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     May 18, 2001

Call for $18 billion endowment for digital content

The United States has made $17 billion since 1993 auctioning off bands of the radio spectrum to the highest bidder, and is expected to make another $18 billion before 2010.  What should we do with this money?

Last month the Digital Promise Project called on the government to invest $18 billion of this revenue and use the interest to fund non-profit digital initiatives to enhance American education.  The interest on such an endowment could easily be $1 billion per year.  The endowment would fund educational technologies, teacher training, and free online content of many kinds.

The money would be distributed by a new non-profit, non-government agency called the Digital Opportunity Investment Trust (DO IT), which would do for education what NIH does for health and the NSF does for science.  The Digital Promise Project draws a very interesting analogy between its proposal to sell public radio spectrum in order to create digital content for education and the 19th century sale of public lands in order to create land-grant colleges and universities.

Two phrases used at the project web site suggest that FOS could benefit directly. First, DO IT would be charged to "digitize America's collected memory stored in our nation's universities, libraries, and museums to make these materials available for use at home, school, and work."  Second, it would use "new technologies to disseminate the best of our arts and culture locally, regionally, nationally, and even globally."  Am I reading too much into these phrases?

The phrases might refer to a newly digital and interactive public broadcasting system, a cause close to the hearts of the report's two authors, Lawrence Grossman and Newton Minow.  Grossman is a former president of PBS and NBC News, and Minow is a former chairman of the FCC and board member of PBS.

Grossman and Minow aren't the only mainstream heavyweights associated with this project.  It's sponsored by the Carnegie Corporation, the Century Foundation, the Knight Foundation, the MacArthur Foundation, and the Open Society Institute.  This is a very large and hopeful amount of heft to be thrown behind non-profit digital content for education.

We don't know yet what President Bush and leaders of Congress think of the project.  But Bush's recent budget proposal earmarks $7.5 billion of the proceeds of the spectrum auction for other purposes.

The Digital Promise Project

The Digital Promise Report and 17 background papers

Press release announcing report (best short description of project)

Radio spectrum auction receipts
From the Congressional Budget Office


Declaration of independence

Which metaphor --divorce or revolution-- do you like better for the act of a journal breaking from its for-profit publisher and becoming free?  I used divorce in the last issue, but here is a call to revolution.

Earlier this year SPARC and the Triangle Research Libraries Network launched a campaign to help journals declare independence from their existing publishers and find new forms of publication which will serve their true academic mission.  The campaign consists of a web site and a 17-page handbook for journal editors, subtitled "A Guide to Creating Community-Controlled Science Journals."  The handbook helps editors understand the wide range of their publishing options.  It contains a checklist of questions about the economic state of a journal, and tips on evaluating how various alternatives will meet the needs of the scientific community served by a journal.

If you're not a journal editor, send the URLs below to the editors of your favorite journals --and to those whose journals you would buy if only you could afford the price.

SPARC and a few partners have created web site ("Create Change") to follow-through on the handbook.  The web site offers tools for faculty and librarians to help the cause.  For example, among the tools for faculty are sample letters refusing to referee papers, resigning from an editorial board, or protesting a journal's subscription price.

In 1776, would you have distributed leaflets in the town square calling for independence?  Will you do so today in our electronic commons?

SPARC announcement in its newsletter of launch of the DI campaign

Declaring Independence (handbook)

Create Change


After Harvard, still no freedom

When Harvard president Neil L. Rudenstine leaves office on July 1, he will become the half-time chairman of ArtSTOR, a non-profit archive of digital images for teaching and research in art and architecture.

ArtSTOR is funded by the Mellon Foundation, and based on two earlier Mellon initiatives, the Academic Image Cooperative (1999) and JSTOR (1995).  Rudenstine was the executive vice president of the Mellon Foundation before becoming Harvard's president.

The Mellon press release talks so much about widening access to these images, and helping teachers and students, that you might get the impression that ArtSTOR will distribute its images without charge.  But the press release never quite says that.  The fact that ArtSTOR is non-profit is not decisive.  JSTOR is non-profit, but it charges subscription fees just like a print publisher.  The only way that JSTOR widens access to its participating journals is to put them on the internet.  ArtSTOR seems to be based on the same model.

For the images in the collection which are not in the public domain, ArtSTOR will acquire perpetual and non-exclusive rights to electronic distribution.  This is perhaps the chief cost it will want to recoup through its subscription fees.

