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Posts from the ‘Publications’ Category

Notes on Thoughtfulness in Scholarly Publishing (1): A la Carte Pricing

Today a senior scholar whose work I greatly respect called me an asshole. This was in response to my being snarky in a social media environment. Snarky is probably never a good stance to take. This was a reminder. I will not revisit the episode except to acknowledge that, in a diffuse way, it motivates the post (perhaps a series of posts) initiated here.

One definition of “thoughtfulness” provided by the Oxford English Dictionary, characterizes things this way:

Showing thought or consideration for others; considerate, kindly.

I was not thoughtful in my snarky comment, although it was motivated out of concern for others.

This note on publishing thoughtfulness is not in first position relative to other notes in some kind of procedural or conceptual sequence. It is just a fragment from a bigger statement or recommendation that could be composed. Its is just one piece of the larger picture of scholarly publishing practices that is on my mind today. No one is obligated to follow this counsel, of course. For anyone who is interested, here is one thoughtfulness recommendation. (The post presumes academic publishing in scholarly journals without consideration of author payment. People writing for a living in magazines and newspapers have important and different concerns.)

Before submitting an article to, or agreeing to contribute a review to, a particular scholarly journal, find out how much the a la carte price to access that work is going to be.

This is easier said than done for a host of platform and PR reasons. Before I offer some tips on doing it, here are some arguments as to why this is a thoughtful thing to do.

As I discussed in an essay for anthropologies, only a tiny portion of the world’s population has institution-based access to the scholarly literature. (Even fewer have personal subscription-based access.) This means that most people will simply not be able to legally access your work. This opens the door to an open access discussion, but I am not going to open that door. Forget it. Forget about retaining your rights. Forget about green open access. Forget about all that stuff. Just focus on a la carte pricing.

If a person has the ability to discover your work but lacks the ability to read it behind a paywall, publishers have a solution. Pay-per-view is that solution. I call it a la carte because it involves paying money for a single item of scholarship, rather than some larger bundle of scholarship.

Depending on the publisher and platform, this price can be relatively modest or (by most people’s standards) rather high. For poor people, your “relatively modest” may count as rather high, but we are not dwelling too much on that here. (See the anthropologies paper for that kind of talk.)

If you do scholarship without any institutional affiliation whatsoever, it is actually easier to find the a la carte price. Use a smart phone or some other internet connecting device and drill down to the item you want (or that counts as your investigative test case) via whatever digital platform it exist on. When you get to the end of the line, you will be at a toll gate. Chance are good that there is a price tag attached to the item. Pay the amount and get through the gate. You may get to read it for a time period before it evaporates or you may get to “keep” a PDF for an extended period. There are many variations on the use rights you are buying at the gate. For now, the key thing is figuring out the price. (Just keep in mind that you are not really buying anything. You are leasing certain use rights. You cannot give your version away, for instance. Get the used bookstore image out of your mind.)

If you work at an institution of higher education with some kind of library funded access to the scholarly literature, the a la carte price may be hard to find. Those wonderful librarians are working to make your use as seamless as possible. This means not only do they struggle to find the cash (often tuition dollars) to pay for your access, but they also make keen technological arrangements to keep it easy for you. One of these is keying access to machine IP address. Access a journal platform from an on-campus machine or via a laptop that has been configured to act like one, and you may not see the paywall. If you get in seamlessly, you never see the a la carte price and thus may not even realize there is one. Publishers like this about their platforms. Its a design feature. One designed to keep you from thinking about how much is being charged to access their work.)

A thoughtful author can do a bit of work to find the a la carte price before making a publishing decision. Have you been asked to review a book? How much will your review cost? About to send out your manuscript. If you succeed, how much will someone pay to read you?

Were you asked to write a review for a Routledge journal like Folklore? Go to the site and see. That journal recently published a two page review of a book called Tales of Kentucky Ghosts. This two page review costs $37.00 plus local taxes. Forgetting the taxes, that comes to $18.50 per page. At Routledge, the price is flat per item, thus a 28 page article in a recent issue of Ethnos comes to $1.32 per page. [Why did I pick on that review of Tales of Kentucky Ghosts particularly? Well, consider this. The book itself can be purchased for $14.97 in a kindle edition from Amazon. Six cents per page for the book being reviewed in the $18.50 per page review.]

For Wiley journals “You can purchase online access to this Article for a 24-hour period (price varies by title).” To do this (or to see the price) you have to make a Wiley account and login. To purchase a review of the book Dacha Idylls: Living Organically in Russia’s Countryside from the American Anthropologist costs $12 for 24 hour access to a 1 page review. City and Society content also costs $12 for 24 hours. Thus a recent 17 page article therein comes in at a just 70 cents for an entire day of reading. [One can get Dacha Idylls from Amazon for $15.99 for as long as the technology lasts…]

Considering Public Culture published by the not-for-profit Duke University Press, you can pay per view in it for $15 for two days of access. The editor’s letter in its recent number is four pages, making it $3.75 per page for 48 hours. Because the rate is flat, the price per page goes down as the page count goes up.

