NYPLs Scholarly Press Backlist Revival Project

Greg Cram and Kathleen Riegelhaupt, on the New York Public Library’s Scholarly Press Backlist Revival Project, which seeks to pry backlist books from out-of-print inaccessibility:

Since 2022, we have worked to develop a proof of concept in partnership with the University of Michigan Press, University of South Carolina Press, University of Massachusetts Press, and MIT Press. Called the “Scholarly Press Backlist Revival,” our project provides an alternative to tracking down individual contracts. The key — what we believe will allow us to scale this effort but remain well within the bounds of what we believe is fair and based on collaboration and consent — is asking presses to grant NYPL permission to make their books digitally available to the world not on a title-by-title basis, but on entire out-of-print backlist basis.

What a great idea: secure publisher permission to make these semi-abandoned books available, with the carrot that the publishers get free or very cheap digitized version which—should they choose—could be restored to the market. Two unnamed presses are already on board.

‘Solidarity among Philosophers Leads to New Journal: Political Philosophy’

Justin Weinberg, writing for the Daily Nous:

Political Philosophy is born from the ashes of The Journal of Political Philosophy (JPP). It has some similarities with its predecessor—you’ll recognize its editors and editorial board—but also some differences. For example, it has a different publisher, and the new journal will be open access.

It’s among the latest in a wave of recent mass resignations and journal flips—in this case, to the nonprofit Open Library of the Humanities. The proximate cause was Wiley’s revenue-hungry push for more articles:

Readers may recall that last year, Wiley, the journal’s publisher, told Robert Goodin (ANU), who created the JPP and served as its editor-in-chief, that he would be fired as of the end of 2023. Wiley’s decision was reportedly prompted by a dispute with Goodin over whether the journal should accept more articles. Wiley had been pushing the journal to publish more articles per year because of the turn towards open-access publishing agreements, which generate fees for the publisher on a per-article basis. Goodin resisted this, and he and the other members of the editorial team refused to stay on because they were unable to get assurances that they’d have “requisite editorial control and discretion to maintain the quality and reputation of the JPP in the face of Wiley’s desire to boost significantly and indefinitely the number of articles published by the JPP.”

When will sociology’s indispensable Theory & Society—recently decapitated in a Springer-engineered coup—follow the Political Philosophy example?

‘2U-edX crash exposes the latest wave of edugrift’

Dahl Shaulis, writing for Higher Education Inquirer about 2U’s in-progress implosion:

2U, a Lanham, Maryland-based edtech company and parent company edX, is facing layoffs of an estimated 200 to 400 workers–a significant number for a company that only employs a few thousand–amid more rumors that the company is for sale.
In 2022 and 2023, the Wall Street Journal (Lisa Bannon), Chronicle of Higher Education (Mike Vasquez), and USA Today (Chris Quintana) investigated 2U after a few US senators sounded the alarm about consumers being fleeced by 2U and other OPMs. 
With 2U’s reputation in shambles and layoffs ahead, the parent company wrapped itself around the more respectable edX brand. Byju’s, an Indian edtech firm, was said to be looking at 2U or Chegg as a possible acquisition (Byju’s is now facing its own problems).  

Quite a legacy for edX, the nonprofit that Harvard and MIT sold (in one of the all-time higher-ed betrayals) to 2U in 2021. At the time, Harvard’s Alan Garber—then provost, now acting president—lauded the purchase: “Of course we conducted an extensive diligence process before deciding to move forward with an acquisition of edX by 2U [… ] They have committed to continuing the mission of edX — in fact, this is spelled out in our agreements with them — and we’re confident it is the right company to take edX to the next level.“

Nailed it.

‘Scholarly Communication Service Providers’

Speaking of AI, here’s Lorcan Dempsey, proposing to group Elsevier, Digital Science and Clarivate as “scholarly communication service providers”:

In our space, it will be especially interesting to watch what I call the scholarly communication service providers, Elsevier, Digital Science and Clarivate. They each have scale with development capacity, a mature research graph (underlying Scopus, Dimensions and Web of Science, respectively), a wide range of data, publishing and workflow services, as well as connections into scholarly and library communities. They have each made various announcements about AI development…

I’m not sure about the label itself—scholarly communication service providers may be misleadingly anodyne, and also too generic to distinguish the three companies from others. But the grouping itself (Elsevier, Digital Science, and Clarivate) does point to a pair of important shifts: (1) the “publisher” moniker is losing some of its relevance. Of the three companies, only Elsevier is really a publisher—and one that’s keen to stress that it’s much more. The (2) other point is that Elsevier, Digital Science, and Clarivate are each building out a full stack of competing services, up and down the research lifecycle—most of them built on scholars’ work and behavior. The upshot is that Elsevier may have more in common with Digital Science (Springer Nature’s corporate sibling) and Clarivate than, say, Taylor & Francis or Wiley.

Either way, Dempsey’s analysis of AI and the academy (with a library focus) is the sharpest I’ve read.

‘Large Language Publishing’

I have a post on FORCE11’s Upstream, on scholarly publishers’ in-progress play for prediction-product profit:

The big publishers think they’re sitting on a gold mine. It’s not just their paywalled, full-text scholarship, but also the reams of other data they hoover up from academics across their platforms and products. In theory at least, their proprietary content is—unlike the clown show of the open web—vetted and linked. On those grounds, observers have declared that publishers may be the “biggest winners” in the generative AI revolution. Maybe. But either way, expect Springer Nature, Taylor & Francis, Elsevier, Wiley, and SAGE to test the theory.

‘The Brief: Gemini’

The latest installment of Clarke & Esposito’s The Brief newsletter is, as always, sharp and informative. The lead bit is on Google’s new Gemini, and its example AI academic search. Thanks to Google Scholar, Gemini can mine OA content at the article level, even in hybrid journals—and also scrape green AAM versions:

The implications of this granular indexing on licensing arrangements is worth noting. As more and more articles are published on an OA basis, even if in hybrid journals or via green OA, Google Gemini (and other generative AI platforms) will have more free-to-them content to incorporate into their platforms. This raises the question as to whether liberal reuse licenses might need to be revisited by publishers.

This point—publishers, roll back your liberal OA licensing!—was made by Joe Esposito back in July at the Scholarly Kitchen (“What publishers need is more copyright protection, not less”).

In the words of the latest Brief:

The CC BY license is looking increasingly like a mechanism to transfer value from scientific and scholarly publishers to the world’s wealthiest tech companies.

Maybe. But here’s a rewrite: The scholarly publishing business is looking increasingly like a mechanism to transfer value from scholars, taxpayers, and universities to the world’s most profitable companies.

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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