Over the past few years the MIT Libraries – like many US research libraries– have been watching with interest the development of “offsetting” agreements in Europe and the UK. In offsetting agreements, a single license incorporates costs associated with access to paywalled articles and costs associated with open access publication. This type of agreement has emerged in Europe and the UK and been the source of both new deals and broken deals.
Earlier this month I read this article by Kenneth Frazier from D-Lib Magazine which argues that academic libraries should reconsider the value of so-called “big deals” from publishers. The core of the argument is that the downsides of these journal packages outweigh the benefits of convenience and an arguably lower cost per title. I say “arguably” about cost per title because, if one excludes the titles in a bundle that are rarely or never used when calculating per title cost, the value proposition is significantly different.
This post is inspired by a number of discussions in the library profession over the past few years. Fobazi Ettarh’s article Vocational Awe and Librarianship: The Lies We Tell Ourselves in In Library with the Lead Pipe, the Symposium on Invisible Work in the Digital Humanities at Florida State University, and Stacie Williams’ keynote “All Labor is Local” from the 2016 Digital Library Forum to name a few.
[Authors note — this post was drafted back in January, so although the Scholarly Kitchen post that inspired it is a little old, the general themes are still relevant]
Joseph Esposito was being intentionally provocative, perhaps even tongue-in-cheek in places, in his post back in January, Why Elsevier is a Library’s Best Friend. There are some good exchanges with commenters, many of whom had the same thoughts I did as I read. Here are a few additional responses both to Esposito and to fellow SK’er David Crotty about the post and the back-and-forth in the comments.
At the American Library Association (ALA) Midwinter Meeting earlier this month, I attended the Association of College and Research Libraries (ACRL) and the Scholarly Publishing and Academic Resources Coaltion (SPARC) Forum on “Shaping the Landscape of Open Access Publishing: Individually, Locally, and Collectively.” One of the speakers was my friend Chealsye Bowley, Community Manager for Ubiquity Press, a U.K. based open access publisher. Bowley also happens to be a featured “Woman Working In the Open.”
Last July at MIT Press, a press release went out that should have caught the eye of any reader of this blog. MIT Press announced the creation of a new leadership position called Director of Journals and Open Access and the appointment of Nick Lindsay to the role. To my knowledge, Nick is the only person in the North American university press world who has OA in his title. Last month, I sent him a few questions about this unique initiative.
Brands and branding are an important part of a consumer society, and they are largely about goodwill. Trademarks, which are, roughly speaking,the legal protection given to brands, are premised on the idea that consumers should have some assurance about the continuity of the source of the goods and services they purchase. A brand name is supposed to provide that continuity; whether you are buying from McDonald’s or Land’s End, the brand helps you know what you are going to get. This is why trademarks protect against any use that might cause consumers to be confused about whether the goods or services they are buying are really from the same source. The sense of continuity is what we call goodwill.
(Note: This post was collaboratively written by several members of the ARL project group described below.)
How can libraries develop more robust mechanisms for supporting services and platforms that accelerate research sharing and increase participation in scholarship? What kind of funding and partnerships do scholarly communities, public goods technology platforms, and open repositories need to transform into true, academy-owned open access publication systems? In an initiative formerly known as “Red OA,” these are the questions a group of ARL deans and directors have recently committed to address through engagement with scholarly communities and open source platform developers.
When I complained, in a blog post written several weeks ago, about the contract I had signed, and regretted, for a book to be published by the American Library Association, I really did not expect the kind of reaction I got. Quite a few readers made comments about the unequal position of authors in publishing negotiations, and especially about the need for the library world to do a better job of modeling good behavior in this area; that was to be expected. A few people took me to task for agreeing to a contract I disliked so much, which was no more than I deserved. But I truly was surprised by the number of folks from the ALA, including current ALA president Jim Neal, who reach out to me and expressed a determination to fix the problem I had described.
NB: This is a guest post from David Lewis, Dean of the IUPUI University Library. David and the regular IO authors hope that this post will generate discussion, and we invite you to comment.
The 2.5% Commitment: Every academic library should commit to contribute 2.5% of its total budget to support the common infrastructure needed to create the open scholarly commons.
A number of things came at me at in late summer.
The final foible I wanted to write about in this series of posts involves a distressingly common situation – a copyright holder who does not understand what the rights they hold actually are.
This is not the first blog post to point out that Human Synergistics International is pretty clueless about copyright. Almost five years ago, the TechDirt blog made an effort to school Human Synergistics about fair use. Apparently it did not work; they seem to continue to misunderstand the copyright law.
The second folly I want to talk about is somewhat embarrassing, since it is my own. Publication contracts are always an adventure for academic authors, of course; we are routinely taken advantage of by publishers who know that publication is a job requirement and believe they have us in a stranglehold. I once read a comment by a lawyer who works with authors that signing an agreement with one of the major publishers was akin to getting into a car with a clearly intoxicated driver – no sensible person should do it. So in this story I have no one but myself to blame. Nevertheless, I want to tell folks about it because it was not one of the big publishers that treated me badly; it was my own professional organization, the American Library Association.
