February 21, 2016

Clarification of our policies on copyright and such

Hi…. This is a follow-up to my December 15 post, “A note on our copyright statements.” I want to follow up because there was a comment that was critical of our copyright policies, apparently reading a few things into what I said that weren’t true. I responded to the comment but I wanted to make the clarification here.

The basic point of the earlier post was that a simple copyright statement on the copyright page of a book, e.g. “Copyright 2017 Wayne Bivens-Tatum,” or “Copyright 2015 respective authors” can be misleading about who actually has the publication rights. That’s because a publishing agreement often gives an exclusive right to the publisher, usually for a limited time. I wrote that post in a style that was maybe a little bit officious and legalistic, but copyright is about rules that can be a bit technical. It was this tone, I think, that gave the commenter the impression that we are highly proprietary about rights and not friendly enough to open access publishing. She asked why we don’t use a Creative Commons license, why the prices are so high for our books, why aren’t our books open access after an embargo period, and why don’t we use a contract that allows authors to use their work for whatever purposes they want. I addressed her questions in a response to her comment. I’ll put my answers here and say a bit more as well.

First, I want to say a bit about what is typically in our contracts with authors. The contracts differ between the authors or editors of a book and contributors of chapters to an edited volume. Contributors of chapters to an edited volume have always had an immediate right to put their work in an institutional repository, which qualifies us as open access to an extent. In addition, for the past few years our contracts with contributors have been “non-exclusive,” which means that in fact they can do whatever they want with their chapters right away and forever. They can put them on a website or whatever they want. We’re not too worried about this competing with book sales, since it distributes access to the contents through all of the different contributors and the different methods they want to use. The way we look at it, it would not be easy or necessarily possible to pull together the whole book for free, even though authors could get together to do that if they wanted (though that we not be very fair to us).

Authors of books or editors of collections get a different kind of contract that gives them less rights at first. They don’t sign over their copyright, but they give us a temporary exclusive right to publish their work, whether it’s a whole book or the editor’s contribution to a collection (introduction, arrangement, etc.). After maybe five years, our exclusive right automatically renews unless the authors ask for it not to. At that point they can have the right to renegotiate, to take it to another publisher, to make it freely available on a website, or whatever they want to do.

Since our rights are always limited, we don’t have the right to make someone else’s work open access or put it on a Creative Commons license, nor would it make sense financially. First, about not having the rights to do it. That is something that could theoretically be negotiated with an author, meaning that if it was okay with them we could write a contract that did that. I just want to point out that since we are not the owners of the copyright, we don’t have the right to make somebody else’s work open access. That would be on them, and they could still give us a non-exclusive right to publish it and hope to break even. But break even we at least hope to do, and contrary to what you may have read, making a book free does not increase sales. And we have to sell books to break even, and also to pay authors royalties, which they are interested in. Book authors and editors typically get 15% of sales. (Contributors of chapters get a free copy of the book, in addition to maintaining the rights to their work.)

So if open access publishing is not feasible for us as a book publisher, how can it exist? It does exist – there are plenty of open access publishers out there. Most of them are journal publishers, but some university presses are beginning to experiment with open access book publishing. What you may not know about this kind of thing is that it’s financed by charging authors to publish their work. The author of a journal article is typically charged $500 to $1000 to have her article published, even in a highly reputable journal. A book can cost an author easily $7500 for a university press to publish it open access. We don’t want to do that. Sometimes there is grant funding to pay these fees, and sometimes it comes out of a scholar’s own pockets. We really don’t want to do that, so open access publishing or Creative Commons publishing is not an option for us, not as long as we hope to break even.

Finally, a note about our book pricing. The commenter said our prices are high, and I responded that they are typically about half of what other LIS publishers charge. We have a philosophy of trying to make our books affordable so that people and not just libraries can buy them. But given the small quantities published, there’s no way we can compete with the low pricing of the giant trade publishers. It is all about breaking even. (Click the book covers on the right to see what our prices are like.) So I am confident that our prices are good given the overall market for LIS books.

In a typical year, we do just a little better than break even from selling books. And that is without paying us a salary, so in a sense it is all subsidized with our labor. Our online classes are more profitable, but I think that is not so much of an issue.

I hope that our policies, and our transparency, show that we are still an ethical publisher.

Ramsey Kanaan on Resistance Radio

Ramsey Kanaan of AK Press and PM Press talked to Derrick Jensen on Resistance Radio again. (You can listen to a previous interview from August 16, 2015.)

Resistance Radio introduces him thusly:

Ramsey Kanaan has been involved in attempting to disseminate the good word for well over three and a half decades now. As a young teenager, he founded AK Press (named after his mothers initials) from his bedroom in Scotland. Hes co-founder and Publisher with PM Press. You can check out his current efforts at www.pmpress.org. Today we talk about the collapse of the book industry, and the implications for social change.

Don’t worry about the animal sounds at the beginning of the program. That’s how Jensen introduces his shows, instead of using theme music.

