In Praise of Textbooks

From Slate:

When schools closed this spring, many parents, including me, felt overwhelmed and underwater trying to help our children participate in distance learning. Every day seemed to usher in a new way for my husband and me to fail at reading emails, managing logins, printing worksheets, troubleshooting tech problems, photographing assignments, and keeping track of class Zooms. Being an educator as well as a parent gave my experience a particularly nightmarish quality, as if I were somehow both the driver and pedestrian in this collision. As a teacher, I participated in a flurry of trainings on using various apps to make videos, find e-books, host meetings, use data, and share student work, but as a parent, I could not keep up.

It doesn’t have to be this hard. School closures brought a cascade of serious problems, from declining maternal workforce participation to child hunger, many of which will require broader government intervention to solve—but streamlining remote instruction is well within schools’ institutional capabilities. A viral video of an Israeli mom venting about the nonstop barrage of communications her kids were receiving from their school spoke to the frustrations many families felt trying to keep their heads above water in a fast-moving stream of assignments and online resources. That’s not a problem that is going to be solved by adding another app to the mix, but there is a tool that can help, one that works even if the internet cuts out and isn’t full of distractions a click away. It’s not new, and it won’t disrupt education as we know it, but in a time of upheaval, steep learning curves, and decision fatigue, there’s a lot to be said for the familiar. As districts invest millions in distributing Chromebooks and helping families secure internet access—a necessity for keeping kids connected to their teachers and to school—they should also make plans to invest in and distribute another essential learning tool: the textbook.

. . . .

For 150 years, the textbook was a mainstay of American classrooms. Their progenitor was the McGuffey Readers, of which an estimated 120 million copies were sold between 1836 and 1960. Written by frontier teacher and scholar William Holmes McGuffey, the original Readers contained literary selections that promoted Calvinist ideas about salvation and piety, while later editions were secularized in keeping with the nation’s changing mores. These days, the Readers are better known for their role in shaping American identity and culture than for how they changed teaching and learning. But although they seem stuffy and moralistic to contemporary eyes, the Readers represented an important pedagogical step forward in their time and spoke to the real needs of students McGuffey witnessed, first as a roving teacher who began working in schoolhouses at age 14 and later when he tested his textbooks with groups of neighborhood children in Ohio. The Readers were organized into levels across which students would progress over time, from phonics, through basal stories, all the way up to selections from Milton. Vocabulary was taught gradually by repeated exposure to words in context instead of being doled out in a list for memorization. Unlike their predecessor the New England Primer, which was designed to put the fear of God into children, the Readers were designed to be appealing to children, and incorporated helpful, clear illustrations.

Crucially, the McGuffey Readers also guided teachers, who at the time were often poorly prepared, educated only a year or two beyond their pupils, and working with large, mixed-age groups of students. The Readers embedded good pedagogy on the page by including questions for teachers to ask their students, and numbered passages so students could take turns reading aloud. Imagine—a year’s worth of assignments, compiled in an appealing edition, accompanied by instructions for what the poorly prepared adult in the room can say to help. Sure sounds like something that I, a woman who misled a 5-year-old on number bonds for three whole months, could have used this spring.

At their core, textbooks are a way to distribute the essential content of a class to a massive group of students in a way that is standardized and economical. A good textbook is clear, appealing, and organized in a predictable way. It’s not just paragraphs of text, but it also includes extratextual features such as reference materials, answer keys, sidebars, and key terms to aid students in their comprehension.

. . . .

For cash-strapped districts, cheap Chromebooks and software licenses are often less expensive in the short term than purchasing sets of hardcover books. It isn’t just wealthy districts that are making these investments in technology. But the phasing out of print textbooks in favor of online texts and learning software has been driven by ideology, too. Since 2015, textbook sales have declined year over year while the EdTech sector has ballooned into a $252 billion business. In 2019, Pearson sold off its textbook arm in order to focus on its more lucrative educational software business. In a 2012 article (which in hindsight reads as overly optimistic not only about online textbooks but about algorithms, the internet, and the future in general, but was very much in line with the zeitgeist in education at the time) Megan Garber writes of Apple’s e-textbooks, “They create a kind of kaleidoscopic experience: video, text, audio, all whirring and whirling into each other in a self-guided tour of history or chemistry or biology.” To my tech-fried pandemic brain, that seems like a bit much. In 2020, I’d like to pass on teaching sixth grade language arts—or helping my child understand second grade math for that matter—through a widening gyre of multimedia experiences.

Link to the rest at Slate

PG suggests that kids who are digital natives do just fine with ebook versions of textbooks.

He’s also skeptical about paper vs. screen comprehension studies that have been conducted using children who are not digital natives.

FWIW, PG’s own experience is that his comprehension for long-form texts is somewhat better with a Kindle Paperwhite screen than an iPad screen. However, he doubts his comprehension of textbook-style pages would vary in the same way.

Longest running conservation journal goes Open Access

From The Bookseller:

Oryx, the international journal of conservation published by Cambridge University Press, is to become Open Access from January next year, in a move made possible by a grant from The Rufford Foundation.

From January 2021, the journal–which is the world’s longest running conservation journal–will be free to anyone with an internet connection. Past content dating as far back as 1950 will be made freely available, as well as all new research which will be published Open Access from next year. Meanwhile unfunded authors will benefit from a new APC (article processing charge) waiver policy, also thanks to The Rufford Foundation, dedicated to nature conservation.

CUP publishes the journal on behalf of wildlife conservation charity Fauna & Flora International, and it is billed as the “go-to publication for anyone interested in biodiversity conservation, conservation policy and related social, economic and political issues”.

Editor Dr Martin Fisher, who has overseen Oryx for almost 20 years, said: “This is the most significant development in the journal’s eminent history. Thanks to the support of the Rufford Foundation and Cambridge University Press’ commitment to Open Access publishing, the research published in Oryx will be freely accessible to all readers, no matter where they live or work.”

Link to the rest at The Bookseller

Collins makes hundreds of books and resources available for free

From The Bookseller:

Collins has made hundreds of books and learning resources free for teachers and families as schools close over the coronavirus.

The firm is giving free access to its online learning platform, Collins Connect, for the length of the school closures. The platform is for both primary and secondary schools and is home to learning and teaching resources for a range of subjects including English, maths and science at all levels, as well as international curricula.

On collins.co.uk it will also be providing free resources and support to parents who have children at home. It includes more than 300 e-books from its Big Cat reading programme, activity sheets, a times tables practice tool, revision and PDF downloads of many of its titles. Collins is adding resources daily to the site.

In addition, Collins will be enabling free access to textbooks in e-book format for schools that are already using its titles in the classroom so that pupils can continue their learning at home.

Link to the rest at The Bookseller

Morocco’s National Library goes digital as country locked down

From The New Publishing Standard:

Morocco is among the many countries closing libraries to help contain the Coronavirus threat, and as elsewhere, it is turning to digital to ensure services are not halted.

The National Library of Morocco in Rabat (BNRM) is among numerous Moroccan public institutions shifting to a work-from-home policy and a commitment to providing digital content in lieu of physical products.

Morocco’s schools closed a week ago, in stark contrast to the UK, which only closed schools this weekend, and the USA, where the government continues to send out mixed messages, leaving governors and mayors to take the lead and protect lives.

But like many countries across the Middle East and North Africa, the belated realisation of the value of digital means the transition from physical, in-class education and social support to online is a slow and cumbersome process.

Morocco World News reports that the BNRM says it will,

offer online administrative services to its subscribers, and access to electronic documents including legal deposits, manuscripts, magazines, books, and more.

The library will adopt a work system that doesn’t require its employees’ physical presence, opting instead for video chats to carry out administrative meetings.

Remote educational activities will replace lessons and classes, allowing students to stay at home and continue studies.

Link to the rest at The New Publishing Standard

Predatory journals: no definition, no defence

From Nature:

When ‘Jane’ turned to alternative medicine, she had already exhausted radiotherapy, chemotherapy and other standard treatments for breast cancer. Her alternative-medicine practitioner shared an article about a therapy involving vitamin infusions. To her and her practitioner, it seemed to be authentic grounds for hope. But when Jane showed the article to her son-in-law (one of the authors of this Comment), he realized it came from a predatory journal — meaning its promise was doubtful and its validity unlikely to have been vetted.

Predatory journals are a global threat. They accept articles for publication — along with authors’ fees — without performing promised quality checks for issues such as plagiarism or ethical approval. Naive readers are not the only victims. Many researchers have been duped into submitting to predatory journals, in which their work can be overlooked. One study that focused on 46,000 researchers based in Italy found that about 5% of them published in such outlets. A separate analysis suggests predatory publishers collect millions of dollars in publication fees that are ultimately paid out by funders such as the US National Institutes of Health (NIH).

. . . .

Everyone agrees that predatory publishers sow confusion, promote shoddy scholarship and waste resources. What is needed is consensus on a definition of predatory journals. This would provide a reference point for research into their prevalence and influence, and would help in crafting coherent interventions.

To hammer out such a consensus and to map solutions, we and others met in Ottawa, Canada, over two days in April this year. The 43 participants hailed from 10 countries and represented publishing societies, research funders, researchers, policymakers, academic institutions, libraries and patient partners (that is, patients and caregivers who proactively engage in research).

. . . .

The consensus definition reached was: “Predatory journals and publishers are entities that prioritize self-interest at the expense of scholarship and are characterized by false or misleading information, deviation from best editorial and publication practices, a lack of transparency, and/or the use of aggressive and indiscriminate solicitation practices.”

. . . .

Since the term ‘predatory publishers’ was coined in 2010, hundreds of scholarly articles, including 38 research papers, have been written warning about them. Scientific societies and publishers (including Springer Nature) have helped to establish the ‘Think. Check. Submit.’ campaign to guide authors. But it is not enough.

More than 90 checklists exist to help identify predatory journals using characteristics such as sloppy presentation or titles that include words such as ‘international’. This is an overwhelming number for authors. Only three of the lists were developed using research evidence. Paywalled lists of quality journals and predatory journals show that there is an appetite for clear, authoritative guidance. But these lists are inconsistent and sometimes out of reach (see ‘No list to rule them all’). A journal’s membership of agencies such as COPE (the Committee on Publication Ethics), curated indexes such as Web of Science, or being listed in the Directory of Open Access Journals (DOAJ) is insufficient to guarantee quality. Predatory journals have found ways to penetrate these lists, and new journals have to publish for at least a year before they can apply for indexing.

. . . .

Crafting a consensus definition was hard. Even reaching agreement on the use of ‘predatory’ was a challenge. Part of the group wanted a term that acknowledges that some authors turn to these outlets fully aware of their low quality; these scholars willingly pay to publish in predatory journals to add a line to their CVs. We discussed replacing the term entirely with language that recognizes nuances in publishers’ quality and motivation. Alternatives considered included ‘dark’, ‘deceptive’, ‘illegitimate’ and ‘acting in bad faith’. Ultimately, we concluded that the term ‘predatory’ has become recognized in the scholarly community.

. . . .

False or misleading information. This applies to how the publisher presents itself. A predatory journal’s website or e-mails often present contradictory statements, fake impact factors, incorrect addresses, misrepresentations of the editorial board, false claims of indexing or membership of associations and misleading claims about the rigour of peer review.

Deviation from best editorial and publication practices. Standards here have been set out in the joint statement on Principles of Transparency and Best Practice in Scholarly Publishing issued by the DOAJ, the Open Access Scholarly Publishers Association, COPE and the World Association of Medical Editors. Examples of substandard practice include not having a retraction policy, requesting a transfer of copyright when publishing an open-access article and not specifying a Creative Commons licence in an open-access journal. These characteristics can be difficult to know before submitting, although such information is easily obtained from legitimate journals. An unprofessional-looking web page — with spelling or grammar mistakes or irrelevant text — should also raise red flags.

Link to the rest at Nature

Better World Libraries

From Library Journal:

The Internet Archive (IA) on November 6 announced that its longtime not-for-profit partner, Better World Libraries, had acquired Better World Books, a mission-driven for-profit bookseller that has donated almost $29 million and more than 26.5 million books to global literacy programs during the past two decades. Better World Books’ Library Discards and Donations program, launched in 2004, has also been a major contributor to the company’s efforts to redistribute or recycle an additional 326 million books.

. . . .

“One of the biggest challenges facing libraries today is responsibly removing materials from their shelves so they can bring in more desirable materials or repurpose space to fit community needs,” Jim Michalko, Better World Books board member and former president of The Research Libraries Group, explained in the announcement. “Now, libraries can provide books to Better World Books knowing that a digital copy will be created and preserved if one doesn’t yet exist.”

. . . .

“What we’re trying to do is weave books into the Internet itself, starting with Wikipedia,” Kahle said. “The idea is to turn all of [Wikipedia.org’s] footnotes into live links, so that anyone who wants to go deeper from a Wikipedia article, can click on a footnote and open a book, right on the right page.”

IA has an ongoing relationship with Wikipedia. Notably, IABot crawls Wikipedia pages searching for broken links and repairs those links by finding an archived version of the original webpage using IA’s Wayback Machine. To date, the bot has repaired more than ten million links.

“Now, we have a robot going through [Wikipedia] and augmenting book citations with links to books in the Internet Archive,” Kahle said. “That, we think, is a big deal for usability. And it helps battle misinformation by taking the best, vetted information that we have and making that accessible to Wikipedia writers and also readers. The next puzzle beyond that is ‘how do you go and scale that up?’ We now have over 120,000 Wikipedia citations pointing to over 40,000 books, but we want to get to millions of links going to millions of books. The way we’re going to get there is by working really closely with Better World Books.”

IA has already digitized over four million books, most of which are public domain titles published before 1923, Kahle said. Its leadership aims to digitize four million more during the next four years—primarily 20th-century content obtained through the new Better World Books pipeline, as well as direct donations from libraries and other sources.

