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Monday, January 28, 2013

Academic Publishing Intrigue: The Privatization of Knowledge & The Monopoly of Information

Academic Publishing about to bust out
of unjust confinement 
A gigantic publishing injustice is reaching its inevitable, explosive, self-annihilation finale!

Talk about publishing intrigue --- I have posted on the rustling of academic publishing before on both this blog and my Publishing/Writing: Insights, News, Intrigue blog --- Feel free to read for more background on tonight's very relevant post on modern day publishing bandidos that can affect world society to its innermost core.

Tonight's subject/issue is tied to the unfortunate, recent death of Aaron Swartz, founder of Demand Progress and a relentless activist for the Open Access movement in academic research and publishing.

"Swartz was recently put on trial for illegally downloading over 4 million JSTOR articles through the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) network, a crime for which he could have been sentenced to 35 years in prison had he not committed suicide before the verdict had been finalized." (JSTOR is short for Journal Storage and is a digital library founded in 1995. Originally containing digitized back issues of academic journals, ...) 

What a terrible loss and a scourge upon all those responsible for his suicide!

This by  in The McGill Daily, a student newspaper at McGill University in Montreal, Canada, in production for 100 years:

The future of academic publishing

What the Open Access movement is all about

“The world’s entire scientific and cultural heritage, published over centuries in books and journals, is increasingly being digitized and locked up by a handful of private corporations.” These were the words of Aaron Swartz, founder of Demand Progress, a grassroots organization concerned with civil liberties and government reform, and a relentless activist for the Open Access movement. Swartz was recently put on trial for illegally downloading over 4 million JSTOR articles through the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) network, a crime for which he could have been sentenced to 35 years in prison had he not committed suicide before the verdict had been finalized. The tragic loss of Aaron Swartz raises many sensitive issues regarding internet law, but most of all it stresses the importance of the open access cause. So, what is the Open Access movement, and what is it trying to achieve?

Peter Suber, director of the Harvard Open Access Project, defines Open Access as “literature [that] is digital, online, free of charge, and free of most copyright and licensing restrictions.” This definition is usually, but not always, applied in the context of digitized scholarly articles and journals. While no single and unified Open Access organization exists, it is generally accepted by Suber and other scholars that supporters of the Open Access movement expect publicly-funded research to be royalty-free and publicly available on the internet. Nonprofits such as Public Library of Science, Scholarly Publishing & Academic Resources Coalition, and Open Access Scholarly Publishers Association all strive to promote open practices within modern academia.

Open Access, however, is up against a rigid academic system. In a past with no internet, journals were trusted sources of sharing academic knowledge; they disseminated information through a subscription-based service provided to academic and professional institutions. In today’s academia, journals rarely publish physically, instead opting for publishing through scholarly databases such as JSTOR. Multi-billion-dollar companies such as Reed Elsevier, Thomson Corporation, and Kluwer Academic Publishers now own a significant portion of the top 7,000 journals currently in circulation. Subscriptions to these journals average thousands of dollars, while access to a single journal article can cost a non-subscriber up to $50 to access. In the eyes of Swartz, as well as many Open Access supporters, the soaring prices are hard to justify.

Indeed, this paradox of pricing has been at the core of the Open Access argument. In 2009, the University of Illinois outlined that “between 1986 and 2004, journal expenditures of North American research libraries increased by a staggering 273 per cent…[outstripping] inflation by a factor of almost four.” This has led universities to cancel journal subscriptions; in 2006 alone, the University of Illinois cancelled subscriptions to over 200 Elsevier journals, citing rising subscription costs as the issue. It seems as though individual users are not the only ones feeling the tight grip of big-business publishing.

However, the opposition to academic journals is not only based on rising costs. In general, scholarly journals also tend to be extremely restrictive when it comes to their content. “There are certain journals that are considered top-tier, and they have control over the dissemination of ‘acceptable scholarly knowledge,’” said Professor Shaheen Shariff, of the Department of Integrated Studies in Education at McGill, in an interview with The Daily.

The idea that research should be free and open to the public has been an ideological driving force for the movement. Swartz’s “Guerilla Open Access Manifesto,” for instance, implies the moral danger of not resisting “the privatization of knowledge.” The monopoly on information is increasingly an issue for the scientific community; an issue to which making journals open access seems to be the only solution.

