This article examines the thinking behind the establishment of the year-old, New York City-based CUNY Publishing Institute (cpi.journalism.cuny.edu/), the latest entry to the field of book publishing courses. CPI purports to offer an alternative approach to studying the industry, and to do so in an energetic, intensive and hands-on manner.To paraphrase a recent online comment on a post lamenting the collapse of contemporary book publishing—we don’t need another essay lamenting the collapse of contemporary publishing. Similarly, we don’t need another “publishing school” appended to a grad school’s extant courses in English or journalism. Or do we?The Tow-Knight School of Entrepreneurial Journalism at the City University of New York’s (CUNY) Graduate School of Journalism is home to the nascent CUNY Publishing Institute (CPI), which had its first classes in June 2013. From the start, CPI had as its reason for being three crucial motivators: 1. existing schools of book publishing purport to offer much more than they do or even can; 2. the essentials of book publishing can be elucidated in an intensive, focused and effective manner; and 3. the field has grown in ways no one foresaw: there are different formats, different ways to reach readers, and at least a sampling of these should be explored. The goal was to do it all in one packed work week, Monday to Friday, 8:30 to 5:30, and to do so in the CUNY tradition of much bang for less buck.As someone who has spent twenty-five years in book publishing as an editor and publisher, and who has appeared as a faculty member or panelist at a number of publishing courses, writing conferences, and industry convocations in the United States and abroad, I am convinced that an effective introduction to the profession involves a multifarious approach. In the twenty-first century, there is no one road to either success or disaster in book publishing. It follows that a rigid study based on traditional models rather than innovative, entrepreneurial ones is not only quickly outdated but provides a narrow, inaccurate assessment of what is happening. And that seemed to me precisely what existing schools of book publishing were doing, at least for the most part: these courses focus on the traditional aspects, admittedly the most easily graspable aspects, of an essentially fluid industry. The turf of publishing is still dominated by venerable companies and imprints founded well before the Second World War (Alfred A. Knopf, 1915; Simon & Schuster, 1924; Random House, 1927; Penguin Books, 1935; etc.) whose approach to selling and marketing, production and distribution, has changed little in the intervening decades: while a student of publishing must consider these models, they may also need to be discarded or at least severely critiqued. The big publishers are bigger than ever—the titan known as Penguin Random House alone employs more than 10,000 people, and publishes more than 15,000 titles a year—but with by one estimate more than fifteen million new titles published a year, what is the impact on the rest of the industry? Where do these other books come from, and how are they to be sold? And even excluding the categories of self-publishers or alternative publishers, how to account for steady unit sales of books alongside dropping revenues? The traditional, lengthy, tortuous process from concept to finished book is of course very much with us: taking as a starting point a completed manuscript, at least a year can elapse before publication. Along the way many levels of hierarchy are involved, including agents, editors, publishers, editorial boards, design directors and marketing and publicity directors; copyeditors and proofreaders; sales reps and sales conferences; wholesalers and retailers; printers and warehouses; trucking companies and lost, late, and damaged shipments; and endless returns (a phrase familiar to those in the industry: “book returns—the gift that keeps on giving”). It therefore doesn’t take a radical visionary to label the trail that goes from a beautiful idea (or a commercial one) to a printed work convoluted and ineffective: in a word, outdated. Add to that the painfully slow adoption of “new” technology—fundamental to the industry’s continued existence—and the question arises why existing publishing courses not only examine the outdated practices of the most visible corporations but encourage students to emulate same. As a student project, one of the programs even has its participants design their imprint at a major publishing company: a fantasy project if ever there was one. How many editors get their own imprints? About as many as win the Irish Sweepstakes: precious few, and most of us in publishing can name them.And yet, these days just about anyone can start a publishing company that produces “real” books. All you need is a manuscript, access to a computer, a bit of effort, and a few dollars. It’s a thrilling time to be in the business: of course, with genuinely open access have come attendant challenges. Why not explore some of those challenges in detail? How do you market a product (either print or electronic), when everyone seems to be selling something vaguely similar—after