Wednesday 31 December 2008

ALPSP group on LinkedIn

A month or so ago we set up an ALPSP group on LinkedIn... and a few weeks later I actually figured out how to confirm people as members of the group (d'uh!).

Since then, the group has grown to 100 and counting! The intention is not really to push much ALPSP specific stuff via LinkedIn - we'll still do that via the e-newseller, ALPSP Alert, this blog and our e-mail discussion lists - but rather to provide another place where members can network...

Of course, if you do spot an interesting publishing related news item then feel free to share it with colleagues in the LinkedIn group, and similarly if you have a topic for discussion that you want to share then go right ahead!


Monday 1 December 2008

2009 ALPSP International Conference - date and venue confirmed!

We're pleased to announce the date and venue for the 2009 ALPSP International Conference!

When: 9-11 September 2009
Where: The Oxford Belfry, Oxfordshire, UK

Details are on the Conference website

In a credit-crunch busting move, we've held the registration fees to last year's level and we've managed to negotiate a special rate for the Conference overnight accommodation of just GBP 86 per night.

Online booking will open shortly.

The 2009 program proper will start late afternoon on Wednesday 9 September but we will be running a number of free pre-conference workshops throughout the afternoon.

We were delighted with the success of the 2008 Conference - next year's will be even better!


JISC Board

I've just heard that my application to join the Board of the Joint Information Systems Committee (JISC) has been successful! I'll join the Board from next year...

JISC is funded by the UK HE and FE funding bodies to provide leadership in the innovative use of ICT to support education and research. They fund national services like JANET (the joint academic network) and a range of programmes and projects.


Friday 7 November 2008

More on the Google settlement...

It was good to get some firsthand news of the Google settlement from Pat Schroeder (the first woman elected to Congress from Colorado and now President and CEO of the Association of American Publishers).

Pat explained that the settlement - which only covers material with US rights - will mean that Google will pay $60 per in-copyright book that it has digitized without permission (doesn't sound a lot does it!) to those rightsholders that choose to be party to the agreement and that rightsholders then have two choices:
(1) they can take the sixty bucks and then walk away (their books will then be removed from the Google Book Search service) or (2) they can agree to have some or all of their books included in Book Search and potentially earn revenue from sales of the books, from subscriptions to collections and from advertising appearing around the book...

Pat was at pains to point out that the content of books cannot be messed with (so there won't be any advertising or product placement inside the works...)

One thing I hadn't previously appreciated was that the settlement deal does not include rightsholders of images, photographs, etc and so these will be BLACKED OUT from the digitized content.

Pat also mentioned that rightsholders would be compensated for print copies made from content in Google Book Search and that Google would be helping libraries to collect and distribute payments - in the short-term Google will itself anti-up these fees to rightsholders...

Meanwhile, the Federation of European Publishers has issued a statement on its website outlining some areas of concern it has with the proposed settlement. Basically, these are:
(a) a concern that the Google programme will constitute a de facto monopoly on distribution
(b) that there are already better mechanisms to make available out of print books and orphan works (for example Libreka and the ARROW project)
(c) that Google cannot use a 'fair use' argument for content owned by EU rightsholders and that their activities are still violating the 2001 Copyright Directive and various national copyright laws, and
(d) it is unacceptable that Google continues to use an 'opt-out' arrangement for a programme that rightsholders have never agreed to be part of instead of an 'opt-in' where rightsholders participate if, and only if, they explicitly wish to.

Some of these points are mute since the proposed settlement does only cover the US, but the more general points - and particularly the opt-out arguments - are pertinent.

Pat made it pretty clear that there is still an awful lot of detail to work out so more on this, I am sure, in the future as things develop...

Blog from the Charleston Conference

The Charleston Conference opened on Thursday November 6 with a quite excellent keynote from Derek Law.

In a funny, articulate and engaging talk Derek examined the issues around collection development in today's world. One of his central messages was that there is too much focus on the formal research literature and not enough on all the other stuff out there.