. . . .

Links to reliable sources will help “fulfill the promise of the internet as a library that people can depend on for reference work,” Kahle said. In this case, digitized books will be used “less for beach reading, more for jumping in and out of books—fact checking.”

Link to the rest at Library Journal and thanks to Marv for the tip.

Open Educational Resources: The Story of Change and Evolving Perceptions

From No Shelf Required:

Although the term may still not be familiar to the wider public—including college students and faculty—Open Educational Resources (OERs) have been an integral part of education worldwide for at least two decades. OERs generally refer to digital educational materials that anyone anywhere can use freely and legally, including the user’s right to copy, share, enhance and/or modify them for the purposes of sharing knowledge and enabling education. These run the gamut and stretch beyond digital textbooks—usually perceived as the most common educational resources—to include everything from course materials, university courses, e-learning platforms, software, and streaming videos to lectures and digital repositories of monographs and journals.

. . . .

Regardless of how different and varied OERs may seem at first—ranging from single books to multi-functional and comprehensive platforms—what makes a resource an OER is that it is freely available to anyone, notwithstanding a person’s location and affiliation. OER users may well be college and university students, but they may also be independent learners, researchers or lay readers. Of course, ‘open’ does not mean ‘without any restriction’ or ‘without any financial support.’ It simply means ‘free access.’

Likewise, ‘open’ does not mean ‘without financial backing.’ The mechanisms through which resources become ‘open’ and ‘free’ are complex, always evolving, and require ongoing financial support. A variety of financial models exist on the market that contributes to the sustainability of OERs (Downes, 2007), ranging from, among others, endowment models (funding is usually received from charitable foundations) and membership models (participating organizations contribute a certain amount as members) to sponsorship models (a range of commercial messages, more subtle or less subtle, may interrupt learning and reading), and institution models (various institutions assume the full responsibility for their OER initiatives and bear the financial burden).

WELL-KNOWN OERs

  • MIT OpenCourseWare, an online platform housing free
    eductional and teaching materials from MIT courses
  • Open Textbook Library, a catalog of free, peer-reviewed, and
    open textbooks
  • Open Course Library, a collection of materials, including syllabi,
    course activities, readings, and assessments
  • Khan Academy, an online source of short lessons in the form of
    videos and practice exercises and materials for educators
    National Science Digital Library, a library of collections and
    services supporting STEM education
  • OER Commons, a collection of over 50,000 university courses,
    open textbooks, interactive mini-lessons, and K-12 lesson plans
  • Wikipedia, the world’s most used free encyclopedia
  • Wikimedia Commons, a repository of free digital images
    and various media files

In the context of libraries, OERs as we know them have been around for longer than two decades. Librarians have, in many ways, contributed to the infrastructure of open education long before various types of OERs became the norm. The Internet Archive, for example, has been up and running for nearly a quarter of a century, while Project Gutenberg, the first online repository of public domain content—also a form of OER built and maintained by volunteers, including librarians—has its beginnings in the early 1970s. These initial undertakings paved the way for the advent of new, more specialized types of OERs used today. And as education began moving in the direction of open digital textbooks—scattered in disparate sources online that students and faculty had little awareness of—librarian roles in colleges and universities began to shift, requiring more active participation in the discovery of OERs.

What exactly has contributed to the explosion of OERs in recent years? The steep cost of textbooks and higher education in general, particularly in the United States, is frequently attributed to their popularity perhaps more than any other factor. According to the College Board, undergraduates now spend an average of $1200 on textbooks annually, and this remains a concern.

. . . .

  • OERs are widely and universally available
  • technology has made the cost of sharing OERs practically non-existent
  • given their digital nature, OERs can be modified to fit various needs
  • OERs help accelerate the advancement of human knowledge
  • due to ongoing technological improvements, OERs can reach learners faster than print textbooks
  • OERs allow students and parents to save significantly
  • OERs promote self-directed learning
  • OERs reach large numbers of learners at the same time, regardless of their location
  • OERs have revolutionized the way remote students or long-distance learners approach education
  • OERs allow for a more extensive peer review process

Link to the rest at No Shelf Required

Open Access: It is up to librarians to make it happen

From No Shelf Required:

In the past few years, the book and library industry has witnessed many lively discussions about the present and the future of the Open Access (OA) movement and its sustainability for both academic publishers on the one end (i.e., those who need sustainable business models to produce quality content that can be shared openly for years to come) and libraries and academic institutions on the other (i.e., those who need to support it financially in order for it to keep going, because, without their investment, OA fails publishers, authors and the scholarly community at large. Most such discussions focus on what OA can and cannot do for librarians and publishers. Less often, however, they involve those two sides discussing how their actions (and inactions) affect those who are supposed to benefit from the idea of open access and open science: scholars and researchers. More specifically: scholars and researchers in countries where access to science and scientific knowledge remains sparse and uneven and where libraries do not have the means of supporting their academics and scientists the way libraries in the more developed parts of the world do.

. . . .

The goal, therefore, was to discuss the impact of OA on research globally and consider if the promise of OA to equalize access for users and researchers beyond the most affluent academic markets is being achieved. This helped center the discussion around the following: Do researchers have access to freely available academic content as much as we assume they do? Do they know where to find it? How easy is it for them to find it? Are the sources and platforms available to them delivering a quality user experience? And are scholars around the world able to take advantage of the new publishing opportunities afforded to them through various initiatives?

. . . .

North America and Europe are seeing the highest usage of OA books, while Latin America and Africa are seeing the lowest, with Latin America, in particular, lagging behind the rest of the world.

The panelists also discussed OA publishing models and their success in countries where Open Access is vibrant as well as in those where it is still emerging; the costs involved for researchers to publish Open Access; ways in which users in emerging markets benefit from OA content; and the role of academic libraries—large and small—in providing the necessary support.

. . . .

If we consider, for a moment, the sheer number of OA initiatives unveiled in recent years, and the volume of quality content made available OA, it becomes obvious that the scholarly community has made great strides in figuring out what works and what doesn’t, both with journals and with monographs. Publishers and scholars are certainly not objecting to the concept of publishing Open Access. On the contrary, they seem more eager than before to embrace OA publishing possibilities and opportunities (KU alone works with over 100 publishers, ‘unlatching’ books by hundreds of HSS and STEM scholars each year; likewise, IntechOpen works with tens of thousands of scholars worldwide to help them publish their scientific findings and make them widely available).

Indeed, if at this point in the OA narrative, the issue isn’t whether the publishing community is willing to embrace an entirely new way of operating, the ball is back in the court of academic libraries and academic institutions. And questions again arise: Will libraries continue to set aside significant funding to support OA, or will they, in the face of limited budgets, marginalize OA content in favor of subscription products and services?

. . . .

The average STEM book which would have comfortably sold a couple of thousand units a few years ago is now achieving only a few hundred. For the print market, OA has shown to be excellent publicity and (what remains of) print sales hasn’t been detrimentally impacted . . . .

. . . .

Similarly, few academics are aware of the more liberal terms available through OA licenses, including author retention of copyright and flexible content reuse compared to the more traditional copyright-transfer type of agreement . . . .

Scholars are increasingly aware that OA edited book publications (or ISBNs) have comparable submission, review, decision and publication times. Typically, OA book chapters demonstrably achieve higher impact – through greater discoverability, downloads, citations and online mentions – and so for scholars seeking deep dissemination of their work, OA books are an attractive option . . . .

. . . .

The industry should embrace all colors, flavors, and degrees of Open Access and remain more tolerant when applying the standards. New techniques and services must be created to reduce the ‘handicap’ of indie publishers . . . .

. . . .

The majority of researchers don’t really care about the publication method, as long as they have access.

Link to the rest at No Shelf Required

For visitors to TPV who have not seen previous posts about the world of academic/scientific publishing, here are the basics:

  1. Traditional academic/scientific journals are generally owned by one of a handful of academic publishers who have consolidated their ownership of various publications that were formerly owned on an individual basis over a period of years.
  2. Traditional academic/scientific journals are available via very expensive subscriptions, the cost of which has escalated substantially during the past several years. Some college/university/research institution libraries are unable to afford these costs and, consequently, are not able to provide access to some publications to professors, students and researchers.
  3. The authors of the articles appearing in academic/scientific journals, particularly those in junior/intermediate positions need to publish articles in respected journals in order to retain their jobs and obtain promotions to more secure positions.
  4. Typical publishing contracts offered to authors by traditional academic/scientific publishers require the author to transfer copyright ownership to the publisher and pay the author no royalties other than a few copies of the publication. Any financial benefits from their writings come to the authors via improved job prospects or enhanced employment security from their current employers.
  5. To add insult to injury, many academic/scientific publishers require the author to pay a fee to the publisher when the paper is submitted, ostensibly to cover the publisher’s costs of managing the process of peer review. Thereafter, for accepted papers, some publishers charge the author a per-page “printing” fee and/or a separate publication acceptance fee.
  6. Peer review of papers submitted to academic publishers by teachers/professors/researchers to determine the validity/credibility of the content, methods, conclusions, etc., of the submissions is generally performed by other teachers/professors/academic authors in the field who receive no monetary compensation for their work from the publishers. Non-monetary compensation may come to reviewers via more favorable reception of future papers written by those reviewers when the papers are submitted to the publisher.
  7. After a slow start, academic/scientific publishers are reaping the substantial financial benefits of electronic subscriptions to their publications.
  8. Despite the lowered costs of distributing many of their publications electronically (instead of printing, warehousing, shipping, etc. physical copies of the publication), academic/scientific publishers typically sell subscriptions to their publications in expensive bundles that include popular as well as less-popular publications. The largest publishers will not sell a subscription to a particularly useful single publication in an unbundled form. Institutions in poorer parts of the world are often unable to afford the costs of these bundled subscriptions, depriving their professors/researchers/students of access to the latest developments in a scientific/technical field.

The Open Access movement described in the OP is an effort by a variety of researchers/educators/scientists/academic librarians to recreate the infrastructure provided by traditional academic publishers for authors and institutions on a less-expensive basis.

Is Artificial Intelligence the Ultimate University Stimulus?

From readwrite:

What does it take to make the university the best learning experience in the lifecycle of one’s education? Higher education is all about developing skills, exploring new theories, and applying them to the actualities of real life. Throughout this journey, students are encouraged to stay on top of their workload, study, and complete assessments all while simultaneously leading a healthy, active, and balanced social life.

. . . .

The essential materials relied on at university include books, books, and more books. As we move into an age of digitalization of practically everything, there is a reason to believe that the existing higher education model should too be digitalized to allow for an enhanced university experience.

. . . .

Based on a one-module-fits-all curriculum, where students are all expected to learn the same thing in the confines of a classroom, they will then be assessed by examinations based on rigid criteria to determine a pass or fail. These intrinsic features of the education system do little to contribute to an enhanced learning experience. Instead, prospects for development under the current model seems to have come to a halt.

. . . .

Having the entire world become digitalized is essential as little else could be more detrimental to the future than our young minds being taught in obsolete ways. Artificial intelligence has disrupted almost every industry. The AI market is expected to generate $3 trillion in revenue by 2024.

. . . .

AI’s ability to make recommendations and produce answers based on patterns and inferences is precisely what humans cannot do on a mass scale – and precisely what our existing university structure demands.

University 20.35, (https://2035.university/en/), introduces the first university model that provides opportunities for professional development by creating individual educational trajectories and tracking digital skill profiles using artificial intelligence.

The use of digital footprints, which the platform collects during educational processes measures and analyses the students’ skills. Then, it confirms or refutes whether a trajectory module teacher can efficiently transfer skills to the students.

. . . .

We might conjure up images in our heads of groups of students studying together, in an attempt to improve their existing skills and fill in the gaps in their knowledge. Before the introduction of AI, this image of students was the only one conceivable, but it’s not the most effective.

AI, through the collection and analysis of digital footprints, allows for the creation of each students’ digital twin. Digital twins are essentially the digital replica of physical assets, i.e., the physical twin or the replica is of the student.

This accurate and near to real-time data based on digital footprint as well as some biological data can help to establish better solutions for students. This includes the biological of the surroundings as well as personal biolgical data. The application of the digital twin in higher education has the potential to shed light on gaps in the student’s knowledge, their forgetfulness, and hone in on their strengths.

. . . .

Through AI, digital twins can materialize into a functional and personal study buddy.

Twinning is effectively a solid starting point for the development of a proactive educational study plan. From here, as the data reflects the student’s actual profile, the near to real-time data of the students’ progress will represent the students’ knowledge and skills.

Twinning can also be modeled to take into account what the student forgets and the skills they are practicing. The digital economy awaits, and as things stand, the next generation of our workforce have been and continue to be, educated and trained in an educational model that is incompatible with the digital future.

Link to the rest at readwrite

PG notes that the computer becomes the books in this model.

The Future of Textbooks

From The Bookseller:

Pearson’s chief strategy officer Jonathan Chocqueel-Mangan will give insights into the publisher’s new digital-first textbook policy at FutureBook Live 2019, The Bookseller’s publishing conference. Chocqueel-Mangan will be speaking as part of the conference’s learning stream, which this year will explore key topics including the future of textbooks, publishers’ responses to Open Access mandates, and how UK school classrooms are adopting new learning technologies.

In the textbooks session, Outsell v.p. and lead analyst Kate Worlock, Blackwell’s c.e.o. David Prescott and Lucy Mills, head of publishing (education) in English, Humanities and Languages at Cambridge University Press, will join Chocqueel-Mangan to debate the future shape of textbook teaching and learning across the range of schools and higher education publishing, including international schools. Meanwhile in a session titled “Leading from the Front: how publishers can shape the Open Access debate”, Springer Nature’s chief publishing officer Steven Inchcoombe will discuss his view of how publishers must become “active drivers”, rather than just “passive enablers” of OA.

. . . .