all, every book in a sense is competing with every other book for its readers. Why not have an open discussion about staggeringly high return rates, about the rapid turnover amongst editors at the big houses, about the sheer waste that seems endemic to the industry? And most importantly, why not explore alternative paths?A breakfast encounter with innovator Jeff Jarvis, founder of BuzzMachine and director of the Tow-Knight School for Entrepreneurial Journalism at the CUNY Graduate School of Journalism, provided me with the opportunity to start an alternative school of publishing. We intended from the outset to cram a lot into one forty-hour week, supplemented by breakfast and occasional breaks. Our typical student would be someone who wanted to plunge in, to be the electronic age-equivalent of an ink-stained wretch (tendonitis doesn’t evoke the same romantic imagery), but was committed to books, whether downloadable or printed. She might already be working for an established company, she might not even be in publishing—she might be an author who simply wanted to learn more about how the system works, or doesn’t work—but at heart she’d have an entrepreneurial spirit. While we wouldn’t wield swords, our ideal CPI participant would come to embrace the ideals of Bushido, as expressed in the samurai Miyamoto Musashi’s 17th century Book of Five Rings: flowing like water rather than stolid and suffering as stone.Happily, the students who enroll are indeed transdisciplinary, including professors, entrepreneurs, authors and recent graduates. Peer learning is the order of the day; I find myself easily as engaged as my students, learning right alongside them. My goal is to mix it up, to approach publishing as a work in progress, to leaven the discussion of long-established principles with startling insights. For sure, in this environment some of the concepts we tackle may not be in fashion or applicable in a year or even a few months, but we want to convey the sense of an ocean of possibilities, (pace, Carl Sagan) that those “billions and billions of stars” are within reach: and in CPI’s first year of existence, we had discussions with Evan Ratliff of the Atavist but also Keith Goldsmith, director of academic marketing at Knopf (and also an editor there). We had Larry Kirshbaum, then-director of Amazon’s publishing program—who somewhat charmingly enjoined students not to record or tweet anything he said (which of course was an unintended invitation to anyone with a cell phone to record and tweet everything that was said)—but also Johnny Temple, former bassist for the post-punk band “Girls Against Boys”, and publisher of Akashic Books, famous for the recent bestseller Go the Fuck to Sleep:Emily Gould, the former editor of Gawker and current proprietor of Emily Books, spoke, as did Rachel Fershleiser of Tumblr, Jane Friedman of Open Road Media, and many others. There were workshops, but the emphasis was on presentation and marketing, not on editorial selection. That is something teachable only by reminding students of consequences: it’s fine to want to publish a book of Icelandic poetry, but then how do we reach its fans? Conversely, it’s fine to put forth a book by a celebrity—but bearing in mind the notorious flops that characterize expensive acquisitions such as the memoirs of Whoopi Goldberg or Rudy Giuliani, what guarantee does a publisher have that a book will earn out? How do we mitigate risk? Are there inexpensive and effective ways of reaching potential consumers? What of the ancillary platforms connected to a book—the blogs, speaking engagements, the foreign editions?At week’s end of our inaugural session, I and most importantly our thirty-five students knew we’d accomplished our goals. The very fact of refusing to advocate a set path to book publishing opened up all sort of possibilities, and challenges. We could be certain of little other than that all of us in the business must be receptive to new approaches—and we had to become familiar with these new approaches, even if we were to discard them in a few months. In class I cited the “Red Queen Theory of Evolution,” the evolutionary theory first put forth in the 1970s by the biologist Leigh Van Valen. It was named after the bloody-minded chess piece in Lewis Carroll’s Through the Looking Glass. In the relevant passage, the Red Queen says to Alice, “It takes all the running you can do to keep in the same place.” Van Valen applied this metaphor to evolution, suggesting that species are in a constant race for survival, and continually must evolve new ways of defending themselves throughout time. It seems to me this metaphor is exactly what we need to keep at the forefront of our minds when considering book publishing today.
The role of publisher is increasingly assumed by academic and research libraries, usually inspired by campus-based demands for digital publishing platforms to support e-journals, conference proceedings, technical reports, and database-driven websites. Although publishing is compatible with librarians’ traditional strengths, there are additional skill sets that library publishers must master in order to provide robust publishing services to their academic communities.
