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June 29, 2006

E-Books Still Have Hard Time Catching On

For book lovers, no digital device has yet proven as cool or as user-friendly as the iPod has for more than 42 million music lovers. Most books are still printed on paper -- much like they have been since Johannes Gutenberg invented the printing press in 1450....

Hand-held devices for digital books have been around since the late-1990s from such companies as Franklin Electronics Inc. of Burlington, N.J., and NuvoMedia Inc. of Mountain View, Calif. But sales were plagued by bad design, high hardware costs and a frustrating lack of content.

Today, many of the original e-reader makers have left that business. Franklin, for example, sold its eBookman business to New York-based Ectaco Inc., which is marketing the device as a language-learning tool.

Meanwhile, sales of e-books, while growing -- rising 44% to US$179.1-million last year in the United States, according to Management Practice Inc. -- still account for less than 1% of total book sales of US$25.1-billion in 2005. Many e-books are read on computers, and reference and educational books are the most popular.

That's not to say e-reader makers have given up. Several new devices will be launched this year. Sony Corp. will lead off with its much-acclaimed Sony Reader. iRex Technologies Inc., a spinoff of Philips Electronics, and Chinese supplier Tianjin Jinke Electronics Co. will also hit the U.S. market with new devices.

More at 6/28/06

Posted by P. Kaufman at 7:57 AM

June 27, 2006

Academic Journal Trends

A survey of 400 academic journal publishers done by the Association of Learned and Professional Society Publishers found that:

* 90 percent of the journals are now available online
* A fifth of the publishers are experimenting with open access journals
* 40 percent of publishers use previous print subscriptions as the base for pricing for bundles
* Most publishers make agreements for either one year or three years
* 91 percent of publishers make back volumes available online; 20 percent charge for access to back volumes
* 42 percent have established formal arrangements for the long-term preservation of their journals
* 83 percent require authors to transfer copyright in their articles to the publisher

OCLC ABSTRACTS - June 26, 2006 (Vol. 9, Issue 25)

View News Release

Posted by P. Kaufman at 8:27 AM

June 26, 2006

Can History Be Open Source?

Roy Rosenzweig, a history professor at George Mason University and colleague of the institute, recently published a very good article on Wikipedia from the perspective of a historian. "Can History be Open Source? Wikipedia and the Future of the Past" as a historian's analysis complements the discussion from the important but different lens of journalists and scientists. Therefore, Rosenzweig focuses on, not just factual accuracy, but also the quality of prose and the historical context of entry subjects. He begins with in depth overview of how Wikipedia was created by Jimmy Wales and Larry Sanger and describes their previous attempts to create a free online encyclopedia. Wales and Sanger's first attempt at a vetted resource, called Nupedia, sheds light on how from the very beginning of the project, vetting and reliability of authorship were at the forefront of the creators.

Rosenzweig adds to a growing body of research trying to determine the accuracy of Wikipedia, in his comparative analysis of it with other online history references, along similar lines of the Nature study. He compares entries in Wikipedia with Microsoft's online resource Encarta and American National Biography Online out of the Oxford University Press and the American Council of Learned Societies. Where Encarta is for a mass audience, American National Biography Online is a more specialized history resource. Rosenzweig takes a sample of 52 entries from the 18,000 found in ANBO and compares them with entries in Encarta and Wikipeida. In coverage, Wikipedia contain more of from the sample than Encarta. Although the length of the articles didn't reach the level of ANBO, Wikipedia articles were more lengthy than the entries than Encarta. Further, in terms of accuracy, Wikipedia and Encarta seem basically on par with each other, which confirms a similar conclusion (although debated) that the Nature study reached in its comparison of Wikipedia and the Encyclopedia Britannica.

The discussion gets more interesting when Rosenzweig discusses the effect of collaborative writing in more qualitative ways.

Read more at if:book 6/22/06

Posted by P. Kaufman at 9:09 AM

King Papers to Stay in Atlanta

A huge collection of the papers of Martin Luther King Jr. will stay in Atlanta after all. The family of the murdered civil-rights leader originally planned to auction off the documents this month and there was speculation that only the Library of Congress, the Smithsonian Institution, or some major university could come up with the $15-million to $30-million that the archive was expected to fetch.

