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The Plight of University Presses

Here is a very good article in The Nation outlining some of the challenges faced by university presses:



Interesting Articles on Altmetrics

Two thought-provoking articles on altmetrics were published last week.

The following two blog posts published in 2012 are also interesting. Make sure to check out the comments, which are equally interesting.


Chronicle: Publisher threatens to sue blogger

Following up on a lawsuit attempt by Edwin Mellen Press to quiet its’ critics, Jeffrey Beall has been threatened with a $1 billion lawsuit from an Indian publisher, OMICS Publishing Group. Beall has achieved notoriety for creating and maintaining Beall’s list and popular blog Scholarly Open Access. Both attempt to assist scholars assess the credibility of Open Access publishing organizations, and identify publishers that authors should avoid.

See the full story at: http://chronicle.com/article/Publisher-Threatens-to-Sue/139243/


More on PeerJ

Following is an edited press release from PeerJ which has quite a bit of detail about the journal:

PeerJ (https://peerj.com), a new academic journal publisher, founded on the principles of affordability, innovation, and Open Access, published its first articles today.

PeerJ, launched by Jason Hoyt (formerly at Mendeley and Stanford University) and Peter Binfield (formerly at PLOS ONE), has been shaped from the premise that ‘if society can set a goal to sequence a human genome for just $99 then why shouldn’t academics be given the opportunity to openly publish their research for a similar amount?’. By publishing its first 30 peer-reviewed articles today, PeerJ moves one step closer to realizing that vision.

PeerJ aims to establish a new model for the publication of all well reported, scientifically sound research in the Biological and Medical Sciences. To achieve that, the organization has built an economical and efficient peer review and publication system and assembled an Editorial Board of 800 esteemed academics, including an Advisory Board of 20 (five of whom are Nobel Laureates). A rigorous peer review process is operated, and the journal strives to deliver the highest standards in everything it does.

Uta Francke, an author on one of the launch day articles, PeerJ Advisory Board member; Professor of Genetics and Pediatrics, Emeritus, Stanford University School of Medicine; and Past President of both the ‘American Society of Human Genetics’ and the ‘International Federation of Human Genetics Societies’ said that she was “excited about the launch of PeerJ, which represents much more than just another Open Access publishing venture.

The innovative membership model, including a commitment to review the work of one’s peers, will ensure an interactive relationship of equals – authors, editors and reviewers – all striving for high quality research reports published in a totally transparent fashion after rigorous constructive peer review.”

Tim O’Reilly, the founder of O’Reilly Media and a thought leader in the Open Source movement, sits on the Governing Board of PeerJ Inc. and brings a wealth of knowledge, and passion, for the promotion of open, unfettered communication in academia. Tim had this to say about PeerJ: “It’s easy to forget that technological revolutions also demand business model revolutions. Open access is transformative for science publishing, not only because it spreads knowledge more efficiently, but because it slashes the cost of producing and consuming that knowledge.”

Authors wishing to experience the future of publishing can now submit their articles at: https://peerj.com/

Essential Features of PeerJ:

* PeerJ is a rapid, peer reviewed, ‘Open Access’ scholarly journal, using a Creative Commons license which means that all articles are entirely free to read, distribute, and reuse provided authors are properly attributed.

* Publication decisions are made only on scientific validity (not on perceived impact).

* PeerJ uses a ‘Membership Model’ whereby authors become lifetime members, giving them the ability to freely publish their articles thereafter. As a result, publication costs for authors are significantly lower than similar publications.

* PeerJ has 800 Academic Editors, including 20 Advisory Board members (of which 5 are Nobel Laureates). Full list at:

https://peerj.com/academic-boards/subjects/ and Advisors at:



* * Learn more about PeerJ here: https://peerj.com/about/how-it-works/


Amherst College launches no-cost digital only press.

Be sure to read this news story from Inside Higher Ed about an ambitious new plan from Amherst College.


Amherst will emphasize high quality, peer-reviewed monographs in its new endeavor. They are currently hiring a press director and two editors to staff the press. Much of the initiative is coming from the Amherst College Librarian, Bryn Geffert.

“My grand dream — quixotic though may be — is that if enough libraries begin  doing what we’re doing, at some point there is going to be a critical mass of  freely available scholarly literature — literature that libraries don’t have to  purchase. And if they use those savings to publish more material, you reach a  tipping point.”




Open Access Poetry Publishing: John Tranter’s Founding and Editing of Jacket Magazine

Don Share will be at the University of Iowa on Monday, speaking in the afternoon about open access publishing and contemporary literature and the humanities. Poetry, the magazine that Share has a hand in editing, is an open access literary journal,  and it is not the only one: in the past ten years open access has been an increasingly popular publishing model for poetry journals, and the Australian-based Jacket was arguably the first to utilize open access in reaching a global audience with massive, diverse issues that traditional publishing methods were unable to accommodate.

Jacket was founded by the Australian poet John Tranter in 1997, and Tranter has recently published ” ‘The Elephant Has Left the Room’, Jacket magazine and the Internet”, a brief memoir in which he explains how Jacket came about, what kinds of things the internet makes possible in poetry publishing that are impossible with print, and how the unusual success Jacket attained made it difficult to find support among advocates of literature not accustomed to the journal’s approach to poetry:

“[Jacket‘s] international focus made it ineligible for Literature Board grants. This is not just a peculiar irony; it is a corollary of parochialism. When you publish a parish newsletter in an Australian community, it will not be widely read in that community if most of the articles are about events in Rome or Canterbury. You need to draw your material from the local parish if you want the local parishioners to take an interest in it.