February 15, 2016

CFP: ACRL/NY 2016 Symposium: Money and Power

ACRL/NY 2016 Symposium: Money and Power
Call for proposals

Economic, social, and political power affect the choices we all make as individuals and as institutions. The world of academic and research libraries is not exempt. Power and money determine who and what is included or excluded, affect our conscious and unconscious agendas, and can be used to further or hinder changes of many kinds. Yet as ever-present as these forces are, they are often assumed and unspoken. Let’s make the implicit explicit by directly addressing the undercurrents of money and power in academic and research libraries, so we can move forward together with productive analysis and action.

Some possible areas to consider:
• Labor and power in the library: adjuncts, faculty status and other signifiers of professionalism; collective bargaining;
• Budget decisions and funding strategies;
• Critiques of cataloging/metadata and the power to name;
• Power within discourse and scholarly communication: academic freedom; open access and questions of prestige; alt-metrics;
• Leveraging power to foster change within an institution;
• Power dynamics in the library classroom and at the reference desk; teaching critical information literacy and the social construction of authority;
• Sociopolitical hierarchies, including those based on race, class, ethnicity, gender, sexuality, religion, or disability that academic libraries replicate and/or challenge; and
• Sharing power in collaborations both within and outside our institutions.

The above list is not meant to represent the limits of the theme, but to serve as a catalyst for your ideas.

We are accepting submissions for:
• 50-minute solo presentations to be followed by a Q+A period
• 20-minute presentations that will be grouped into small panels by topic and followed by a moderated discussion

A call for posters will be announced at a later date.

Please submit an abstract of 250-550 words here. Deadline for submissions is March 25, 2016, with notification of acceptance in early May. Selected presenters must confirm by May 19.

The 2016 ACRL/NY Symposium will be held December 2, 2016 at the Vertical Campus at Baruch College, City University of New York.

* Hat tip to Robert Darnton via Maura Seale in Critical Library Instruction: Theories and Methods for an anecdote that inspired this theme.

Questions about the submission process may be addressed to acrlnysymposiumchair@gmail.com

February 7, 2016

A book I regret passing on – The Gen-X Librarian

Robbie Franklin of McFarland Publishers was generous in his advice when I was first starting Library Juice Press back in 2005/2006. So I have often thought of his press in relation to books we’ve been working on. In 2010 and 2011 there was a project we had gotten going on Generation X librarians and the issues they face. The project was in the works for a few years, at a time when people were still talking about Generation X, and Millennials had not quite yet taken their place in the world. They were thought of as students, while generation X-ers had come back from their post-college slacking in the former Czechoslovakia and were in the workforce, dealing with Boomer supervisors. The editors of this collection of chapters pulled it all together and sent it to me, and at the time I was unhappy with it. I was interested in sociological studies about what made Gen Xers different, and the book ended up emphasizing case studies and personal reports of workplace issues. I was not happy with that, but I had also grown somewhat bitter about the discussion of generational issues in general, and increasingly skeptical of that discourse. So I decided not to publish the book, and I suggested to the editors that they take it to McFarland. McFarland published it in 2011, and I think it was a successful book for them. (It is still in print.)

I now regret not publishing the book, because I find myself bothered by the way my generation seems to have been forgotten. The discussion is all Millennials versus Boomers now. Boomers used to be very anxious about Gen-Xers and what our differences implied for society. There was a discussion in librarianship at the beginning of the internet era about the “new breed” of librarians, who had tattoos, etc., and who were more connected to technology. Now that we are no longer the new breed, it has become less clear what we represent. Part of the Gen X discourse in the 90s and early 2000s was about how we were getting the short end of the stick economically, and existed on the fringes of a society that was geared toward Boomers. I think it’s clear that Millennials are the ones who really got the short end of the stick economically, but Gen Xers still seem to be in the margins in some way, at least in the margins of people’s awareness of generational difference.

My feeling about generational differences, really, is that the way generations are described would be more accurately understood as descriptions of what our society is like at the present moment, for anyone who is really connected to the present moment. That is why it always bothers me when Gen Xers or millennials are blamed for their supposed failings. These “failings” are reflections of the society in which the new generation enters, not of character issues that young people can be held responsible for. I hate seeing younger generations bashed by older generations, as though generational differences originate from anything other than the world that older generations have left in their wake.

I also feel that the way generational differences are so much discussed and emphasized is a product of the “generation gap” of the 1960s, which was stronger than previous intergenerational experience. I think that has resulted in a heightened awareness among Boomers in particular of generational differences, where Gen Xers or Millennials might not have found them so important independent of these discussions. (Not a criticism, just an observation.)

So those are the thoughts that fed into my decision to drop the project after the editors had finished it. I regret it now because as long as these generational differences are going to continue to be discussed, I would like to play a part in seeing Gen Xers remembered in it. Not that it makes a difference; the book has done well with McFarland. I hope people will continue to buy the book and read it. I think it’s still relevant.