Many universities today now have a library where staff are exploring the frontiers of open access publishing and digital services. Librarians and other staff employed at these libraries have a diverse range of skills that work in harmony to bring digital content to their users, skills that could be harnessed to focus on scholarly publishing. Accordingly, schools of library science and information, which offer education in both academic and public service, could be one potential place for those aspiring to publishing to receive an education. In this article, I attempt to identify some of the tensions between theory and practice that currently underscore the murkiness in choosing the best location for publishing education and training. Library or information school, and the breadth of both traditional and nontraditional skills it has to offer, is a substantial, long-term alternative to rushed weekend publishing intensives and pricey seminars.Prior to the 1990s, many publishing professionals are purported to have entered the industry “accidentally,” by way of a business or bookstore career. To this day there are very few degree programs in the United States that offer a degree or even a certificate in publishing expertise, let alone a college-level course. “Publisher” is not a career choice discussed in high school in the same way that law, medicine, teaching, or even journalism are. Perhaps this is the reason why I had such a difficult time, initially, in finding a job at a press after graduation: I knew that I wanted to work in publishing, but I had no options for pre-professional training and development. I earned a Bachelor’s in Communication Studies and English in 2009 and promptly began applying to every trade publishing house in the country, without much luck (albeit, during the height of the recession). Four years later, I am happily working in a library publishing shop and also working toward a degree in library and information science.A key tension emerges when pondering the best location for publishing training: practice (hands-on or on-the-job work) versus theory (education). As I began thinking about my own experiences, I first thought, “Well, it was all about the on-the-job training—I couldn’t have learned those skills anywhere else.” However, as I pondered further my newer, more sophisticated views of scholarly publishing, I detected influences from my graduate coursework in library and information science. Theory (my graduate education) informed and enriched my earlier practice (my on-the-job training). My coursework on the future and potential of academic libraries (as well as non-profit management, computer programming, and web design courses), while not directly related to publishing, has given me the foundations to better understand the publishing industry as a whole and to think critically about its future.My experiences in scholarly publishing have already been quite varied. I worked as a peer tutor at the University of Michigan’s Sweetland Center for Writing while in college. This collaborative writing/teaching experience was what earned me a job as a work-study student at the University of Michigan Press, in the English Language Teaching (ELT) department; I transitioned into a full-time temporary position as an editorial assistant to the assistant director of the Press several months later. This position was originally slated to last three months and was created to digitize and make available for sale hundreds of the Press’s backlist titles. Additionally, these titles would be added to the HathiTrust digital library. However, because this was quite a large undertaking, the position lasted for several years instead of months, adapting to fit the new digital publishing needs of the Press. I began working on projects related to the Google Books project, researched the copyright statuses of works, and delved deeper into the Press vault in search of old titles to digitize. In this time of change, I also took a job at the University of Michigan Library’s Scholarly Publishing Office, which would later merge with the University of Michigan Press to become Michigan Publishing.Reflecting on my first experiences in publishing, I realize that I received all the training I needed on the job. I learned how to use the Press’s content management system by actually using it for my work; I learned about permissions and subsidiary rights by writing and asking for those permissions. I learned about the entire scholarly monograph process, from acquisition to production to sales and marketing, from actually participating in a small part of it. In an attempt to get more serious about my publishing career aspirations, I attended an intensive weekend workshop hosted by the English department in my third year of college. This workshop, to my knowledge, was only offered two more times before it was discontinued (the implications of which I’ll discuss later). It was an excellent location for networking; however, the actual content of the sessions and activities seemed antiquated and did not quite address the then-current climate. There was no discussion of ebooks, conversion, and digital production. Part of the description (from a saved pamphlet) read that “students will learn about different segments of the industry: … university press, reference, electronic…,” implying that “electronic” applications were only a small niche area, rather than a phenomenon that has been drastically changing the industry. This was in 2008. Granted, they did emphasize “trade publishing” in the description for the following two years (and because I was more interested in academic publishing, I cannot speak to how well the workshop addressed trade publishing). But for an intensive workshop meant to give us a concrete handle on the publishing world, the material seemed woefully out-of-date, especially in the midst of an economic recession and widespread print publishing crises. What would the profession look like in a decade? Or even five years? What skills would we have needed to learn to deal with the changes that were coming?While the workshop was not exactly helpful in teaching me concrete skills, it did show me the different departments of a publishing house, gave me a taste of what publishing is really like, and helped me consider whether I truly wanted to pursue it as a career, and also connected me to my future boss at the University of Michigan Press. Why was this weekend