One year ago, CC announced the Affiliate Project Grants to support and expand CC’s global network of dedicated experts. With a little help from Google, we were able to increase the capacity of CC’s Affiliates to undertake projects around the world benefiting a more free, open, and innovative internet.
We received over 70 applicants, and we were able to fund 18 to tackle important work in their country – work like using music to break down physical barriers and give Palestinians a voice, gathering leaders in Tanzania to discuss how sharing information can help prevent diabetes, and helping Romanian librarians provide quality educational materials to all.
Watching these projects unfold over the last several months has been reaffirming for everyone at CC. The Affiliates are central to CC’s work, without whom we would simply not be closer to our goal of a more open internet.
Click here to find out the full details of the different grants, and read on to see what our 18 teams had to say on the results they achieved, motivations for their projects, the work still to be done, and lessons learned.
“We are pleased that we were able to impact the way the people who shared their stories with us think about the concept of sharing stories. Some people when they were asked before to share their suffering and their personal stories on video were not totally sure they wanted to do it, but after seeing the output of their stories reflected on by poets and artists from all over the world, we think we were able to provide them a platform to express themselves and feel part of a greater community that is sharing the same hopes and fears.
[We want to expand] the project concept to other marginalized communities around the world.”
-Bashar Lubbad, Palestine, “Hope Spoken/Broken: Change in the Eyes of Palestinian Refugees”
“The result was publication of a guide on free culture movements in Arabic and a website where it can be downloaded freely in e-book format: www.freecultureguide.net. We target artists, journalists, bloggers and other content creators and the general public who is unfamiliar to the free culture movement and concepts, as this is the first book of its kind in Arabic about this topic.”
-Ahmed Mansour, CC Morocco, “Creative BookSprint“
“Lack of consumer level tools is still seen as a major obstacle in CC adoption. WpLicense is now a tool that can be applied to millions of blogs.”
-Tarmo Toikkanen, CC Finland, “WordPress License Revived”
“More concretely, participants learnt how to: adapt traditional services to a non-traditional model; locate learning objects that can be reused under CC licence; investigate and use alternative publishing platforms; and apply project management processes to a hack project.”
-Matt McGregor, CC New Zealand, “Media Text Hack“
“Museums and other memory institutions in Taiwan often have their collections digitized.
A major part of the digitized works shall be in the public domain. However, many of these institutions often keep these works in the equivalents of digital safes, and there are no easy ways to access and reuse them. Together with Netivism Ltd. (a social enterprise based in Taipei) CC Taiwan engaged with memory institutions and independent collectors in Taiwan about the tools and practices for public domain repositories.
Exemplary public domain repositories are being setup using MediaGoblin (a free software package for hosting media collections) with new extensions developed for and supported by this project grant.”
-Tyng-Ruey Chuang, CC Taiwan, “Practices and Depositories for the Public Domain”
“As a result of the interaction, the students were able to experience the Open culture which has caused a boom in the Kenyan tech scene. They identified industries that were etched on the sole foundation of Open tools in Kenya and were able to understand more experientially than before, the importance of such ideals.”
-Simeon Oriko, CC Kenya, “School of Open Kenya Initiative“
“Obami, a platform for resource exchange for elementary school students, has seen a number of copyright violations. Instead of policing kids’ actions, the Creative Commons for Kids program will teach kids how to open and share their creative and educational works legally through the use of CC licenses […] introducing Creative Commons to the next generation of Africa.”
-Kelsey Wiens, CC South Africa, “Creative Commons For Kids”
“Despite all the work we have done, CC is still an unknown concept to most people in the Arab region. We live in a copy/paste region where it will take a lot of hard work for people to understand the concepts of attribution. After a series of CC presentations in local schools (ages 12 to 18), we found that CC awareness is almost non-existent. On the other hand, our videos at wezank.com have been very popular online and we believe that using this asset to spread CC’s mission & vision would be highly effective across the region. [… This project] is about creating content in Arabic for the CC community, and at any stage, anyone wishing to present CC in Arabic will be able to use those videos.”
-Maya Zankoul, CC Lebanon, “CC Simply Explained in Arabic“
“[Information is power]… In Africa, this rich geography of information doesn’t yet exist. And not because there isn’t the richness of knowledge, history or place, but, for a number of reasons, because there is little culture of contribution to the Internet.”