So the greater Jacket’s success on the international stage—and it was successful immediately—the less ‘Australian’ it was, and the less interest it held for Australian scholars and cultural bureaucrats. In the thirteen years of its existence, Jacket never had a grant from the Literature Board, and was never the subject of a paper presented at an Association for the Study of Australian Literature conference, for example. Jacket, however, was the subject of a lively and well-attended panel discussion at the 2011 US Modern Languages Association convention in Los Angeles.”

Read Tranter’s full account of how he managed to produce the world’s most widely-read poetry publication. Jacket2the current incarnation of Jacket produced under the auspices of the University of Pennsylvania, provides an introduction to Tranter’s memoir.


Digital Rights Management and Scholarship: What Could Go Wrong? by Kembrew McLeod

With an eye to Open Access Week, here’s a post by Transitions guest-blogger Kembrew McLeod, Associate Professor of Communication Studies at the University of Iowa. If you’d like to learn more about the issues of author’s rights and copyright discussed in this post, take a look at the University of Iowa’s Author’s Rights and Copyright library guides.

Digital Rights Management and Scholarship: What Could Go Wrong?

Kembrew McLeod

Over the past quarter-century, private companies like Blackwell and Taylor & Francis have taken control of journal publishing. Before that, scholarly societies like the National Communication Association handled this task. Professors gave away their work to journals for free, something that was often referred to as a “contribution to the field.” But today, this kind of academic gift economy is being threatened. Contrary to what free-marketeers assume, the privatization of knowledge has created more economic inefficiencies. Typically, universities pay professors not only to teach, but also to produce scholarship; it’s part of the job description. When researchers sign over their copyrights to journal conglomerates like Blackwell (again, for free), college libraries are then required to purchase the right to view those articles at inflated prices (especially compared to previous decades). In other words, schools are paying twice—to produce, and then rent—the same product. What’s more disturbing is that these publishing companies often use technological means, such as Digital Rights Management (DRM), to block unauthorized access to articles.

DRM can, for instance, restrict the number of times one can view a PDF document file or print out a hard copy. I found this out the hard way when I e-mailed a PDF of my first academic article, published in the Journal of Communication, to students in an honors thesis writing class I taught in 2007. I wanted to have a discussion with them about the process of researching this article, but I didn’t anticipate a major problem. It turned out that Blackwell, the company to which I stupidly signed away my copyrights when I was a grad student, placed DRM restrictions on the digital file. After the second student printed out a hard copy of the article from the same PDF, the rest of my class was blocked from doing so. Their computers would only allow them to print out blank sheets of paper, save for Blackwell’s copyright notice at the bottom. In other words, I was prevented from sharing my own writing with my own class, an ironic and idiotic situation that runs counter to the principles of sharing and exchange that have traditionally characterized academia. I can’t think of a more poetic expression of what is wrong with academic publishing than a blank sheet of paper where words and ideas should be. It’s also a demonstration of how over-commercialization can generate economic friction (universities paying for the products of academic labor twice) and pedagogical disasters (my derailed class discussion).


Kembrew McLeod, Associate Professor of Communication Studies at the University of Iowa, independent documentary filmmaker, and music critic, frequently writes on intellectual property law and the influence it has on contemporary culture. His book Freedom of Expression®: Overzealous Copyright Bozos and Other Enemies of Creativity (2nd ed., University of Minnesota Press, 2007) received the American Libraries Association Oboler Award for Best Scholarship in the Area of Intellectual Freedom. He is also the author, with Peter DiCola, of Creative License: the Law and Culture of Digital Sampling (Duke University Press, 2011) and the editor, with Rudolf Kuenzli, of Cutting Across Media: Appropriation Art, Interventionist Collage, and Copyright Law (Duke University Press, 2011). Follow him on twitter: https://twitter.com/kembrew


Don Share Lecture Highlights Open Access and the Humanities

Open access publishing’s place in the humanities is uncertain at the moment, and knowledge of it will be important going forward in resolving inequitable relationships between presses and authors, journal vendors and libraries, and publishers and readers.

The University of Iowa Libraries has invited Don Share, senior editor of Poetry magazine, to talk about open access publishing platforms and contemporary humanities literature and scholarship. Join us:

 Monday, October 29th at 3pm

Illinois Room of the Iowa Memorial Union
(Share will also be giving a poetry reading at Prairie Lights in the evening, at 7 pm.)

In 2002, Ruth Lilly, heiress to the Lilly pharmaceutical fortune, left Poetry magazine 100 million dollars upon her death, and among the things Poetry has done with the Lilly bequest is go open access. Each month the magazine publishes a print issue, as it has been doing for 100 years, and since 2003 it has simultaneously made each issue’s contents freely available on its website (see http://www.poetryfoundation.org/poetrymagazine). Don Share was one of the principle architects of this initiative, and he is in a unique position to discuss how literature and humanities scholarship function on an open access platform.


Is Open Access a disaster for publishers? Maybe not

In a posting from Scholarly Kitchen, Kent Anderson notes that while the movement to open access could affect Elsevier’s bottom line (and presumably that of some other large commercial publishers) it’s not likely to be the end of them.  Read the full post here.


Appealing the Georgia State case

From Bernie Sloan in Publishers Weekly:

“The three publisher plaintiffs in the Georgia State University e-reserve case yesterday lodged an appeal with the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals, seeking to overturn one of the most significant fair use rulings in decades.”

Full text at: http://bit.ly/OdNDbb