Of particular note, Derek described 'digital crossover strategy' (also known as crossing your fingers!) but the serious message was that scholarship needs a robust mechanism by which to preserve and curate the rapidly expanding born digital outputs... and it doesn't have one.

As an aside, a takeaway sound bite was that King's college saved $1 million per year in heating bills alone by closing four floors of it's library. Golly.

Tuesday 7 October 2008

ALPSP International Conference

I'm pleased to say that the first ALPSP International Conference was a great success.

We exceeded our target number of delegates, we had more people than ever at the annual ALPSP Awards dinner and, though I say so myself, there was a real buzz around the conference venue.

It was pretty challenging to put together keynote, plenary and parallel sessions that were of interest to the breadth of the ALPSP membership and especially difficult given that, this being the first Conference, we had no real point of reference. But I am delighted to say that evaluation forms have been extremely positive with lots of praise for the program and for the decision to build in plenty of networking time.

The speakers' slides will be loaded on to the ALPSP website shortly and we'll also be adding audio of many of presentations; both will be available to members only for download.

The Conference is an important element of our strategy to connect and inform the scholarly and professional publishing community. We will therefore definitely be making it an annual event and the dates and venue for the 2009 Conference will be announced in due course.

Our sincere thanks again to all of the speakers and session chairs, to our sponsors, and to the program committee for making this such a successful event.

Friday 3 October 2008

Isabel Czech joins ALPSP in North America

It's taken me a while to get this on the blog, but...

We were absolutely thrilled to announce last month that Isabel Czech has joined ALPSP as our North American Executive Director.

Many of you will know Isabel; she spent more that 30 years working in publisher relations at ISI / Thomson Scientific (now Thomson Reuters).

Isabel will be a huge asset to the ALPSP team. She will help us to develop our US educational program and ensure that we are in closer contact with our North American members and thus that our benefits and services are in keeping with the needs of those based in the States and Canada...

Isabel is already earning her corn and we have received applications for membership from a number of new North American members!

Your can read more in the press release...

CrossRef and search engine crawlers...

I've just received the latest resolution report from CrossRef for Learned Publishing (these are the reports that detail the number of link-throughs to articles via the DOI...)

Across all their members CrossRef resolved more than 26.2 million accesses in September 2008. This figure is after they have filtered out known search engine crawlers which in the same month added up to more than 22.6 million accesses.


Friday 26 September 2008

Frankfurt Informal Dinner - 14th of October

The location for the dinner has been changed to The Bangkok, Sandweg 17, 60316, Frankfurt, Germany ( ) as the Tamnak Thai is being refurbished and will not be open on the 14th. Otherwise all arrangements remain the same.

Hot Topics

A plug.

One of the unsung information heroes of the ALPSP website is the 'Hot Topics and Resources' section. Accessed from the 'Information' pull down menu the pages are a mine of useful links. Arranged alphabetically by subject, we aim to provide routes to relevant information on all the topics under discussion, from Archiving to eBooks to Licensing, Standards and Protocols and much else besides. If you need to know something, it's your first port of call. And if you think we've missed something, then tell us and Pippa Smart - who magically keeps all this up to date- will add something relevant.

Just thought you needed to know it was there, if you didn't already. Nick.

Thursday 31 July 2008

New Chair for North American Chapter

After three years at the helm Irving Rockwood stepped down as Chair of the North American Chapter of ALPSP at the end of July. Irv has done an absolutely tremendous job as the very first Chair of the Chapter. He has successfully mobilized a very committed team that has organized a whole host of educational events and seminars and that has worked to increase membership of ALPSP in North America. And boy have they been successful on all fronts. Irv's leadership has been an immensely important part of this success and speaking personally he has been a real pleasure to work with. Irv will be missed as Chapter Chair but will continue to serve on the Chapter Steering Committee.

Every cloud has a silver lining, though, and I am delighted to announce that Crispin Taylor took over as Chair of the Chapter on 1 August 2008.

Crispin, who in his day job is Executive Director of the American Society of Plant Biologists, has been heavily involved in the North American Chapter since its inception. He serves as a member of both the Chapter Steering Committee and the Education Committee. Crispin has energy and intelligence in abundance and is very perceptive and incisive; I am sure that under his leadership the North American Chapter will continue to thrive...

