Tuesday, October 20, 2009
  Ethics and "Christian" Publishing: Case of Thomas Nelson
On my 5 Minute Bible podcast a recent post "Ruth is from Moab, but Boaz is from Bethlehem" attracted an anonymous commenter, who failed to interact with the audio, or the text material in the post, but did advertise a commercial audio Bible published by Thomas Nelson. (I am not linking to them here as I find this practice of comment spamming despicable and have no intention of promoting the company as a result.)

I am writing to ask in general if you are aware of any other dubious ethical practices used by this publisher, and in particular if anyone else has seen examples of comment spam from them?

For the record if the person who wrote the comment, even had they chosen to hide behind anonymity, had interacted with my material or other comments in some way I would NOT have deleted the comment. As it is I intend to cease recommending any works audio or print published by Nelson to students and churches if a viable alternative exists from a more ethical publisher.

Addendum: [in case you do not rerad the comments] this comment is posted below, in fairness to Thomas Nelson I am copying it here so that you can read it with my post:

Michael Hyatt left a comment:

I am the CEO of Thomas Nelson. We do not encourage or promote comment spam. Like you, I hate it. I spend more time than I would like deleting it from my own blog.

If you have an IP address or other information from the person who commented, I will be happy to take the appropriate action.
Blogger, unlike WordPress :( does not seem to collect (or at least does not offer bloggers a chance to see) the IP addresses of commenters, and this one was "Annonymous" but I am glad to hear that such behaviour is not approved, though puzzled since another biblical studies blogger has had similar experiences advertising your company's products. I do NOT object to anyone linking to your product pages, IF they are relevant and add something to the discussion.

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Friday, April 11, 2008
  Nichthus and Open AccessScholarship
Nichthus was kind enough to reply to my post, replying to his post, with a post. So, at long last because a refugee camp was not the ideal place to formulate a good reply, here is my reply to his reply to my reply.

His concern, reflected in the title "Can we have the cake, and eat it too?" basically seems to be that "open" scholarship does not generate income, and so leaches on the work of others.

I have dealt with some of these broader questions in earlier posts like:
But my post was concerned not with the whole Education 2.0/Open Scholarship field (or in view of the ill defined, and indeed unbounded, nature of these expressions perhaps "worlds") but with the particular case of scholarly publishing. And even perhaps within that of the scholarly journal. There Nichthus' examples, like big budget movies, are simply not appropriate.

Nick Montfort on Grand Text Auto recently made several of the points that I'd make in reply to Nichthus:
Scholarly and scientific journals differ from many other sorts of publications. Authors are not paid - in some cases, they pay in the form of per-article fees or fees for color illustrations and extra content. Articles are reviewed by other academics who determine if they should be published; these reviewers are also not paid. The work that people do as researchers, writers, and reviewers is effectively subsidized by whatever institution supports these people as faculty, staff, or students. In the case of pay-for-access journals, the same institutions that indirectly pay for important labor on a journal also must pay the for-profit company that runs the journal in order to gain exclusive access (that is, access not available to the public) to the final outcome. This access doesn’t typically come in the form of a print journal these days, of course.

This process is one that I characterize as anti-publication.
I like it! Traditional "for profit" scholarly articles and books are not "publications", but "anti-publications" since they artificially limit their readership.

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Friday, March 21, 2008
  Interesting project on aging and interactive writing
Ben, on the if:book blog linked to a really interesting project. Ashton Applewhite a staff writer at the American Museum of Natural History, who has previously written a book the conventional (solo author in a study) way, is writing her next book online. She has a blog "So when are you going to retire? Octogenarians in the workforce" on the site she has information about her research, snippets of audio and stories she is collecting. I find that the audio clips add a richness to the written posts, like this one Cornelius Reid — “That’s what kept him going.” It's a lovely, thought-provoking, post, but the short clip of Cornelius makes it come alive. Definitely a blog I'll subscribe to, who knows, one day I may comment, and one of my comments may help Ashton tweak some aspect of her ideas and so her book.

Now that's a fine project: a worthwhile, valuable, interesting blog; where the comments and email correspondences that a blog attracts will assist the writer with her project, not only that but as the author explained to Ben in an email, it could even make commercial sense:
I also think i'll end up with a valuable platform for leveraging and disseminating my work over the long run — one that could radically revise conventional notions of shelf life. Cutting Loose, my book about women and divorce (HarperCollins, 1997) is still in print; imagine what sales would look like if it were at the hub of an ongoing social network, and what a rich site that would be?
The early adopter in me, however, wonders - just a little - what the point of the print edition will be... especially in the light of all the rave reviews of Amazon's proprietary (lock you in to us as your supplier), pay as you go (even for "converting" your own PDFs), expensive (and not even available) Kindle over at Lifehacker ;)

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Wednesday, November 28, 2007
  Here's a revelation. Duh!
The NY Times has an op-ed piece "Pay Me for My Content" by Jaron Lanier, explaining his big conversion. He writes:
Like so many in Silicon Valley in the 1990s, I thought the Web would
increase business opportunities for writers and artists. Instead they
have decreased. Most of the big names in the industry — Google,
Facebook, MySpace and increasingly even Apple and Microsoft — are
now in the business of assembling content from unpaid Internet users to
sell advertising to other Internet users....

