Publishers Category


Coercive Citations

Just when you think you’ve seen it all when it comes to scholarly publishing, a brief in today’s Chronicle of Higher Education online notes a new way some publishers have found to puff-up a journal’s impact.  It reports findings from a recently published survey in Science which indicate that some journal editors “… often ask prospective authors to add superfluous citations of the journal to articles, and authors feel they can’t refuse.”  Here is a link to the article, which includes a summary of the paper in Science.


Elsevier responds to the boycott

As the number of signers of the Elsevier boycott passed 2,400 (see yesterday’s blog post–the total this morning is over 2,600), an Elsevier spokesman responded, as reported in the Chronicle of Higher Education:

“Over the past 10 years, our prices have been in the lowest quartile in the publishing industry,” said Alicia Wise, Elsevier’s director of universal access. “Last year our prices were lower than our competitors’. I’m not sure why we are the focus of this boycott, but I’m very concerned about one dissatisfied scientist, and I’m concerned about 2,000.”

Boycotters dispute the claim:

Protesters disagree, and say Elsevier is emblematic of an abusive publishing industry. “The government pays me and other scientists to produce work, and we give it away to private entities,” says Brett S. Abrahams, an assistant professor of genetics at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine. “

Web site for the boycott is here:


Elsevier boycott gains momentum

A boycott aimed at the publisher Elsevier, initiated by Timothy Gowers, a prominent mathematician from the University of Cambridge, has picked up support in recent days, attracting as of Jan. 31 at 4 pm CST over 2350 signatures. One of the motivations for his call for a boycott was Elsevier’s support for the Research Works Act (RWA–see our blog post of January 11th).

Writing in the Chronicle of Higher Education Josh Fischman reports:

 “Timothy Gowers of the University of Cambridge, who won the Fields Medal for his research, has organized a boycott of Elsevier because, he says, its pricing and policies restrict access to work that should be much more easily available. . . The company has sinned in three areas, according to the boycotters: It charges too much for its journals; it bundles subscriptions to lesser journals together with valuable ones, forcing libraries to spend money to buy things they don’t want in order to get a few things they do want; and, most recently, it has supported a proposed federal law (called the Research Works Act) that would prevent agencies like the National Institutes of Health from making all articles written by its grant recipients freely available.

For the full Chronicle article see

The boycott’s web site (where you can sign of if you’re so minded) is


“Tough love for authors”: © ≠ Ownership

Interesting post by Rich Anderson on the balance between authors’ rights as creators and readers’ rights to make use of their creations. Additional comments on ebooks, the Authors’ Guild suit against Hathi Trust, and other matters.



Authors’ Guild vs Hathi Trust et al–continuing developments

Statements and observations continued through the end of last week and beyond arising from the Authors’ Guild suit against Hathi Trust. Much of the focus centered on the orphans listed by Michigan that turned out not to be. Stories in Inside Higher Education and the Chronicle provide summaries and links to the various statements. Worth noting is Kevin Smith’s open letter to one author of a work shown not to be an orphan arguing that the best chance for this book to find readers today would be exposure in digital form in HathiTrust.


Authors’ group sues HathiTrust, Michigan and other universities.

From the September 13th Inside Higher Education:

The Authors Guild on Monday sued the HathiTrust (a consortium of universities) as well as Cornell and Indiana Universities and the Universities of California, Michigan and Wisconsin, charging widespread copyright violations. The universities and the trust have worked with Google on its project to digitize books (a project now on hold) and on a recent effort to release to their campus communities digitized copies of “orphan works” ….”

Iowa had been poised to join Michigan and others in making available “orphan works” which we held in print form to the campus.


Appeals court decision on “first sale” doctrine could affect library lending

A decision by the Second Circuit Court of Appeals on the First Sale doctrine could affect the right of libraries to lend (and individuals to resell) some books.  See the analysis of Duke Scholarly Communications Officer Kevin Smith at and


The Georgia State filing – A declaration of war on the faculty?

In another blog post on the Georgia State e-reserves case, Paul Courant, University Librarian (and former Provost) at the University of Michigan, argues that the plaintiffs (Cambridge & Oxford University Presses plus Sage, supported by the Copyright Clearance Center) have crossed the “boundary from adversary to enemy.” Two paragraphs quoted below–for the entire post, see

The plaintiff’s draft order applies formally only to Georgia State, but if the Court grants the plaintiffs what they seek, the result will be, in the words of Duke University’s Kevin Smith, “a nightmare scenario for higher education:” fair use would be destroyed, university faculty, students, and staff would be subjected to outrageously restrictive copyright policies, and every university would be required to hire a squad of copyright cops to ensure that faculty do the publishers’ bidding. And while it’s not an uncommon strategy to ask for far more than you expect to receive in a negotiation, which this proposed injunction surely is, your “highball” offer is certainly something that you wouldn’t mind having. What the plaintiffs are saying is that they are quite willing impose enormous costs on academic performance and academic freedom in exchange for higher profits. This is not the request of a friendly adversary; this is the attack of an enemy. (Yes, academic authors would also receive some financial benefit, but note that the typical split for incremental revenue is around 90-10 in favor of publishers, and that the additional revenue that publishers would receive under the plaintiffs’ draft order would be obtained NO additional cost incurred by the publishers beyond cashing checks and paying their lawyers.)

As a faculty member, I do not know that I could comply with the restrictions in the proposed injunction for using copyrighted material in my classroom; they are too onerous and much too expensive. As an author and an educator, I have a great respect for copyright law, and I believe in a balance between creating incentives for authors and promoting the ”progress of science and the useful arts.” The proposed injunction does not strike that balance; it unreasonably restricts access to copyrighted works, eliminates fair use, and will force professors to spend much of their time in an exercise of copyright self-censorship. Imagine that if every time you wanted to quote from a text, show an image, or distribute a handout to your students you had to seek the approval of the University Copyright Police; the consequences would be dramatic. (Lest you think I am exaggerating, check out the form that, were the publishers to have their way, faculty would have to fill out every time they put copyrighted works on electronic reserve.


“Of goats and headaches”–The Economist on journal publishing

The Economist takes note of the economics of scholarly journal publishing in a short piece, necessarily oversimplified, but catching the essentials. See “Of goats and headaches–One of the best media businesses is also one of the most resented”



Lawrence Lessig on science publishing & free (open) access

Beginning immediately, Transitions, the University of Iowa’s occasional newsletter on scholarly communication issues, will appear as a blog, with postings at regular intervals as circumstances demand.

Our first posting is a link to the audio and slides of Lawence Lessig’s recent (April 18, 2011) presentation on science, copyright and open access to an audience at CERN. Lessig, Harvard professor and copyright guru, argues that the “architecture of access to scientific knowledge” is badly “messed up” and puts forth moral arguments for a move to open access publishing as the solution. Along the way he touches on YouTube mashups, copyright, politics, John Philip Sousa and much else.