Benedicte Page, deputy editor of The Bookseller, said: “The academic and education fields are facing seismic change, and publishers must make major choices as they look to help their businesses survive and thrive. The FutureBook Live learning stream will pick out some of the central strategic issues facing the industry, and bring together a range of individuals offering innovation, new enterprise and leadership in the field.”

Link to the rest at The Bookseller

Pearson Plunges After Warning on U.S. University Slowdown

From Bloomberg:

Pearson Plc, the education publisher, dropped 14% after it said earnings would be at the low end of their expected range due to weakness in sales to U.S. universities.

The London-based company had set 2019 guidance for adjusted operating profit of 590 million ($729 million) to 640 million pounds, and the caution reflects shrinkage in U.S. Higher Education Courseware, a unit which makes up a quarter of Pearson revenue, the company said Thursday. The shares fell the most since January 2017, and traded at 726 pence at 8:19 a.m. in London.

Scholars are abandoning traditional textbooks faster than sales of digital learning tools can replace them, and Pearson is already undergoing a transformation program which has seen it cut jobs and sell offices, including the former headquarters of the Financial Times newspaper. It is also losing market share as customers change their consumption habits, including a trend of students using materials that they can get for free, Berenberg analyst Sarah Simon wrote in a research note Thursday.

Link to the rest at Bloomberg

 

AAP Flags Declining US Student Spending on Textbooks

From Publishing Perspectives:

In a statement issued late Wednesday (September 11), the Association of American Publishers reports that average student spending on college textbooks and course materials in the United States has steadily declined in recent years.

. . . .

Student Watch reports a drop of 35 percent over the past five years and Student Monitor indicates a 29-percent decline over the same time period.

. . . .

“When it comes to acquiring course materials, students have more choice and more affordable alternatives than ever, including rental options for both print and digital materials, loose-leaf versions and creative new distribution models such as inclusive access and subscription services.

“The statistics make it clear that students are taking full advantage of the new, cost-effective options that publishers have made available, which has led to a significant decline in student spending.”

. . . .

Student Monitor’s “Lifestyle & Media” report found that student spending on course materials went from an average of US$691 for the 2014 to 2015 academic year to $492 for the 2018-2019 academic year.

In the most recent semester for which data is available, the report indicated that average spending on course materials went from $281 for spring of 2018, to $239 in spring of 2019, a decline of 15 percent.

. . . .

In the AAP report, the staff writes, “Education publishers have long acknowledged that students struggle with overall college expenses.”

Because there’s no such thing as a ‘one size fits all’ solution for college course materials, the AAP notes, education companies are addressing affordability by launching new initiatives such as “inclusive Access,” which provide students with materials on the first day of class—often at a reduced cost—because they’re purchased in volume.

“Other options like subscription models provide unlimited access to a range of textbooks, open course materials, online homework access codes and study guides all for one price,” the AAP says.

. . . .

According to the Student Monitor report, the AAP points out, the $239 in average student spending during the spring 2019 semester included:

  • $102 for new, printed textbooks
  • $59 for used, printed textbooks
  • $47 for rented, printed textbooks
  • $20 for digital textbooks for unlimited use
  • $11 for digital textbooks for limited-time use

Student Watch reports that as of 2019, about one in four students (26 percent) preferred a strictly print textbook, down 21 percent from its highest point in fall 2016, but down only 6 percent from fall 2012 when the question was first asked.

Link to the rest at Publishing Perspectives

Authors Guild Says Cengage Failed to Renegotiate Contracts

From Publishing Perspectives:

The Authors Guild in New York has today (August 23) issued a statement on the class action lawsuit filed against Cengage by a group of writers for the service.

As Publishing Perspectives readers will recall from our mention of this case on August 19 that this is the second time writers have challenged the Cengage Unlimited subscription offer for students and educators, alleging that it violates the author agreement the company has had with its writers.

The new case, as charges that Cengage’s switch to the subscription model changes the royalty formula by which authors were on contract to be paid.

As the legal team at the guild is describing it, the authors now are in court against Cengage “for violating the terms of their contracts by unilaterally changing their payment structures from a traditional per-sale royalty to a relative-use share, thereby lowering their income dramatically.

. . . .

Throughout the first round of legal action, which led to a settlement in October, Cengage’s leadership, under CEO Michael E. Hansen, maintained that its writers were informed and that its development of the subscription model didn’t violate their contracts. In one interview with us, Hanson suggested that authors could well benefit in their usage-based payments as students and instructors explore more subjects and information they can find on offer.

By the end of April this year, Cengage Unlimited was announcing more than 1 million subscriptions since the launch of Unlimited in August 2018.

But a year earlier, the company had been engaged in an effort to defend the efficacy of the subscription model for authors, stating that it was “disappointed” to find some of the writers filing a complaint.

At the time, the company stated, “We have communicated clearly with our authors that the subscription service is consistent with the terms of their contracts, which we continue to honor. … Our authors, like those at our competitors, have seen declining royalties as a result of high prices that lower demand. The subscription service addresses students’ concerns and enables a more sustainable business model for the company and our authors.”

Now, the Author Guild’s legal assessment of the situation is that the change in Cengage’s approach–”to relative-use of an author’s title as compared to other titles in the same revenue pool, instead of paying the author a traditional per-sale royalty provided for in the publishing agreement”–is problematic in ways the company knows from the first court contest.

. . . .

“Rather than negotiating the terms in good faith and giving authors a chance to bargain for their fair share of digital subscription revenues, Cengage unilaterally decided what its authors’ contributions were worth. In doing so, Cengage took advantage of authors, hedging that few authors would have the resources to mount a lawsuit.”

. . . .

[I]n the fall of 2017 [Cenage CEO Michael Hansen] surprised much of the industry–and even his own sales staff, in his telling of it to Publishing Perspectives–by announcing that some 22,000 pieces of content would be made available by subscription. “I’m not in the business of getting standing ovations,” Hansen said to us at the time with a laugh. “But at this last sales conference when we announced it in Texas, the reaction was, ‘This is bloody brilliant. This solves the price objection, it just solves it.’”

. . . .

And as early as 2016, Hansen had worried aloud in making an address to Klopotek’s Publishers’ Forum in Berlin under Rüdiger Wischenbart’s direction that “We as an industry didn’t care about students.”

By that, he meant that faculty members had become the consumer-targets of the educational industry. Cengage had seen a single quarter drop of 23 percent of sales once students had rejected $150 to $200 textbooks. Facing $5.5 billion in debt, Hansen said, “was the least of our problems. We had never designed a textbook with a student sitting next to us.”

. . . .

Update, August 26: In response to Publishing Perspectives’ request, Cengage has sent this statement:

“We are disappointed to see these complaints against our efforts to improve students’ access to affordable, quality learning materials.

“Since its inception in March 2011, the MindTap learning platform has consistently helped students achieve higher retention, grades and confidence. However, despite significant investments in proven products, it became increasingly apparent that students were not able to afford them. Our authors, like those at our competitors, saw declining royalties as a result of high prices that lowered students’ demand.

“The Cengage Unlimited subscription service was created to address this longstanding problem. It also enables a more sustainable business model for the company and our authors.

“We have communicated clearly with our authors that the subscription service is consistent with the terms of their contracts, which we continue to honor. Since the service launched, we are in regular communication with them about the impact of the subscription on their royalties.

“We look forward to vigorously responding to these complaints as we remain steadfast in our belief that our industry must do more to contribute to affordable higher education.”

Link to the rest at Publishing Perspectives

Of course, it’s all about the students. Over many years, textbook publishers have reduced their prices year after year to help rein in the escalating cost of obtaining a college education and allow students to minimize the long-term burden of paying back large student loans.

From Vox:

Hannah, a senior at a private university in New York City, can’t think of a single semester when she bought all the books she needed for her classes. “Even when I was studying abroad,” she said, “there was no way for me to get through the semester without dropping $500-plus on textbooks, which I couldn’t afford.”

So she didn’t buy them. That semester, Hannah, who asked that her name be withheld due to privacy reasons, found most of the books she needed on Scribd, an e-book subscription service. “I used my free trial to do pretty much all my work for the semester and to take screenshots of things so I could access everything once the trial ended,” she said. If she couldn’t find them there, then she would do without.

Hannah’s tuition and housing is covered by scholarships, but she has to use student loans to pay for her health insurance; she pays for other necessities, including textbooks, out of pocket. In other words, her generous financial aid package isn’t enough to cover the essentials. Her situation is far from unusual: A 2014 report by the Public Interest Research Groups found that two-thirds of surveyed students had skipped buying or renting some of their required course materials because they couldn’t afford them.

Textbook publishers, for their part, have begun acknowledging that textbooks and other course materials have become so expensive that some students simply can’t afford them, even if it means their grades will suffer as a result. Publishers claim that new technologies, like digital textbooks and Netflix-style subscription services, make textbooks more affordable for all. But affordability advocates say that if anyone is to blame for the fact that textbook costs have risen more than 1,000 percent since the 1970s, it’s the publishers — and, advocates claim, these new technologies are publishers’ attempt to maintain their stranglehold on the industry while disguising it as reform.

. . . .

Some professors don’t assign textbooks at all, instead opting to fill their syllabi with a combination of journal articles and other texts, some of which cost money, some of which don’t. Thanks to the advent of textbooks that come bundled with online access codes — a single-use password that gives students access to supplementary materials and, in some cases, homework — other professors can rely on one textbook for almost everything.

As a general rule, though, the amount of money students are expected to spend on course materials has rapidly outpaced the rate of inflation since the ’70s. Affordability advocates point to two major factors behind this: a lack of competition in the higher education publishing industry, and the fact that professors, not students, ultimately decide which texts get assigned. Four major publishers — Pearson, Cengage, Wiley, and McGraw-Hill — control more than 80 percent of the market, according to a 2016 PIRG report. Major publishers also tend to “avoid publishing books in subject areas where their competitors have found success,” which ends up limiting professors’ options for what to assign.

Digital textbooks, especially those that come with access codes, have also contributed to rising costs. When students buy a textbook, they aren’t just paying for the binding and the pages; they’re paying for the research, editing, production, and distribution of the book. And when that book comes with an access code, they’re also paying for the development of — and, as the name suggests, for access to — all kinds of supplementary materials, from lessons to videos to homework assignments.

Access codes, the PIRG report notes, also undercut the resale market. Since the codes can only be used once, the books are essentially worthless without them. They can also prevent students from turning to other cost-saving measures like sharing a book with a classmate.

Kaitlyn Vitez, the higher education campaign director at PIRG, told me she’s met students who couldn’t afford to buy books that come with access codes, even if they knew their grades would suffer. “One student at the University of Maryland had to get a $100 access code to do her homework and couldn’t afford it, and that was 20 percent of her grade,” Vitez said. “So she calculated what grade she would have to get on everything else to make up for not being able to do her homework.”

“On a fundamental level,” Vitez said, “you shouldn’t have to pay to do homework for a class you already paid tuition for. You shouldn’t have to pay to participate.”

. . . .

Student advocates don’t expect the move toward truly affordable course materials to be led by publishers. Instead, they’re encouraging professors to adopt — and help develop — free, open source textbooks. Kharl Reynado, a senior at the University of Connecticut and the leader of PIRG’s affordable textbooks campaign, told me she’s had to pay “upward of $500” for books and access codes and has dropped courses because she couldn’t afford the costs. “I’ve had friends who spend entire paychecks on just their textbook costs in the beginning of the semester and had little money left over to cover food, gas, and sometimes, in extreme cases, rent because of it,” she said.

“We work closely with students and campus partners such as the UConn Library to promote open textbooks to different professors and educate students on their options,” she added.

The real challenge is getting professors, who are ultimately responsible for which books get assigned, to adopt the free options. Professors don’t assign books by major publishers or books with access codes because they want students to suffer — they do it because, more often than not, it’s easier.

As Vitez noted, an increasing number of universities are replacing full-time, tenured staff with adjunct professors. Adjuncts, many of whom are graduate students, are paid by the course, typically don’t receive benefits, and occasionally find out they’re teaching a class a few weeks before the semester begins. In other words, they don’t necessarily have the time or resources to spend the summer developing a lesson plan or to work alongside librarians to find quality materials that won’t come at a high cost to students.

That’s where books with access codes come in. These books come loaded with vetted, preselected supplementary material and homework assignments that can be graded online. They require a much smaller time investment from underpaid instructors.

Link to the rest at Vox

Open Access Publishing

Based upon a comment to another post, PG refreshed his high-level knowledge of open-access academic journals.

From The Lloyd Sealy Library at The City University of New York:

Peter Suber has written extensively about open access,

“Open access (OA) literature is digital, online, free
of charge, and free of most copyright and licensing
restrictions.”

Scholarly Publishing and Academic Resources Coalition (SPARC) ‘s definition:

“Open Access is the free, immediate, online availability of research articles, coupled with the rights to use these articles fully in the digital environment.”

. . . .

Open access (OA) can be green, gold, gratis or libreGreen OA refers to authors’ self archiving their work on their own web or social media site, in their institution’s repository, or in a discipline based repository.  Gold OA refers to an article that is freely accessible on the journal’s website; the journal may be fully open access, or a hybrid with some articles freely available and others behind a paywall. Gratis open access articles can be accessed by anyone without any monetary charge.  Libre open access articles may be accessed and re-used without restrictions.

. . . .

The BBB Declarations; Budapest, Berlin, Bethesda:

The Budapest Open Access Initiative 2002 (BOAI, a declaration drawn up at a meeting sponsored by Soros’ Open Society Institute) defined open access to academic articles thus:  By ‘open access’ to this literature, we mean its free availability on the public internet, permitting any users to read, download, copy, distribute, print, search, or link to the full texts of these articles...”  Self-archiving and open access journals were the means suggested. Subsequent declarations from Berlin (2003) and Bethesda (2003) expanded and elaborated on the call for open access.  Subsequent “Berlin” meetings on campaigning & orchestrating for open access have been held, including the latest, Berlin 12, held in December 2015.

