Editor’s Note

The Journal of Electronic Publishing Vol. 11 Issue 2, 2008-05-30.

“For more than a decade, electronic journals—periodicals that are distributed over computer networks—have operated on the periphery of academe, largely spurned by authors, publishers, and readers as no match for the traditional printed journal,” the Chronicle of Higher Education wrote in 1991.

Book Review: Modern Language Association of America. MLA Style Manual and Guide to Scholarly Publishing

The Journal of Electronic Publishing Vol. 11 Issue 2, 2008-05-30.

I purchased my first copy of the MLA Style Manual during my first year of college, and it has had a special place in my heart since then. So sensibly organized, and so easy to skim with its effective use of typography! While I’ve been pressed into relationships with other style guides since then—including an ongoing, troubled relationship with the Chicago Manual of Style—I find myself longing for the old days, when no other style guide clouded my thoughts.

O’Reilly Media’s Tools of Change Conference 2008

The Journal of Electronic Publishing Vol. 11 Issue 2, 2008-05-30.

If it can be argued that the value of a conference can be measured by the length and breadth of the discussion that it generates, the recent Tools of Change for Publishing conference in February 2008 exceeded expectations. The many debates among attendees and panelists, copious blog descriptions and analyses, and plenty of glowing reviews and conference reports have produced their own set of discussions on line, a valuable “social currency,” according to Douglas Rushkoff, who spoke at the conference.

The University as Publisher: Summary of a Meeting Held at UC Berkeley on November 1, 2007

The Journal of Electronic Publishing Vol. 11 Issue 2, 2008-05-30.

With the advent of electronic publishing, the scholarly communication landscape at universities has become increasingly diverse. University “publications” not only include those of the university presses and society journals but can also include forms such as preprints, digital library collections, databases, personal Web pages, course materials, and lecture webcasts. Multiple stakeholders including university presses, libraries, and central IT departments are challenged by the increasing volume and the rapidity of production of these new forms of publication in an environment of economic uncertainties. As a response to these increasing pressures, as well as the recent publication of important reports and papers on the topic, the Center for Studies in Higher Education (CSHE) convened a meeting of experts titled “The University as Publisher.” The event was sponsored as part of the A.W. Mellon Foundation–funded Future of Scholarly Communication project at CSHE. http://cshe.berkeley.edu/research/scholarlycommunication/

Crossroads: A New Paradigm for Electronically Researching Primary Source Documents

The Journal of Electronic Publishing Vol. 11 Issue 2, 2008-05-30.

At Oxford University there is a particularly harrowing final examination called the “prescribed text.” This comes in the form of a dozen or so very brief abstracts of passages from a philosophical text. The text is selected by the examiners and announced three years prior to the exam, but the chosen passages, naturally, are not announced ahead of time. Examinees are required not only to explicate the significance of the chosen passages but also to reference as many of the most influential published reflections on the passages as they can. The text is typically voluminous, on the order of John Locke’s Essay Concerning Human Understanding, which means that the student must not only think hard about the meaning and implications of hundreds of passages, but also must find and absorb as many influential reactions to them as possible. There are, of course, myriads of such reflections, but they are scattered throughout thousands of monographs and journals. Even with the extensive resources of Oxford’s Bodleian Library, the exam presents students with a most daunting challenge, made even more difficult because in many subjects hundreds of students take the same examination, and are therefore looking for the same material at the same time. I took such an exam some thirty years ago (and got assigned Locke’s Essay, of course), and what I needed then is still needed today—an “edition” of the prescribed text that is so deeply annotated that everything essential is right there, scribbled in the margins, as it were, of every passage. In the Spring of 2006, I and my colleagues at Readex assembled a team of academic advisors, product managers, and IT staff to tackle this challenge in the much larger research environment of the Archive of Americana online database. Our goal was to allow scholars to scribble in the margins of every text printed in early America. The result of our efforts is called “Crossroads.” The Archive of Americana is Readex’s online database of early American imprints, newspapers, government documents, and ephemera. It is huge, with some 73,000 early American imprints (mostly monographs and pamphlets) from the Evans and Shaw-Shoemaker bibliographies for the years 1639–1819; tens of millions of articles from 2,000+ newspapers, based on the Brigham and Gregory bibliographies and covering the period 1690–1923; government documents centering around the U.S. Congressional Serial Set (which will eventually include the 13,800 volumes and 12 million pages of publications of the U.S. Congress for 1817–1980—currently it is completed to 1941); and the American Ephemera collection of the American Antiquarian Society, the largest of its kind in the United States.

Facets and Hierarchies in Scientific Search

The Journal of Electronic Publishing Vol. 11 Issue 2, 2008-05-30.

Since the days of the Library of Alexandria, librarians have envisioned a library encompassing all recorded knowledge and have pursued this elusive goal though the centuries with the arrival and departure of an eccentric assortment of ideologues, technologies, and funding agencies. Their quest forms an interesting and often cautionary tale, usually little known except within the library profession—that is, until today. The ancient idea of a universal library has now returned not so much in libraries proper, but on the vast, seemingly borderless playing field of the global networks where a wired generation has committed itself to making a new Alexandria Library, not only of the Internet’s 100-billion-and-counting Web pages, but also of an almost equally numerous array of digitized books, periodicals, sound, and video recordings. However, the promise that “the technology of search will transform isolated books into the universal library of all human knowledge” [Kelly 2006, 71] still remains only a promise.

