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.

Paying Publishers to Set their Content Free

[Eric] Hellman’s new model is something he calls GlueJar. He proposes to “unglue” e-books from their publishers so that they can be available to the world, DRM-free and under Creative Commons license. Here’s the model: publishers sign on with works that they want to “unglue.” They determine what they are willing to be paid for ungluing each work. Users contribute money towards the ungluing. When the threshold amount is reached for a given title, that title is unglued: it appears in all contributors’ e-book reader libraries and in repositories used for online public library access. The publisher is paid, and GlueJar takes a commission.

In other words, publishers just need to determine a price for content being taken off their hands, and if the public is willing to pay that price, it happens. (Users aren’t charged until works they want to unglue are unglued.) No more transaction costs; anyone can distribute the content to anyone else. Publishers could possibly retain subsidiary rights to the content, such as print on demand or derivative work rights.

Bill Rosenblatt of the Copyright and Technology blog looks at the problem publishers have of finding good content creators and having a model that makes that content widely available. Towards the end of his post, he summarizes Eric Hellman's proposed model for "ungluing ebooks" in a way that makes sense for creators, publishers, and consumers. So far as I know, no one has taken Eric up on a trial of his model, but I think it would be interesting to see if it was practical. [Found via OCLC Research's Above the Fold.]

University of Pittsburgh Library System Offers Free E-Journal Publishing Service

Pitt’s University Library System (ULS) is now offering free e-journal publishing services to help academic journals make their content available to a global audience while eliminating the cost of print production. 
The E-journal Publishing Program—part of ULS’ D-Scribe Digital Publishing Program, which partners with the University of Pittsburgh Press—“is in keeping with the ULS’ commitment to free and immediate access to scholarly information and its mission to support researchers in the production and sharing of knowledge in a rapidly changing publishing industry,” said Rush G. Miller, Hillman University Librarian and director of the ULS. 
The ULS trains a journal’s editorial staff in the use of Open Journal Systems (OJS) software, which channels the flow of scholarly content from initial author submissions through peer review and final online publication and indexing. OJS provides the tools necessary for the layout, design, copy editing, proofreading, and archiving of journal articles. The platform provides a vast set of reading tools to extend the use of scholarly content through RSS feeds and postings to Facebook and Twitter. E-journal articles can be discovered via blogs, databases, search engines, library collections, and other means. 

The University of Pittsburgh announced that it is offering the infrastructure for managing and hosting electronic journals with an at-cost print-on-demand supplement. Since the cost of the digital publishing platform is absorbed by the University of Pittsburgh and since peer review is typically done at no cost, what's left on the expense side of the balance sheet? Paying the editorial staff? Marketing and advertising the journal? Has the University of Pittsburgh tipped the equation enough to make this model viable?

Open Bibliographic Data: How Should the Ecosystem Work?

In the conversations about openness of bibliographic data, I often find myself in an odd position, vehemently in support of it but almost as vehemently alarmed at the sort of rhetoric that circulates about the ways that data should be shared.

The problem with both the arguments OCLC makes and many of the arguments for openness seem to be predicated on the view that bibliographic data are largely inert, lifeless “records” and that these records are the units that should be distributed and consumed.

Nothing could be further from the truth.

The above quote is just one small piece of a posting by John Wilkin on the Open Knowledge Foundation blog. In it he plants a flag for the library profession to drive towards with bibliographic data that is published in a fine-grained, easily recombined manner. In being too focused on silos of "lifeless records" (WorldCat, local ILSs, Open Library, etc.), he suggests that the profession is missing out on ways we (and our users!) can combine and enhance bibliographic data. John's statement is in parallel with a growing movement towards linked data, a movement that encompasses a reinvigorating of bibliographic description using FRBR and RDA (the current and progressive best thinking of the library community) with the foundational elements of the "semantic web" vision. For more on the latter, see the work of the W3C-supported Library Linked Data Incubator Group and the work of Karen Coyle and Diane Hillman, among others.

On a related note, the JISC community in the UK has also published the Open Bibliographic Data Guide. "It is about the business cases for Open Bibliographic Data – releasing some or all of a library’s catalogue records for open use and re-use by others."

Poking, Tagging and Now Landing an M.B.A

But thanks to a pair of young British entrepreneurs, students who do want both a business education and the credential to prove it can now pursue their studies at the same time as they “poke” their friends, tag photos, update their relationship status or harvest their virtual crops on FarmVille.

The London School of Business and Finance Global M.B.A. bills itself as “the world’s first internationally recognized M.B.A. to be delivered through a Facebook application.”

Hmm -- meet the students where they are? This story from the New York Times outlines an MBA program that is fully immersed in the Facebook environment. I wonder if the completion rate of a Facebook-based program will be higher than that of other online systems because users spend more time in the Facebook environment. [Via Steven Bell]

How I Planned a Successful Unconference in 6 hours - and You Can Too

Last Friday I ran WhereCamp5280 in Denver, which attracted over 70 people (many from out of state and a couple from Canada), used thousands of dollars from top-tier sponsors and was organized in probably less than six hours total. An unconference is a conference in the loosest of terms. People show up, we build our own agenda and then go for it. Here I'll describe how it was run.

Steve Coast, a guest author for ReadWriteWeb, give this how-to guide for planning an unconference. An unconference is a relatively new style of event where the content of the meeting is defined by the people who show up and participate. The common guidelines for such meetings ((These rules are common, but I found them most clearly expressed at the Scratchpad Wikia.)) are: 1) The people who come are the best people who could have come; 2) Whatever happens is the only thing that could have happened; 3) It starts when it starts; 4) It's over when it's over; and 5) Exercise the Law of Two Feet. The last might take some more explanation; it means: "If you are not learning or contributing to a talk or presentation or discussion it is your responsibility to find somewhere where you can contribute or learn."

In my experience, the unconference format is great if you want a group to brainstorm around a central idea or if you want to promote professional networking connections among a group. If you are looking for a particular outcome or have a specific agenda, this format does not work well.