JE: In the wake of a grim BEA, as the death toll continues to mount in all ranks of the book industry, from writer to editor to indie bookseller, I thought it was high time for all four Three Guys to convene and converse over virtual beers about the state of publishing and the state of books in 2009, as writers, readers, professionals, and consumers. It's fashionable (and not unreasonable) to saddle fiscally irresponsible corporate publishers with the burden of responsibility for the current conditions of book culture. But who else might share the responsibility? I might argue that writers are just as much to blame, that the sentence is killing the novel, that the literati needs to quit cowering in dusty academic circles and engage a larger culture. What do you three guys see as the biggest threat to book culture?A wide ranging set of presentations entitled: Going Digital, Evolutionary and Revolutionary Aspects of Digitization. From the Nobel symposium at Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences.
Article about the Open Library initiative (Guardian):
Excellent blog post on the impending changes in scientific publishing. Also look around his site for some other interesting material (Blog):
Not everybody thinks that way, however, including the Open Library – a project with an audacious goal that it hopes can bring the web and books closer together.
The scheme is to create a single page on the web for every book that has ever been published; an enormous, searchable catalogue of information about millions of books. It is still in beta, but already more than 23m books are in its system, drawing information from 19 major libraries and linking to the text of more than 1m out-of-copyright titles.
That is admirable work for just a handful of staff at the library, an arm of the non-profit Internet Archive (which itself has the vast objective of trying to keep a historical record of the web for future generations). But with information about books already being processed by hugely popular websites such as Google and Amazon, the question remains – why bother?
What I will do instead is draw your attention to a striking difference between today’s scientific publishing landscape, and the landscape of ten years ago. What’s new today is the flourishing of an ecosystem of startups that are experimenting with new ways of communicating research, some radically different to conventional journals. Consider Chemspider, the excellent online database of more than 20 million molecules, recently acquired by the Royal Society of Chemistry. Consider Mendeley, a platform for managing, filtering and searching scientific papers, with backing from some of the people involved in Last.fm and Skype. Or consider startups like SciVee (YouTube for scientists), the Public Library of Science, the Journal of Visualized Experiments, vibrant community sites like OpenWetWare and the Alzheimer Research Forum, and dozens more. And then there are companies like Wordpress, Friendfeed, and Wikimedia, that weren’t started with science in mind, but which are increasingly helping scientists communicate their research. This flourishing ecosystem is not too dissimilar from the sudden flourishing of online news services we saw over the period 2000 to 2005.Elsevier is on the loosing end of a bid to keep their pricing confidential (LJ):
The episode has served as an opportunity for ARL to reiterate its position. "This case is a telling example of why we should not be signing these non-disclosure agreements," said Tom Leonard, ARL president and university librarian at the University of California, Berkeley. Elsevier, however, disagrees. Speaking about ARL's statement, Ruth said: "We think it’s in everyone’s interest to be able to keep some elements of these agreements confidential, so we have more flexibility to customize an agreement to the unique circumstances of the customer. That’s why we might ask for confidentiality or request that some information be redacted if agreements are released to the public."