workshop for undergraduates discontinued? I can only guess that it was from lack of interest. Perhaps it was also not the best location and forum for the target audience; it was quite a lot of content to pack into two days, and the program provided a large panel of professionals with very limited networking time. Indeed, because there is no central place or pedagogy for publishing training, there is no perfect program to train new people. The aforementioned weekend workshop was akin to a shorter version of summer-long programs like the University of Denver Publishing Institute or the NYU Summer Publishing Institute, which also give students an overview of the industry, the different publishing units and departments, writing exercises to emulate duties in “real world” situations, etc., except they are several weeks to several months long rather than two days. They are also much more costly.Scholarly publishing is going through an identity change (I’ll avoid the word “crisis”) in this first quarter of the twenty-first century. Values are changing along with that; no longer are presses choosing the manuscripts and projects that will sell the best—they are concerned with new and original scholarship, and disseminating that scholarship more broadly. New technologies, such as ebooks, online repositories, and interactive online works, may still be anxiety-inducing, but they are quicker to be adopted and learned. Enter librarians.It has long been established that libraries are more than book warehouses; librarians perform essential services for users, ranging from reference, technology instruction, and acquiring and managing collections, to managing digitization and broader dissemination of information. Publishing can now be added to that list. Library publishing has been happening in various forms throughout many years, but it has just been in the last decade or so that it has become more formalized. In the inaugural issue of the Journal of Librarianship and Scholarly Communication, in 2012, the editors discuss the changing economics and formality of exchanges in scholarly communication, as well as the way libraries have seemed to co-opt the name “scholarly communication.” They note that scholars are engaging more in informal exchanges and how those exchanges lead to more responsive and flexible communication, as well as the increasing ease in publishing scholarly journals online. However, the editors also note that, “unfortunately, commercial publishers have little incentive to return [scholarly communication] to its not-for-profit roots. As a result, academic libraries—which have always been economically tied to scholarly publishing—have entered the publishing arena.” Values in scholarly publishing are shifting from a bottom line to service orientation—a value in line with those of libraries. Also, libraries have long held a privileged place on campus where their services and staff are highly regarded, and are ideally suited to scholarly publishing. In a 2008 Council on Libraries and Information Resources report on the future of research libraries, Kate Wittenberg examined the role of academic libraries specifically in relation to scholarly publishing. She outlined six areas that librarians could prove useful: new publishing models and formats, a new focus on users, more complex information literacy in judging credibility, collaboration across fields, the need for experimentation, and sustainability. Will librarians become editors? Will editors become librarians? Or will a new type of job emerge that requires expertise in both of these fields? The new model for publishing requires someone who understands the intellectual environment in various disciplines, identifies the scholars working most productively in those fields, and works with those scholars to enable the successful completion and publication of a scholarly work. It also requires someone who understands the role of metadata, search and discovery, and preservation and access. A position that brings together these two kinds of experience would open exciting possibilities for creating new models of publishing appropriate for the current environment (Wittenberg).The readiness of librarians to be publishers is due in part to the education librarians receive. Historically this has been in “library school,” or MLIS programs, but in the last decade or two this has been at information science schools, or iSchools. There are many reasons why iSchools and MLIS programs are prime places for aspiring publishing professionals. First, their missions are in keeping with the changing needs of publishers. The iSchool organization declares that iSchools address the “fundamental issue of harnessing the incredible flow of information for the betterment of humanity…The iField also empowers people in other fields to create, find, store, manipulate, and share information in useful forms… The iField’s most visible and viable outcome is the delivery of the right information at the right time to the right people in the right form.” Sounds like publishing! Second, iSchool and library school curricula generally value practical experience through practicums over theory-based seminars. Hiring managers tend to appreciate practical experience and the instillation of values that come from a liberal arts background. In three semesters of graduate school, I have already had multiple opportunities to work with clients from the community on semester-long projects that are mutually beneficial (as well as the opportunity for a mini internship at the Folger Shakespeare Library). Third, because they are in a state of experimentation, academic publishers need fresh, forward thinkers. How will the curricula of library science and iSchools help shape future publishing professionals? The Library Publishing Coalition (an organization that champions the library publishing movement) describes library publishing as “based on core library values and building on the traditional skills of librarians, it is distinguished from other publishing fields by a preference for Open Access dissemination and a willingness to embrace informal and experimental forms of scholarly communication and to challenge the status quo.” While not all future publishing hopefuls will go into library publishing, that critical engagement with and questioning of traditional forms of publishing will be valuable for any and all who aim to enter the industry.Finally, coursework in