-Kelsey Wiens, Cross Regional Africa, “Activate Africa”
“If the government [in Japan] adopts CC BY or CC zero, data released under these terms will bring scalable impact on the public in a sense that it will help reuse of government data with minimum restrictions. The workshop materials are open to the public, and some of the attendees will learn to teach others, which give the project some ripple effects beyond its immediate outcomes.”
-Tomoaki Watanabe, CC Japan, “Workshops and Symposium for Open Data in Japan”
“In the Arab world there were several personalities who have a positive influence in the history of their country, in different areas. That’s why I wish to publish with the help of the Arab community, an Arabic book under CC license, which tells us their lives, stories, and their influence on their own countries.”
-Faiza Souici, CC Algeria, “Arabic Icons”
“In Colombia, libraries and librarians have become one of the important civil society groups that are collectively seeking information, understanding and participating in public spaces trying to redefine copyright as a tool for access to knowledge and not just as a source of income for some people. […] The material in this course will be open as a self-guided course that can be tapped on demand — individually, at a user-preferred time and date. Moreover, the course can be harnessed as a group, from a collective or specific institution, to be facilitated according to the possibilities and conditions of a given community.”
-Maritza Sanchez, CC Colombia / El Salvador / Uruguay, “An Online Course on Basic Copyright for Latinamerican Librarians”
Work on the Horizon
“Latin Americans are creating and freely making available high quality and innovative music independently from big companies. But it is necessary to work better on both musicians understanding their rights and the power of sharing.”
-Renata Avila, CC Guatemala, “Promoting Free Music in Central and South America”
“While Chile has encouraged the creation of open access journals nationwide, researchers with high rates of publication and citation do not see them as a real possibility when publishing. Any policy to promote the creation of journals in Chile should consider factors that give them an edge in the scientific circuit and thus becoming a real possibility by leading Chilean scientists.”
-Francisco Vera, CC Chile, “Promotion of Open Knowledge in the Chilean Academia: Ways to Facilitate Adoption of Creative Commons in the Academic World“
“The conclusion of this project is that there are only building blocks for Open Educational Resources (OER) in Romania since at the moment there is not a clear OER practice – only grassroots initiatives or projects with huge potential of becoming OER. Most of the projects we discovered in essence share the same philosophy behind OER, but they nevertheless omit to attribute a license for the created resources. In conclusion, more awareness and training activities are needed in order to reach a level of maturity regarding OER and their use.”
-Bogdan Manolea, CC Romania, “OER Awareness Activities for Librarians and Academics in Romania“
CC Romania / CC BY
“Because many pupils and students cannot access hard copy textbooks which are discouragingly expensive, the importance of Creative Commons licenses in closing the literacy gaps which have been brought about by income inequality cannot be overstated.”
-Moses Mulumba, CC Uganda, “Promoting Creative Commons Initiatives in Uganda“
“The lessons that I learnt and which I can share is that grants from CC headquarters however, small [has great] potential impact to CC Affiliates as it acts as catalysts to the Affiliates to keep things going and mobilizing other funds locally.”
-Paul Kihwelo, CC Tanzania, “Tanzania Creative Commons Salon“
“We learnt that there is a high level of interest in Creative Commons in Ireland, and a need to continuously engage with people who are interested in Creative Commons.”
-Darius Whelan, CC Ireland, “Awareness-raising Event in Dublin, January 2014”
started with that bold challenge. Now, the scrappy startup that dared has done it. One year old today, PeerJ, the peer-reviewed journal, has seen startling growth having published 232 articles under CC-BY 3.0 last year. By the way, per Scimago that number is more than what 90% of any other journal publishes in a year. Then in April 2013 PeerJ started publishing PeerJ PrePrints, the non-peer-reviewed preprint server with 186 PrePrints in 2013, all under CC BY 3.0.
Now PeerJ has more than 800 Academic Editors, from a wide variety of countries and institutions. There are also five Nobel Prize winners on the PeerJ Board. PeerJ receives submissions from all over the world, and covers all of the biological, health, medical sciences. As of the time of this post’s publication, the top subject areas for PeerJ submissions were
|Psychiatry and Psychology||47|
Not everything has been easy. Starting an entire publishing company from scratch has been a learning experience for the entire team. From no brand recognition, no history, no infrastructure etc. to having successfully established themselves in all the places that a publishing company should be in: archiving solutions; DOI issuing services; indexing services; membership of professional bodies; ISSN registrations etc. PeerJ has done very well. Last year PeerJ won the ALPSP Award for Publishing Innovation.