You can meet Crispin and other members of ALPSP Council at the ALPSP International Conference - book online now!

Tuesday 29 July 2008

Book Fairs II - London Book Fair 2009

Want cost effective display and meeting space for the whole of the London Book Fair?

ALPSP is looking at the possibility of making a small number of booths available as part of our stand at the London Book Fair in 2009. The booths will be let to members for the duration of the Fair and will be a very cost effective way of having display AND meeting space (each booth will have a table and chairs).

We anticipate that the booths will be extremely popular and be taken up quickly. If you think you might wish to take advantage of this opportunity, then please get in touch with Nick Evans as soon as possible to register your interest.

Space in the academic area of the London Book Fair in the main Earls Court hall has pretty much sold out so this may represent your only chance of getting meeting space in this area of the show!

Book Fairs I - Frankfurt

ALPSP Pre-Frankfurt Meal

Yes, we're doing it again! The MOST fun event in Frankfurt week...

We will be organizing the now legendary ALPSP pre-Frankfurt meal again this year. The informal meal is a great place to relax and enjoy the company of fellow ALPSP members and to recharge your batteries before the rigors of the Book Fair kicks in in earnest. Last year's meal was great fun and we had lots and lots of people turn up; more than we were expecting, in fact...

Last year's event was so popular that the restaurant had to be quite creative in order to fit everyone in! This year we are looking to see if we can take over the whole restaurant or to find somewhere larger to accommodate us. We want to keep the meal informal but it would help us plan if you can let either myself or Nick Evans know if you think you'd like to come along.

The meal will definitely take place on the evening of Tuesday 14 October - so mark it in your diary - and will once again be a fixed price including a variety of food and drinks. More details on the venue will follow in due course.

Appointments and meetings at the Book Fair

ALPSP will, of course, be having our usual stand at the Frankfurt Book Fair. Nick Evans and I are now beginning to book appointments for the Fair so please do contact us if you would like to meet during the week.

Monday 28 July 2008

ALPSP eBooks Collection

Following the recent signing of a Memorandum of Understanding with Ingram Digital (MyiLibrary) for a new ALPSP eBooks cooperative service and the agreement of terms (see the first three publishers to sign up are the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists, Australian Academic Press and American Psychiatric Publishing Inc, with more following. If you want more details of how to add your eBook content to the AeBC get in touch with Nick Evans (

Friday 25 July 2008

Conducting e-Surveys for Academic and Educational publishing

10% discount for ALPSP members

This training day aims to give publishers, editors, marketing personnel and development editors an introduction to getting the most out of e-surveys. 10% discount for ALPSP members.

Wednesday 23 July 2008

Online Information, London 2-4 December 2008

As usual, ALPSP will have a strong presence at London Online in December... Here's the blurb:


Online Information 2008

2-4 December, Grand Hall, Olympia, London

Covering the full spectrum of online content and information management solutions the Online Information Exhibition, running 2-4 December, is the definitive showcase for the information industry with vendors exhibiting from all over the world. The event incorporates world class Online Information Conference, which attracts delegates from over 43 countries, providing a forum dedicated to learning, debate, professional development, technology reviews and assessments, expert discussion as well as case-study presentations and the sharing of research results and opinion. ALPSP and the event organisers Incisive Media are pleased to be able to offer ALPSP members a 25% early bird discount on the full three day conference delegate rate until 7 November and 15% thereafter. Entrance to the Exhibition is free, providing you register online in advance (£15 on the door).

Wednesday 25 June 2008

Dodo or Dog? Challenging the book in scholarship and higher education in the digital era

Dodo or Dog?

It is a good job that this conference, which will be held in Amsterdam on 12 and 13 October 2008, has a more descriptive subtitle: Challenging the book in scholarship and higher education in the digital era.

The conference has been timed to coincide with the Frankfurt Book Fair and the full programme is available on the conference website.

Crash, bang, whallop!