graduate school is also important for learning theory in addition to practice, as well as for the development of long-term views on scholarship and scholarly communication. Time spent in higher education is useful for working alongside scholars, in order to better understand the research process side of the equation. Scholars and publishers work best when each has a good understanding of what the others’ workflow is like.Another benefit of an iSchool or library school education for publishing is the range of technological skills one learns. iSchools offer other specializations (e.g., human-computer interaction) in addition to library and information science—and thus the chance for coursework in markup languages like XML, scripting languages, PHP and SQL for database applications, etc. Skills such as these are becoming increasingly more important for digital scholarly publishing and the online representation of works. Digital preservation is another field becoming more and more vital as original works are being “born” digitally and require more complex preservation needs. iSchools tend to have comprehensive course offerings on digital preservation. While preservation may not represent a typical part of the digital publishing process, metadata does—and metadata is integral to digital preservation. Metadata creation and management is also a traditional skill held by librarians. Generally, preservation knowledge is important to publishers as they undergo enormous scanning projects, such as scanning their backlist titles, to make older titles available in digital libraries, as ebooks, or for print-on-demand. These activities require extensive work with materials that may have been housed in libraries or vaults for an extended period of time, and may require special consideration for digitization.Current (2013) job postings for “scholarly communications librarians” and the like increasingly emphasize publishing backgrounds. There are new emphases on copyright and open access: issues that have long been talked about in libraries and in library school, but not as frequently in publishing, at least until recent years. For example: the University of Michigan posted a job description for an Associate University Librarian for Publishing in the Fall of 2013. Here are some of the required skills: “Demonstrated capacity to articulate a vision and strategy for publishing in an academic library… Knowledge of current issues and trends in academic publishing, scholarly communication, open access, data sharing, and intellectual property and copyright, including fair use… Knowledge of publishing industry practices.” The University of Colorado Boulder also posted a job for a Scholarly Communications Librarian around the same time; that posting combined skills from publishing (“Demonstrated knowledge of the scholarly publishing landscape, including legal issues, Open Access, and author rights”) as well as a required MLS degree and “experience at an academic library or research institution.” These job postings are just two of many recent library publishing positions. They put Wittenberg’s points, above, into practice. Newly created positions in scholarly publishing combine expertise from both library and publishing fields. The library publishing movement is gaining momentum. The Library Publishing Coalition (LPC), which was kicked off in early 2013, consists of over 50 academic libraries that, together, promote innovative and sustainable scholarship. The first part of the LPC vision statement is “targeted training and education”: “We believe that, to flourish, library publishing as a community of practice needs organized leadership to address articulated needs such as targeted training and education, better and increased communication and collaboration, new research, and shared documentation. We recognize that library and other non-profit publishers have common interests and concerns.” This is exciting for those who aim to enter the academic publishing industry, and is especially encouraging for those wanting to enter scholarly publishing. However, simply identifying the need for education and training is just the proverbial first step.Publishing should be brought into the curriculum of iSchools, if only as special topic courses that interested students can take as electives. There should be courses on the history of publishing in the United States, as there are traditionally courses on the histories of libraries in library school. Though the publishing weekend workshop I attended was not especially helpful to me in a practical sense, it was a valiant attempt to fill a hole in the liberal arts curriculum. There are rarely any credit-bearing course offerings on issues related to publishing at the University of Michigan. Offering mini courses or electives on publishing would give students more time to learn about the publishing industry and the history and current climate of the industry. Another option, in the spirit of graduate school hands-on work, would be to offer practicum courses as part of the curriculum. These courses could be a hybrid of credit-bearing graduate courses that focus on a semester-long project and the type of hands-on work that is done in publishing summer seminars. Students would have something concrete to show employers and would also gain practical experience along with learning the theory behind what they are doing.I realize that attending graduate school and obtaining an advanced degree is not and should not be required of anyone who wishes to work in publishing. While I believe (and albeit may also be biased) that library schools are an excellent spot for both training and gaining fundamental knowledge to apply to publishing practice, I also believe that hands-on, on-the-job practice is really the best training for up-and-coming publishing professionals. And, as a student and a professional interested in digital humanities practice, I find that there are some similarities between educating oneself in both the digital humanities and publishing: right now the best way to gain experience on the cutting edges of those fields is to do it yourself. Seek out workshops, connect with others on social media platforms, and attend conferences and other professional development opportunities to not only learn new skills, but also be aware of what’s coming in the future. Test the tension between theory and praxis and choose a spot along the spectrum to dive in.