But on Friday, the mayor of Atlanta announced a deal with the King family that would purchase the papers for $32-million, give them to Morehouse College (King’s alma mater), and house them at an array of Atlanta-area institutions, including Morehouse, Emory University, and the University of Georgia, according to an article in The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

Funds for the acquisition will be provided by a group of affluent Atlanta residents, civic groups, and local and regional businesses. Other research instititutions were interested in bidding on the archive, but the Atlanta group had an advantage because it was able to negotiate with the King family directly.

The Chronicle of Higher Education News Blog 6/24/06

Posted by P. Kaufman at 8:51 AM

June 23, 2006

OA Business Model a Challenge for Public Library of Science

In an eye-opening analysis in the June 22, 2006 issue of the journal Nature, the Public Library of Science (PLoS), which launched its first open access journals in 2003, is said to be facing a "looming financial crisis." According to Nature, which analyzed the non-profit PLoS's publicly available records on file with the Internal Revenue Service, PLoS ran a deficit of almost $1 million last year, and its total income from fees and advertising currently covers just 35 percent of its costs. While revenue is increasing slightly, spending is increasing at a greater clip, up to $5.5 million from $1.5 million for the past three years combined. In response, with its grant funds being steadily depleted, PLoS has announced that it will raise author fees, effective July 1, for its open access journals from $1500 to $2500 for flagship journals PLoS Biology and PLoS Medicine; and to $2000 for its community journals PLoS Computational Biology, PLoS Genetics, and PLoS Pathogens.

In a release, officials from the non-profit PLoS said that, with three years of operational experience to draw on, it was "time to adjust this model so that our publication fees reflect more closely the costs of publication." Still, even with the increased fees, Nature reports that PLoS will have to rely on "philanthropy" to survive for the foreseeable future, including its funding from the Sandler and the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundations. PLoS director of publishing Mark Patterson downplayed the financial situation, noting that the fledgling publisher is only in its fourth year. Still, more than a few commercial publishers may be saying "I told you so." In the early days of open access publishing, commercial publishers repeatedly suggested that author fees for PLoS, at $1500, and for-profit open access publisher BioMed Central, then $500, were unsustainably low. Last year, BioMed Central increased its author fees, from $525 to as much as $1700. Commercial competitors, meanwhile, including Springer, Blackwell, and most recently Elsevier, have begun offering open-access-like publishing options, for fees closer to $3000.

Library Journal 6/23/06
Read the Nature news item.

Posted by P. Kaufman at 1:18 PM

June 20, 2006

Chemistry Professor Writes to Support Federal Research Public Access Act

Rudy M. Baum, editor-in-chief of the American Chemical Society's Chemical and Engineering News, writing in the June 5 issue of Chem. Eng. News, urged the members of the American Chemical Society to oppose Federal Research Public Access Act (FRPAA; S.2695). He urged the membership to send a "letter to Sen. Susan M. Collins (R-Maine), who chairs the Committee on Homeland Security & Governmental Affairs, the committee to which S. 2695 has been referred, urging her "to oppose S. 2695 and to prevent any attempts to advance this legislation.""

University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign Chemistry Professor Alex Scheeline wrote to Senator Collins, but urged her to support FRPAA's passage. With Professor Scheeline's permission, his letter to Senator Collins is provided, below.

June 7, 2006

Sen. Susan M. Collins
461 Dirksen Senate Office Building
Washington DC 20510

Dear Senator Collins:

Re: S.2695 Federal Research Public Access Act

You doubtless will get many responses to an editorial by Rudy M. Baum, editor of the American Chemical Society's Chemical and Engineering News, opposing S.2695. While I will not comment on legislative specifics, I do believe that something like S.2695 is in the public interest, that the fears of publishers are only valid to the extent that they are defending turf, prerogatives, and a pre-internet view of the world, and that a Federal push for openness could help scholarly communications significantly.

