‘Publishers Are Taking the Internet to Court’

Maria Bustillos, in an excellent Nation piece on the publisher lawsuit against the Internet Archive:

Penguin Random House, together with fellow megapublishers Hachette, HarperCollins, and Wiley, filed a lawsuit against the Internet Archive alleging “mass copyright infringement.” The Internet Archive closed the National Emergency Library on June 16, citing the lawsuit and calling for the publishers to stand down. But the plaintiffs are continuing to press their claims, and are now seeking to close the whole Open Library permanently.


Publishers approve of libraries paying for e-book licenses because they’re temporary, just like your right to watch a movie on Netflix is temporary and can evaporate at any moment. In the same way, publishers would like to see libraries obliged to license, not to own, books—that is, continue to pay for the same book again and again. That’s what this lawsuit is really about. It’s impossible to avoid the conclusion that publishers took advantage of the pandemic to achieve what they had not been able to achieve previously: to turn the library system into a “reading as a service” operation from which they can squeeze profits forever.

Mark Bilby, back in June when the lawsuit was filed, called for libraries to boycott the publishers. They should, but here’s another boycott: Wiley. Among the big houses that’s suing Internet Archive, Wiley is the one with the giant scholarly-publishing footprint. In recognition of the Internet Archive’s crucial role for scholarship, we should all stop submitting and reviewing for Wiley journals until they drop the lawsuit.

Demography goes Platinum OA

Duke University Press, in its announcement that Demography is going platinum OA:

Since its founding in 1964, Demography has mirrored the vitality, diversity, high intellectual standard, and wide impact of population studies. Published bimonthly, the journal presents high-quality original research by scholars in a wide range of disciplines, encompassing a variety of methodological approaches to population research. It maintains a global geographic focus and a broad temporal scope. Demography is the most cited journal in its field and reaches the membership of one of the largest professional demographic associations in the world.

Library subsidies: This is the path forward.

Counterweight to Elsevier?

Lisa Hinchliffe and Roger Schonfeld, in a Scholarly Kitchen post:

Today, ResearchGate and Springer Nature are jointly announcing the findings of their syndication pilot. […] Today’s white paper from the partners reports positive responses from authors and plan to transition this pilot into an ongoing service. From the publisher perspective, article usage is up and leakage is contained. And, ResearchGate, which added a partnership with Wiley during the Springer Nature pilot, emerges as a stronger identity and access platform and a potential counterweight to Elsevier.

The piece (“Syndication Success”) is weirdly puffy, and—in its claims about Elsevier—arguably misleading. The idea of ResearchGate as an identity-platform counterweight is not (as the article lead suggests) in the white paper, but instead speculation from Hinchliffe and Schonfeld.

Even if they’re right about ResearchGate, however, the cheerleading is a head-scratcher: How is a venture-backed, for-profit startup coming to own lots of crucial scholarly infrastructure anything but terrifying?

ASU Receives Koch Money to ‘Accelerate Innovation’ in Higher Ed

From the press release announcing $12 million, from the Charles Koch Foundation among others, to Arizona State University (ASU):

ASU’s University Design Institute (UDI) will coordinate the initiative and support other universities to implement their own culture change initiatives. The goal is to broaden access to world-class education methods and cutting-edge technological innovations that are tailored to empower students and be responsive to their specific needs and goals.

The statement reads like a parody Silicon Valley pitch deck.

‘What are Academic Book Publishers for? Part 2’

Richard Fisher’s follow-up Scholarly Kitchen post is as generously minded as the first. But the hippo in the room—monograph funding—is mostly (if not completely) ignored. Fisher imagines a future with more reader-level sales, at lower prices, but suggests (in his only reference to the question, banished to a footnote) that the alternative is the book processing charge (BPC)—a prospect that could, to the export-oriented British sector, be financially ruinous. That may be, but the BPC—like its APC cousin—is ruinous in a more fundamental way: because it blocks access to authorship. Here the Open Book Publishers’ Lucy Barnes and Rupert Gatti, in their recent cost overview, look the hippo right in the eye:

Many of the conversations about the financial viability of Open Access book publishing are predicated on a single business model—that of the BPC—and they assume there will be no revenue when a book is published OA […] If a BPC model cannot support Open Access for books in a fair and sustainable way, it isn’t Open Access that should be thrown out—it’s the BPC model.

‘University of Arizona Makes Ashford Contract Public’

Speaking of shady public university deals with for-profits:

The University of Arizona has published the asset purchase and sale agreement it struck with Ashford University to create a new online nonprofit institution called the University of Arizona Global Campus. […]

Dozens of pages of the contract were blacked out, including details that might indicate the financial health of Ashford University, such as current contracts, net assets, intellectual property, the status of several legal proceedings against the institution and details of multiple redundant functions that Zovio intends to “eliminate” from Ashford before the deal is planned to close later this year

Jeff Pooley is professor of media & communication at Muhlenberg College and director of mediastudies.press, an open access scholarly publisher.

pooley@muhlenberg.edu | press@mediastudies.press

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