Thursday Threads: HarperCollins/OverDrive (still), Wikimedia Survey, Microsoft Academic Search

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We can’t leave the hot topic of ebooks behind in this edition of DLTJ Thursday Threads, but at least it is only the lead thread and not the entire focus of this post. HarperCollins made news when one of its executives appeared at a symposium in Connecticut and said that the new digital circulation policy was a “work in progress”. Leaving that aside, Wikimedia is seeking responses to a survey to find out what barriers exist to expert contributions. Lastly is a call to keep Microsoft Research’s Academic Search on your radar screen; some interesting updates are coming out that rival Google Scholar and perhaps even some subscription services.

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HarperCollins Executive Calls Circulation Cap a “Work in Progress”

HarperCollins knew that its decision to cap ebook circulations at 26 would generate some heat, but the intensity, nonetheless, surprised the company.

“We certainly expected a variety of responses, and we knew that there would be a lot of people that had issues,” Josh Marwell, president of sales, told LJ after speaking to some 150 librarians gathered Tuesday at the Darien Library, CT, as part of “eBooks: Collections at the Crossroads,” a symposium organized by the Connecticut Library Consortium (#clctrendspotting, #clcebooks). “I think what was surprising was the intensity and how widespread it was. There were a lot of people who are not carrying ebooks now who entered into the fray,” he said.

In the first public statement from HarperCollins since their open letter to librarians was published over a month ago, president of sales Josh Marwell went on to say, “Is 26 set in stone? No. It’s our number for now, but we want to hear back. Immediately. Honestly, it doesn’t make sense that one size fits all. We consider it a work in progress. But this is the number that we have now.” Unfortunately there doesn’t seem to be a recording of Mr. Marwell’s remarks or the resulting discussion. It would appear from the little bits in the Library Journal article and what can be found on Twitter is that HarperCollins is not considering a fundamental change to the new policy of limited numbers of uses (otherwise known as digital “checkouts”); what can be considered is the actual number. That seems like a non-starter to me as a negotiating point. If HarperCollins really wants a dialog on the matter, we need to step back and look at the whole model. Or several models — one for front-list blockbusters, one for long-tail titles, distinctions between public and academic users, etc.

On a related note — related only in that HarperCollins and OverDrive are forever bound together in the “hcod” hashtag abbreviation (and to give equal time to both parties in this thread) — Joe Atzberger does a pretty good job dissecting the OverDrive End User License Agreement (EULA). (An executive summary is available.) He says, “The OMC [OverDrive Media Console] EULA is the product of obvious cut-and-paste composition and questionable original language. It repeats and contradicts itself and contains nonsensical references. More seriously, it disqualifies OMC from all pertinent uses, levies prohibitions against libraries specifically, attempts to obligate the user to illegal or impractical conditions, and indicates an unlicensed open-source dependency.”

Wikipedia Surveys Subject Experts to Find Barriers to Contributions

Wikipedia is now widely regarded as a mature project and is consulted by a large fraction of internet users, including academics and other experts. However, many of them are still reluctant to contribute to it. The aim of this survey is to understand why scientists, academics and other experts do (or do not) contribute to an open collaborative project such as Wikipedia, and whether individual motivation aligns with shared perceptions of Wikipedia within expert communities. We hope this may help us identify ways around barriers to expert participation.

The survey is anonymous and should take about 10 min to complete. It consists of a short introduction, followed by two main sections in which we contrast shared perceptions and personal motivation, and a final section where you can tell us more about yourself. At the end of the survey, you will find a link to follow the results and the ensuing conversation.

This survey from the Wikimedia Research Committee is asking subject experts why they don’t contribute to Wikipedia. I think librarians of all types (public, academic, special, etc.) certainly count among the target audience, so I think it is appropriate for this survey to get some traction in our community. Questions include a section about how participating in Wikipedia editing is perceived by colleagues and another about motivations to contribute. It did take about 10 minutes to complete. [Survey found via George Siemens on Twitter]

On the other hand is an article from Inside Higher Ed summarizing a session at ACRL where librarians at the University of Houston are actively contributing image content to Wikimedia Commons, Wikipedia’s media library (handout, presentation slides). The comments to the article are almost more instructive than the summary of the presentation, with a lot of back-and-forth about the ethics of promoting library materials in Wikipedia in this manner.

Look out Google Scholar. Get ready for the academic/scholarly search war to begin very very soon. We think many info industry database providers will also have an interest in a new service from Microsoft.

Here’s why.

Since October 2009 we’ve been covering, speaking about and paying very close attention to Microsoft Academic Search. The product is being developed by Microsoft Research primarily by their team in Asia. It’s important to note that MS Academic is nothing like the mediocre (and that’s being kind) MS Live Academic Search available a few years ago.

In our view, Microsoft Academic Search turns the open web academic/scholarly material search game up to 11.

This is a resource to watch — it does appear that Microsoft Academic Search, a project of Microsoft Research, is gearing up. With more features than Google Scholar and an underlying database that appears to be catching up in size and scope, it will be interesting to see if a feature and content war break out between Microsoft and Google.