Open Access publishing has been around for a while. Although it is difficult to accurately pinpoint the origins of the Open Access movement, the Open Access Directory lists several peer-reviewed journals that started appearing within the first few years of the internet; between 1983 and 1990. Professor Gabriella Coleman, Wolfe Chair in Scientific and Technological Literacy at McGill, suggests that the movement took off following the success of the Open Source movement, at the turn of the 21st century, which was primarily concerned with providing software free of charge to the public to promote learning.

While Open Source has thrived, Open Access has remained relatively underground. The current academic system remains resilient to change despite the movement’s best efforts. “In the Social Sciences and Humanities, I do not know a single prestigious, long-standing, existing journal that has gone open-access,” Coleman said in an interview. Reform, at least for now, does not seem to be the answer.

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Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Covers for Books and Magazines = Marketing Supremo

Book Covers Sell
'Put on your best face', 'Put your best foot forward', etc., etc., are sayings that convey making the very best first impression.
Marketing yourself, so to speak.
In the case of books and magazines, the covers ARE
the first impressions and the ultimate, initial marketing impacts (enormous sales made just from covers).
What do you think are the best secondary and on-going marketing impacts? - This writer thinks its probably reviews, word of mouth and social media today.
Anyway, I thought a review of the critiques of leading magazine covers for 2012 given in the December, 2012, FOLIO: magazine would be enlightening and fun: 
Every month, FOLIO: selects a small group of designers and art directors to offer critiques on visually-engaging magazine covers. The cover, after all, is the first point of entry for any magazine, retail or otherwise.

This past year has produced a variety of arresting cover images that are designed to capture the attention of a reader and, ultimately, capture a sale. Here, FOLIO: rounds up six designers—including our own—and asks them to weigh in on their favorite cover of the year.

TITLE: Bloomberg Businessweek
ISSUE: January 16-22
PUBLISHER: Bloomberg L.P.

“I remember the moment I first saw this issue on the stands—I either said, or maybe just thought, ‘Oh, _ _ _ _.’ I know it’s not for everyone, it’s not slick—it’s sick. I know, it’s not fair, as art director Richard Turley is allowed to do anything he wants over there, but the thing is, he does it!

This could have been the hundredth iteration, or the first one just tossed off. Who cares? It’s more powerful and memorable than any of the made-by-committee, hand-lettered, 10-color covers around. The ‘What Me Worry?’ photo reminiscent of MAD magazine, the crazy cover lines and their placement, the garish overall one-color scheme—what’s that doing on a commercial, serious, nay, kind of boring, business magazine? It’s being awesome, that’s what.”
- Helene Silverman, Design Director, Architectural Record

TITLE: New York
ISSUE: November 12, 2012

“Few covers this year had as much visual and emotional impact as New York magazine’s cover story on Hurricane Sandy. In this day and age when newsstand sales dictate that covers be loud and garish with multiple cover lines and inane promises (BETTER SEX NOW! KILLER ABS IN 7 DAYS!), it’s refreshing to see a sober and simple approach to such an important topic. The cover photo—showing a divided Manhattan—and the restrained use of type speak volumes. The work is both stunning and somber and should remind all art directors that an effective cover need not yell at its audience.”
- Todd Johnson, Creative Director, D Magazine Partners

“This has to be one of the toughest assignments I have had this year—to pick my favorite cover from the last 11 months. To make sure I had covered my bases I searched covers online, went to websites of my favorite magazines, reviewed blogs, and looked through the piles on my shelves. But, in the end, I chose the cover of a magazine sitting on my coffee table (yes, it was actually on my coffee table).

The November 12 cover of New York magazine, “The City and the Storm,” is successful on multiple levels—for graphic impact, telling a story, maintaining a brand, and paying attention to the details of design. And the magazine staff managed to create this cover and issue while dealing with their own loss and devastation.
When you first look at this cover it is quiet and poetic. But then it pulls you in and makes you wonder what it would feel like to be on one of those dark streets, cold apartments and wrecked homes. In the Letter from the Editors they note selecting this image for the cover was “the easiest part of a harried three days…the clear choice for the way it fit the bigger story...about a powerful city rendered powerless.” I have not lived in NYC since 1995, but New York magazine always makes me feel connected through its honest celebration of the city and people.

