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Cracking Open the Scientific Process
For centuries, this is how science has operated — through research done in private, then submitted to science and medical journals to be reviewed by peers and published for the benefit of other researchers and the public at large. But to many scientists, the longevity of that process is nothing to celebrate.
The system is hidebound, expensive and elitist, they say. Peer review can take months, journal subscriptions can be prohibitively costly, and a handful of gatekeepers limit the flow of information. It is an ideal system for sharing knowledge, said the quantum physicist Michael Nielsen, only “if you’re stuck with 17th-century technology.”
Academic publishers have become the enemies of science
The US Research Works Act would allow publishers to line their pockets by locking publicly funded research behind paywalls. The free dissemination of lifesaving medical research around the world would be prevented under the Research Works Act. This is the moment academic publishers gave up all pretence of being on the side of scientists. Their rhetoric has traditionally been of partnering with scientists, but the truth is that for some time now scientific publishers have been anti-science and anti-publication. The Research Works Act, introduced in the US Congress on 16 December, amounts to a declaration of war by the publishers.
1. Let me subscribe to my favorite authors.
2. Keep books updated for one price.
3. Buy a print copy, get an electronic copy, too.
4. Give more of my money to authors.
5. Indie bookstores should sell e-books.
If Libraries Didn't Exist, Would Publishers Be Trying To Kill Book Lending?
A familiar pattern emerges. Small, innovative publishers who are ready to adapt, reap the benefits by meeting the growing demand for ebooks at local libraries – and doubtless picking up knock-on sales as a result. Meanwhile, big, sclerotic publishers resist trying out new business models, preferring to make the use of digital formats for lending as "inconvenient" as possible – in the forlorn hope that readers will just give up and buy something. We all know how that story ends.
Book industry consultant Mike Shatzkin has a series of questions for the book industry for the next year. The questions are for these groups:
The biggest publishers
Publishers bigger than small, but not Big Six
Barnes & Noble
Illustrated book publishers
If you imagine the publisher’s business as one that divides most of the consumer’s dollar between two core stakeholders in the supply chain — the retailer and the author — you’d have a pretty accurate picture. The publishers, at least theoretically, decide what the retailer’s “working margin” will be with their discounts and agency agreements. And they decide what the author’s share of the proceeds will be by the advances and royalty rates they offer and agree on through their contracts.
These are the essential, and basically non-substitutable, trading partners for a publisher. They can choose a different printer or publicity firm without changing the character of their business or their economics. But the author relationships are existential and defining and the intermediaries who reach the public and enable the consumer transaction are indispensible.
Save Scholarly Ideas, Not the Publishing Industry:
Ironically, of course, it’s the government who is trying to push back against the scholarly publishing’s stranglehold on scholarly knowledge. The Science and Technology Policy Office has a current Request for Information” out (due January 2!) about providing public access to peer-reviewed scholarly publications that result from federally-funded research. They get the hypocrisy of funding research so that corporations can lock it down. Why don’t most scholars? This is, of course, only one part of the puzzle because only a small fraction of what we produce as scholars is funded by federal agencies.
But what I want to know is this:
1.What are *you* doing to resist the corporate stranglehold over scholarly knowledge in order to make your knowledge broadly accessible?
2.What are the five things that you think that other scholars should do to help challenge the status quo?
Every December Steve Gargani, a pressroom manager for printing giant R. R. Donnelley, would look forward to the day a supervisor would visit employees with paychecks and the company holiday gift. The present was always the same—a beautifully printed and bound book, highlighting an individual experience in American history. Known as the Lakeside Classics, those company gift books have become one of the longest running book series in American publishing history. And, needless to say, the books have become highly collectible. “I worked for Donnelley for eighteen years,” said Gargani, which means he had amassed eighteen volumes of Lakeside Classics before leaving the company. Yet the books only whetted his appetite for more. Gargani continued to search for and buy the books, and now he buys and sells the series, as well as other Donnelley-published books, from his Illinois-based online store, lakesideclassicbooks.com.
The Lakeside Classics series, however, began long before Gargani joined R. R. Donnelley.
Background info from Cory Doctorow: Robert LLewellyn, Red Dwarf star, has a great little video series called Carpool, where he gives someone he's interested a lift to work in a car that's been fitted with cameras and microphones, and interviews that person while driving her or him to work. Last summer, Robert gave me a ride to the airport while I was on my way to the World Science Fiction Convention in Reno and interviewed me about ebooks and publishing. It came out great.
Even as more readers switch to the convenience of e-books, publishers are giving old-fashioned print books a makeover.
Many new releases have design elements usually reserved for special occasions — deckle edges, colored endpapers, high-quality paper and exquisite jackets that push the creative boundaries of bookmaking. If e-books are about ease and expedience, the publishers reason, then print books need to be about physical beauty and the pleasures of owning, not just reading.
“When people do beautiful books, they’re noticed more,” said Robert S. Miller, the publisher of Workman Publishing. “It’s like sending a thank-you note written on nice paper when we’re in an era of e-mail correspondence.”