Ten years on from the Budapest Open Access Initiative: setting the default to open (2012):   “Ten years of experience lead us to reaffirm the definition of OA introduced in the original BOAI:

By “open access” to [peer-reviewed research literature], we mean its free availability on the public internet, 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. The only constraint on reproduction and distribution, and the only role for copyright in this domain, should be to give authors control over the integrity of their work and the right to be properly acknowledged and cited.”

Recommendations for the next ten years. (BOAI, 2012).  New guidelines issued on the tenth anniversary of the Budapest Open Access Initiative.

“Every institution of higher education should have a policy assuring that peer-reviewed versions of all future scholarly articles by faculty members are deposited in the institution’s designated repository….that future theses and dissertations are deposited upon acceptance in the institution’s OA repository…require deposit in the repository for all research articles to be considered for promotion, tenure, or other forms of internal assessment and review… We recommend CC-BY or an equivalent license as the optimal license for the publication, distribution, use, and reuse of scholarly work…”

. . . .

Authors: Choose the right journal for your research.

Think, Check, Submit! There are reputable journals that are completely open or have open access options.  But there are other journals you should avoid.  Choose carefully.  Think before submitting your manuscript to an unfamiliar journal – – publishing in a predatory journal may damage your reputation.

. . . .

What about author fees? The Eigenfactor Index of Open Access Fees compares author charges with the influence of the journal. Price doesn’t always buy prestige in open access.

Link to the rest at The Lloyd Sealy Library at The City University of New York

From Science Magazine at The American Association for the Advancement of Science:

How I became easy prey to a predatory publisher

I was nursing my wounds from my latest manuscript rejection when the email arrived. I was about 2 years into my assistant professorship, with the tenure clock running at full speed, and the pressure to publish was immense. I knew that navigating rejection was part of the job, but I was also starting to wonder whether my study—a modest project designed to be feasible with the minimal lab space and skeleton crew of a new professor—would ever see the light of day. So when I received the email from a newly launched journal inviting me to publish with them, I saw a lifeline. That’s when my troubles started.

I had heard about “predatory” journals during my graduate training but had no experience with them. The email appeared legitimate. It spelled my name correctly, referenced some of my previous work, and used correct grammar. The journal wasn’t on Beall’s List of Predatory Journals and Publishers. I thought I had done my due diligence. I submitted my manuscript. Shortly after, I celebrated the first round of favorable reviews. Things were going great—or so I thought.

Maybe it was the daily emails requesting my revisions, but something started to seem off. I rechecked Beall’s list—still nothing. I found that a postdoc at my institution was listed on the journal’s website as a member of the editorial board. I sent him an email asking about his experience with the journal, hoping he would confirm its legitimacy. That’s when the roof started to cave in. My colleague explained that he had never actually worked with the journal. He eventually realized that it wasn’t a reputable publication, but he hadn’t been able to get his name removed from the website. Then a trusted mentor suggested that I check up on the parent publisher. There it was, on Beall’s infamous list. My stomach tightened. I had fallen prey to a predatory journal. I worried that publishing in such a journal could hurt my tenure case and harm my reputation as a scientist.

I asked the journal to withdraw my manuscript from review, figuring that was the logical next step. They demanded that I justify my decision and debated my right to withdraw, insisting that I pay at least $400 to do so. After an exchange of emails—akin to “no way,” “yes way,” and “no way”—and one phone call demanding payment, I informed the journal that we were at an impasse and diverted all correspondence to the trash. I submitted the manuscript to a demonstrably legitimate journal, believing that I had put the mess behind me.

. . . .

That is, until a few months later, when I noticed an email in my spam folder from the predatory journal congratulating me on my recent publication and requesting payment. I googled the title of my manuscript and found that it had indeed been published. I was horrified: My manuscript had been in review at the legitimate journal for months, and this revelation would jeopardize its publication.

Link to the rest at Science Magazine at The American Association for the Advancement of Science

PG thinks Open Access to the products of academic research is a great idea, particularly if the research is directly or indirectly funded or subsidized by taxpayer money.

However, publications that require payment from the author for inclusion in the publication are (in PG’s humbly educated opinion) akin to vanity presses and, evidently, subject to the temptations that drive sleazy vanity press operations in the non-academic world to fleece authors who wander into their clutches.

From Nature:

Spam e-mails changed the life of Jeffrey Beall. It was 2008, and Beall, an academic librarian and a researcher at the University of Colorado in Denver, started to notice an increasing flow of messages from new journals soliciting him to submit articles or join their editorial boards. “I immediately became fascinated because most of the e-mails contained numerous grammatical errors,” Beall says. He started browsing the journals’ websites, and was soon convinced that many of the journals and their publishers were not quite what they claimed. The names often sounded grand — adjectives such as ‘world’, ‘global’ and ‘international’ were common — but some sites looked amateurish or gave little information about the organization behind them.

Since then, Beall has become a relentless watchdog for what he describes as “potential, possible or probable predatory scholarly open-access publishers”, listing and scrutinizing them on his blog, Scholarly Open Access. Open-access publishers often collect fees from authors to pay for peer review, editing and website maintenance. Beall asserts that the goal of predatory open-access publishers is to exploit this model by charging the fee without providing all the expected publishing services. These publishers, Beall says, typically display “an intention to deceive authors and readers, and a lack of transparency in their operations and processes”.

Beall says that he regularly receives e-mails from researchers unhappy about their experiences with some open-access journals. Some say that they thought their papers had been poorly peer reviewed or not peer reviewed at all, or that they found themselves listed as members of editorial boards they had not agreed to serve on. Others feel they were not informed clearly, when submitting papers to publishers, that publication would entail a fee — only to face an invoice after the paper had been accepted. According to Beall, whose list now includes more than 300 publishers, collectively issuing thousands of journals, the problem is getting worse. “2012 was basically the year of the predatory publisher; that was when they really exploded,” says Beall. He estimates that such outfits publish 5–10% of all open-access articles.

. . . .

Beall says that he has been the target of vicious online comments, and last December he was the subject of an online campaign to create the false impression that he was extorting fees from publishers to re-evaluate their status on his list. The Canadian Center of Science and Education, a company based in Toronto that publishes many open-access journals and is on Beall’s list, is now threatening to sue him for alleged defamation and libel. But even some experts in scholarly publishing are uncomfortable with Beall’s blacklist, arguing that it runs the risk of lumping publishers that are questionable together with those that could be bona fide start-ups simply lacking experience in the publishing industry. Matthew Cockerill, managing director of BioMed Central, an open-access publisher based in London, says that Beall’s list “identifies publishers which Beall has concerns about. These concerns may or may not be justified.”

. . . .

As a research librarian, Beall has been in prime position to watch the dramatic changes that have taken place in scientific publishing since the rise of the open-access movement about a decade ago. In the conventional subscription-based model, journals bring in revenue largely through selling print or web subscriptions and keeping most online content locked behind a paywall. But in the most popular model of open access, publishers charge an upfront ‘author fee’ to cover costs — and to turn a profit, in the case of commercial publishers — then make the papers freely available online, immediately on publication.

The open-access movement has spawned many successful, well-respected operations. PLOS ONE, for example, which charges a fee of US$1,350 for authors in middle- and high-income countries, has seen the number of articles it publishes leap from 138 in 2006 to 23,464 last year, making it the world’s largest scientific journal. The movement has also garnered growing political support. In the past year, the UK and US governments, as well as the European Commission, have thrown their weight behind some form of open-access publishing. And scarcely a week goes by without the appearance of new author-pays, open-access publishers, launching single journals or large fleets of them.

Many new open-access publishers are trustworthy. But not all. Anyone with a spare afternoon and a little computing savvy can launch an impressive-looking journal website and e-mail invitations to scientists to join editorial boards or submit papers for a fee. The challenge for researchers, and for Beall, is to work out when those websites or e-mail blasts signal a credible publisher and when they come from operations that can range from the outright criminal to the merely amateurish.

In one e-mail that Beall received and shared with Nature, a dental researcher wrote that she had submitted a paper to an open-access journal after she “was won over by the logos of affiliated databases on the home page and seemingly prestigious editorial board”. But the researcher, who prefers to remain anonymous, says that she became concerned about the peer-review process when the article was accepted within days and she was not sent any reviewers’ comments. She says that last week — several months after her original submission — she was sent page proofs that match the submitted manuscript, and that she still has not seen reviewers’ comments.

. . . .

OMICS Group, based in Hyderabad, India, is on Beall’s list. One researcher complained in an e-mail to Beall that she had submitted a paper to an OMICS journal after receiving an e-mail solicitation — but learned that she had to pay a fee to publish it only from a message sent by the journal after the paper had been accepted. “To my horror, I opened the file to find an invoice for $2,700!” she wrote. “This fee was not mentioned anywhere obvious at the time I submitted my manuscript.” (Nature was unable to contact this researcher.) Beall says that OMICS journals do not show their author fees prominently enough on their journal websites or in e-mails that they send to authors to solicit manuscript submissions.

Srinubabu Gedela, director of OMICS Group, says that article-handling fees are displayed clearly on the ‘Instructions for Authors’ web page for each OMICS journal. Gedela adds that he would assume researchers would be aware that such open-access journals charge author fees. He says that OMICS Group is “not predatory” and that its staff and editors are acting in “good faith and confidence” to promote open-access publishing.

Link to the rest at Nature

Here’s a link to OMICS International and here’s a link to the organization’s Peer Reviewed Journals page (the page has a great many journals listed).

From OMICS International’s Open Access page:

An Open Access publication is one that meets the following conditions:

» The author(s) and copyright holder(s) grant to all users a free, irrevocable, worldwide, perpetual right of access and a license to copy, use, distribute, transmit and display the work publicly and to make and distribute derivative works in any digital medium for any responsible purpose, subject to proper attribution of authorship, as well as the right to make small number of printed copies for their personal use.
» A complete version of the work and all supplemental materials, including a copy of the permission as stated above, in a suitable standard electronic format is deposited immediately upon initial publication in at least one online repository that is supported by an academic institution, scholarly society, government agency, or other well-established organization that seeks to enable Open Access, unrestricted distribution, interoperability, and long-term archiving (for the biomedical sciences, PubMed Central is such a repository).
» Open Access is a property of individual works.
» Community standards, rather than copyright law, will continue to provide the mechanism for enforcement of proper attribution and responsible use of the published work.

Link to the rest at OMICS International’s Open Access page

From OMICS International’s Membership page:

The OMICS International membership program, initiated to accomplish the vision of making Healthcare & Scientific Information Open Access, enables academic and research institutions, societies, groups, funding organizations and corporations to actively support Open Access in scholarly publishing and also support the participation of its representatives and students in International conferences.

Membership is now available for the scientific societies/corporatecompanies/universities/institutes/individuals/students.

. . . .

Individual membership

Six Months membership

  1. Member can submit 3 articles to any of the OMICS International journals
  2. Member will get a prestigious certificate of six months membership from OMICS International

Annual membership

  1. Member can submit 10 articles to any of the OMICS International journals
  2. Member will get waiver on registration for any one OMICS International conference
  3. Member will get a prestigious certificate of Annual membership from OMICS International

Three-year membership

  1. Member can submit 20 articles to any of the OMICS International journals
  2. Member will get waiver on registration for any two OMICS International conferences
  3. Member will get a prestigious certificate of Three-year membership from OMICS International

Five-year membership

  1. Member can submit unsolicited number of articles to any of the OMICS International journals
  2. Member will get waiver on registration for any four OMICS International conferences
  3. Member will get a prestigious certificate of Five-year membership from OMICS International

Link to the rest at OMICS International’s Membership page

From the OMICS International’s Membership Fees section of the OMICS International Membership page:

Membership Six-months* Annual Three years Five years
Individual $ 3000 $ 5000 $ 10000 $ 15000

Link to the rest at OMICS International’s Membership Fees page

For the record, PG doesn’t know exactly what “Community standards, rather than copyright law, will continue to provide the mechanism for enforcement of proper attribution and responsible use of the published work” means (perhaps it is defined further elsewhere on the OMICS website), but, absent other material factors, he would likely advise an author/client to retain ownership of the copyright to the author’s work and to not waive any rights the author may have under domestic or international copyright laws and treaties.

From Queensborough Community College, CUNY:

What is Predatory Open Access Publishing?

In an interview with The Chronicle of Higher Education, Prof. Jeffrey Beall describes the phenomenon this way:

“Predatory open-access publishers are those that unprofessionally exploit the gold open-access model for their own profit. That is to say, they operate as scholarly vanity presses and publish articles in exchange for the author fee. They are characterized by various level of deception and lack of transparency in their operations.  For example, some publishers may misrepresent their location, stating New York instead of Nigeria, or they may claim a stringent peer-review where none really exists.”

Predatory publishers may also claim to be included in directories and indexes when they are not and include faculty on their editorial boards who have not agreed to serve.

Predatory publishers began profilerating in the past few years with the increase in open access publishing, and we are now also seeing an increase in predatory conferences, some which choose a name nearly identical to an established, well-respected conference.

How Do I Avoid Predatory Publishers?

Check the publisher and journal on the predatory publishing lists linked to the left.

Contact your department’s Library Liaison for a second (or first) opinion about the authenticity of a publisher or journal. We’re happy to help faculty identify reliable, quality scholarly publishing venues.

Use the following checklist, provided by Declan Butler in Nature, as a guide for assessing publishers and journals:

How to perform due diligence before submitting to a journal or publisher.