PeerJ’s vision/mission are deceptively simple:
- Keep Innovating
- Remember Whom We Serve
- Pass on the Savings
PeerJ decision-making process is fast, very fast. Authors get their first decision back in a median of 24 days. Being small, and non-traditional means they can take risks. They have built interesting functionality and models such as optional open peer review; Their business model is based on individuals purchasing low cost lifetime publication plans, and that has resulted in a lot of their functionality being very individual-centric.
Compared to traditional publishers, PeerJ is a very tech-focused company. They built all the technology themselves, quite unusual in the academic publishing world, which normally uses third parties for their peer-review software and publication platforms. By doing it themselves they have much more control over their destiny, cost, and can build functionality which suits their unique needs. The high percentage of authors describing their experience with PeerJ as their best publishing experience is arguably a direct result of this. Much of PeerJ’s software is open source, and their techie roots are evident in their engagement with the community via events such as Hack4ac, a hackday to specifically celebrate, ahem, CC BY!
Peter Binfield, Co-Founder, says:
We firmly believe that Open Access publishing is the future of the academic journal publishing system. With the current trends we see in the marketplace (including governmental legislation; institutional mandates; the rapid growth of the major OA publishers; and the increasing education and desire from authors) we believe that Open Access content will easily make up >50% of newly published content in the next 4 or 5 years.
Once all academic content is OA and under an appropriate re-use license we believe that significant new opportunities will emerge for people to use this content; to build on it for new discoveries and products; and to accelerate the scientific discovery process.
We regard the CC-BY license as the gold standard for OA Publications. Some other publishers provide authors with “NC” options, or try to write their own OA licenses, but we have a firm belief in the CC BY flavor. If there are many different OA licenses in play then it becomes increasingly difficult for users to determine what rights they have for any given piece of work, and so it is cleaner and simpler if everyone agrees on a single (preferably liberal) license. We were pleased to see the license updated to 4.0 and were quick to adopt it.
In Jan 2014, PeerJ moved to CC BY 4.0 for all articles newly submitted from that point onwards (prior articles remain under CC BY 3.0 of course). Today, on PeerJ’s first birthday, we at CC send PeerJ our best wishes, and look forward to ever more courageous, even outrageous innovations from this precocious one year old.Comments Off
Dan Gillmor talks about the challenges and rewards of publishing “Mediactive” under Creative Commons
Dan Gillmor is a journalist and established author, having previously published We the Media back in 2004 under a CC BY-NC-SA license. His subject is the changing landscape of media, and the focus of his first book was on distributed, grassroots journalism and its effect on the Big Media monopoly of news. Six years later, We the Media is still in print, and Dan talks about how this encouraged him to stick to his principles when publishing his second book, Mediactive, under Creative Commons as well. Dan turned down a publishing deal with a major New York publisher because they would not allow the CC license. In a reflection well worth reading, he writes,
“Almost a decade after Creative Commons was founded, and despite ample evidence that licensing copyrighted works this way doesn’t harm sales, book publishers remain mostly clueless about this option, or hostile to it. As David explained to editors, the main reason I’m still getting royalty checks for We the Media is that the book has been available as a free download since the day it went into bookstores. This is how word about it spread. Had we not published it that way, given the indifference (at best) shown by American newspapers and magazines, the book would have sunk without a trace.”
Also Mediactive “isn’t just a book; at least, not in the way most publishers understand books, even as they dabble online. And if a principle means anything to you, you stick by it when doing so is inconvenient, not just when it’s easy.”
Sticking by his principles seems to have paid off, as just three days after publishing Mediactive under CC BY-NC-SA online, 1,500 visitors to his site downloaded the book, and more viewed pieces of it online. At this point, Dan notes that “Far few have purchased the book, of course, but it’s selling — and I’ve barely begun the real marketing process, which will take place in the new year.”
Without Creative Commons and the internet, Mediactive would still be on the publishing floor somewhere:
“Incidentally, had I signed with a traditional publisher, the book would not have reached the marketplace for a year or more from the date when I signed. With a company like Lulu, you wrap up the project and you’re off to the races. In a fast-moving area like media, that’s a huge benefit to foregoing the standard route.”