Finally, the design of the cover celebrates the photo with a subtle logo, small headline, and date in black. All the details sit back and let the photo tell the story. Beautiful.”
- Kelly McMurray, Creative Director, 2communiqué

TITLE: V Magazine
ISSUE: Winter 2012/2013
PUBLISHER: Visionaire Publishing

“A naked Scarlett Johansson on your cover is probably enough for newsstand success. But the creative team at V Magazine didn’t simply rely on the ‘sex sells’ mantra for their Winter 2012/2013 cover. This issue features the lovely actress recreating the iconic Psycho shower scene and there are really a lot of great things going on with this cover.

The image itself is striking and immediately recognized by most readers. It’s also cleverly cropped and composed, allowing the “V” logo to nicely blend into the shower curtain. Cover lines are kept simple and sparse, letting the image remain the focal point. Finally, the story and image are also relevant and timely, coinciding with the release of the new biographical drama ‘Hitchcock,’ which was released one week after this issue hit newsstands. All these things add up to a unique, clever, intriguing, and well-composed cover!”
- Daniel Trombetto, Creative Director, R7M Publishing (Publisher of FOLIO:)

ISSUE: May 21, 2012 | Vol. 179 No. 20
CIRCULATION: 3,276,822

“There were many great covers in 2012, so choosing one was a close race. I generally lean toward a cover that conveys a range of topics through subheads and typography that give the readers a more broad appeal (such as my close runner up in Esquire’s January 2012 cover). But, this cover from Time magazine is too impactful to overlook. I remember when I first saw this cover I thought, ‘Wow, what stones of them!’ I recalled all the chatter amongst the cubicles and offices and I immediately knew that regardless if you agree or not with the subject matter, this cover is a winner!

Our goal as designers and art directors is to make an impression to get readers into our pages and talking about our brands. In my opinion, this cover wins all races in 2012. Despite the simple nature of the cover and image, it’s the shock factor that got me, and the nation. Simple, clean and airy—not too much type to distract, but just enough to provoke.”
- Luke Hodsdon, Director of Design, Churm Media Inc.

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Friday, January 18, 2013

Digital Content - Writing to Enthrall Readers and Tickle Web Crawlers

Writing to attract
web crawlers
Creative writing is the portal to our thoughts --- But, choppy, snippet, repetitive writing attracts web crawlers.

How to bring these two divergent writing personalities together?

That is the question --- And, if answered, will empower digital writers to dance and swing across all media formats with stupendous success.

Michelle Wicmandy, contributor to Website Magazine, has this to say in the February, 2013 issue:

Captivating Readers While Attracting Web Crawlers

Today’s digital writer has two audiences: readers and Web crawlers. Unfortunately, the two have distinct tastes.

The latter, for example, prefers keyword repetition, which works to achieve higher search engine rankings (thus, maintain visibility with an audience). This “over-optimized” style of writing, however, can attract Web crawlers but can also lose a reader’s interest. On the contrary, online readers demand relevant information in easy, bite-sized pieces. Being brief, by using sentence fragments, bullet points and reporting “just the facts” increases reader interest but may sacrifice SEO-driven rankings.
And, despite the different preferences of readers and Web crawlers, both are seemingly interrupting the creative prose of yesterday.

“It’s not a trend I agree with,” said Lynda McDaniel, founder of the Association for Creative Business Writing and co-founder of The Book Catalysts. “That [brevity] style won’t bring anything to life, especially not the readers. Writing is the portal to our thoughts, and if we write in snippets, our thoughts will be just as abbreviated. To keep your content interesting and hold the reader’s attention; write to the reader, write for the reader and write from the heart. Write as if you’re talking with a friend — or at least someone representative of your readership. Engage the reader with stories and compelling information, not just short little blurbs.”

Words trigger emotion and form bonds with the reader. McDaniel thinks an importance should be placed on writing interesting content using clarity, fresh associations and interest angles. To create visuals and actions in the reader’s mind, try incorporating a few of the following techniques:

Appeal to the senses: Use language to paint imagery, create sound and describe an aroma, taste or texture. For example, if your business received an award, try “Within minutes of the news, music rocked the room and champagne corks were popping,” instead of “We won the award.”