  • Check that the publisher provides full, verifiable contact information, including address, on the journal site. Be cautious of those that provide only web contact forms.
  • Check that a journal’s editorial board lists recognized experts with full affiliations. Contact some of them and ask about their experience with the journal or publisher.
  • Check that the journal prominently displays its policy for author fees.
  • Be wary of e-mail invitations to submit to journals or to become editorial board members.
  • Read some of the journal’s published articles and assess their quality. Contact past authors to ask about their experience.
  • Check that a journal’s peer-review process is clearly described and try to confirm that a claimed impact factor is correct.
  • Find out whether the journal is a member of an industry association that vets its members, such as the Directory of Open Access Journals (www.doaj.org) or the Open Access Scholarly Publishers Association (www.oaspa.org). [Some questionable journals appear in directories such as DOAJ and Cabell’s; we don’t advise using this as your sole criteria.]
  • Use common sense, as you would when shopping online: if something looks fishy, proceed with caution.
  • Or contact your Librarian! We’re happy to help assess journals and publishers.

Link to the rest at Queensborough Community College, CUNY

The Queensborough CC page cited above also includes the following:

Predatory Publishers List

Prof. Jeffrey Beall, University of Colorada Denver librarian, maintains a list of potential predatory publishers and stand alone journals. Follow the links below to check if a publisher or journal has been flagged as possibly predatory.

PG notes Professor Beall’s two lists are for Potential, Possible or Probable Predatory, etc. Publishers and Journals.

When PG checked the above referenced Publishers list, Professor Beall included Omix International.

All links were created, checked and valid on the date this post was published. PG won’t check back to determine if any of the links are no longer functioning in the future. All excerpts from the Omix International web sites are subject to the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International Public License (CC BY 4.0)

 

 

The Radical Transformation of the Textbook

From Wired:

For several decades, textbook publishers followed the same basic model: Pitch a hefty tome of knowledge to faculty for inclusion in lesson plans; charge students an equally hefty sum; revise and update its content as needed every few years. Repeat. But the last several years have seen a shift at colleges and universities—one that has more recently turned tectonic.

In a way, the evolution of the textbook has mirrored that in every other industry. Ownership has given way to rentals, and analog to digital. Within the broad strokes of that transition, though, lie divergent ideas about not just what learning should look like in the 21st century but how affordable to make it.

. . . .

Pearson is one of the biggest publishers of educational books in the world, with a roster of 1,500 textbooks in the US market. Last month, it announced that going forward it would adopt a “digital first” strategy. It’ll still produce physical textbooks, but students will rent by default with the option to buy after the rental period ends.

“Our job is to provide the very best content with the very best learning outcomes at the very best prices for students that we can,” says Pearson CEO John Fallon. “This model enables us to do that.”

. . . .

It also enables Pearson to staunch the bleeding caused by an explosion in the second-hand market. A company called Chegg launched the first major online textbook rental service in 2007; Amazon followed suit in 2012. Both advertise savings of up to 90 percent off the sticker price. And that’s just two examples. In fact, the market has spent the last decade in something of an unvirtuous circle. As students flock to more affordable options, textbook prices have skyrocketed to make up for the lost revenue. The price of textbooks has increased 183 percent over the last 20 years, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

“Students started to reject the expensive textbooks. What they did, since they had no other choice, was find ways to save money on textbooks,” says Michael Hansen, CEO of educational publisher Cengage. “The volumes of textbooks publishers were selling declined rapidly for years. However, they always had this magical price lever. They could always just increase the prices, so their revenue looked relatively stable.”

. . . .

Pearson’s digital-first strategy is a significant step toward a more sustainable business model. Under the new system, ebooks will cost an average of $40. Those who prefer actual paper can pay $60 for the privilege of a rental, with the option to purchase the book at the end of the term. The price of a new print textbook can easily reach into the hundreds of dollars; under digital-first, students have to actively want to pay that much after a course is already over, making it an unlikely option for most.

The benefits to Pearson are self-evident. More than half of its revenue comes from digital already; this move accelerates that transition, while providing substantial savings in printing overhead.

. . . .

“Up until now the product development cycle and the revision cycle were still driven by essentially the way the world has been the last 40 years,” Fallon says. “From now on all updates will be digital first. If there’s a scientific breakthrough, a compelling business case study, developments in contemporary politics or world events, you don’t need to wait three years. You can, from one semester to another, update content.”

. . . .

“We are finding that even though undergraduates prefer to read digitally, these preferences aren’t actually showing positive or even equalness in terms of effect on comprehension,” says Lauren Singer Trakhman, who studies reading comprehension at the University of Maryland’s Disciplined and Learning Research Laboratory. “When it comes to things like pulling details, key facts, numbers, and figures, participants are doing a lot better after reading in print.”

Not only do students retain less when reading digitally, Trakhman says, they’re more likely to overestimate how well they comprehended the material. And that’s before you take into account that students reading a textbook on a device do so amid a barrage of notifications that pull them away from the material. Even without those additional distractions, which Trakhman rules out in her research, students read more quickly and less deeply. They reread sentences less. And even when an ebook layout mimics that of a physical textbook, they move around the page less, potentially missing important diagrams, sidebars, or other supporting materials.

“Digital text, digital work, is often engaged with at a lower level of attention. By moving everything online, it’s going to become even more decontextualized. Overall, I think there’s going to be less deeper learning going on,” Trakhman says. “I believe there’s a time and a place for digital, but educators need to be mindful of the time and place for using these resources. Rolling out these digital suites is not really the best for student learning.”

. . . .

Just as traditional software has a thriving open source community, textbooks have Open Educational Resources, complete textbooks that typically come free of charge digitally, or for a small fee—enough to cover the printing—in hard copy. And while it’s not an entirely new concept, OER has gained momentum in recent years, particularly as support has picked up at an institutional level, rather than on a course by course basis. According to a 2018 Babson College survey, faculty awareness of OER jumped from 34 percent to 46 percent since 2015.

One of OER’s leading proponents is OpenStax, a nonprofit based out of Rice University that offers a few dozen free textbooks, covering everything from AP Biology to Principles of Accounting. In the 2019–2020 academic year, 2.7 million students across 6,600 institutions used an OpenStax product instead of a for-profit equivalent.

. . . .

Harris also argues that while OpenStax updates materials annually as needed, it doesn’t do full revisions just for the sake of it. “Our physics book, which we published in 2012, we haven’t done a revision yet, and we don’t want to,” he says. “The laws of physics haven’t changed for the last eight years, I can guarantee you that.”

. . . .

OpenStax alone counts around 50 ecosystem partners to provide homework and testing support. Faculty can choose the one that best suits their needs, versus being locked into Pearson’s platform when you buy a Pearson textbook.

“You pick what’s best for your course,” says Harris. “We have open license content that you can adapt, and then you can pick and choose from five or six online homework platforms that better meet your curricular needs. That’s getting more flexibility, more innovation, at a much lower price.”

Link to the rest at Wired

Pearson Hackers Access Thousands of Student Accounts

From Inside Higher Ed:

The personal information of approximately 13,000 school and university students was exposed as the result of a cyberattack, publisher Pearson confirmed July 31.

In a statement, the company said the exposed data was limited to first name, last name and, in some instances, date of birth and/or email address.

Pearson said the vulnerability has been found and fixed. “We have no evidence that this information has been misused, we have notified the affected customers as a precaution,” the statement said.

Link to the rest at Inside Higher Ed

Pearson provides a lot of e-textbooks to students in the US.

Pearson Launches Digital-First Textbook Strategy

From Copyright and Technology:

Pearson, the world’s largest educational publisher, announced on Tuesday that it is transitioning to a digital-first model for textbook publishing, moving away from the print-edition-based model that has been the foundation of higher education publishing for centuries. In its press release, the company announced that it will move almost all of its 1500 U.S. textbook titles to continuously-updated digital-first content and will only make print textbooks available on a rental basis.

This is a major turning point in higher ed publishing. Pearson’s move contrasts with that of its rival Cengage, which launched a subscription model called Cengage Unlimited last year. Whereas Cengage is offering access to all e-textbooks from its catalog to students at a rate of $120 per semester or $180 per year, Pearson is renting them individually for an average price of $40. Both Pearson and Cengage will make print textbooks available as rentals only. The e-textbook rental model has been around for several years through providers such as eFollett and VitalSource (formerly CourseSmart, a joint venture of Pearson and other higher ed publishers).

. . . .

Yet the switch to digital-first has a whole host of implications beyond student access or pricing models that indicate how big a deal this is. Higher ed publishers have been talking about going digital-first for many years, and there are several reasons why none of them — at least none of the major publishers — have done it until now.

First are all the implications of moving from one edition at a time to a program of continuous updates for digital textbooks. This requires major changes to editorial processes and technologies, and it requires that textbook authors — typically full-time faculty members at universities — commit to continuous updates to their material rather than committing only to one edition of a book at a time. Pearson has been putting in place the editorial infrastructure and processes required to do this for several years now and has been leading the way in setting standards for online educational content such as EDUPUB.

Then there are all the rights clearance challenges. Textbook publishers typically license thousands of items of content for use in each of their textbooks — illustrations, photographs, quotations, tables, etc. — and do so for discrete editions of those textbooks. In many cases, those rights have to be re-cleared for continuously-updated digital textbooks.

. . . .

The impetus for Pearson’s announcement is very simple: higher ed publishing is (finally?) in enough pain to make these disruptive transitions necessary. Publishers have been competing with a combination of used textbooks, third-party textbook rental services such as Chegg, and course instructors using online materials that are free and potentially more up-to-date than material that had to be committed to print-oriented textbooks months or years in advance.

Publishers’ strategy in coping with these forces over the past several years has been to keep raising textbook prices. But as prices go further and further into the stratosphere and backlash increases, that strategy has become self-defeating; Pearson’s revenues are expected to fall up to 5% in the U.S. this year.

. . . .

The other important implication of digital-first is that it can enable publishers to build their own distribution channels to students, bypassing college bookstores as well as third party distributors like Chegg and MBS Direct. The first evidence of this happening for e-textbooks was in 2014, when the four major publishers involved in the CourseSmart joint venture sold it off to VitalSource, a unit of the publishing services giant Ingram Content Group. The deal involved moving CourseSmart e-textbooks to VitalSource’s platform, and the publishers decided not to make all of their titles available on a platform they didn’t own. More recently, Pearson and McGraw-Hill have been working towards distribution channel control for print textbooks through something called consignment rentals. And certainly Cengage Unlimited is a further move towards distribution channel control by publishers.

It seems likely that Pearson will insist that students engage with its own service to obtain their course materials as part of its digital-first strategy.

Link to the rest at Copyright and Technology

PG says this is entirely about money – killing the used textbook market once and for all plus taking all the markup generated by sales of new and used titles from college bookstore and redirecting that money to the publisher.

PG hopes college and university departments are motivated to create their own course materials and distribute those to their students at a reasonable price. This could benefit individual professors with an additional income stream and help the students avoid piling on more and more student loans to acquire textbooks they won’t be able to keep or sell after the class ends at exorbitant prices.

The Books of College Libraries Are Turning into Wallpaper

From The Atlantic:

When Yale recently decided to relocate three-quarters of the books in its undergraduate library to create more study space, the students loudly protested. In a passionate op-ed in the Yale Daily News, one student accused the university librarian—who oversees 15 million books in Yale’s extensive library system—of failing to “understand the crucial relationship of books to education.” A sit-in, or rather a “browse-in,” was held in Bass Library to show the administration how college students still value the presence of books. Eventually the number of volumes that would remain was expanded, at the cost of reducing the number of proposed additional seats in a busy central location.

Little-noticed in this minor skirmish over the future of the library was a much bigger story about the changing relationship between college students and books. Buried in a slide deck about circulation statistics from Yale’s library was an unsettling fact: There has been a 64 percent decline in the number of books checked out by undergraduates from Bass Library over the past decade.

Yale’s experience is not at all unique—indeed, it is commonplace. University libraries across the country, and around the world, are seeing steady, and in many cases precipitous, declines in the use of the books on their shelves. The University of Virginia, one of our great public universities and an institution that openly shares detailed library circulation stats from the prior 20 years, is a good case study. College students at UVA checked out 238,000 books during the school year a decade ago; last year, that number had shrunk to just 60,000.

Before you tsk-tsk today’s kids for their lack of bookishness, note that the trend lines are sliding southward for graduate students and faculty members, too: down 61 percent and 46 percent, respectively, at UVA. Overall, across its entire network of libraries, UVA circulated 525,000 books during the 2007–08 school year, but last year there were only 188,000 loans—nearly 1,000 fewer books checked out a day. The Association of Research Libraries’ aggregated statistics show a steady decrease of the same proportion across its membership, even as student enrollment at these universities has grown substantially.

. . . .

Maybe students aren’t checking the books out but are still consulting them regularly within the library? This also does not appear to be true. Many libraries also track such in-house uses, by tallying the books that need to be reshelved, and the trends are the same. At my library at Northeastern University, undergraduate circulations declined 50 percent from 2013 to 2017—before we decided to do our own book relocation—and our logged number of books removed from shelves but not checked out also dropped by half.

These stark statistics present a conundrum for those who care about libraries and books. At the same time that books increasingly lie dormant, library spaces themselves remain vibrant—Snell Library at Northeastern now receives well over 2 million visits a year—as retreats for focused study and dynamic collaboration, and as sites of an ever wider array of activities and forms of knowledge creation and expression, including, but also well beyond, the printed word. It should come as no surprise that library leadership, in moments of dispassionate assessment often augmented by hearing from students who have trouble finding seats during busy periods, would seek to rezone areas occupied by stacks for more individual and group work. Yet it often does come as an unwelcome surprise to many, especially those with a powerful emotional attachment to what libraries should look like and be.

. . . .

The decline in the use of print books at universities relates to the kinds of books we read for scholarly pursuits rather than pure pleasure, the rise of ebooks and digital articles, and the changing environment of research. And it runs contrary to the experience of public libraries and bookstores, where print continues to thrive.