Scholarly Publishing Re-invented: Real Costs and Real Freedoms

The Journal of Electronic Publishing Vol. 11 Issue 2, 2008-05-30.

In the worlds of scholarship and scholarly publishing, technology and the Internet have served as disruptive forces, both negative and positive. On the downside, the ease with which both students and faculty can commit plagiarism is of great concern. On the upside, the ease with which lectures can be prepared, course materials made available, and new knowledge shared globally is a strong positive force in education. Extending this power to scholarly publishing inevitably leads to a frank discussion about the real costs that have long burdened the ways that scholars communicate with each other.

Open Access 2.0: Access to Scholarly Publications Moves to a New Phase

The Journal of Electronic Publishing Vol. 11 Issue 2, 2008-05-30.

What publishing does well—traditional publishing, that is, where you pay for what you read, whether in print or online—is command attention. This is not a trivial matter in a world that seemingly generates more and more information effortlessly, but still has the poor reader stuck with something close to the Biblical lifespan of three score and ten and a clock that stubbornly insists that a day is 24 hours and no more. Attention is the scarce commodity; any service that makes those 24 hours more productive is welcome. A service that winnows through the huge outpouring of information and says (with authority), Pay attention to this; pay less attention to that; and as for that other thing, ignore it entirely—such a service is well worth paying for. The name of that service is publishing.

Scholarly Publication at the Digital Tipping Point

The Journal of Electronic Publishing Vol. 11 Issue 2, 2008-05-30.

Two years ago, the University of Michigan Press and the Scholarly Publishing Office of Michigan’s University Library embarked on a joint publishing project, digitalculturebooks, whose aim was to publish books about new media in both a printed for-sale version and an open access (OA) online version. The intention was not only to publish innovative and accessible work about the social, cultural, and political impact of new media and to collect data about the ways reading habits and preferences vary across different scholarly reading communities, but also, implicitly, to explore the opportunities and the obstacles involved in a press working in a close, full partnership with a technologically savvy library unit with a business model, orientation to clients, and digital and archival competence very different from the press’s. I won’t discuss this project, still in a very early stage of development, in any detail here other than to mention what a pleasure it has been and how instructive it has been to observe, close up, the digital skills and the public commitment of our library colleagues. (The joint press/library Web site, http://www.digitalculture.org, offers a full description of the aims and the content of the project, a list of the series that have already been developed, and other ancillary materials.) I do, however, want to share some provisional observations concerning the future of scholarly communication, prompted, in large part, by early experiences with this hybrid publishing model.

Scholarly Monograph Publishing in the 21st Century: The Future More Than Ever Should Be an Open Book

The Journal of Electronic Publishing Vol. 11 Issue 2, 2008-05-30.

John Fell, the Dean of Christ Church, Oxford, was much involved with the expansion of learned printing at Oxford in the second half of the 17th century. In 1669 he hoped that a press at Oxford “by God’s blessing may not only prove usefull to us poor scholars but reflect some reputation and advantage on the Publick”. (McKitterick 2002, 201)

Oxford Open automatic deposit at PMC

Posting message from Oxford (with permission). Note also that Oxford is taking article processing fees into account when assessing subscription rates, and has already reduced some subscription fees to reflect revenue from article processing fees.

Excerpt of message from Kirsty Luff at Oxford:

Open access articles published in over 50 journals in the Oxford Open initiative are now automatically deposited in PubMed Central (PMC).

Authors who have paid a fee to make their articles open access in one of our Oxford Open biomedical journals do not need to deposit their article into PMC – Oxford Journals will do so on their behalf. The final published version of their article will be freely available immediately via PMC and also directly from the journal website.

Oxford Journals is depositing into PMC all open access papers that have been or will be published in 58 journals participating in the Oxford Open initiative (a list of journals can be found here: http://www.oxfordjournals.org/oxfordopen/open_access_titles.html)

Regular data feeds between PMC and the journals concerned have been set up. Recently published open access content is being deposited first, followed by older content. You can refer to http://www.oxfordjournals.org/oxfordopen/open_access_titles.html for the latest information on the status of PMC deposits for individual journals.

We have also prepared some information and guidelines for authors of various funding agencies, which can be found here: http://www.oxfordjournals.org/oxfordopen/open_access_titles.html

We look forward to continuing our work with PMC to help authors deposit their articles.

Kirsty Luff, Senior Communications & Marketing Manager
Oxford Journals, Oxford University Press

June SPARC Open Access Newsletter

The June 2008 SPARC Open Access Newsletter is now available.

Peter Suber’s main article in the Newsletter is Open access and the self-correction of knowledge. Beautifully written, this article talks about how knowledge is built. Inspiring, and highly recommended for those of us thinking about the broader changes in, and purpose of, scholarly communications.

One thought is that thinking about the self-correcting nature of knowledge helps to put the (to me) rather silly worries about article versions into perspective.

Regardless of what version of an article (or other scholarly document) one looks at, no matter how good the article, it is only a part of the truth. Better to critique, build upon, try the next step in the grand experiment or develop the next concepts. This is how we learn, all of us together.