Document sources to support opinions: To support ideas and attract Web crawlers, provide evidence from reliable, credible sources, such as research organizations, traditional media, government sources and associations.

Develop a sense of scale: Create an analogy using common knowledge to present unfathomable ideas, such as large numbers. Not only does this add interest, but it is also powerful imagery. For example, 1 second is 1 second (and easy to comprehend), but 1 million seconds is equivalent to 12 days. And, 1 billion seconds is equivalent to 30 years. Describing a product that measures 3.3 x 2.2x 0.8 inches? Don’t leave the reader guessing about what that means. Explain that it fits inside of an Altoid mint container.

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Sunday, January 13, 2013

More Thoughts on E-Book Costs

Just how are e-book costs
arrived at?
I guess I'm the eternal idealist because I feel the content (quality of, likability, timeliness, entertainment value, etc.) should drive the cost of books, in whatever format, and not just the manufacturing and distribution costs (or lack of) --- which so many are using to justify why e-books should be cheaper than their  printed counterparts.

I have previously written many times about e-book costs on both this blog and the Publishing/Writing: Insights, News, Intrigue Blog (just refer to the labels on these sites).

Tonight we're presenting some old and new thoughts on this subject:

'E-books don't involve costs like paper, labor, and shipping, so why do they often cost more than their paperback counterparts?'

Some TP's say “The elimination of manufacturing and distribution costs are being offset by retail price reductions and the additional costs I have outlined. The good news is that we are making about the same margins, regardless of whether we sell the book in physical form or digital.”

'E-books cost as much to produce as hardcopy? Hogwash.'

'Anyone who produces anything digital that was formerly physical knows digital is cheaper. A website is cheaper than a newspaper. A digital version of a video costs less to deliver than a tape. An e-book costs less than a physical book. Anyone suggesting otherwise, like this publishing executive, probably has a dog in the fight.'

See these thoughts and others come together in this piece by Stacy Johnson in the Christian Science Monitor:

Why do e-books cost so much?

E-books don't involve costs like paper, labor, and shipping, so why do they often cost more than their paperback counterparts? Here's the answer, and why e-book prices may be falling in the future.

Here’s a question I got on our Facebook page. Maybe you’ve wondered about it too.

Why do your Kindle books cost more than a paperback copy? The Kindle version of Life or Debt on Amazon costs $9.73, but they’re selling the paperback for as little as $6.00. Since e-books should cost much less to produce, why do they cost more to buy? This seems unfair, especially when you’re writing about how to save money to pay off debt.
- Ted
I got a very similar question a little more than a year ago, published in a post called "Why Are E-Books So Expensive?" I’m going to answer it again, however, because since then things have happened that shed more light on this subject.

As I said in my earlier post, I have no control over the price of my books. When you work with a traditional publisher (mine is Simon & Schuster), you have no input – they set the price.

Whoever establishes the price, however, you’ve still got to wonder…

Why are e-books so expensive?

The first time I attempted to answer this question, I quoted an article called "Why Do eBooks Cost So Much? (A Publisher’s Perspective)" by Michael Hyatt, CEO of Thomas Nelson Publishers. Here’s how he justified the high cost of e-books…

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Monday, January 7, 2013

Content - Linking Print To Mobiles

Who said you have to have either print or mobile? Why can't you have both experiences at once?

Well, you CAN.

'Publishers are literally driving engagement between the print product and digital platforms...'

"How?" you ask. One way is to link print magazines directly to smartphones and tablets via apps.

Tonight's post will illustrate one print magazine that has done this and will delve into the resulting impressive numbers.

By T.J. RaphaelFOLIO magazine, Publishing Technology section:

Connecting Print and Mobile

As more users interact with content on mobile platforms, publishers are directly linking print to phones and tablets.

Publishers are literally driving engagement between the print product and digital platforms by linking print magazines directly to smartphones. The idea aims to neutralize the “either-or” aspect of print and mobile and merge the strengths of both.

“We’re connecting print to mobile because we believe we’re well poised with our demographic—they are glued to their phone,” says Jason Wagenheim, vice president and publisher of Teen Vogue. “We did a study earlier this year that found that 9 out of 10 of our readers are shopping with their mobile phones. They’re not just making purchases, but using their phone while they’re shopping, searching for coupons and texting friends photos of dresses when they’re in a store.”