Last week I had a phone call from Arend Kuester of Publishers Communications Group to discuss the programme for the Success in East and Central Europe seminar that we will be holding on 3 October 2008. Arend was apologizing for a delay in finalizing the speaker line up because his hard disk had crashed and he'd had to have the data professionally recovered... I admitted that my own back-up regime hadn't been all that it should be lately and Arend urged me to back-up my data as soon as I could.

The very next day - and before I'd been able to follow Arend's advice - my laptop crashed as I was booting it up to do some work while I waited for a meeting to start. You've guessed it - when I reboot, the computer can't find the disk drive and I'm getting the ominous 'click of death' from the drive.

Unlike Arend, my disk drive was totally caput and even a specialist data recovery company was unable to recover a single byte...

Now most of my data was backed-up but reconstructing my files - and particularly my e-mail - was much, much more painful than it would have been had I regularly backed up... so if you are in a similar boat, working for a small company or acting as a sole trader and responsible for your own back-up then heed the advice from Arend and now from me - BACK-UP!

Please note that I may not have been able to recover 100% of my MS Outlook diary appointments so if I have a meeting scheduled with you I would be very grateful if you could re-confirm it with me; better safe than sorry!

Monday 9 June 2008

Publishers Licensing Society (PLS) Annual Open Meeting and reception

This from Imogen Forbes at the PLS:

The Publishers Licensing Society (PLS) wishes to invite all publishers to its Annual Open Meeting and reception.

The free-to-attend meeting is being held on 4th July 2008 at the Institute of Physics in central London. It represents an opportunity for publishers to learn about rights’ focused initiatives that PLS facilitates on behalf of all UK publishers.

This year PLS is especially delighted to welcome Ed Quilty from the UK Intellectual Property Office and Olav Stokkmo, General Secretary of IFRRO as guest speakers. There will also be a reception after the event so publishers can network with colleagues and PLS staff.

The event will highlight some of the rights challenges that publishers face today, and PLS support for the new collective digital licences that CLA has launched. Alicia Wise, Chief Executive notes that ‘collective digital licences present a new revenue stream to publishers. Operating on an ‘opt-in’ basis means that publishers have the control over their digital content and can feel confident in the collective licensing structure in the UK’.

If you wish to attend, or require further details, please contact :Imogen Forbes ( / +44 (0) 207 299 7730)

New North American Editor for Learned Publishing

After two fantastically successful years as North American Editor of Learned Publishing, we are very sad that Priscilla Markwood is stepping down from the post. The North American Editor is appointed by the Society for Scholarly Publishing (SSP) as part of the collaborative arrangement between ALPSP and SPP and Priscilla has done an absolutely terrific job and will be missed.

We are, though, delighted to announce that Janet Fisher has agreed to succeed Priscilla as North American Editor. Janet is Senior Publishing Consultant at PCG, a former President of SSP and has served on the board of directors for the Association of American University Presses, the journals committee of the Professional/Scholarly Publishing Division of the Association of American Publishers, and in various capacities with SSP.

To quote Carol Anne Meyer who led the effort to recruit Janet: ‘We are so delighted she has agreed to serve. In addition to her competence, capabilities and knowing everybody and everything, Janet is one of the nicest people in the industry and is a fabulous person with whom to work’.

I couldn’t have put it better myself!

Saturday 7 June 2008

EC ‘Content Online for Creativity’ conference report

The most recent step for the European Commission’s public consultation on ‘Creative Content Online’ was a conference in Brdo, Slovenia that took place 4-6 June 2008. ALPSP Chair Robert Parker represented us and sends the following report from Ljubljana airport:

Content Online for Creativity - A European Commission Conference under the Slovenian Presidency
Brdo, 4 – 6 June 2008

This invitation-only conference had around 140 participants from most if not all EC member states plus Switzerland and the US and concentrated on piracy and legal offers and new business models for online distribution of content. This was not a publishing-only conference, it covered all areas of content, so there were attendees from Walt Disney, European Newspaper Publishers’ Association and the Premier League, for example. Many of the participants were DCMS-equivalent folk. Talking to Amy Casterton from the Premier League, It is surprisingly clear that the issues that STM publishers have with piracy and business models are common across very broadly different fronts: they also have issues with piracy in China in particular (Chinese websites providing online access to football games with a very small (1 second) time delay), pay per view models, licensing, the need for new business models.