It is true that publishers have invested in vast systems to allow rapid, peer-reviewed publication. It is also true that there are now open-access, freeware solutions to the manuscript submission and processing problem. The costs of peer review are in clerical staff to nag reviewers to do their jobs, in transforming manuscripts from rough form to uniformly edited and typeset articles, in metacoding and markup. As an editor of an NSF-supported open access publication (Online Articles, Analytical Sciences Digital Library,, I administer a similar process, except we do little metacoding (letting Google find the appropriate codes after we publish), don't typeset the manuscripts (authors must do their own copy editing), and don't have anyone other than the editor to nag reviewers. Once articles are accepted, anyone, anywhere, can read them for free. No one would claim that our production values equal those of commercial publishers. There is doubt how the Library will be supported once NSF support terminates (as it inevitably must). But our costs are negligible – we figure we could manage review and publishing of articles at about $100 apiece vs. a more typical $2,000 each for normal publishing. The catch? Without nagging, the peer reviewers are very slow off the mark. Thus, part of the benefit of the current system is to speed up publication. Would a policy of releasing publications in 6 months destroy the cash flow that allows the current system to work? We can't know. But there's yet a third alternative.

Websites can easily be configured to include post-publication discussion of posted material. does it, we now do it with our Online Articles, and one can imagine universities doing the same with their institutional repositories. Were such post-publication review to become common, one can imagine a world where everything, good, bad, and indifferent, gets published, and then scholarly societies and commercial publishers "adopt" good material, publishing same by simply posting hyperlinks to work they think is good enough to endorse. The Institute for Scientific Information's "Faculty of 1000" is a model for this approach. The point is, the whole publishing world is in tremendous flux. For the taxpayers to be able to see what they've paid for is commendable. The technical means to ensure this happens are rapidly evolving, so any technical "lock-in" at this point is premature. I thus encourage you to keep the publishers scared to encourage them to keep cutting costs and (one hopes) capping subscription expense, while encouraging inventive ways to publish quality material. The threat of S.2695 may be more useful than passing the bill.

Alexander Scheeline
Professor of Chemistry

Read our previous entries on FRPAA:

Posted by Katie Newman at 4:45 PM

June 19, 2006

New Fair Use Site

The Brennan Center for Justice at New York University School of Law has created a Web site on fair use.

Called The Fair Use Network, the site says it attempts to alleviate the "mass of confusion for artists, scholars, journalists, bloggers, and everyone else who contributes to culture and political debate."

The site guides people on what to do if they get a letter from a copyright owner demanding that they cease and desist from making use of the owner's work. And the site also explains how much people can borrow, quote or copy from another's work.

Wired Chronicle 6/19/06

Posted by P. Kaufman at 11:15 AM

Delivering DVDs in Seconds

NTT DoCoMo in Japan, one the world's leading mobile providers, recently announced a prototype wireless network that could send data packets at 2.5 gigabits per second -- fast enough to download a DVD movie in two seconds -- to a mobile device traveling at 20 kilometers per hour.

If their prototype wireless technology can produce even a fraction of that 2.5-gigabit transfer rate in real-world applications, it would vastly enhance mobile functions -- allowing video telephony, robust Internet connectivity, and streaming media services, while at the same time extending the range of traditional voice calls.

These high-speed data networks, along with increasingly powerful mobile handsets, have the potential to supplant the use of desktop computers -- a trend that's already occurring in some Asian countries. This potential market has DoCoMo, along with almost every other major wireless player, including Motorola, Samsung, and Qualcomm, scrambling to develop their own technology for the next generation of wireless networks, often labeled "4G."

DoCoMo's demonstration gives a glimpse into the two types of technology that will most likely be adopted to increase bandwidth and range: MIMO, which is applied to network base stations and mobile devices, and QAM, which loads more data onto radio waves.

Read more at Technology Review 6/19/06

Posted by P. Kaufman at 8:21 AM

June 16, 2006

Researchers teach computers to turn 2D images into 3D

Researchers at Carnegie Mellon University appear to have solved a problem long thought impossible, teaching computers to turn static 2D images into 3D models. It was a hot area for research in the 1970s but was virtually abandoned in the 80s after attempts to devise the machine learning necessary proved too demanding for the computers of the time. The key to Carnegie Mellon's research, apart from better machines, is the ability for computers to detect visual cues (such as a car) that can be used to differentiate between vertical and horizontal surfaces -- easy for us humans, but enough to turn even the most powerful computers into an incoherent mess. Apart from turning your vacation snapshots into a whole new experience, one of the big applications for this technology is obviously robotics, where it could boost their vision systems, improve navigation, and basically endow them with one more skill necessary to keep us in line after the uprising. Engadget 6/15/06