Attaching Apps to Print

Based on this, the magazine developed the Teen Vogue Insider app, which is a companion to the magazine. It allows readers to “like” and share brands on Facebook, Twitter and over email as well as map nearby locations to make purchases. Editorial or advertiser-based slideshows and videos are also available. Finally, discounts and special offers are pushed out through the app.

The app is updated to coincide with every issue of Teen Vogue, further tying the mobile experience to print. By having it as a companion to every single issue, Wagenheim says the brand is changing reader behavior that will enhance attachment to the print magazine.

“The app is promoted in every issue with advertising and editorial,” he says. “There’s also a directory featuring all of the pages within the magazine that can be activated with a mobile scan—we use image recognition, not QR codes. You can use the app to scan pages in the magazine to launch these engagements.”

As of press time, the app has been downloaded 80,000 times in the three months since its launch; there have been over 250,000 scans of magazine pages and over 550,000 user sessions.

Every Page Mobile-ized

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Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Bookstores Down - Libraries Up

Vicki Culler shops for discounted
books at the Friends of the Public
Library in Cincinnati.

Bookstore closings have provided an opportunity for high-end library models that should cough up cute cash and increase dynamic library traffic.

As reported in The New York Times by Karen Ann Cullotta, the sad closing of bookstores has provided an opening for many libraries to reinvent the town square with best sellers and coffee --- and, I might add, a certain milieu or AMBIANCE :)

Tonight's post also provides an inside peek at a library's business plan, strategy and structure.

This, then, by Karen Ann Cullotta, NYTimes:

Libraries See Opening as Bookstores Close

At the bustling public library in Arlington Heights, Ill., requests by three patrons to place any title on hold prompt a savvy computer tracking system to order an additional copy of the coveted item. That policy was intended to eliminate the frustration of long waits to check out best sellers and other popular books. But it has had some unintended consequences, too: the library’s shelves are now stocked with 36 copies of “Fifty Shades of Grey.”
Of course, librarians acknowledge that when patrons’ passion for the sexy series lacking in literary merit cools in a year or two, the majority of volumes in the “Fifty Shades” trilogy will probably be plucked from the shelves and sold at the Friends of the Library’s used-book sales, alongside other poorly circulated, donated and out-of-date materials.

“A library has limited shelf space, so you almost have to think of it as a store, and stock it with the things that people want,” said Jason Kuhl, the executive director of the Arlington Heights Memorial Library. Renovations will turn part of the library’s first floor into an area resembling a bookshop that officials are calling the Marketplace, with cozy seating, vending machines and, above all, an abundance of best sellers.

As librarians across the nation struggle with the task of redefining their roles and responsibilities in a digital age, many public libraries are seeing an opportunity to fill the void created by the loss of traditional bookstores. They are increasingly adapting their collections and services based on the demands of library patrons, whom they now call customers.

Today’s libraries are reinventing themselves as vibrant town squares, showcasing the latest best sellers, lending Kindles loaded with e-books, and offering grass-roots technology training centers. Faced with the need to compete for shrinking municipal finances, libraries are determined to prove they can respond as quickly to the needs of the taxpayers as the police and fire department can.

“I think public libraries used to seem intimidating to many people, but today, they are becoming much more user-friendly, and are no longer these big, impersonal mausoleums,” said Jeannette Woodward, a former librarian and author of “Creating the Customer-Driven Library: Building on the Bookstore Model.”

“Public libraries tread a fine line,” Ms. Woodward said. “They want to make people happy, and get them in the habit of coming into the library for popular best sellers, even if some of it might be considered junk. But libraries also understand the need for providing good information, which often can only be found at the library.”

Cheryl Hurley, the president of the Library of America, a nonprofit publisher in New York “dedicated to preserving America’s best and most significant writing,” said the trend of libraries that cater to the public’s demand for best sellers is not surprising, especially given the ravages of the recession on public budgets.

Still, Ms. Hurley remains confident that libraries will never relinquish their responsibility to also provide patrons with the opportunity to discover literary works of merit, be it the classics, or more recent fiction from novelists like Philip Roth, whose work is both critically acclaimed and immensely popular.

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