The importance of the development of legal services to deal with piracy was emphasised. These can be pump-primed by public agencies, but they will ultimately rely on cooperation between content-generating organisations. Unfortunately European rights licensing would seem to be a Utopian prospect currently.

Angela Mills Wade (Exec Director of the European Publishers’ Council) presented a statistic that highlights the re-use of content: on average 20 copies of original content are available on the web within 48 hours of its original online publication. She encouraged the use of ACAP, which will be extended to video and images in the near future. Collaboration with ISPs over implementation of ACAP will obviate the need for publishers to have recourse to taking ISPs to court over illegal distribution of content. She also highlighted the problems with Data Protection giving protection to people who illegally distribute copyrighted content.

There was much discussion about what proactive measures rights owners would like ISPs to take with those putting up copyrighted content illegally, citing some sites that have 90% links that are illegal. Many such sites are operating anonymously, so it is very difficult for the rights owners to act. The hosting ISP should take such sites down and provide the name and address of the site owner so that the conflict can be dealt with between the right holder and the site owner. ISPs have been saying that the DPA protects the site owner and they must protect them, but the e-commerce directive states that sites should state on the site the details of the site owner, therefore the protection of the DPA is irrelevant, the site owner should be providing those details on the site. When names and addresses are eventually passed on, 80% of the details are false. ISPs should have a duty in law to verify the details of the site owner and should suspend sites where there is business activity from non-verified owners.

AT&T specialist had suggested that by 2010 the internet could fall apart from two things: egregious behaviour and bandwidth problems. The overwhelming majority of peer-to-peer traffic is illegal. Audiovisual material will make up 80% of all traffic by 2010. There is currently 8 hours of video material uploaded to U-tube every minute. This will be exacerbated when high-definition is more common, leading to a massive bandwidth issue. There is a massive lack of development of voluntary agreements and codes of conduct. Privacy must not be the only fundamental right: it shields illegal behaviour.

Guidelines for removal of illegal content are coalescing around giving 4 infringement notices before suspending sites. Currently 90% of people never receive a second notice, which is encouraging. A fraction of 1% of subscribers to ISP services are terminated. In the UK there is no graduated response yet. Consumer attitudes survey found that 17% would stop illegal hosting if they were sent a letter; 66% said they would stop the illegal activity completely if they thought there was a greater chance of being caught.

85 million songs are illegally downloaded every day, potentially putting the music-creation business at risk.

Many sites have only 10 – 20% of illegal content on their site, but the usage of the site is very heavily weighted towards accessing the illegally hosted content.

Cooperative ventures to produce content-recognition technology would be useful.

Digital rights management, content recognition and filtering are obviously not wanted by those organisations/individuals that rely on the illegal hosting of copyrighted material to drive up their advertising revenue.

In terms of © protection, many said it was not sensible to limit access (eg music industry); there must be another way to get money than by restriction. Music producers are generally keen to give access to all immediately under a creative commons licence as a mid-way between © restriction and public domain.

There was a discussion of e-book licensing, but nothing new.

People are accessing ever greater numbers of films and music but are paying ever less, and their expectations are that content should be free or very cheap. However, performers cannot exist on the 4 c per download they receive from the 99 c per download charged for music.

There was a session on new business models for distribution of online content, but again there was nothing very new or inspirational. Old business models are becoming outdated quicker than new ones are developing. Achieving balance between requirements of all stakeholders is far off. Obstacles are: fragmentation of the market, rapid technological advancement (same content on different platforms), managing © and related rights, cross-border licences etc. Possibilities are that old and new business models could be combined; subsidies; cooperation between creators, distributors and users; development of filtering mechanisms. Winners and losers should be defined by the market.

