income inequality and corporate power will not have published their sophisticated accounts of emergent phenomena such as the Occupy movement with publishers like Polity (people Polity effectively = Wiley) and Palgrave-Macmillian or in journals owned wholly by Sage or Taylor and Francis. Our doing this occasionally is ironic and even kind of funny, but its starting to suggest that we actually do not get it, even when we get it.

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.

New Open Access Tools, Resources, Partnerships, and Content Announced @openfolklore

I am happy to report that real and significant progress in the Open Folklore project continues to be made. A year ago (October 13, to be exact) the American Folklore Society and the Indiana University Bloomington Libraries launched the Open Folklore project and its associated web portal. Open Folklore is about promoting open access in the field of folklore studies (/ethnology) and about fostering partnerships among those working towards the goals of open access in the field. On behalf of the OF project team, I was the author of a news release/project report on the most recent accomplishments of the project and the most recent content additions accessible via the portal site. This was published this morning and is available from the Open Folklore portal.

As readers of the news release will discover, highlights over the past six months include making programs and reports related to the annual meetings of the American Folklore Society (going back to 1889) freely accessible, the launch of the AFS Ethnographic Thesaurus, and the continued growth in the number of AFS section journals being made freely accessible in digital form. The big picture is that the community is continuing to come together to advance the goal of making folklore scholarship and resources more discoverable and accessible to community members, students, tradition bearers, and scholars worldwide. As was recognized this summer when OF was recognized with the Outstanding Collaboration Award by the Association for Library Collections and Technical Services (ALCTS) during the American Library Association meetings, folklorists have a lot to be proud of. We are pioneering in many parts of the scholarly communications world, from the development of open access journals, books, repositories and archives to developing generalizable collaboration strategies for organizational partnership, especially between libraries, non-commercial publishers, and scholarly societies.

I encourage everyone to get caught up with what OF has been up to over the past six months and to continue to spread the word about the project while putting the tools and resources available at to use in your work.

How to Hack Academic Book Publishing in Two (Not So) Easy Steps – IHE #hackacad

A wonderfully engaged, positive review of Hacking the Academy by Barbara Fister is in today’s issue of Inside Higher Education. Thank you Barbara.

How to Hack Academic Book Publishing in Two (Not So) Easy Steps – Inside Higher Ed.

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