One venue for the advancement of Open Educational Resources (OER) is through policy change at the local, state, federal, and international levels. In addition to a new Education landing page and an OER portal that explains Creative Commons’ role as the legal and technical infrastructure behind OER, CC has been conducting a series of interviews to help clarify some of the challenges and opportunities of OER in today’s education landscape. We caught up with Karen Fasimpaur, a blogger, author, creator of the Kids Open Dictionary, and co-founder of K12 Open Ed.
You run a small educational technology company. Can you briefly explain your business and how it relates to OER? Can you describe your past work and how it’s lead to what you’re doing now?
For almost 10 years, our company, K12 Handhelds, has worked with schools to integrate mobile technology into the curriculum. That work includes professional development, curriculum development, and coaching and mentoring to help facilitate differentiation of instruction, which is a key to reversing the engagement and achievement gaps that challenge our schools today. In the course of that work, I discovered open resources as a solution to several issues. The biggest was that in trying to customize curriculum resources (textbooks, etc.) for use on mobile devices and use with a variety of learners, we have always had difficulty with traditional proprietary content. In some cases, publishers wouldn’t extend rights for us to do this for schools. In other cases, when we were allowed to do this, the technical work required was expensive and time consuming due to proprietary formats. OER has been a great solution to this.
In addition, we work with teachers and students to create multimedia products, such as podcasts, web sites, multimedia book reports, etc. I always try to make sure students (and teachers) understand copyright and what is legal to use and what is not. Before open resources, it was a challenge to find resources that students could use legally, especially when they want to publish to the Internet. Now, with so much great content licensed under CC and other open licenses, the sky’s the limit. Students love using this content and learning about copyright and open resources.
Beyond that, I have come to really appreciate the philosophy of OER. The K-12 education community is naturally inclined to share, so OER really makes sense in so many ways.
You’ve written extensively on your blog about the potential for cost savings with OER. A lot of policymakers and champions of “open” rely on a cost-savings argument–not surprising, given the state of the economy over the past few years. Can OER save money and how should this be situated within the larger case for OER?
Perhaps, even more importantly in K-12, reform of the traditional core curriculum adoption and purchasing systems, can result in cost savings to schools. Doing things like unbundling textbook and ancillary purchases, allowing flexibility in how instructional materials funds are spent, and encouraging more collaborative participation in the development process are all important.
The most important thing about OER is not that it saves money in the short term, but that it is beneficial to learning by allowing more customization and differentiation. Ultimately, that will also save money by allowing schools to spend funds on the content and services that best serve their students and by improving student engagement and achievement.
A substantial concern around supporting open educational resources is the impression that the OER model, which releases content for free under an open license, will turn the traditional commercial publishing model on its head, especially within the textbook industry. At the same time, startups like Flat World Knowledge have demonstrated viable business models around OER, and that could benefit digital textbook adoption initiatives. How can we encourage new business models around OER, and what is the future of the publishing industry?
The traditional publishing industry has been struggling over the last few years and, like most of our world, is facing change. The industry needs to be more responsive to customer needs and to help facilitate more flexibility in how schools provide instructional materials. Open educational resources is one of they many factors that will likely help bring this about.
Having worked in both commercial textbook and software publishing myself, I understand the business challenges and believe that there are exciting new business models around OER. In particular, income can be generated around customization services, professional development, and premium add-ons. This not only gives publishers a sustainable profit model, but it allows schools to shift spending from expensive, proprietary textbooks to customized services packages in order to improve learning.
There will always be a role for the commercial publishing industry, and I hope that there will be more conversations with the OER community to find ways we can collaborate for the benefit of teachers and learners.
There is much discussion around what “open” means, and sometimes related terms are used, such as free/freely available/open source/digital/online. How do you feel about these differences in terminology, and what do you think is the best path forward for the OER movement?
The discussion of what “open” means can sound like tiresome semantics, but it is really important. To me, “open” means that materials can be used, adapted, and redistributed freely by anyone. “Open” does not mean simply free or digital. There are many educational resources that are free and digital, but proprietary, and those resources don’t have the instructional benefits of OER.
The OER movement would be well-served by getting this message out to educators. In presenting to groups of educators across the country, I find that it is an easy message for people to understand and that it is very well received by policymakers, administrators, and teachers, but unfortunately are not familiar with OER right now.
How do you see the role of Creative Commons within the OER movement? How can CC help?