Robert Parker
6th June 2008

Tuesday 27 May 2008

So long Microsoft Live Search Books

I was really surprised to learn that Microsoft have decided to cease their Live Search Books and to discontinue their digitization project.

Through Live Search Books and Live Search Academic, Microsoft digitized 750,000 books and indexed 80 million journal articles. They had, you will recall, won a good deal of kudos and respect from the publishing community for taking an approach to book digitization that respected copyright; they started the Live Search Books project by digitizing out of copyright books and had included in-copyright material with the agreement of publishers through their 'Publisher Program'.

The full announcement is currently on the Windows Live Search Book Publisher Program page.

We understand that representatives of the Live Search Books program will be visiting the UK week commencing 2 June 2008 to discuss the cessation of the initiative in person with their Publisher Program Partners.

Joe Esposito on 'Provostial Publishing'

I am grateful to Joe Esposito for alerting me to his recent post on the Publishing Frontier blog titled Provostial Publishing.

Joe's interesting post speaks to a topic that's a hobby-horse subject for me; that of provenance and authority of academic content on the Internet. Joe contrasts the [quite literally] free-for-all that is User Generated Content with "editorial publishing" based on the role of publishers and editors in selection. Then he articulates - in a way I had not personally seen before - the argument that university provosts are acting as gatekeepers to content in Institutional Repositories by selecting faculty and thus fulfilling a selection function for the institution's repository.

I can't improve on the words that Joe uses to explain the differences between these three types of publishing:

"[the provost] chooses the authors but does not choose the works. Traditional editorial publishing is where an editor chooses the work. In UGC the choice of the author is made by the author him or herself–but this is not much of a choice, as we all believe our own thoughts are worth something."

It really is worth a read...

Friday 2 May 2008

CASPER the friendly [JISC] ghost

From Alicia Wise of the Publishers Licensing Society

JISC is funding CASPER which standards for Copyright Advice and Support Project for e-Learning Resources. The CASPER project in turn supports 19 further JISC-funded projects aimed at encouraging the ‘repurposing and reuse of digital content and assessments” in UK universities. These 19 projects are required to use ‘internal’ content from their own universities; ‘external’ content largely sourced from other universities but also potentially sourced from published books and journals, and; content from the JISC’s e-learning repository. The project website is at and will evolve as the project progresses. Publishers may be approached by project staff for permissions. This is really helpful as the need for permissions is not necessarily well understood. It may mean that a little humour and patience is required – especially as publishers are likely to be approached in the first instance to provide free permissions for reuse of published works for open distribution on the web. If successful this approach will also be taken with schools through partnership working by JISC and Becta.

Saturday 26 April 2008

Space up for grabs at the Beijing International Bookfair and Frankfurt

Beijing International Book Fair: 1 to 4 September 2008
ALPSP members have the opportunity to participate in the Beijing International Book Fair by hiring display space on the ALPSP Stand.

Display space - Shelf hire is for display of publisher materials only.
Cost: GBP sterling £195 (plus VAT) per shelf plus consolidation costs for shipping. Each shelf is 1 metre in length.
* Only one copy of each publication is allowed to be sent, and only enough publications to accommodate the space hired.
* Publications will NOT be returned after the show. They will be donated to relevant Chinese organisations.
If you would like to book display space, or require further information for the Beijing International Book Fair please contact Diane French by 30 May 2008. Please note that all display materials will have to be received by Diane by 15 June 2008 – these deadlines have to be adhered to. Display space is booked on a first come basis.
Please note: ALPSP will NOT be making meeting space available at the Beijing International Book Fair.

Frankfurt Book Fair: 15 to 19 October 2008
ALPSP are giving their members the opportunity to participate in the Frankfurt Book Fair by offering combined meeting and display space on the ALPSP Stand.

Combined meeting and display facilities: Members will be able to pre-book and pay for a specific ‘half day’ session to use an exclusive members’ table (with 4 chairs) on the ALPSP stand. The meeting space fee includes the use of one shelf for the display of publication material for the duration of the Book Fair.
Cost: £250 (plus VAT) per half day session. Sessions are 0900-1330 or 1330-1800 from Wednesday 15 to Saturday 18 October (no sessions to be booked on Sunday 19 October). Sessions will be allocated on a first come first served basis.

