Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Library Connections to Open Access eBooks

Power refugees at Montclair Public Library
Hurricane Sandy came through the other night and took away power for 90% of my New Jersey town. The one thing we miss, the one thing we ache for, is the connectedness we get from our devices. We're fine as long as we can keep our cell phones charged.

During my month-long tour telling people about, I've been challenging librarians to start thinking of themselves as connectors, not collectors. In an era of information abundance, library systems and processes that focus on managing an inventory of scarce resources are becoming less useful. The ability to connect a library user to the right information is becoming correspondingly more important.

Here's a crime scene we need to eradicate. A student comes into the library with a device, and asks for Moby Dick. It's been assigned reading, so all the print copies are checked out. Does the library have it as an ebook? Too often, there's no Moby Dick ebook listed in the library's catalog. The library depends on a commercial service to serve ebooks to its users, but the annotated ebook of Moby Dick that the library has licensed is checked-out. "Sorry, we don't have it" the student is told.

This should NEVER happen. Melville's Moby Dick: or The Whale belongs to all of us. Project Gutenberg has an excellent version, in formats that work on just about any device. But because it's free, no one has a monetary incentive to make that connection.

The barriers that libraries have put in place that prevent them from making use of open-access ebooks are mostly not intentional, but it will take some work to make them go away; it's something I've been working on since  the September release of the unglued edition of Oral Literature in Africa. I've been talking to the library automation and ebook platform vendors, who I know from my years in the library technology business. Without exception, the people I've talked to are enthusiastic about supporting unglued and other open-access ebooks, but there are lots of barriers. Their systems have been hard-wired to assume that library ebooks will always have digital rights management, or can only be used one user at a time. These restrictions are incompatible with the Creative Commons license we're using for unglued ebooks.

There's not much awareness of the no-DRM provisions of Creative Commons licenses, but it's there, in section 4(a):
When You Distribute or Publicly Perform the Work, You may not impose any effective technological measures on the Work that restrict the ability of a recipient of the Work from You to exercise the rights granted to that recipient under the terms of the License. 
This clause also serves as a barrier to commercial use by people other than the rights holder, even for the licenses that allow commercial use. For example, the Kindle store automatically applies DRM, so unless you have permission from the rights holder, you can't sell someone else's Creative Commons licensed ebook in the Kindle store.

It will take some time and a lot of work, but eventually the library barriers to Open Access ebooks will fall. But until then libraries need to ask their vendors to give these changes a high priority. Libraries that are investigating new systems for ebook distribution need to add requirements in their RFPs for serving open access ebooks along side print and pretend-its-print books.

Hurricane Roll - by Tony
There are also barriers barriers preventing libraries from using these resources that are created by libraries themselves. Libraries have many processes and workflows surrounding resource acquisition, circulation, and evaluation that overlook the opportunity to serve users with free resources. While academic libraries have been thinking about ways to support open-access academic journals for years now, books are different. Book acquisition is often funded through approval plans and selection committees that don't consider the availability of free resources, no matter their quality. And if a library measures its performance using circulation numbers which don't include connections to free resources, then how often will then resources be supported?

Connections can occur in many ways. Today, I'm connected my laptop power at the library along with more than 254 other refugees deprived of power and internet by Sandy. I know it's more than 254 because my laptop couldn't get an IP address on the WiFi. So I went to the sushi bar/cafe down the street, connected to the wifi, and ordered a "Hurricane Roll". And clicked "publish".

Wednesday, October 17, 2012



MIT Press revised the Copyright page for the ebook version. I've scraped it for you:

© 2012 The MIT Press. All rights reserved. Subject to the Creative Commons licenses noted below, no part of this book may be reproduced, transmitted, or displayed by any electronic or mechanical means without permission from The MIT Press or as permitted by law.

This book incorporates certain materials previously published under a CC-BY license and copyright in those underlying materials is owned by SPARC.

Effective June 15, 2013, this book will itself be subject to a CC-BY-NC license.

For information about special quantity discounts, please email

Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data
Suber, Peter.
Open access / Peter Suber.
   p. cm. — (MIT Press essential knowledge)
Includes bibliographical references and index.
ISBN 978-0-262-51763-8 (pbk.: alk. paper)
ISBN 978-0-262-30098-8 (retail e-book)
1. Open access publishing. I. Title.
Z286.O63S83 2012

Thursday, October 4, 2012


I have a conjecture: virtuality generates actuality. The more we work over the internet the more we have to go and meet each other In Real Life, even if that means going halfway around the world. And sometimes you end up talking with people in a way that faithfully simulates your online communities.

