27 May 2008

Microsoft blinks

So MSoft can't do everything after all. An article posted by the Website design company, Bluhalo, reports that the giant is giving up on the digitization of books for its version of Google's book search. This could put the Internet Archive in difficulties, since the Archive has been doing the digitization. No confirmation of this from anywhere, as far as I can see, so who knows?

22 May 2008

Confusion reigns

Peter Suber has an interesting item in his Open Access News, referring to a report from the Research Information Network in the UK on the costs of OA publishing vs. the current "pay to read" model.

As Peter points out, a glaring false assumption of the report is that the only alternative to "pay to read" is "pay to publish" or author charging. This gives point to my insistence that to lump all OA publishing under the one label of "Gold OA" leads to this kind of assumption, since it is in the interests of publishers to pretend that author charging IS the only alternative. Let us talk of "Platinum OA" when we mean "free to publish and free to read" - the model of Information Research and many more OA journals. As Peter again points out 67% of journals in the DOAJ make no author charges.

One example of the impact of the false assumption is the calculation that the savings to libraries of a move to e-publication only would be offset by the need to pay 17.5% VAT on the subscription. This amounting, according to the report, to £5million. But "Platinum" journals incur no VAT, since there is no subscription - and, given the low costs of self-publication by universities or consortia of universities of e-journals, a true analysis would ask, "How many free journals could the UK University system publish with £5million?" I think it would be more than one or two!

Until universities break free of the false assumptions under which this report has been written, they will be locked into commercial relationships with publishers that will inevitably limit access to scholarship and research.

19 May 2008

The message (on OA) is getting through.

Prompted by Peter Suber's blog, I disvoered a College and Research Libraries article by David W. Lewis, dean of the Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis Library, which proposes a strategy for moving library funds from journal purchase to OA support and preservation of the book-buying budget. The logic is inescapable - university libraries are even less able to continue to put up with journal price increases than they were (and if that is a problem in the USA, what is it like anywhere else?) and with repositories growing in number and in number of items held, the grip of the commercial publisher cannot be maintained.

However, the article doesn't really go far enough. Action by libraries without further action by the parent institutions will not resolve the issue: if OA is regarded as the "Gold" of author charging, the institution, in one way or another will have to fund the submission of papers. The only sensible strategy is collaborative, subsidised, freely available OA publishing. Imagine a journal published by a consortium of major US universities - some of the Carnegie Research I group, for example, which covers all the major research institutions - it is likely that such a journal would be rapidly accepted as a major outlet for research and if those universities required that faculty offer their papers first to that journal, it would soon become essential reading in its discipline and it would rapidly shift awareness of the value of OA. Tinkering around with the present system through repositories and author charging will never bring about the necessary changes to make access to scholarly research available freely to all. A much more radical break with the past is necessary.

17 May 2008

The downside of electronic theses

An interesting item in the Chronicle of Higher Education draws attention to a dispute at West Virginia University about their electronic dissertations policy. This policy applies across the university but has not, until now, affected students in the creative writing programme.

Naturally enough, the students (supported by their professor) do not want their creative works on the Web, since they might well seek a commercial publisher for the output. This seems to be one of those foggy areas of copyright law - a creative work is clearly that of the author and, presumably, copyright rests with the author, not with the institution - such authors are not in the same position as employees of the organization, for whom the situation might be different.

Apparently, this dispute echoes across the US, with other universities experiencing the same dispute.