Meeting space last year was much sought after, so if you would like to book a meeting space or have any other questions please contact Diane French
by Friday June 30 to ensure you get the half day session you prefer.

Please note that ALPSP is NOT hiring display space as a ‘stand alone’ item this year.

Wednesday 23 April 2008

Socially and environmentally responsible procurement

Social and environmental responsibility is becoming of greater and greater interest to the publishing industry. It will be the subject of one of the plenary sessions at this year's ALPSP International Conference.

Professor Andrew Millington (University of Bath) is leading a major international project on socially and environmentally friendly procurement and is looking for publishers to take part.

The project, which incurs no costs to organizations, is being run in cooperation with the University of Cattolica, Milan and Loyola College, Chenai and will examine social and environmental procurement in the UK, Italy, China and India.

It is an important issue and the only commitment is to fill in a brief online questionnaire and to participate in a one hour interview. Full confidentially is assured.

To participate please e-mail Professor Millington.

Bob Campbell's getting on his bike for BUF!

Bob Campbell (Wiley-Blackwell) is doing a mad cycle ride around Sicily for the British Urological Foundation (BUF). He's raised nearly £4200 in sponsorship at the time of writing. It's a great charity and Bob's a great bloke (and has been training exceptionally hard!) so let's try and get him over the £5000!

Tuesday 22 April 2008

NIH mandate

I was rudely awakened by a smoke alarm this morning.

Fortunately it was a malfunction rather than a fire but it meant that I spent dawn today checking some facts online for a document that I am writing on the open access mandate that the National Institutes of Health (NIH) implemented on 7 April.

I was delighted to see that the top ranked result when I Googled 'NIH mandate' (from the UK at least*) was not the open access policy pages of the NIH, nor even comments by Stevan Harnad but was in fact Priscilla Markwood's thought provoking Editorial 'The NIH mandate - we're not in Kansas any more' in the April 2008 issue of Learned Publishing. Credit and kudos to both the author and the search engine optimization talents of our colleagues at IngentaConnect!

Priscilla's Editorial - which outlines the threats to smaller society publishers and postulates that the Open Access movement may actually help to strengthen commercial publishers - is well worth a read.

* Of course, Google's mystical algorithm means that you get different results from depending on where you are located....

Monday 21 April 2008

Why 'author pays' publishing might be a good idea...

It may surprise some people to learn that I am supportive of the notion of 'author pays' publishing (or more correctly, of publishing models supported by author-side payments since the actual cash often comes from funding bodies or other sources).

It won't surprise anyone to know that I have some caveats:

Firstly, publishers should be left alone to determine their own business models - those that are best for them and for the communities that they serve - and this means being free of, for example, interference from governments which pushes them in one direction or another.

Secondly, the actual level of fees that journals would need to charge is likely to be very much higher than the typical fees currently seen in the marketplace. My [wholly unscientific, so you'll have to trust me on this] experience would suggest that fees would need to be many thousands of dollars (but more research like that undertaken by the Research Information Network is needed).

Thirdly, it is pretty clear that as things stand adequate funds are not yet available to cover these costs for all disciplines. It may be possible in time to divert funds away from library acquisition budgets to pay author-side publication charges (no, I'm afraid that any monies 'saved' from cancelled journal subscriptions won't get used for all of those books you've been wanting to buy...') but that's not going to happen overnight...

Fourthly, and related to my third point, there is the issue of the differences in funding from one discipline of academic endeavour to the next and the impact that this has on the affordability of 'author pays'. Whilst I admire greatly the clarity of the Wellcome Trust's statement that they see dissemination as part of the research and are therefore willing to pay 1-2 per cent of their research budget to fund that dissemination, that only holds for well-funded subjects where research grants are relatively large. The absolute cost of dissemination is likely to be broadly the same irrespective of discipline but in subjects with modest research grants like mathematics or ecology the percentage cost of dissemination will be much higher than 1 or 2 per cent - perhaps even exceeding 100 per cent. So the dissemination could well cost more than the entire research budget.