The team works from four different states. To do that we use a lot of web based tools. (Our latest adoption, which we just love, is Flowdock.) But we also take the time to travel and spend some face-to-face time, which is needed to nourish the parts of relationships that can wither with online-only communication. Also it's fun.

I hope the coming month is fun for me. It will be exhausting for sure.

Today I start a month of travel with a trip to Columbus, Ohio. I'll be giving a keynote speech to open the LITA National Forum.  I'll talk a bit about, but mostly I'll be talking about how we can work together to build a public sector for digital books, of which is a small component of a SYSTEM of many parts. And yes, when I say "we" I'm including you. Yes, even if "you" are googlebot.

I just looked, and the session is nominally an hour and a half. And I've honed my pitch down to a minute. So there will be lots of time to rant like a lunatic about looking into the abyss.

Saturday I get to spend 7 hours back home in New Jersey, United willing, and then it's off to Tools of Change Frankfurt, a one day meeting in advance of the Ginormous Frankfurt Book Fair. I'm on a panel discussing "mission driven publishing":
Though some might say no one is in publishing for the money, this Innovators Track panel is devoted to some of the most daring, and caring new publishing ventures we have come across. Learn why we think these startups have both the hearts, and the smarts to make a difference and do good business, when moderator Sophie Rochester leads a discussion with the founders of PubSlush, And Other Stories, and
If you want to go, you can register and enter TOCPartner20TSpeaker to get your 20% discount. And then I have a day of getting lost at the book fair. So if you're the type who goes to Frankfurt and wants to meet, let's do it! Oh and invite me to the parties which are nothing like they used to be.

When I get back, I have a leisurely week back home. And will relaunch then! Yay! Oh, and I hold down the fort for the week while my wife does her actuality thing (we both work at home and meet in airports occasionally).

Then, it's back on the plane to London for a little meeting on Open Access monographs, and a sure-to-be-a-highlight visit to Cambridge and Open Book Publishers, who helped bring you the fabulous first unglued book.

I'll have a whole half day to sleep (in my own bed!) and then I'll be on a panel at In Re Books, a conference organized by Prof. James Grimmelmann at the NYU Law School. the panel topic is "In re Rightsholders" in which we'll discuss book rights messes, and I'll argue that if it was just a mess, then it would be possible to clean up, and it isn't. As I've said before, the ebook transition is not a little storm you clean up after, it's climate change that washes whole countries away.

This post goes on for quite a bit longer, I hope I do the same.

On  November 1, I'm a speaker at Open UBC, a two day event at University of British Columbia celebrating and exploring various aspects of Open Access.
Open UBC is held in conjunction with the International Open Access Week, which encourages the academic community to come together to share and learn about open scholarship initiatives locally and worldwide. Open UBC showcases two days of diverse events highlighting areas of open scholarship that UBC’s researchers, faculty, students and staff participate in as well as guests from the global community. These events include discussion forums, lectures, seminars, workshops, and symposia on topical and timely issues from every discipline. All of these events are FREE and open to the public, students, faculty, staff and schools.
I'll reprise the good parts of my LITA presentation, if there turn out to be any.

A week later, I'll be at the Charleston Conference in South Carolina.  The topic is "Curating a New World of Publishing"
The drastic increase in publishing output has created an abundance that can be overwhelming, but this windfall of content ultimately presents an opportunity for libraries to develop deep and unique collections while preserving the intellectual works of our time. What is the role of the library as curator within this world of independently published content? Do libraries still have bibliographers with the skill sets necessary to identify high‐quality content without the aid of a well‐known imprint on the book spine? What technological approaches might be employed to make the process of identifying important or just plain interesting content scalable?
I hate the word "curation". Makes me want to make crude puns with it.

Charleston is always a fun conference, but not this time! It's off to Saratoga Springs, New York with me, for the New York Library Association Meeting. It's me and Jordan Vincent (formerly a whiz at Douglas County Libraries, now at Bibliotheca, a library vendor new to the ebook business) talking about "What's Next eBooks Chapter and Verse". By then I'm guessing I'll be all fire and brimstone, but you never know.

And that's it. If you see me someplace, say hello. This code: irleality will get you an official sticker.

And the Phillies are guaranteed not to lose a single playoff game the whole time.

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