Publishing education arose in the 20th century in response to a need for trained employees in a stable industry with a well understood set of competencies and skills. Today, the publishing landscape is disrupted, and that stability is seriously threatened. Given these circumstances, what is the role for university-level publishing education? This article argues for a model of university-level (graduate and undergraduate) publishing education that builds upon a vocational self-identification of incoming students, nurtures a community of practice and professional discourse, and in doing so generates and renews the very culture of publishing. In times of transition and disruption, this is a role uniquely suited to the university, where an environment of collaborative research, development, and innovation can be cultivated.
If you’re considering graduate programs in publishing, you may be wondering just how relevant those courses are. After all, in an industry that is so heavily learned on the job, how much good could something a professor tells you in a classroom do? You’d be surprised. As a relatively recent graduate with an M.A. in Publishing, I’m here to tell you just why (or even why not) to consider enrolling in a publishing program. Its trials and its benefits will be laid out in terms of my experiences, and perhaps you’ll come to the same conclusion I did.
Publishing is going through a rapid and jarring change not seen since the introduction of the printing press. In all areas of the industry—from trade publishing to educational publishing— everything about the business is changing, from how we source, edit, and monetize content, to who the immediate customers are.
University presses currently exist in the dual worlds of print and digital publishing. Current staffing needs require that they hire personnel with skills and experience that mirror that present duality. Training and maintaining a skilled workforce requires a commitment to flexibility and an openness to the ever-changing nature of scholarly communication. As the scholarly publishing ecosystem continues to evolve, university presses will need to look to a future workforce that has additional training, knowledge, and experience beyond the traditional skills associated with academic publishing, one that fully embraces the realities of a digital world, the habits of new generations of researchers, and the increasing role of technology in scholarly communication. This article looks at what the future might look like, what skills might be required, and how one might prepare for that future.
This article looks at practical issues in scholarly publishing pertaining to training, educating, and preparing scholarly publishing professionals for today’s technology-driven world. To provide a context for my views, I’ll begin by describing the nature of publishing at The Pennsylvania State University Press. Next, I’ll explore what contemporary publishing means within the setting of a university press. Then, using the following questions as a guide, I’ll map what skills might look like, now and in the future. One, what skills and expertise are publishers looking for in “contemporary book and journal publishing”? Two, where/how does one acquire those skills? Three, as publishing evolves, how will the skill sets for publishers change? And, four, where are publishers looking now for help in that future?
This issue of JEP features the launch of a new feature that we hope will both enrich our readers’ experience and our own understanding of how to do the best digital publishing. With this issue, we introduce full support of Hypothes.is, an open platform for the collaborative evaluation of knowledge. It supports sentence-level critique and is a tool for community peer-review to provide commentary, references, and insight at the article level. Now, every article of JEP is open for commentary and discussion through annotation. Please explore the annotations and add your own. The authors, publishers, and Hypothes.is developers are all eager to see your contributions and to observe and participate in the many discussions we hope it will open up.
As one who is both a publishing practitioner and a commentator upon contemporary publishing, I view every issue of JEP through the lenses of both personal interest and personal experience. This is doubly true of the issue at hand: Education and Training for 21st Century Publishers. I myself came to publishing mid-way through my professional life (after years as both scholar and librarian), and as I immersed myself in the publishing world, was struck by how much I needed to know and how sometimes I didn’t even know what I needed to know. As I assumed positions of increasing responsibility and authority, I became responsible for hiring and managing a large staff and often opined gaps in those staff members’ professional preparation and yearned for hires who could meet our ever-burgeoning lists of required skills. Because my publishing operation was located within a university, I also saw dozens of students make their way through my offices, as both part-time labor and in pursuit of educational opportunities. Some of these students (often hailing from the local English Department or the Information School) sought out my operation intent on a publishing career. Others conceived a desire for such a career on my watch, and while I worked hard to provide advice and guidance, I always worried that there was more to say. Now my career has taken yet another turn, and I am employed at an Information School where I teach, among other things, publishing – a demonstration in itself of the changing publishing landscape. I am eager to learn from my publishing colleagues and compatriots about their perspectives on both education publishing needs and the best ways to meet those needs, a learning I hope will in turn benefit my own students.