It’s been a busy summer for OA in Europe. On one hand, nationally coordinated efforts in places like Finland and Germany have sought (unsuccessfully so far) to pressure Elsevier into better subscription pricing and OA options. On the other hand, a group of early career researchers (ECRs) at the University of Cambridge are looking to mobilize fellow ECRs to embrace open models that are not controlled by commercial entities. In my view, these divergent approaches illustrate why we should focus our collective energies away from strategies in which commercial interests retain control under new economic conditions (see also, proposals to flip subscription payments to APCs), and towards working with ECRs and others who envision a return of scholarly dissemination responsibility to the academy.
It has been a while since we have posted to this site, and I want to catch up by sharing some thoughts about a few odd or disturbing developments from the past month or so.
Let’s start with a recent folly, the “settlement” in the infamous “Monkey Selfie” case. The New York Times proclaims the settlement proposed on Monday as “a victory of sorts” for the monkey and his friends. The “friends,” of course are PETA, the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, who brought the case as Naruto’s “next friend,” trying to establish that the monkey, who they named Naruto, owned the copyright in the picture he apparently snapped. It is not at all clear that PETA even knows which monkey it is representing, since in court papers they identify Naruto as a six-year old male, but the original photographer whose copyright claim PETA is disputing, David Slater himself identified the photogenic macaque as a female.
Over the last two weeks, I have been putting together a syllabus to teach a course in copyright law at the University of Kansas law school. Although I have taught copyright a lot, I have never done so in a formal law school class, so this is both an exciting and intimidating process for me.
As part of planning a class session about the doctrine of first sale, I was doing a little bit of research about the Capitol Records v. ReDigi case, which squarely confronts the issue of whether or not first sale can survive in a digital age. The case has been going on for a while, so I will claim the process of creating a syllabus as my justification for writing about it now.
I came across this question on Twitter recently, and it got me thinking about something that I think about quite a bit:
I do a lot of work around diversity, inclusion, and representation in librarianship, publishing, and higher education. And I get a lot of questions like this from people looking to diversify their lists of potential collaborators, speakers, etc. I’ve even written a bit about ways to incorporate diversity into our programming and work.
This is a guest post by Barbara DeFelice, Program Director for Scholarly Communication, Copyright and Publishing at the Dartmouth College Library.
Dartmouth offers a small number of MOOCs, selected from faculty proposals, through the DartmouthX infrastructure. This includes a cross-unit team of librarians, educational designers, students and faculty. Dartmouth is providing this level of support for faculty to develop MOOCs in order to influence long-standing teaching practices through experiments in the MOOCs that are evaluated and brought into the on-campus learning experience.
The lawsuit is really a rather local affair; an action brought by Louisiana State University against Elsevier alleging breach of contract. But the facts raise significant questions for all Elsevier customers, and especially for public universities that do business with the publishing giant (which is to say, all of us). Even more significant, I think, is what the specific circumstances, and some of the comments made about the lawsuit, tell us about the future of scholarly communications. In my mind, we have reached the “enough is enough” point with Elsevier.
Recently there has been a spate of comment expressing frustration about the allegedly slow progress of open access, and especially Green open access. It is hard to disagree with some of this sentiment, but it is important that frustration not lead us into trying to solve a problem with a worse solution. The key, I believe, to making real advances in open access is to walk away from the commercial publishers who have dominated the market for scholarship. Only if we do that can libraries free up money from our collection budgets to do truly new things. A new business model with the same old players, even if it were possible, would be a mistake.
Last month, I attended the Charlotte Initiative Open Conference. This Mellon-funded project brought together publishers, librarians, and technology providers to explore a reconsideration of the transactional models between publishers and libraries for eBooks. To quote the initiative, “Our starting premise is that permanent acquisitions of eBooks requires these licensing terms:
- Provision of irrevocable perpetual access and archival rights.
- Allowance for unlimited simultaneous users.
- Freedom from any Digital Rights Management (DRM), including (but not limited to) use of proprietary formats, restricted access to content, or time-limited access terms.”
I was invited to be on the project’s advisory board two years ago and I’ll admit the premise seemed like quite a stretch at that time. In a climate where the rhetoric of accountability is paired with market-optimizing tools like DDA and EBA, the idea that libraries will only buy our most successful books and then insist on broad usage terms like the Charlotte Principles just felt like a non-starter. As John Unsworth mentioned in his conference keynote, publishers operate in the world of risk and libraries have historically helped academic publishers mitigate risk by building deep monograph collections. Predatory publishers figured out how to game this system, forcing libraries to use “accountability” as a reason to reduce monograph purchases despite the arrival of digital platforms making them less expensive and more accessible than ever. As a director at a public university press, I can attest to the acute pain that strategy has had on mission-driven non-profit publishers and on the humanities and social science disciplines we support. More on that in a moment.