Won’t get fooled again? Why is there no iTunes for scholarly and scientific publishing?

In the inaugural BBC John Peel Lecture, The Who‘s Pete Townshend described the music publishing business as being historically like “a form of banking in many ways”:

In cooperation with record labels – active artists have always received from the music industry banking system more than banking. They’ve gotten…

1. editorial guidance

2. financial support

3. creative nurture

4. manufacturing

5. publishing

6. marketing

7. distribution

8. payment of royalties (the banking)

(A full transcript can be found here; video here (full) and here (excerpt))

Mutatis mutandis, much the same can be said for other forms of publishing as well: scientific/scholarly and commercial book publication, even film development and distribution. In each case, historically, the distributors of the content also generally have been responsible to a greater or lesser extent for nurturing and supporting its development. Individual segments of the market have dropped or added to Townshend’s list of functions (adding peer review, for example, in addition to editorial functions, or focus-group testing final product before distribution). But on the whole, Townshend’s list is pretty complete. In the pre-Internet era, publishing was generally the province of highly vertically integrated organisations: the same group tended to oversee the production process from the submission of the original manuscript, idea, or prospectus to the final distribution of sales income.

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When everyone’s super… On gaming the system

For most of the last century, university researchers have been evaluated on their ability to “write something and get it into print… ‘publish or perish’” (as Logan Wilson put it as early as 1942 in The Academic Man: A Study in the Sociology of a Profession, one of the first print citations of the term).

As you might expect, the development of a reward system built on publication led to a general increase in number of publications.

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If I were “You”: How Academics Can Stop Worrying and Learn to Love “the Encyclopedia that Anyone Can Edit”

The sense that the participatory web represents a storming of the informational Bastille is shared by many scholars in our dealings with the representative that most closely touches on our professional lives—the Wikipedia, “the encyclopedia that anyone can edit”. University instructors (and even whole departments) commonly forbid students from citing the Wikipedia in their work (Fung 2007). Praising it on an academic listserv is still a reliable way of provoking a fight. Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales’s suggestion that college students should not cite encyclopedias, including his own, as a source in their work is gleefully misrepresented in academic trade magazines and blogs (e.g. Wired Campus 2006). Read the rest of this entry »

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