Unlike most public libraries, the libraries of colleges and universities have always been filled with an incredibly wide variety of books, including works of literature and nonfiction, but also bound scientific journals and other highly specialized periodicals, detailed reference works, and government documents—different books for different purposes. Although many of these volumes stand ready for immersive, cover-to-cover reading, others await rarer and often brief consultations, as part of a larger network of knowledge. Even many monographs, carefully and slowly written by scholars, see only very sporadic consultation, and it is not uncommon for the majority of college collections to be unused for a decade or more. This is as it should be: Research libraries exist to collect and preserve knowledge for the future as well as for the present, not to house just the latest and most popular works.

But there is a difference between preservation and access, and a significant difference, often unacknowledged, in the way we read books for research instead of pleasure. As the historian Michael O’Malley humorously summarized the nature of much scholarly reading and writing, “We learn to read books and articles quickly, under pressure, for the key points or for what we can use. But we write as if a learned gentleman of leisure sits in a paneled study, savoring every word.” Or as he more vividly described the research process, academics often approach books like “sous-chefs gutting a fish.”

. . . .

With the rapidly growing number of books available online, that mode of slicing and dicing has largely become digital. Where students or faculty once pulled volumes off the shelf to scan a table of contents or index, grasp a thesis by reading an introduction, check a reference, or trace a footnote, today they consult the library’s swiftly expanding ebook collection (our library’s ebook collection has multiplied tenfold over the past decade), Google Books, or Amazon’s Look Inside. With each of these clicks, a print circulation or in-house use of a book is lost. UVA’s ebook downloads totaled 1.7 million in 2016, an order of magnitude larger than e-circulations a decade ago. Our numbers at Northeastern are almost identical, as scholars have become comfortable with the use of digital books for many purposes.

I’ve seen my own book usage change over time. When I was a graduate student studying Victorian history at Yale, the university’s towering collection in Sterling Library, next door to Bass (then called Cross Campus Library), allowed me to find and leaf through relevant books easily. Now almost all of the texts I consulted for my dissertation are available online in repositories such as HathiTrust, which stores digitized books from research libraries, many of them freely available for download since they were published before 1924, the cutoff for public-domain works. If I were doing the same scholarly project today, I would likely check out only a small subset of books that I needed to pay careful attention to, and annotate others digitally in my PDF reader.

. . . .

Statistics show that today’s undergraduates have read fewer books before they arrive on campus than in prior decades, and just placing students in an environment with more books is unlikely to turn that around. (The time to acquire the reading bug is much earlier than freshman year.) And while correlation does not equal causation, it is all too conspicuous that we reached Peak Book in universities just before the iPhone came out. Part of this story is undoubtedly about the proliferation of electronic devices that are consuming the attention once devoted to books.

. . . .

When i tweeted about this under-discussed decline in the use of print books in universities, several respondents wondered if, regardless of circulation statistics, we should keep an ample number of books in the library for their beneficial ambience. Even if books are ignored by undergraduates, maybe just having them around will indirectly contribute to learning. If books are becoming wallpaper, they are rather nice wallpaper, surrounding students with deep learning and with some helpful sound-deadening characteristics to boot. If that helps students get into the right mind-set in a quiet, contemplative space, so be it. Maybe they will be more productive, get away from their distracting devices, and perhaps serendipitously discover a book or two along the way.

. . . .

But there is another future that these statistics and our nostalgic reaction to them might produce: the research library as a Disneyland of books, with banker’s lamps and never-cracked spines providing the suggestion of, but not the true interaction with, knowledge old and new.

Link to the rest at The Atlantic

PG says one of the fundamental reasons for the creation of the World Wide Web was to bring all the world’s books (plus a bunch of other stuff) online.

Google’s corporate mission is “to organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful.”

Google has a related corporate vision “to provide access to the world’s information in one click.”

PG discovered quite a few libraries have mission statements. Here are a couple:

The Harvard Library advances scholarship and teaching by committing itself to the creation, application, preservation and dissemination of knowledge.

The mission of the Bodleian Libraries is to provide an excellent service to support the learning, teaching and research objectives of the University of Oxford; and to develop and maintain access to Oxford’s unique collections for the benefit of scholarship and society.

The W3 – World Wide Web Consortium describes its mission as follows:

The W3C mission is to lead the World Wide Web to its full potential by developing protocols and guidelines that ensure the long-term growth of the Web. Below we discuss important aspects of this mission, all of which further W3C’s vision of One Web.

The W3’s vision includes:

W3C’s vision for the Web involves participation, sharing knowledge, and thereby building trust on a global scale.

The Web was invented as a communications tool intended to allow anyone, anywhere to share information. For many years, the Web was a “read-only” tool for many. Blogs and wikis brought more authors to the Web, and social networking emerged from the flourishing market for content and personalized Web experiences. W3C standards have supported this evolution thanks to strong architecture and design principles.

. . . .

Some people view the Web as a giant repository of linked data while others as a giant set of services that exchange messages. The two views are complementary, and which to use often depends on the application.

. . . .

The Web has transformed the way we communicate with each other. In doing so, it has also modified the nature of our social relationships. People now “meet on the Web” and carry out commercial and personal relationships, in some cases without ever meeting in person. W3C recognizes that trust is a social phenomenon, but technology design can foster trust and confidence. As more activity moves on-line, it will become even more important to support complex interactions among parties around the globe. Learn more about:

Open Access: Germany’s De Gruyter Signs ‘Read and Publish’ Deal

From Publishing Perspectives:

The Berlin-based independent publisher De Gruyter has announced this week the signing of a “read and publish” agreement with Iowa State University Library, the first of its kind for the German house in North America.

The three-year pilot agreement, according to the publisher’s media messaging, “allows for all articles written by authors at Iowa State University to be made open access immediately upon publication.

“In addition, Iowa State patrons will be provided with access to De Gruyter’s “Research Now by De Gruyter” package, which includes all De Gruyter journals that are subscribed to by North American ARL institutions.”

De Gruyter’s “hybrid journal pricing structure” is in play here, with journal subscription prices adjusted based on the percentage of open access articles. A deep discount is provided, as well, the company says, “to Iowa State authors who publish their articles in one of De Gruyter’s many pure open access journals.”

. . . .

OA2020 is to a Munich-based collaborative effort signed by institutions in many parts of the world to replace “the subscription business model with new models that ensure outputs are open and re-usable and that the costs behind their dissemination are transparent and economically sustainable.”

The endorsement carries several stipulations to which signatories agree.

First, they’re asked if they agree that:

  • Researchers should retain full rights to share their work and the freedom to publish in the journals of their choice and participate in the publishing services they wish
  • The current subscription model, with its ever-rising paywalls, is an unsustainable barrier to the full fruition of scientific research and the fundamental objectives of open access
  • Scholarly publishing should be supported with economically sustainable and transparent business models and released from the constraints of an obsolete system of dissemination

And then they’re asked to promote the primary principle: “We aim to transform a majority of today’s scholarly journals from subscription to OA publishing in accordance with community-specific publication preferences. At the same time, we continue to support new and improved forms of OA publishing.”

Link to the rest at Publishing Perspectives

What If Digital Is Antithetical to Learning?

From Inside Higher Ed:

In 2018, the most important article for our “Inside Digital Learning” community to think about was not published here. It wasn’t even published in 2018.

It is the 2017 Educause Review piece “The Rise of Educational Technology as a Sociocultural and Ideological Phenomenon,” by George Veletsianos and Rolin Moe.

Those of us who champion digital learning, and who participate in the “IDL” community, need to take Veletsianos and Moe’s thinking seriously. If nothing else, we should be aware of the possibility that “the rise of ed tech is underpinned by ideology.”

What is the underpinning ideology of “Inside Digital Learning”?

If asked, and I’m not sure that our community has grappled with the question, I’d wager that we’d come to some answer that included adjectives such “critical,” “skeptical” and “a bit wary.” This is not a community populated by unthinking digital learning evangelists.

At the same time, I’d say that much of our community — and here I’d include myself — is deeply invested in the idea that digital technologies have the potential to be a force for good in advancing learning.

We may be critical of how digital technologies are applied in specific cases, but we genuinely believe that, done right, technology can improve student learning within higher education.

But what if we are wrong?

What if digital technologies are inherently harmful to learning?

. . . .

Indictment No. 3: Digital Distracts

The third charge against digital technologies is that they are driving our students (and professors) to distraction. Even those of us who tend to think it a bad idea to ban laptops from classroom have to admit that their presence can sometimes detract from student learning. The case that professors need to learn how to leverage laptops as learning tools may be justified, but it does impose yet another burden on the faculty.

Nor are students the only people on campuses likely to use technologies in a way that inhibits, rather than promotes, learning. PowerPoint has probably set back the art of teaching more than anything else in the past three decades.

How would our discussions on “Inside Digital Learning” be different if we started with the hypothesis that digital technologies are inherently destructive to the goal of advancing student learning?

Would this contrarian viewpoint to the basic assumptions of much of our professional practices change how we think about our higher ed jobs?

Might starting with a critical perspective about educational technologies make any efforts we make to introduce digital platforms to advance student learning more legitimate?

If our digital learning community learns to be more critical, might we develop great levels of empathy for the perspectives of many of our faculty colleagues who are skeptical of digital learning?

Link to the rest at Inside Higher Ed

Authors Guild Demands South Carolina Police Cease Pressure on School About Reading List

From Publishing Perspectives:

In a strongly worded letter to the Fraternal Order of Police Tri-County Lodge #3 in South Carolina, the Authors Guild today (July 13) is demanding that the organizing stop “interfering in the reading selections of a high school in suburban Charleston.”

Publishing Perspectives readers are familiar with this case from our reporting earlier this month on how the police organization president, John Blackmon is calling for an English-class summer reading list to drop The Hate U Give (HarperCollins, 2017) by Angie Thomas and All American Boys (Simon & Schuster, 2015) by Jason Reynolds and Brendan Kiely.

Both books have stories that include police brutality and racism as themes, and both are among the most highly acclaimed bestsellers in their sector of recent years. Blackmon’s complaint about the books–two of four titles from which students of Wando High Schoo’s English 1 class in Mount Pleasant are to choose and read one.

In the guild’s open letter to the police group, executive director Mary Rasenberger writes, “Attempts at censorship by law enforcement organizations cannot be tolerated in a democracy. Educators must be free to choose books on any and all subjects for their students’ reading.”

. . . .

Rasenberger writes to Blackmon, “This interference–which is clearly based on the content of the books in question–must stop.

“It is a blatant violation of students’ first amendment rights and an improper attempt at censorship by law-enforcement officials.

“It is a fundamental principle of democracy that police have no proper role in deciding what books should or should not be read. We have already co-signed a letter to the principal of Wando High School to urge the school to abide by its own internal processes, and we ask the Fraternal Order of Police to cease its efforts to influence that process.”

Link to the rest at Publishing Perspectives

While PG has an instinctive response to oppose actions by government entities to restrict the availability or use of nearly any book, he must note here that this is an argument between two different entities comprised of government employees.

Arguably, the Fraternal Order of Police is a private membership organization (assuming police officers are not required to be members) and can say what it wants about any subject. In their private capacity, police officers are permitted to create associations to further their personal goals and exercise their first amendment rights individually and as a group to support or oppose just about anything they desire just like any other group does in the United States.

Assuming, for argument’s sake that the police department, rather than a private association is trying to forcibly limit books read by teenagers, that’s a bad idea because there’s an express or implied government backing for the limitation.

However, the summer reading list was clearly created by government employees acting in direct connection with their employment, so a clearer First Amendment infringement argument could be made by or on behalf of the students who are apparently required to read one of four books on a list provided by the school as a summer assignment. If these are suggestions by the high school and the students are free to read whatever they want, there shouldn’t be a problem, but if all the books were about police brutality and racism and included strong anti-police themes, PG thinks a student might object.

If all four books on the summer mailing list were written by white supremacist or antisemitic authors (or even – gasp – by Republicans), one might expect a lot of protests against the list, including by the Fraternal Order of Police.

PG will note that the two books mentioned in the OP are published by huge corporations – HarperCollins is owned by News Corp. was an American multinational mass media corporation headquartered in New York City and controlled by Rupert Murdoch and Simon & Schuster, Inc., is a subsidiary of CBS Corporation.

PG was also reminded of the increasing popularity of home schooling, at least in some areas of the country, which involves no government action. PG was further reminded of friends who are home schooling their children. Their two oldest children started college at age 16 and 14 after each attained a perfect score on the ACT.

Europe’s open-access drive escalates as university stand-offs spread

From Nature:

Bold efforts to push academic publishing towards an open-access model are gaining steam. Negotiators from libraries and university consortia across Europe are sharing tactics on how to broker new kinds of contracts that could see more articles appear outside paywalls. And inspired by the results of a stand-off in Germany, they increasingly declare that if they don’t like what publishers offer, they will refuse to pay for journal access at all. On 16 May, a Swedish consortium became the latest to say that it wouldn’t renew its contract, with publishing giant Elsevier.

Under the new contracts, termed ‘read and publish’ deals, libraries still pay subscriptions for access to paywalled articles, but their researchers can also publish under open-access terms so that anyone can read their work for free.

. . . .

Despite decades of campaigning for research papers to be published openly — on the grounds that the fruits of publicly funded research should be available for all to read — scholarly publishing’s dominant business model remains to publish articles behind paywalls and collect subscriptions from libraries.

. . . .

On 2 May, negotiators from countries across Europe agreed to align their bargaining strategies at a closed meeting in Berlin attended by the European Commission’s special envoy for open access, Robert-Jan Smits. According to Gerard Meijer, one of the German negotiators present, consortia are “frustrated” by the lack of progress in talks and feel the limits of partnerships between institutions and large publishers “have been reached. It is up to us now to act, and to step out of these negotiations if these are going nowhere,” he says.