Creative Commons has been a tremendous leader and mover in the OER movement. Without the simple-to-understand CC licenses and all the great open content that CC has helped make available to the world, OER wouldn’t be as strong as it is. In the future, Creative Commons can continue to help by getting the word out about open content and CC licenses to encourage more and more people to use these resources and to license their own work that way.
Wrapping up, what does a successful teaching and learning environment implementing the power of OER “look like”? Do you have any lingering thoughts — worries, hopes, predictions?
Successful teaching and learning, with or without OER, includes differentiated learning opportunities, high engagement, and active participatory environments. While OER is not necessary to these, they certainly greatly facilitate this kind of environment. I believe that OER can really drive a powerful new model of learning. My worries for the future of OER are that the powerful commercial publishing lobby will fight OER adoption and that the word will be slow to get out to teachers about the power of this tool set. My hopes are that every teacher and learner will experience the power of differentiated instruction and see how OER can help enliven their learning experience. My predictions are that OER will change traditional publishing models; that printed, static textbooks will be a thing of the past relatively soon; and that change will be the only constant.1 Comment »
We’d like to point out GOOD’s latest interview from its “We Like to Share” series by Eric Steuer—“Frances Pinter on the (Academic) Value of Sharing.” Frances elaborates on Bloomsbury Academic‘s decision to license their academic publications via CC BY-NC, academics’ need for exposure, and the changing landscape in publishing,
“So much of academic output is now available on the web, and when you talk to academics they are not 100 percent happy with how difficult it is becoming to find their works. They are looking for tools; a digital means of selecting, filtering, and ranking the materials they are using and recommending. We are actually in a period of transition where we are still relying on the old, but wanting to experiment with the new. People like myself who spend a lot of time with the open access crowd can kind of forget there are a lot of academics who aren’t so vocal, who are primarily interested in producing their content, getting materials in front of their students, and getting their promotion and their recognition for work that they produce.
In this period of transition there is a lot of investment required in experimenting with new technologies. And with the experimenting of new technologies, we have to make sure the recognition and the openness is absolutely essential and part of it.”
The interview is also available in audio, and if you want to learn more about Frances and Bloomsbury Academic, be sure to check out the longer ccLearn interview with her from last year, as part of our Inside OER series.
All GOOD “We Like to Share” interviews are available to share via CC BY.Comments Off
One of the most exciting sub-movements within open education is the current revolution regarding the evolution of textbooks. Old-fashioned publishers would often (and still do) rack up prices to hundreds of dollars per textbook, but this business model is rapidly changing to favor vastly cheaper educational resources based on more open licensing policies. One driver is that the information in textbooks becomes outdated the minute it comes out in print, to the point that what is being taught in schools is often inaccurate. Open textbooks better represent the dynamic nature of information because they are themselves dynamic. They can be manufactured collaboratively over the internet, are digital and thereby easily editable, and are openly licensed so that anyone can update the information in the future. The premise is that you should never have to throw out old content — only improve upon it.
At the COSL Open Education Conference this year, Susan Dean, along with others, presented on Sustainability Models for Community College Open Textbooks. Her presentation was based on her own path towards open textbook publishing. She and Dr. Barbara Illowsky developed, over a number of years, the textbook Collaborative Statistics. Today, it is freely available for access and derivation via CC BY on the Connexions platform, but for Susan and Barbara, obtaining the rights to the book and cementing a publisher and platform were far from easy.
Below are Susan’s and Barbara’s take on the path they chose. I was lucky enough to catch up to them via email and ask a few questions — about themselves, Collaborative Statistics, and open textbooks in general.
Can you say a few words about yourselves and your background in education? What drew you to academia in the first place? As an academic, how have your conceptions of education evolved?
I earned a secondary teaching credential to teach high school math and art and taught high school for the next four years. I went back to school in computer science and worked for Honeywell and Hewlett-Packard and then was hired by De Anza College to teach math at the same time as I was working on a master’s degree in applied math at Santa Clara University.
I grew up poor but always did well in school and received a lot of attention from teachers, several of whom were outstanding. I have always found math along with marine biology highly interesting and would tutor other students in both subjects in high school and found it fun. I also tutored students, including blind and deaf students, in college. These factors combined to make me want to teach.
I have become a “hands-on” teacher in math. Students, especially developmental students, learn best by “doing” and by working in groups. I believe in having students use technology to help them learn.