Social Forces published by Oxford University Press? $35 for 24 hours.

Of course, such a quest my lead to discovering that a journal does not provide a la carte access. (Ethnology seems to be one example of this. American Antiquity seems to be another.)

Hau: Journal of Ethnographic Theory? $0 for infinite hours. (Amusing myself with that one–of course there is no a la carte price at Hau–its a gold OA journal.)

You get the point.

One kind of thoughtfulness in publishing decisions focuses on the end price to legally access the scholarship that we give to publishers with the hope that they will get it before the eyes of interested readers. If I used only the data presented above, I cannot easily make a case for one toll access publisher over another. It gets easier when other considerations are brought into play. Still, if you recoil at the idea of someone paying $35 to read your book review or at the idea that someone would pay the same about to rent access to your article for a single day, then the thoughtful thing to do is to not publish in such venues or, if you must, to do so in a way that allows you to legally share your work in green open access ways.

Last but Not Least: Hacking the Academy–the Print and Ebook Editions

I am pleased to note that the University of Michigan Press has now published the print and ebook editions of Hacking the Academy: New Approaches to Scholarship and Teaching from Digital Humanities. This volume was organized and edited by Daniel J. Cohen and Tom Scheinfeldt and is part of the press’ Digital Humanities series.

Followers of the project will know that this is just the latest iteration of a multimodal effort. The history of the project is narrated in numerous places, including in the preface to the free open web version (made available earlier by the Press’s Digital Culture Books unit). Very instructive is the more primordial version (inclusive of much content not in the book) at

I was trilled to participate in the project with an abridged version of a blog post that first appeared here (still a best seller after several years). That original post was called “Getting Yourself Out of the Business in Five East Steps” and it promotes resisting the increasing enclosure of scholarly publishing by large multinational firms. (In the new book, it appears on pages 13-14.)

Everyone reasonably wonders about the point of a print edition of a “book” born out of twitter links and weblogs posts. Here is how the editors address this point.

Finally, the reader may legitimately ask: Doesn’t the existence of Hacking the Academy as a book undermine its argument? Why put this supposedly firebrand work into a traditional form? The answer is that we wanted this project to have maximal impact and especially to reach those for whom RSS and Twitter are alien creatures. Moreover, one of the main themes of this volume—and of digital technology—is that scholarly and educational content can exist in multiple forms for multiple audiences.

A review of the book edition, but someone new to the effort (who missed the earlier instances), has been published on the Education Technology and Change (ETC) blog.

Thanks to all of the editors, contributors, readers, and publishers involved in this experimental work.

Review: A Companion to Folklore

Today the Journal of Folklore Research Reviews (JFRR) published my review of A Companion to Folklore edited by Regina F. Bendix and Galit Hasan-Rokem. (Wiley-Blackwell, 2012). It was an honor to be asked to review such a key volume in the field. Find the  review online here:

Campus Salon on Academic Publishing in the Sciences

On Monday I will be helping host the second in a series of campus solons focused on the changing scholarly publishing landscape. While keyed to the campus science faculty, all campus researchers are invited to come and participate. The invitation appears below. Information on the series is available here.

* * *

The Advisory Committee to the IU Office of Scholarly Publishing
and the Office of the Provost
invite you to attend a

Salon on Academic Publishing in the Sciencesipadpub
Monday, March 4, 2013
1:30 p.m.-3 p.m.
Walnut Room
Salon hosted by Professor Jason Jackson

New Beginnings: Journal of Folklore Research

During 2013, I will have the honor of editing the Journal of Folklore Research. I will be serving for a year as Interim Editor, bridging Moria Marsh’s editorship and the anticipated service  of an outstanding departmental colleague who will be away from campus next year. The opportunity is a valuable one and the time is most auspicious, as 2013 will see the publication of the journal’s 50th volume.

With roots that go back to 1942 and a number of earlier publications, the journal that we now know as JFR was founded in 1964 as the Journal of the Folklore Institute. The journal’s name was changed to its current form in 1983. Long published by Indiana University’s Folklore Institute (which would later become the Department of Folklore and Ethnomusicology), the journal has been published in its current period in a partnership between the Department and the Indiana University Press. Today the journal is prominently included and heavily used in key services such as JSTOR and Project Muse. It has long maintained a distinctive and international voice in folklore studies and ethnology and has benefitted from a global community of supporters, led by its team of corresponding editors. In keeping with the mandate of its departmental home, the journal has welcomed work by ethnomusicologists throughout its history.

I have learned much shadowing the journal’s able staff throughout the fall and, while Moria begins enjoying life after editing, I will enjoy continuing, in the year ahead, alongside Managing Editor Danille Christensen and Editorial Assistant Miriam Woods. In my preliminary work, I have already learned a tremendous amount about the fields in which JFR publishes. I look forward to the work, and the year, ahead.

Thanks to everyone who has made JFR a success over the past five decades.

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.

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