Fifth, it is very important to ensure that the mechanism of publishing is accessible to everyone and that means that in an 'author pays' publishing system those that can afford to pay have to subsidize those that cannot (this happens in the subscription world through organizations like INASP).

Sixth, it is not a sin for publishers to make a profit (surplus, call it what you will...). Profit is an incentive for good publishing, results in innovation, and means that publishers have funds available to invest in the future of scholarly communication (journal publishing is a model industry in terms of adoption of new technologies and it is just grossly and ludicrously wrong to suggest that they have been slow to embrace the Internet, for example).

Now, before this turns into a version of Monty Python's 'What have the Romans ever done for us' in reverse, let me explain why I think 'author pays' publishing could be a good thing for some publishers.

A) Benefit to the advancement of knowledge
I don't think you can argue against the fact that Open Access could bring benefits to some disciplines for example if the whole corpus of literature was open to interrogation by data and text mining tools. If you want a compelling case for this, talk to Peter Murray-Rust (or let him talk at you!) and find out about the interesting stuff the chemists are doing...

B) Scalability of income
I've been involved with running a couple of journal publishing businesses in my time and one of the problems we had was that we couldn't raise the price of the journal fast enough to cover the costs of the extra papers we were publishing. We managed to increase the quality, and kept increasing the rejection rates of the journals, but there were still more and more high-quality papers to be published. A model where the income scales more or less directly with the number of papers you are publishing therefore seems like a good thing (I also think that submission, rather than acceptance, fees are an interesting concept but that will have to be the subject of a future post...)

C) Small publishers with no sales force
Again referring to my own experience of running a smallish publishing house, there was no way that I could deploy an international sales force trotting around the globe polishing the doorknobs of librarians and selling our wares. Our relationship with the librarian community was therefore pretty much non-existent. However, we had great visibility among, and relationships with, the authoring community who really appreciated what we were doing for them... so if they paid the bills (as long as they had the money, of course) I would have been quite happy.

D) Eliminates motives for piracy
This, I think, is a big issue and one which is only going to get bigger. In-copyright academic content is increasingly appearing illegally on peer-to-peer file sharing sites and it is virtually impossible for the publishing industry to police this. At the very least it is very expensive. Open access does eliminate the motive for piracy and may, in the very long way, be a pragmatic approach to stopping piracy. I bet the music industry wishes it had the equivalent of an 'author pays' option.

Incidentally, there are a number of less-than-ideal artefacts that are shared by both the subscription and 'author pays' model. In both publishers expend time and money dealing with articles that are rejected and so the higher your rejection rate, the higher your costs. I don't believe that this is an incentive to publish poor articles and the quality of a publication and its brand are going to continue to be very important.

Friday 18 April 2008

Standard names for versions of journal articles

The NISO / ALPSP Journal Article Version (JAV) Technical Working Group has just submitted its recommendations to ALPSP for approval.

To quote the project webpages: 'In the digital world, multiple versions of journal articles are often available online. This can cause confusion because there is no established way of identifying the various versions by either a common terminology or identification scheme. Versions of a journal differ in minor or major respects and 'preprints' and 'postprints' come in many variants.'

The draft recommendations will now be circulated to the ALPSP Council for approval and in the not-too-distance future we'll hopefully all be referring to the various stages in the lifecycle of journal articles by common names!

ALPSP CEO starts blogging

I guess that it is high time that we at ALPSP started our own blog...

I confess to being a late adopter of 'web 2.0' stuff, but it seems clear that social networking has huge potential for ALPSP to help us connect with our members and indeed to help them connect with each other.

This was particularly evident at the strategy retreat that the Council of ALPSP held in London on 10 and 11 April 2008. ALPSP is the community of non-profit scholarly publishers and those that work with them and we intend to ensure we remain at the heart of the community...

The strategy retreat was very enjoyable and it will be interesting to see how our plans for the future develop...