I tutored in college and really enjoyed it. I did not plan on becoming an instructor, though. In graduate school, I had a teaching scholarship and found that I loved teaching. I loved helping students; I loved when they were successful, especially after a hard struggle to learn.
About 15 years ago, I became interested in the scholarship of teaching and learning. I researched pedagogy and andragogy (the theory of adult learning). Since completing my PhD, I have continued to study the learning process.
I now understand education to be much more of a life time process, than I had previously thought, as well as effective instruction to be much more constructivist than how most educators teach.
In your opinion, what are the important ways in which community and four year colleges differ — in terms of degrees granted, student populations, educational needs and challenges…?
Community colleges are for students who want a particular certificate (usually for a job), who want an AA or AS, who want to transfer to a four year school or who are interested in particular subjects. Four year colleges, for the most part, are for students who want a four year degree. Four year colleges typically have “academic” majors. Many students would not go to college if there were no community colleges. Among a myriad of services, community colleges provide developmental help in English and math if students need it (and about 80% who come to the community colleges do), provide transfer programs, offer counseling that not only gives students advisory help for classes and programs but provides personal guidance as well, offer excellent financial advice for those students who need financial help and are cheaper than four year colleges.
Community colleges enroll almost half of all undergraduate students in the U.S. As a result, a good many community colleges are extremely diverse in student populations (De Anza College is a very good example) and the preparedness of the students is wider than at a UC or CSU or private college or university.
How do you envision Collaborative Statistics being used in the classroom?
Collaborative Statistics has been used in the classroom for about 15 years. The book is intended to complement an elementary course in statistics that is collaborative and practical. Students work in groups to apply what they have learned to complete data driven labs and projects. The book was written to accommodate this mode of classroom activity. It was also written with English as a second language (ESL) students in mind and has been used successfully over the years with many ESL students.
From what I understood from your presentation (Susan) at COSL OpenEd ’08, writing Collaborative Statistics was far from the hardest part. The book was originally published with a commercial publisher under all rights reserved copyright. What triggered the need to open up these rights?
We acquired the rights back from the publisher so that we could lower the cost of the book. We had found that too many of our students struggled to pay for their books especially as the price of books went up (the cost increase has been dramatic over the years). So, when we had the chance to open up the rights to the book and make it free online, we were ready to do it.
Can you tell us a bit about the process you had to go through to convert to an open license? What were the steps you took? What were the roughest bumps in the road?
Martha Kanter, Chancellor of the Foofthill-De Anza Community College District, is very interested in open educational resources. She is acquainted with Bob Maxfield of the non-profit Maxfield Foundation (associated with Rice University). She recommended our book to Bob Maxfield who in turn made the book available to the Connexions Project of Rice University. Since we had control of the book (we published it), it was our decision to acquire an open license. The roughest bumps involved the amount of time it took to find the right organization for our book.
If you could give a piece of advice to other textbook authors and/or teachers who wish to publish their work openly, what would it be?
Do it! Think of the many students and faculty who could benefit from your work.
Why did you choose CC BY, as opposed to one of the more restrictive licenses?
We chose the license that Connexions requested for the least restrictions. Plus, the least restrictive license allows for the most freedom of improvement of a product.
What would you say to someone who was worried about commercial uses of their work?
Choose an organization like Connexions to publish on the Web. Connexions allows and encourages users to collaboratively develop, freely share and quickly publish content on the Web. Anyone who uses any part of someone else’s content can modify the content but must give attribution to the authors of the content.
Open textbooks are certainly taking off in a big way these days, what with Connexions, Flatworld Knowledge, CK12 Foundation’s Flexbooks, and the recent bill signed into law enabling California Community Colleges to establish OER pilot programs. What do you think specifically about this bill — AB 2261? Will you be involved with the execution of this bill, considering your ties with De Anza Community College? If not, how do you see the program working?
We are highly in favor of AB 2261. We are not involved with the execution of the bill. Article 2 of AB 2261 lays out a plan for the program including a possible lead community college to coordinate the planning and development of the pilot program. Especially important is Article 2 part (c) (3) which deals with developing “a community college professional development course that introduces faculty, staff, and college course developers to the concept, creation, content, and production methodologies that enable OER to be offered to students in community college classes.”
Lastly, what is the future of open textbooks? What would you say we have to change in order for open education to be maximally effective?