The meeting was the latest in a string of events in which negotiators from different countries swapped tactics. “More and more people are willing to share their experiences,” says Matthijs van Otegem, director of the library at Erasmus University in Rotterdam, and chair of the open-access working group at the Association of European Research Libraries (LIBER) in The Hague, the Netherlands.

In September last year, LIBER published a list of principles to guide negotiators seeking to change their deals. These include ending non-disclosure agreements that publishers customarily place on contracts (which would enable negotiators to compare deals in different countries) and not agreeing to price hikes without open-access agreements in place.

. . . .

A key driver behind the activity in Europe is the European Commission’s goal that, by 2020, all research will be freely accessible as soon as it is published.

. . . .

One reason that libraries no longer fear an end to their contracts with publishers is that a growing number of free versions of paywalled articles can be found online as preprints or accepted manuscripts, notes Heather Joseph, executive director of the Scholarly Publishing and Academic Resources Coalition (SPARC), an advocacy group in Washington DC. Sci-Hub, a website that illicitly hosts full copies of papers and is used by academics around the world, is also a big factor, says Joseph Esposito, a publishing consultant in New York City. “Without Sci-Hub the researchers would be screaming at the libraries and state agencies not to cut them off,” he says.

Link to the rest at Nature

Academic publishing is broken. Here’s how to redesign it.

From Fast Company:

The world of scholarly communication is broken. Giant, corporate publishers with racketeering business practices and profit margins that exceed Apple’s treat life-saving research as a private commodity to be sold at exorbitant profits. Only around 25% of the global corpus of research knowledge is open access, or accessible to the public for free and without subscription, which is a real impediment to resolving major problems, such as the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals.

Recently, Springer Nature, one of the largest academic publishers in the world, had to withdraw its European stock market floatation due to a lack of interest. This announcement came just days after Couperin, a French consortium, cancelled its subscriptions to Springer Nature journals, after Swedish and German universities cancelled their Elsevier subscriptions to no ill effect, besides replenished library budgets. At the same time, Elsevier has sued Sci-Hub, a website that provides free, easy access to 67 million research articles. All evidence of a broken system.

. . . .

A global community to coordinate and regain control–to develop a public open-access infrastructure–of research and scholarly communication for the public good is long overdue. The issues of governance and ownership of public research have never been clearer. Another isolated platform will simply replicate the problems of the current journal-based system, including the “publish or perish” mentality that perverts the research process, and the anachronistic evaluation system based on corporate brands.

Researchers are still forced to write “papers” for these journals, a communication format designed in the 17th century. Now, in a world where the power of web-based social networks is revolutionizing almost every other industry, researchers need to take back control.

. . . .

If we diversify our thinking away from the superficial field of journals and articles, and instead focus on the power of networked technologies, we can see all sorts of innovative models for scholarly communication. One ideal, based on existing services, would be something much more granular and continuous, with communication and peer review as layered, collaborative processes: Envisage a hosting service such as GitHub combined with Wikipedia combined with a Q&A site such as Stack Exchange. Imagine using version control to track the process of research in real time. Peer review becomes a community-governed process, where the quality of engagement becomes the hallmark of individual reputations. Governance structures can be mediated through community elections. Critically, all research outputs can be published and credited–videos, code, visualizations, text, data, things we haven’t even thought of yet. Best of all, a system of fully open communication and collaboration, with not an “impact factor” (a paper’s average number of citations, used to rate journals) in sight.

Such a system of scholarly communication requires the harmonizing of three key elements: quality control and moderation, certification and reputation, and incentives for engagement. For example, it would be easy to have a quality-control process in which instead of the closed and secretive process of peer review, self-organized and unrestricted communities collaborate together for research to attain verification and validation. The recklessly used impact factor can be replaced by a reward system that altruistically recognizes the quality of engagement, as defined by how content is digested by a community, which itself can be used to unlock new abilities within such a system. The beauty is that the incentive for researchers switches from publishing in journal X to engaging in a manner that is of most value to their community. By coupling such activities with academic records and profiles, research assessment bodies can begin to recognize the immense value this has over current methods of evaluation, including its simplicity.

. . . .

How will we fund scholarly publishing? Well, it’s a $25 billion a year industry: I’m sure libraries can spare a dime. Making a more just system of scholarly communication open-source means that any community can copy it, and customize it to suit the community’s own needs, driving down costs immensely. Furthermore, initiatives such as the Global Sustainability Coalition for Open Science Services (SCOSS) or a recent proposal for libraries to set aside just 2.5% of their budget to support such innovative systems, offer paths forward. The possibility is real for creating something so superior to the present system that people will wonder how publishers ever got away with it for so long.

. . . .

On average, academics currently spend around $5,000 for each published article–to get a PDF and some extra sides. A range of different studies and working examples exist that show the true cost of publishing an article can be as low as $100 using cost-efficient funding schemes, community buy-in, and technologies that go a step further than PDF generation. We can do better.

Link to the rest at Fast Company

PG will note that academic publishing is an extraordinarily profitable activity for the academic publishers and ripe for disruption. A long time ago, he worked for a large subsidiary of Reed Elsevier, now the RELX Group, which also owns Elsevier.

Elsevier is the world’s largest academic publisher, so he has some understanding about what a wonderfully profitable business it is, particularly in an online publishing world.

The two most important inputs for academic publishing, scholarly articles and peer review, cost the journals virtually nothing. Academics write articles for publication because publishing research papers is a requirement for most academic teaching posts. Peer review services by other academics in the field is designed to ensure the quality of the publications. Being selected for a peer review panel adds to an academic’s distinction and provides him/her a leg up the competition to be published in the academic journal for which the peer reviewers are providing essentially free expert services.

Students Forgoing Required Learning Materials Due to Cost

From No Shelf Required:

A growing number of college students are choosing not to purchase textbooks and other required course materials in an effort to save money, according to a new study conducted by Wakefield Research on behalf of VitalSource Technologies LLC.

The study finds 85 percent of the college and university students surveyed have either waited to buy course materials until after the first day of class or opted not to purchase the materials altogether – up five percent from a similar survey conducted in 2016. Nearly all (91 percent) of the students surveyed cite cost as the reason for not buying their books, and half admit their grades suffered as a result.

. . . .

“As costs have risen, we have seen course material cost become a significant barrier to student retention and completion. Students are increasingly finding work-arounds that are not working – like putting off buying materials or choosing not to buy course materials at all.”

. . . .

“With college costs on the rise and student outcomes lagging, offering more affordable options on critical course materials is just common sense,” said Pep Carrera, Chief Operating Officer of VitalSource®, a leading provider of digital learning materials. “In recent years, there has been a marked increase in the number of students who are forgoing course materials due to costs. This is alarming, but even more disturbing is the consequence this decision has on students’ grades.”

The study also confirms students’ interest in “inclusive access” programs as a solution to their textbooks and course material cost woes. Inclusive access rolls the cost of digital course materials into tuition, making it easier for students to automatically access critical learning materials at a more affordable price.

“The prevalence – and success – of digital inclusive access programs has increased significantly in recent years,” said Carrera. “The survey results mirror the anecdotal data we have collected from students about the value of digital course materials delivered through an inclusive access model.

Link to the rest at No Shelf Required

Barnes & Noble Hates Its Customers, and Wants Them to Suffer

From The Digital Reader:

Some retailers like Amazon try their best to make customers happy, secure in the knowledge that a happy customer is a repeat customer.

Then there is Barnes & Noble, a company out to cause suffering, destroy customers’ futures, and (if they have time ) make blood rain from the sky.

B&N inflicts pain upon customers in many and various ways, but today I would like to focus on the most insidious: Yuzu.

Named for an Asian fruit, Yuzu is a digital textbook platform that Barnes & Noble launched in 2014.  It was in beta at that time, and still under active development.

Alas, development petered out before B&N ever really got it working, but that didn’t stop B&N from continuing to foist the platform on college students.

Every time a new semester started, students would show up in my comment section, complaining about Yuzu. They also left negative reviews in iTunes, where the Yuzu app has a rating of 1.5 stars.

Students were complaining about Yuzu in 2015, and again in 2016, and students were still showing up last week:

Why didn’t I see this before I purchased the textbook with yuzu, its horrible. Do yourself a huge huge favor and buy it from someone else or buy the hard copy. yuzu sucks, it’s very frustrating. it was suppossed to make my studying easier but now I’m stuck with this useless c***. ugh.

It’s now three years later, Yuzu still doesn’t work, and yet it is still the digital textbook solution for all of Barnes & Noble’s 700 plus college bookstores.

Link to the rest at The Digital Reader

PG says there’s nothing like ruining your brand with college students to build a foundation for future success selling books into your prime post-college demographic.

E-book expansion could mean student savings

From the Gainesville Sun:

Florida universities are taking the first steps toward expanding the use of electronic textbooks and other material, hoping to bring significant savings to students who spend hundreds of dollars each semester on traditional textbooks.

The Florida Board of Governors, which oversees the university system, approved a 2018-19 budget request this week that includes a $656,000 program to encourage the greater use of so-called “eTexts” and other open educational resources in lieu of the standard textbooks.

It may take some time to replicate the experience of the University of Indiana, a leader in the use of eTexts, with IU reporting last spring that its students saved an estimated $3.5 million in the 2016-17 academic year by using eTexts in place of textbooks.

But Joseph Glover, provost at the University of Florida and part of a group coordinating innovation and online programs among the universities, said the expanded use of eTexts and other open-source material “is a great opportunity for really substantial savings for our students.”

. . . .

The budget proposal would set aside $656,000 to create a catalog where professors and other instructors, as they are developing their courses, will find open-source material as well as eTexts where lower prices have been negotiated with the publishers, Glover said.

Link to the rest at the Gainesville Sun

PG has said so before, but will repeat himself:

Especially for introductory courses typically taken by large numbers of students, “Introduction to Economics” or “Introduction to Psychology” or “Introduction to Probability and Statistics”, there is absolutely no need to revise and update the textbook for the class (and make students buy a new book) each year.

As the OP implies, there is almost certainly no benefit derived from an introductory textbook published by an educational publisher compared to free materials. Reams of open source material are readily available online from authors who disclaim any copyright to such materials. If there is a question about rights to reproduce, an ebook can simply provide a link to such materials.

If a student really wants a printed version of the ebook, POD is the simplest and cheapest way to obtain it.

Colleges and universities are very liberal in adding various fees to their students’ tuition bills. If there is an ongoing cost to maintaining and updating free etextbooks, a campus with 20,000 undergraduates could generate a one million dollar annual budget to do so by charging each student a $50 ebook maintenance fee. That amount is substantially less than most students would pay for printed course materials for a single class.

No Better Time for Teachers and Librarians to Introduce Teenagers to Self-Publishing Than Now

From No Shelf Required:

We live in an age in which the resources necessary to self-publish are readily available. Many adults self-publish their books and see them distributed to online retailers and libraries. Some libraries are beginning to facilitate this, especially with seniors who are memoirists, but what of students? What of adolescents whose hearts are filled with passion for life and who need to express their thoughts and feelings, to know that their words can find readers, and that their ideas matter to others? Now, thanks to Smashwords with its technology and how-to guides, educators and librarians can help these young people find their voices and speak to the world.

I send a big thanks to Tonya McQuade, poet, teacher and pioneer in both ebook publishing and in educational leadership.  Tonya McQuade began writing poetry as a child. She has won awards for it, published a book of her own writings, and appeared in anthologies. She has taught high school English for over 20 years. But in 2014, she found herself inspired her to go into self-publishing with her students.

She knew that when students write for an audience, when students write with the knowledge that their words will reach people who will understand them, then students become young writers. They are not writing to satisfy a course requirement or to please a teacher. They are writing to express themselves. And this can change their lives. But how did a busy educator whose forte was poetry not technology find the time and resources to make this work, to write, organize, publish and distribute an ebook? If it had been a printed book, the cost would have been high, but as an ebook, money was not a problem. The problem, had there been one, would have centered on the technology. But there wasn’t any problem.

Los Gatos, California, was the center of a vortex of indie author energy. A great and serendipitous confluence of people and ideas met there, and the dream of publishing ebooks of student writings became a reality.

McQuade taught 9th grade honors English at Los Gatos High School for five sessions per day. Not an easy task. Smashwords, which provided the technology and the know-how, was headquartered in Los Gatos. Mark Coker, the founder of Smashwords, was a graduate of Los Gatos High and eager to share his knowledge with students. Henry Bankhead, a librarian with a passion for self-publishing and a vision of libraries as centers of community publishing and beyond, worked at Los Gatos Public Library. Tonya was friends with Heidi Murphy, then Co-Director of Los Gatos Public Library. Henry Bankhead was the other Co-Director. Through these personal connections and new ways of thinking about authorship, publishing, and the role of libraries in their communities, Tonya found the support she needed to publish her students’ writings in the Los Gatos vortex.

Once these personal connections were made, Mark Coker and Henry Bankhead spoke in-person to McQuade’s classes about the business of self-publishing, the benefits of it, the best practices and so on.

. . . .

The students took their book through all the stages of editing and revision that books need and then released it concurrently with a book launch party organized by the events team and held at the Los Gatos Public Library.

. . . .

Because of the pre-sale work of the marketing team, Windows to the Teenage Soul hit number one in poetry in Apple’s iBooks store on the day of its release and generated several hundred dollars of profit toward the senior prom. The book and its successors remain available through online retailers and library ebook platforms.

Link to the rest at No Shelf Required

Global publishing giant wins $15 million damages against researcher for sharing publicly-funded knowledge

From Privacy News Online:

It’s not every day that one of the world’s largest publishing companies is awarded $15 million in damages for copyright infringement against a site set up by a Kazakh neuroscientist. That makes the almost total lack of wider coverage of Elsevier’s win in New York against Sci-Hub surprising. But it is only the latest development in a saga that is of great interest for the deep flaws it exposes in both scientific publishing and copyright itself.