Posted by P. Kaufman at 7:54 AM

June 15, 2006

Lawsuit Over Joyce Papers May Clarify Copyright's Fair-Use Exemption for Scholars

A James Joyce scholar is suing the Irish author's estate, claiming that it is abusing copyright law to prevent her from disseminating research findings that the estate wants to cover up. The case may clarify how much control copyright holders can exert over scholars seeking to take advantage of the law's fair-use exemption.

Researchers in several disciplines rely on the exemption, which permits scholars and students to use copyrighted material for scholarly and educational purposes without seeking permission from the copyright holders. But lawyers for colleges and publishers are sometimes reluctant to test it in court battles with copyright holders.

The scholar, Carol Loeb Shloss, is an acting professor of English at Stanford University. She has been feuding with Joyce's estate since 2002, when her book about the author's daughter, Lucia, was about to be published. In the book -- Lucia Joyce: To Dance in the Wake (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2003) -- Ms. Shloss theorizes that Lucia, who was committed to an asylum, greatly influenced Joyce's novel Finnegans Wake. A character in the novel, Issy, is portrayed as a schizophrenic.

Ms. Shloss's book describes Lucia Joyce, who died in 1982, as a misunderstood genius and delves into her relationship with her father. Parts of the book also helped fuel a rumor among scholars that either Joyce or his son, Giorgio, engaged in incest with Lucia. Giorgio Joyce died in 1976, and his son, Stephen, is now an agent of the Joyce estate.

Before Ms. Shloss's book was published, Stephen Joyce suggested that if the book quoted from Lucia's medical records and other material about her, he might deny Ms. Shloss permission to quote from Joyce's works, published or unpublished. As a result, Farrar, Straus and Giroux cut from the book a number of passages by and about both James Joyce and his daughter.

Ms. Shloss subsequently got in touch with Lawrence Lessig, a well-known copyright lawyer who is also a law professor at Stanford University. Mr. Lessig encouraged Ms. Shloss to set up a Web site with material that was deleted from her book. The material includes excerpts from Joyce's published works and manuscripts, as well as portions of letters to, from, or about Joyce or his family.

Ms. Shloss's lawyers gave Joyce's estate advance notice of the Web site, and said the material could be included on it under copyright law's fair-use exemption. But the letter also said the estate could review the material before its publication online, according to the lawsuit.

A lawyer for the estate replied that the estate disapproved of the Web site. And on December 23, 2005, the estate told Ms. Shloss's lawyers that it "does not give its permission for your client's proposed activities and rejects the notion that the proposed use could be made in the absence of consent under the fair-use doctrine."

The Web site is currently available to only a handful of people involved in the case, but Ms. Shloss wants to make it public and is asking the court to declare that its content does not infringe the Joyce estate's copyrights because the material is a "transformative academic work" that is protected by the fair-use exemption.

Read more at Chronicle of Higher Education 6/15/06

Posted by P. Kaufman at 8:37 AM

Not Everyone Embraces Open Access

At first glance, it seems that the research world is united against the Federal Research Public Access Act. Scholarly associations are lining up to express their anger over the bill, which would have federal agencies require grant recipients to publish their research papers — online and free — within six months of their publication elsewhere.

Dozens of scholarly groups have joined in two letters — one organized by the Association of American Publishers and one by the Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology. To look at the signatories (and the tones of the letters), it would appear that there’s a wide consensus that the legislation is bad for research. The cancer researchers are against it. The education researchers are against it. The biologists are against it. The ornithologists are against it. The anthropologists are against it. All of these groups are joining to warn that the bill could undermine the quality and economic viability of scholarly publishing.

There’s no doubt that many scholars do object to the legislation. But a rebellion of sorts is brewing online, where scholars who are, in theory, represented by some of these groups argue that the legislation would help research, that the scholarly associations are selling out their rank and file’s interests to prop up their publishing arms, and that the debate points to some underlying tensions about academic publishing in the digital age.