Open textbooks are here to stay! Connexions has much improved our book with what they have done on the cnx.org site. They have broken down the content into modules that can be linked together and arranged in different ways. We are sure that the other organizations that are involved in open educational resources have done something similar. There has to be some kind of massive ad campaign (similar to what California did with the big propositions in the recent November 2008 election but keep it honest) that shows the great benefits of open educational resources. The ad must target everyone but especially faculty to show them the great educational possibilities that exist, the fact that the resources are easy to use and the fact that the resources are free.8 Comments »
Recently, we had a chance to speak with Frances Pinter, Publisher of Bloomsbury Academic, a new imprint launched by Bloomsbury Publishing Plc last month. Frances has been in the publishing industry since she was 23, when she started her own academic publishing house, Pinter Publishers. She comes to Bloomsbury Academic as the former Publishing Director of the Soros Foundation, where she “directed major projects aimed at reforming publishing in Central & Eastern Europe,” “pioneered ventures offering libraries affordable digital access to thousands of learned journals,” and “enabled the digital publication of a major Russian encyclopedia.”
The new publishing model consists of releasing works for free online through a Creative Commons or other open license, and then offering print-on-demand (POD) copies at reasonable prices. The University of Michigan’s Espresso Book Machine adheres to this model at $10 per public domain book, as does Flatworld Knowledge and Lulu.com. Bloomsbury Plc, a leading European publisher housing works such as Harry Potter, takes a similar step with Bloomsbury Academic, which will publish works in the Humanities and Social Sciences exclusively under non-commercial CC licenses. Their first title, Remix: Making art and commerce thrive in the hybrid economy, will be available for download soon, and is authored by our very own Lawrence Lessig, board member and former CEO of Creative Commons.
In a follow-up conversation over email, I asked Frances questions that cropped up during a phone call with our Executive Director, Ahrash Bissell, some eight time zones apart (from San Francisco to London). Her responses are below.
You have a lot of experience in publishing, having started your own academic publishing house, Pinter Publishers, at the age of 23. You’re also coming from the Soros Foundation, which supports open society activities. How did your prior experiences lead you to your current role as publisher for Bloomsbury Academic? Was there something specific about your first publishing enterprise that inspired your current commitment to publishing reform and the open book model?
At Pinter Publishers I was always interested in what was new coming out of the social sciences. One list that we pioneered thirty years ago was around the social and economic implications of new technology. Now all and more (and in some cases less) than what was predicted then has, or is, coming true. Working in Central and Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union while at the Soros Foundation gave me an insight into how stultifying closed societies were, and how important it is to level the playing field when it comes to access to knowledge. Now I’m in a position to make a contribution to taking forward some of the new business approaches in the digital age and improve access to knowledge. It is a thrilling opportunity.
Can you say a few words about Bloomsbury Academic and how it’s a departure from the Bloomsbury Publishing model? What prompted the folks at Bloomsbury to develop this new initiative?
Bloomsbury Publishing Plc is a wonderful company full of the best of traditional publishing values. Now that they’ve been so successful with Harry Potter, they are looking to diversify and specialize, and academic publishing has become a priority. Of course, the idea of putting the complete content of a book online is still seen as radical by many in the publishing industry. However, the Bloomsbury people took a look beyond the horizon and could see that something other than the traditional business models needed to be tested. I brought them the idea of allowing content to be online through a Creative Commons Attribution, Non-commercial license (CC BY-NC), with enough early evidence that this would work. We’ll now see whether it [works] on a larger scale and within the confines of a company that must stay commercial to survive.
Our business model is simple. We may lose some print sales because of free access, but we will gain other sales because more people will want the print edition. Librarians know that most people do not want to read a 300 page book on screen and that once you have more than two or three people printing out a book in a university, it is cheaper to just buy a copy for the library – and it is much more environmentally friendly. We will also have flexibility on how we produce the printed copies – whether through traditional printing methods or print on demand (POD). We hope to show that digital and print [copies] can co-exist for certain types of publications for some time to come, and be financially sustainable.
On your website, Bloomsbury Academic is described as “employing the latest solutions in digital publishing.” What problems are the solutions addressing? In other words, what are the current challenges in publishing? How is Bloomsbury Academic hoping to overcome these challenges? And more specifically, what are the latest solutions being employed?
We are still working on our platform, and it will be some time before it is fully operational. However, for academic material the metadata is crucial. Search, interoperability are all key factors. Yet, how to set something up in this transition period that will be flexible enough to adapt while standards are settling down is the key challenge.