The court awarded $15 million damages to the scientific publisher on the basis of 100 articles published by Elsevier that had been made available without permission on Sci-Hub and a similar site called LibGen. At the time of writing, Sci-Hub claims to hold 62 million scientific research papers – probably a majority of all those ever published – most of which are unauthorized copies. According to a report in the scientific journal Science last year, it is Elsevier which is most affected by Sci-Hub’s activities:

“Over the 6 months leading up to March [2016], Sci-Hub served up 28 million documents. More than 2.6 million download requests came from Iran, 3.4 million from India, and 4.4 million from China. The papers cover every scientific topic, from obscure physics experiments published decades ago to the latest breakthroughs in biotechnology. The publisher with the most requested Sci-Hub articles? It is Elsevier by a long shot – Sci-Hub provided half-a-million downloads of Elsevier papers in one recent week.”

Those figures help to explain why Elsevier has been pursuing Sci-Hub doggedly for some years. Back in December 2015, the same New York judge who has just awarded the $15 million to Elsevier issued a preliminary injunction against the site’s operator. Access to the original domain – sci-hub.org – was suspended, but it carried on using a different domain. Its servers, meanwhile, remain beyond the reach of US law, since they are located in Russia. In the age of VPNs, attempts to block the site are similarly pointless.

. . . .

Most of the papers published by Elsevier and the other academic publishing houses and found on Sci-Hub were written by scientists and academics whose research grants were paid for by the public. Once written those papers were submitted to a relevant journal, where an editor or editorial board chose which ones should be considered for publication. To that end, the papers were passed to referees who scrutinized them as part of the peer review system, whereby fellow academics read the text, and judge whether it deserves to be published as is, or needs revisions and corrections. Typically, neither editorial boards nor peer reviewers are paid for their work, which is carried out as a kind of academic responsibility accepted by all as part of the job, and done for the greater good of society.

That is, most of the work writing, checking and editing a paper is carried out completely for free. The only costs that academic publishers incur are typically for production, which are limited if publication is purely digital, as is increasingly the case. Given the extremely efficient nature of the academic publishing system, it will come as no surprise to learn that leading companies in the sector – including Elsevier – have consistently achieved profit margins between 30% and 40%, levels almost unheard of in other industries.

Such elevated profit margins have come as the prices paid by academic libraries to subscribe to titles have increased rapidly. While the cost of living increased by 73% between 1986 and 2004, the expenditure by research libraries on subscriptions to academic journals went up by 273% in the same period. The trend has continued since then.

Link to the rest at Privacy News Online and thanks to Paul at  The Digital Reader for the tip.

What is the biggest challenge in university-press publishing?

From The Chronicle of Higher Education:

People are convinced there’s a crisis in university-press publishing — that we’re dying off in significant numbers, that we’re unsustainable, that dramatic changes are inevitable. None of this is true. Print, books, and bookstores are all healthy. Library sales are on the decline, it’s true, but they have been for generations. If anything, it feels like book publishing, including university presses, has achieved a new normal.

But I worry that the perception of crisis (stemming in part from a tendency to conflate for-profit journal publishers and not-for-profit university presses, which focus primarily on books) threatens to cause a crisis by undermining support for traditional university presses. If we seem doomed despite the evidence, after all, why continue to support us?

The book is necessary and important — and, while it’s hardly a static artifact, it’s proved remarkably durable. Books are also expensive, especially in terms of the skilled labor necessary to acquire and market them. But they’re worth it. In the current environment, with its emphasis on disruption and the widely promoted belief that university presses are a “problem” in search of a “solution,” our biggest challenge is making sure people don’t lose sight of that.

. . . .

There are roughly 4,200 institutions of higher education in the United States. These institutions rely on the work of some 140 scholarly presses to assure a critical function: the independent review, assessment, and distribution of the best ideas of faculty members, which in turn makes a clear basis for the evaluation of a scholar’s contribution to a field. But instead of finding ways to share the costs of this necessary system equally across all institutions, the sponsoring institutions have themselves increasingly abandoned their presses to the whims of the marketplace, effectively rendering these presses less and less distinct from trade publishers.

. . . .

We’ve seen e-book sales plateau and drop, so we aren’t experiencing the print reduction offset by the digital. Amazon, our biggest reseller, instituted a new policy that requires a minimum threshold of demand in order to carry stock. That’s a scary scenario. Our authors are constantly looking at Amazon and get nervous when they don’t see their title listed as “in stock.” —Fredric Nachbaur

Link to the rest at The Chronicle of Higher Education

Researchers find free textbooks are just as effective as costly ones

From the Provo Daily Herald:

In a result that will make college students rejoice, a group of researchers at Brigham Young University have found that a free textbook is just as effective as an expensive one.

BYU’s Open Education Group studies open educational resources, free and open-access educational resources they’ve found that can teach students just as well as paid resources.

The group’s research not only showed that students using the free materials do just as well, and in some cases better, than if they were using a pricey textbook, but that the students were also more likely to stick in a course and not drop out.

. . . .

Lane Fischer, a BYU counseling psychology and special education chair and member of the Open Education Group, said many students will wait to buy their textbooks until weeks after classes begin when their financial aid comes or until they decide they need the textbook for the course. By the time the students get their books, they’re behind and might drop the course.

“That cycle continues for these folks who have lower educational resources,” Fischer said. “This is our most vulnerable group who most need an education and we are making them slow down and hurting them in the process.”

At community colleges, the price of textbooks can be half of the price a student pays for their education.

Fischer said the cost of textbooks over time, compared to inflation, has grown astronomically and that the textbook market in general doesn’t follow traditional supply and demand.

“It is a broken economic system because the normal laws of supply and demand don’t apply,” said John Hilton III, a professor of ancient scripture at BYU and member of the Open Education Group. “The professor doesn’t have to pay for it, and the students don’t have a say in which one they chose.”

Fisher said about half of professors know how much their required textbooks cost.

. . . .

“If students perform just as well without the textbooks, it is like giving every student a $1,000 scholarship if students are using open education resources,” Hilton said.

With new editions constantly coming out in subjects that don’t change, like algebra, once a student buys a textbook, a new edition can make it nearly impossible to sell the used one.

Link to the rest at Daily Herald

Labyrinth Books is a local store with a worldly mission

From CentralJersey.com:

The French booksellers (known as “bouquinistes”) and their stalls along the Seine are fixtures in Paris, dating from the 16th century. Tour guides call them “literary entrepreneurs.”

The one and only bookseller on Nassau Street, Labyrinth Books, has become a Princeton fixture, dating from the 21st century with its “stalls” in the form of tables pushed out onto the sidewalk. It too is a literary entrepreneur, as indicated by the fact that in spite of enormous changes and challenges in the bookselling industry, the store is celebrating its 10th anniversary this year.

. . . .

“Four or five years ago, many thought that e-books would spell the end of print as we know it,” said von Moltke, who lives with Cliff and their two daughters in Princeton. “Maybe because we operate in a bit of a niche market that values print as its own . . . we were perhaps less nervous than others about this trend.

“And in fact, publishers have seen their e-book sales not only level off, but decline of late, so it seems that both e-books and print books are here to stay. Interestingly, there is now a substantial body of neuroscientific study that confirms what many readers experience: retention when reading from a page is markedly better than when reading from a screen. Add to that the persistent interruption and auto-interruption when reading on a connected device, and it becomes easy to see how reading a book is a far more immersive experience than reading a data file can be. Students everywhere, too, are showing a clear preference for a printed book over an e-book when price is not the overriding factor.”

. . . .

Labyrinth came to Princeton at the invitation of Princeton University and has had a very close partnership with the university as its official book provider. “Princeton University truly went against the trend of the day in bringing an independent, scholarly and community bookstore to town for all their book needs and has remained an incredible partner and supporter over the years,” von Moltke said.

. . . .

Even though Dorothea acknowledges that the printed book is preferred over e-books “when price is not a factor,” price is a “huge factor when buying textbooks,” and the partnership with the university has been invaluable in helping to keep the price under control.

“For better or worse, students have become very savvy at finding ‘free’ books online, at circulating pdfs of textbooks, at substituting video tutorials for textbooks, and at using social media for buying and selling from each other. So you can see why our course book operation has needed to adapt,” she said. “Fortunately, in all of this Princeton University has remained always willing to sit down with us to come up with joint solutions that benefit the students and the university while helping to support the store. As a result since 2012 we’ve been able to offer an across-the-board 30 percent discount to all students, which keeps us in the mix as a competitive option for students when they are deciding what and where to buy. As for our non-course book sales, we are happy to have been able to either hold steady or grow a little each year, and are grateful to our varied customer base, without whom we would not be here.”

. . . .

Finally, the close relationship with the community is in the store’s equivalent of bookbinding glue. This spring, the store will be averaging three to four events per week. “The events are central in allowing the store to engage with the community we serve and, we hope, in creating dialog around books that also connects people with one another,” von Moltke said.

Link to the rest at CentralJersey.com

How a Browser Extension Could Shake Up Academic Publishing

From The Chronicle of Higher Education:

Open-access advocates have had several successes in the past few weeks. The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation started its own open-access publishing platform, which the European Commission may replicate. And librarians attending the Association of College and Research Libraries conference in March were glad to hear that the Open Access Button, a tool that helps researchers gain free access to copies of articles, will be integrated into existing interlibrary-loan arrangements.

Another initiative, called Unpaywall, is a simple browser extension, but its creators, Jason Priem and Heather Piwowar, say it could help alter the status quo of scholarly publishing.

“We’re setting up a lemonade stand right next to the publishers’ lemonade stand,” says Mr. Priem. “They’re charging $30 for a glass of lemonade, and we’re showing up right next to them and saying, ‘Lemonade for free’. It’s such a disruptive, exciting, and interesting idea, I think.”

. . . .

Unpaywall, by contrast, has focused on creating a browser extension. “We want to do just one thing really well: instantly deliver legal, open-access, full text as you browse,” says Mr. Priem, who also started the altmetrics site Impactstory with Ms. Piwowar.

When an Unpaywall user lands on the page of a research article, the software scours thousands of institutional repositories, preprint servers, and websites like PubMed Central to see if an open-access copy of the article is available. If it is, users can click a small green tab on the side of the screen to view a PDF.

“We’re able to deliver an OA copy to users more than half the time,” says Mr. Priem. “We’re really excited about that, because that’s when you start hitting critical mass. That’s when people start thinking, Hey, why are we paying millions of dollars to subscribe to tens of thousands of journals when our researchers have about a better-than-even chance of reading an article with no subscription at all?”

Link to the rest at The Chronicle of Higher Education and thanks to Meryl for the tip.

Can Self-Publishing Crack the Academic Market?

From Publishers Weekly:

In 2016, self-publishing pioneer Lulu.com introduced Glasstree, a new service the company hopes might begin to reshape the academic and scholarly publishing market. Ahead of the London Book Fair, PW caught up with Glasstree’s Daniel Berze to learn more about the company’s plan to crack the academic publishing market wide open.

In announcing Glasstree, you noted that “the existing academic publishing model is broken.” You’re not the first to make such an observation—but explain why you think the market is broken and why Glasstree might be a solution.

The traditional publishing model is broken for a number of reasons. First, because academic authors traditionally have so little control over their own content. When they hand it over to their publisher, they often assign their copyrights and hand over legal ownership. And they have no power to set the market price. Traditional publishing often compels purchasers to obtain content with restrictive policies, at often-extortionate levels.

This is also true for open access content, which usually requires the author to pay unfair processing charges in order to publish. More generally, traditional academic publishers also lack transparency: it is impossible to obtain any insight into the costs associated with the production of a book—or the profit margins earned by the publisher and/or the author. Speed to market is also an issue, as academic content can sometimes take years before being published. Glasstree aims to put power back in the hands of the author.

. . . .

What do you think the main selling point for Glasstree is? And where do you expect the service to be next year, and then, say, five years out?

I think that the biggest selling point is the ability to provide authors and universities with the tools that they need to publish, print, and be successful at a price level that would be unfathomable even a few years ago, with a specific orientation to academics and educators—for example, the ability to track bibliometrics with a DOI, discoverability tools, creative commons licensing, and so on. This year, we will introduce a print API to the market.

Link to the rest at Publishers Weekly

Your e-books are about to get a big IQ boost

From CNet:

Generations of college students have lugged expensive textbooks around campus. But a few years from now, students could shuck that burden as web technology radically changes what exactly a book is.

Imagine a chemistry book with a pop-up periodic table of the elements for instant reference, a sucrose molecule that rotates under your fingertip to show its 3D structure, a video demonstration of titration procedures, a chat box to message the professor and a built-in quiz that directs you to any subjects you didn’t understand. Oh, and it’ll be updated continuously so it won’t go out of date as soon as element 118 gets named oganesson.

Sound far-fetched? This e-book future is possible thanks to the World Wide Web Consortium’s absorption of the International Digital Publishing Forum, keepers of the Epub standard for e-books. On Wednesday, the W3C and IDPF announced their merger plans are complete.

The merger means that e-books are going to get a lot smarter thanks to a deeper embrace of web technology. While it’s simple for web browsers to show video and offer a quiz, it’s well beyond what you’ll see in e-books that you read on your Amazon Kindle. Expect that to change in coming years as e-books play a bigger role on your laptop or tablet.

. . . .

Books printed on paper will remain important, but e-books are where much of the next generation will learn, said Rick Johnson, co-founder of education e-book seller VitalSource, now part of publisher Ingram Content. VitalSource sells 18 million digital titles to 4 million people at 7,000 campuses.

“When you talk about people in college or pre-college or who are learning on the job or as a part of their job, they need web technologies,” Johnson said. “That’s how they’re learning now. I can’t imagine training somebody on a job or in a school without being able to show them video, without being able to quiz them and show them results.”

Link to the rest at CNet