There’s an almost religious belief in the Valley that charging
for content is bad. The only business plan in sight is ever more
advertising. One might ask what will be left to advertise once everyone
is aggregated.
So, the one time author of a manifesto "Piracy Is Your Friend" now admits "I was wrong. We were all wrong." He also writes:
To help writers and artists earn a living online, software engineers
and Internet evangelists need to exercise the power they hold as
designers. Information is free on the Internet because we created the
system to be that way.
It is an exaggeration, there are other factors at work (as I have argued in "Back to the Future: Virtual Theologising as Recapitulation" Colloquium, 2005, 37,2, 115-130.), but it is an exaggeration that points towards truth. If the digerati agreed, and convinced the big holders of "content" the movie distributors, TV companies, music labels, "timeless" magazine publishers (things like National Geographic and others whose content does not date fast)... we could have a system that allows a very small charge to access, widespread acceptance, and the new age of digital creativity could begin.

In the mean time we are stuck with more and more intrusive advertising or with producing "labours of love" in our "spare time" :(

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Monday, August 13, 2007
  Highlights from "University Publishing in a Digital Age"
The Ithaca University report University Publishing in a Digital Age is a potentially important landmark. Conducted by Laura Brown (former president of OUP USA), and Ithaka’s Strategic Services group, and sponsored financially by Ithaka and JSTOR, it has the potential to be heard by those who control purse strings.

I have only begun to digest it, so intend here simply to quote some of the phrases and ideas that seem to me to be most interesting and important (initially drawn from the "Executive Summary" as representing a distillation of the full content), and sometimes to comment on them. My goal is that those of my readers with an interest Which mainly means academics and students, or others with an interest in the future of academic publishing - which probably ought to mean most of my readers! either are stimulated to read the report for themselves and comment directly, or make comments here. The essential is that this report gets discussed!

Let's start at the beginning:
[u]niversities do not treat the publishing function as an important, mission-centric endeavor. Publishing generally receives little attention from senior leadership at universities and the result has been a scholarly publishing industry that many in the university community find to be increasingly out of step with the important values of the academy.
My take on the first point is that Universities (on the whole with a few, largely historic exceptions) have found presses to be good money-losing opportunities, and have failed to notice that "scaling back" their activity risks stultifying the whole academic scene through the commercialisation of academic publishing. I think my second point comments closely on their final careful phrase!

They note that academics "publish" in two ways, formally and through what they term "grey literature" (an odd phrase since the examples they give are far less grey than the average peer-reviewed monograph! But let's notice with the report what this means:
In the past decade, the range and importance of the latter has been dramatically expanded by information technology, as scholars increasingly turn to preprint servers, blogs, listservs, and institutional repositories, to share their work, ideas, data, opinions, and critiques. These forms of informal publication have become pervasive in the university and college environment. As scholars increasingly rely on these channels to share and find information, the boundaries between formal and informal publication will blur. These changes in the behavior of scholars will require changes in the approaches universities take to all kinds of publishing.
In other words "take your heads out of the sand people, academic publishing is going through a revolution - whether you like it or not", and that for me is the key point, the revolution WILL happen, the only question is who will be left standing afterwards!

What will this revolution look like:
Publishing in the future will look very different than it has looked in the past. Consumption patterns have already changed dramatically, as many scholars have increasingly begun to rely on electronic resources to get information that is useful to their research and teaching. Transformation on the creation and production sides is taking longer, but ultimately may have an even more profound impact on the way scholars work. Publishers have made progress putting their legacy content online, especially with journals. We believe the next stage will be the creation of new formats made possible by digital technologies, ultimately allowing scholars to work in deeply integrated electronic research and publishing environments that will enable real-time dissemination, collaboration, dynamically-updated content, and usage of new media.
Photo by uptick
Yes!PHX 6731

That was the good news. Now for the sting in the tail:
Administrators, librarians and presses each have a role to play (as do scholars, though this report is not directed at them).
Yes, people, this brave new world may be digital and electronic and cool, but lets make sure that scholars do not get their inky hands on the levers of power or horror of horrors learn to take control of their own work. We administrators, along with senior librarians who have learned across the years to "speak our language" are better able to decide the future of academic publishing, so we must make sure scholars do not worry their pointy heads about it. They might rock the boat.... At least I think that's what this sentence means:
Their efforts should be closely and intelligently connected to their campuses’ academic programs and priorities in order to ensure their relevancy and institutional commitment.

Noticed how relevancy and institutional commitment amount to much the same thing?

Oh! Important: yes. Revolutionary: certainly. But really deep down possibly counter-revolutionary... I intend to read more closely over the next few days (marking permitting) so watch this space!

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Wednesday, August 01, 2007
  Now, why is this NEWS?
Academic publishing is in crisis. In particular the monograph is problematic. The "publish or perish" system combined with an increase in the numbers of students and therefore teachers means that there are an explosion of monographs "wanting" to see the light of day. Costs have gone up. Library budgets cannot keep pace. Yada, yada, yada....

AKMA's post "Rice Univ. Press Has A Clue" points to an Inside Higher Ed article "New Model for University Presses". That succinctly outlines the problem from an academic's perspective: editors freely admit that they routinely review submissions that deserve to be books, but that can’t be, for financial reasons.
The article refers to the Ithaca report “University Publishing in a Digital Age,” which has been sitting on my desktop for a few days gathering till I can find time to read it and review it here.

Basically Rice University Press is trying a "new model" Long Tail Press which will publish (electronically with print on demand for tyhose who demand it!) works that have passed the required peer review processes but cannot be "published" for economic reasons.

Now, why is this NEWS? I suppose because no one else had the courage to try it.

And, how will a Long Tail book, once PODed, be different from a "proper" monograph? Ah, yes money, real scholarship makes a profit, only second rate scholarship is true, clever, accurate, new but fails to make a profit!

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