Why did Bloomsbury Academic choose Creative Commons licensing, as opposed to other open content licensing, for its new imprint? How do you think Bloomsbury Academic’s goals are similar to Creative Commons’?
Creative Commons is the best known license for this kind of publishing. There are still some issues with it, such as defining very precisely what is ‘commercial’. However, we felt that on balance it was best to go with a license that had such wide recognition. One reason for putting the whole text online free of charge is to avoid all the fuss and confusion that arises when publishers allow odd excerpts online and free downloads for limited periods etc. This may be good PR, but better to have a policy that is more focused on delivering what authors and readers want – which is to use the Web as a library. This is especially true of academic works.
In the early 2000s battle lines were drawn between publishers who sought refuge behind copyright laws and academics who were pushing for open access. I thought this was unfortunate because too much energy was spent hurling abuse across the trenches. I think much has changed recently and both sides realise that a) the added value that the publishing process brings is desirable b) this costs money whether done inside a publishing house or outside of it and c) that by working out some new models together we might just get to where we need to be more quickly than otherwise. I’m getting lots of cooperation from all sides and actually everyone wants our business model to work.
I have heard that you are spearheading pilot projects testing “the viability of CC licensing” in South Africa and Uganda. How is that going?
PALM – Africa is a project funded by the International Development Research Centre (IDRC) of Canada. PALM stands for Publishing and Alternative Licensing Models. We were aiming to introduce open content licensing and its benefits to a wide range of publishers. There were a few precedents, indeed, the HSRC Press in Cape Town has been a lone pioneer in this area for a few years now. And New Vision, a Ugandan newspaper saw their sales double when they put their content online free of charge – though they hadn’t actually licensed it. Now they are fans of Creative Commons.. So far the interest by commercial and non-commercial publishers has greatly exceeded our expectations. There is still another year to go with the PALM Project, but your readers can find out more from http://www.idrc.ca/acacia/ev-117012-201-1-DO_TOPIC.html
Interoperability is a major issue when it comes to open content licensing, especially in education as educators and researchers are looking not only to access materials, but to be able to remix, reformat, and redistribute the materials so that they are effective within diverse cultural, individual and institutional contexts. What are your thoughts on this? How does Bloomsbury Academic plan to address the issue of interoperability?
Interoperability on a technical level is important. The extent to which authors want to allow remix and reformatting is something we will encourage but I can see that in certain instances this may not be what an author wants. Our approach will be to let authors have the option to choose the no derivatives option if they wish, but I hope this won’t be needed in most cases.
Lastly, what can we expect from Bloomsbury Academic in the future?
Firstly, you can expect something right away, at least in some parts of the world. We are publishing this month the book REMIX: Making Art and Culture Thrive in the Hybrid Economy, by Lawrence Lessig. I have to say, this is not the typical type of book for Bloomsbury Academic – but it does illustrate the strength of the company behind me. Larry had already signed a contract with Penguin Press for the USA and Canada. His agent was about to start selling the UK and Commonwealth rights this autumn. The book was offered to me even though we only opened our doors on September the 5th. I grabbed it and we put it through the so called ‘trade’ channels of Bloomsbury, meaning that we could publish in paperback and were able to get it stocked in bookstores. Penguin and Bloomsbury will be competing with one another in the rest of the world – which we in publishing refer to as an ‘open market’. Our edition is less expensive – so I hope good old market forces will be on our side!
However, most of our books will be scholarly books for the academic market and our core sales will be to libraries, though I hope individual scholars and students will also purchase our books when they want a break from reading on screen. I am in the process of hiring staff and setting up systems, and the first titles in the social sciences and humanities can be expected some time in 2009.
I’m planning a number of series that cut across subject areas that are relevant in today’s world. For instance I’d like to publish a series on access to knowledge that covers all aspects of intellectual property rights and how they impact access to medicine, arts and culture, access to knowledge and the coming vexed issues around nanotechnology. I think there is a lot of fundamental social research that can help explain the unease people are feeling about the way our world is going. And, of course, we will feature development studies. It is important for developing countries to share their research with the rest of the world and for audiences that do not have access to printed materials to be able to access research that has policy implications for them.
For more about Frances’ view of the new publishing model, see her presentation–“The Transformation of Academic Publishing in the Digital Era“–given at the Oxford Internet Institute.Comments Off