These scholars — with the leaders of this informal movement coming from anthropology — want Congress to know that their associations aren’t speaking for them, and they also want to draw attention to the fact that some scholarly groups didn’t sign on.

The bill that set off this debate is based on the premise — popular in Congress — that if taxpayers pay for research, they should be able to see the results of that research. That premise is being attached to a larger debate in scholarly publishing over “open access.” Proponents say that systems that provide for speedy, online, free publication assure the broadest possible access to cutting-edge knowledge. Critics of the idea say that the costs associated with journal subscriptions pay for quality control — and that open access is making their economic models fall apart because it removes the incentive for people (or, in the case of scholarly journals, institutions) to subscribe. Read more at Inside Higher Education 6/15/06

Posted by P. Kaufman at 7:15 AM

June 13, 2006

Two Universities Join Microsoft Book Scanning Project

Microsoft has announced that the libraries of the University of California and the University of Toronto will participate in its book-scanning project, known as Windows Live Book Search. The two libraries joining Microsoft's program, which is being run together with the Open Content Alliance, will allow the project to scan their public-domain materials. Unlike Google's similar project, Microsoft's program is only scanning books in the public domain or for which the
copyright owners have granted explicit permission. To that end, Microsoft has set up a Web site where copyright owners can volunteer their materials for being scanned and made available online. Google's approach has been to scan books, including those still covered by copyright, unless a copyright owner specifically objects. CNET, 9 June 2006 Edupage 6/12/06

Posted by P. Kaufman at 7:48 AM

June 7, 2006

PLoS Open: an Open Access alternative to Science and Nature?

As reported in the Chronicle of Higher Education's Blog, and Peter Suber's Open Access Blog, the Public Library of Science appears poised to start the publication of PLoS OPEN. It will be "a peer-reviewed publication that publishes all rigorously performed science, a vibrant online forum that encourages scientific dialogue and debate, and will offer a hassle-free process that gets your work online within weeks." It will "offer multidisciplinary scope, rapid turn-around, open review, and powerful personalization and discussion tools." Additional characteristics (from the PLoS site):

Take a look at the prototype and learn more about this new journal at:

Posted by Katie Newman at 10:55 AM

Google Argues with U.K. Publishers Over Digital Libraries

Google has again clashed with publishers over its controversial program to scan, digitize and make searchable the collections of libraries in the U.S. and the U.K.

Publishers hit out at Google over the plan, and the effect it will have on copyright, at Monday's launch of a report on digital rights management from the All Party Internet Group, an independent British parliamentary organization.

More at CNET News.Com 6/6/06

Posted by P. Kaufman at 6:59 AM

June 5, 2006

E-book Project to Give Free Access to 300,000 Volumes

Project Gutenberg and World eBook Library plan to make ``a third of a million'' e-books available free for a month at the first World eBook Fair. Downloads will be available at the fair's Web site from July 4, the 35th anniversary of Project Gutenberg's founding, through Aug. 4.

The majority of the books will be contributed by the World eBook Library. It otherwise charges $8.95 a year for access to its database of more than 250,000 e-books, documents and articles.

But the book fair won't be the last chance for e-bookworms to devour works ranging from ``Alice's Adventures in Wonderland'' to ``Old Indian Legends,'' not to mention dictionaries and thesauruses, without paying for them.

Project Gutenberg founder Michael Hart, who first announced the ambitious plan a month ago, said Friday the partners are on track to make 1 million books available for the annual fair's one-month run in 2009, with more appearing in subsequent years. About 100,000, he said, will be permanently available at the handful of Project Gutenberg sites on the Internet.

The Gutenberg books, typed and scanned into computers by thousands of volunteers, mostly are those that are no longer protected by copyright. They include fiction, nonfiction and reference books and will be available for worldwide readers in about 100 languages. 6/2/06

Posted by P. Kaufman at 8:15 AM

Looking for E-Books?

The Dear Author blog has just issued a new list of ebook vendors, publishers, and 'stores.' It's not comprehensive (it's aimed at romance book readers), but it's a good start. Thanks to TeleRead: Bring the E-Books Home, 6/5/06.

Posted by P. Kaufman at 7:47 AM