From Google’s English: “On 1 January 2014 were some changes in the Copyright Act in force….It is primarily concerned with § 38 (4) of the Copyright Act : “The author of a scientific article that has arisen in the context of at least half of publicly funded research and published in a periodical at least twice a year collection, has, even if he has the publisher or editor given an exclusive right of use, the right , make the contribution after the expiration of twelve months available to the public since the first publication in the accepted manuscript version, as far as this serves no commercial purpose. The source of the first publication shall be indicated. A deviating agreement to the disadvantage of the author is ineffective. ” After twelve months, the rights revert to the designated here publications to the authors, and these can then publish your posts second….”
“Read the EDP report to see what 33 society publishers said about OA in a survey. But consult the SOAR catalog to see how 868 society publishers have already embraced OA in practice.”
“This letter concerns the high price of most math journals and discusses what we mathematicians might do about it. I hope you will discuss it with your colleagues, print and post it on your bulletin boards, and inform other mathematicians of its existence….”
As societies change,so too do its languages. In the English-speaking world, we often make note ofchanges in language by recognizing the rise of new words, like “selfie,” and the repurposing of familiar words, such as “because.” It may not be a surprise, then, to learn that this “evolution” isn’t limited to the spoken word: sign languages can also change over time. In a recent PLOS ONE study, scientists examined regional variations within British Sign Language (BSL), and found evidence that the language is evolving and moving away from regional variation.
To assist in this undertaking, the authors used data collected and recorded for the British Sign Language Corpus Project. About 250 participants took part in the project, recruited from eight regions in the UK. In addition to hailing from different parts of the country, participants came from various social, familial, and educational backgrounds.
When the first deaf schools were established across the UK in 1760, there was little standardization in signing conventions. Consequently, depending on the school you were attending, schools sometimes taughtpupils to use different signs to convey the same concepts or words. The authors posit that this lack of standardization may be the basis for today’s regionalism in BSL.
The participants were given visual stimuli, such as colors or numbers, and then asked to provide the corresponding sign, one that they would normally use in conversation. The researchers also recorded participants engaging in unscripted conversations, a more formal interview, and in the delivery of a personal narrative,all of which were incorporated into the authors’ study and analyzed.
In their analysis, researchers focused on four concepts: UK place names, numbers, colors, and countries. The participants’ responses to the visual stimuli were compared to with their recorded conversation to control for any confounding variables, or unforeseen social pressure to sign in a particular way. The responses were also coded as being either “traditional” or “non-traditional” according to the regional signing conventions.
Results indicated that age may play a role in whether a participant uses traditional or non-traditional signs.Particularly when signing for countries, about half the responses given by younger participants were non-traditional signs. In addition, some participants—young and old—explained that they changed the country sign they used as they grew older. The researchers posit that this may be due to changing definitions of political correctness, in which older, more traditional signs are now perceived to be politically incorrect.
The authors also found that age may also play an important role in the participant’s use of color and number signs. As was the case for signing countries, younger participants were more likely to use non-traditional signs, and older participants more likely to use traditional signs. The researchers noted that younger participants using signs non-traditional to their region seemed to be adopting signing conventions from southern parts of the country, such as London, or from multiple regions. In other cases, younger participants responded by signing the first letter of the word, such as ‘p’ for purple. The authors attribute this generational shift to the participants’ increased exposure to different signing conventions, ushered in by technological developments, such as the Internet, and increased opportunities for travel.
Changing social norms, technologies, and opportunities—these are no strangers to us by now. As the world changes, so too do the ways in which we communicate, verbally and physically.
Citation:Stamp R, Schembri A, Fenlon J, Rentelis R, Woll B, et al. (2014) Lexical Variation and Change in British Sign Language. PLoS ONE 9(4): e94053. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0094053
Image 1: British Sign Language chart by Cowplopmorris, Wikimedia Commons
Image 2: Figure 3 from article
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Abstract: ResearchGate is a social network site for academics to create their own profiles, list their