Thursday Threads: Amazon Pressures Publishers, Academic Spam, Mechanical Turk Spam, Multispectral Imaging

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With the close of the year approaching, this issue marks the 14th week of DLTJ Thursday Threads. This issue has a publisher’s view of Amazon’s strong-arm tactics in book pricing, research into the possibility that academic authors could game Google Scholar with spam, demonstrations of how Amazon’s Mechanical Turk drives down the cost of enlisting humans to overwhelm anti-spam systems, and a story of multispectral imaging adding information in the process of digital preservation.

As the new year approaches, I wish you the best professionally and personally.

Books After Amazon

Thursday Threads: Open Publishing Alternatives, Open Bibliographic Data, Earn an MBA in Facebook, Unconference Planning

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The highlights of the past week are around publishing — first with a model proposed by Eric Hellman in which consumers can pool enough money to pay publishers to “set a book free” under a Creative Commons license, then with an announcement by the University of Pittsburgh offering free hosting of open access e-journals. Since we have to be able to describe and find this content, their bibliographic descriptions are important; John Wilkin proposes a model for open access to elements of bibliographic descriptions. Rounding out this week’s topics are a report of a master’s degree program in business using Facebook, and tips for planning an unconference meeting.

Thursday Threads: Disruption in Library Acquisitions, Publishing, and Remedial Education plus Checking Assumptions of Cloud Computing and a National Digital Library

If it is Thursday it must mean it is time for another in this series of Thursday Threads posts. This week there are an abundance of things that could fall into the category of “disruptive innovation” in libraries and higher education. If you find these interesting, you might want to subscribe to my FriendFeed stream where these topics and more are posted and discussed throughout the week.

Federal Textbook Disclosure Rules Now Law

The fact that the Higher Education Opportunity Act (Public Law 110-315) — otherwise known as HEOA — was signed into law last year is probably not big news to anyone. One of the parts of the bill that I have been following and commented on here in DLTJ is the textbook disclosure rules. I haven’t posted follow-up commentary here because I’ve been expecting that the U.S. Department of Education will be forthcoming with new regulations regarding the implementation of the disclosure rules. As it turns out, a sentence was added into the legislation between the time I last read it closely and when it finally was made law: “No Regulatory Authority- The Secretary shall not promulgate regulations with respect to this section.” It would appear the language of the law stands on its own.

EBSCO in Cahoots With Harvard Business Press

A controversy is starting to pick up in the business librarian community — primarily in the U.K. it would seem — regarding the licensing demands of Harvard Business Press (HBP) for the inclusion of Harvard Business Review articles in EBSCOhost. HBP content in EBSCOhost carries a publisher-specific rider that says use is limited to “private individual use” and explicitly bars the practice of putting “deep links” of articles from EBSCOhost (so called “persistent links“) into learning management systems. In my words, HBP is attempting to limit access to its content in EBSCOhost to those who find it through the serendipity of searching. And now HBP is going after schools that are using persistent linking, and this raises all sorts of troubling questions.

Flat World Knowledge and U.S. Gov’t on Open Access Course Materials

The sand is really starting to shift under the traditional textbook providers as the open course content movement shows signs of, well, movement. Already this year there are two events that point to shifts in how instructors and students can shortcut the complex ecosystem of textbooks as we know it today. First, Flat World Knowledge — a provider of open access course materials — launched earlier this year. Second, new legislation has been proposed in the U.S. Congress to mandate that some agencies use their funding to produce open access course materials.

Flat World Knowledge Launches

Online Editions of Out-of-Print Books Result from Library/Press Partnership at Univ of Pittsburgh

Late last month, the University of Pittsburgh Press and Library System announced a joint effort to revive 500 titles with online and print-on demand access. I originally found this via a post on the Course materials, Innovation, and Technology in Education (CITE) blog. Since we have been ramping up discussions here in Ohio about ways OhioLINK can be an aggregation point for efforts at the four university press services in Ohio, I was interested to read about this and learn more.

Clarification Offered for “Technology: The textbook of the future” in Nature

A recent issue of Nature published an article by Declan Butler called “Technology: The textbook of the future” included a paragraph about OhioLINK’s exploration of digital textbooks:

Ongoing tests of CourseSmart e-textbooks by the University System of Ohio show that they reduce costs — the average US student forks out some $900 annually on print textbooks — and students using them perform just as well as when using paper versions, says Peter Murray, deputy head of new service development at the Ohio Library and Information Network in Columbus, Ohio, which assists the University System of Ohio on the project.

What Does the Google Book Settlement Mean for the Online Book Market?

The blog post title is a serious question — it is one that I need some help figuring out: What Does the Google Book Settlement Mean for the Online Book Market? There have been stories and speculation about how Google is going to turn the settlement for the class-action lawsuit against its library book scanning project into a monopoly — or in the case of the recent Ars Technica article, a duopoly — of online publishing. I just don’t see it happening without the publishers explicitly allowing it to happen.

Durham Statement on Open Access to Legal Scholarship

Earlier this month a group of law schools released a statement promoting open access publishing of law school journals. Called the Durham Statement on Open Access to Legal Scholarship, it was signed by representatives from Duke, University of Virginia, Georgetown University, University of Pennsylvania, Cornell University, Yale University, Stanford University, University of Texas, Columbia, Northwestern, Harvard, New York University, University of Chicago University of California — Berkeley, Barry University, University of Cincinnati, and Fordham University.

The undersigned believe that it will benefit legal education and improve the dissemination of legal scholarly information if law schools commit to making the legal scholarship they publish available in stable, open, digital formats in place of print. To accomplish this end, law schools should commit to making agreed-upon stable, open, digital formats, rather than print, the preferable formats for legal scholarship. If stable, open, digital formats are available, law schools should stop publishing law journals in print and law libraries should stop acquiring print law journals. We believe that, in addition to their other benefits, these changes are particularly timely in light of the financial challenges currently facing many law schools.