I'm feeling deja vu here, and it's not just the echo of JSTOR.  Look up ArtSTOR in a search engine and you'll see that the Mellon entity isn't online yet and that a German data-storage company already uses the name.  Do you remember the saga of eToys.com?  The well-funded online toy vendor thought it could buy or litigate its way out of a name conflict with a colony of Swiss concept artists, etoy.com.  The Swiss artists lost the first court battle but won the war.  eToys.com filed for bankruptcy on March 1 of this year.

Mellon Foundation press release

The Academic Image Co-operative


ArtSTOR (the German data-storage company)


Free digital texts in the classroom

Benjamin Ray is teaching the Salem Witch trials at the University of Virginia.  A couple of years ago he rounded up rare and important documents on the trials and digitized them through his university's Electronic Text Center.  Now he has downloaded the documents in Microsoft Reader format to a bunch of Hewlett- Packard Journadas.  (The $450 handheld Journadas used as e-book readers were on loan from Microsoft for this experiment.)  Ray's students come to class with all the documents instantly accessible and searchable in the palms of their hands. When an historical claim comes up in class, they can consult the documents in real time to assess the historian's reading of the sources.

Ray has put the same documents on the web free of charge.  But until we have fast and wireless web access, texts are more useful for teaching when they are not only free and online, but also portable.  A Journada's memory will hold about 90 average sized books.

Read about Ray's classroom experience in the current _Chronicle of Higher Education_.  You can guess the pedagogical gain from this technology.  But before you read the article, can you guess the loss?

In the same issue of the _Chronicle_ there is an article on student resistance to e-textbooks.  These texts are not free.  But apart from that difference, both stories raise the question whether free online scholarship may be an unqualified good for research but only a qualified good for teaching.  Since I wrote on this subject in 1992, I've added a link to my thoughts among the citations below.

Jeffrey Young, A University That Reveres Tradition Experiments With E-Books
From the _Chronicle of Higher Education_

Witchcraft in Salem Village (Benjamin Ray's online texts)

University of Virginia Electronic Text Center

Goldie Blumenstyk, Publishers Promote E-Textbooks, but Many Students and
Professors Are Skeptical
From the _Chronicle of Higher Education_

Peter Suber, The Database Paradox
From _Library Hi-Tech_


Kofi Annan speaks

Yesterday, May 17, was World Telecommunications Day.  As part of the day's observance, U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan made the following statement.

"Knowledge has long been synonymous with power, but with the advent of the Internet, access to knowledge is quickly becoming a requirement for power whether social, political, or economic. In our increasingly interconnected world, we must work together to see that all people have access to the knowledge the Internet has to offer. On this day, let us commit ourselves to that task, and let us make our efforts a bridge that spans the 'digital divide.'"

Excerpts from Annan's speech

The Digital Divide Network



* I recently reported on new deals ebrary.com has struck with academic book publishers.  Ebrary is in the news again because John Warnock, co-founder of Adobe Systems, has joined its board.  Ebrary uses Adobe's PDF format in its e-books, and Warnock's son, Christopher, is the ebrary CEO.

Publishing Start-up Captures Adobe Veteran


* I recently reported on Time-Warner's iPublish, an attempt to discover the good books rejected by commercial publishers.  This week the Authors Guild issued a strong statement against the program, criticizing it for giving authors too few rights in their intellectual property, too little money in advances and royalties, and too little control over their future writings.

Time Warner E-Book Contract Could be Big Mistake for First-Time Authors
From the Authors Guild Online




* A new study by the Content Intelligence group of Lyra Research shows that Americans prefer the internet to magazines 3 to 1 for finding personal and special interest information, and almost 7 to 1 for work-related information.

Internet Becoming Preferred Information Source
From CyberAtlas

* A new study by Scarborough Research shows that users who read news on the internet use print newspapers less than before, contradicting the results of a survey from _Editor and Publisher_ magazine which I summarized in a past issue.

Study: Web Trounces Magazines as the Favorite Information [Source]
From C|Net News.com

Internet Use Found to Reduce Traditional Media Consumption
From _Inside_ magazine

Web Sites Don't Cannibalize Print
From _Editor and Publisher_ magazine
(First mentioned in our 5/7/01 issue.)

* A new study by Freedom House reports that 42% of 131 nations studied are "moderately restrictive" in their internet policies, and 14% are "most restrictive".  Despite this, the report concludes that internet freedom exceeds press freedom in most countries.

Global Press Freedom Improves
Freedom House press release with a link to the full report


In other publications

* If you missed the recent (March 2001) publication of the 86-page GAO report on "Electronic Dissemination of Goverment Publications," as I did, then you can find it on the web.  The report recommends making more government documents available free of charge on the web in order to reduce costs and increase accessibility.  Sound familiar?

* The latest (April 2001) ALR Bimonthly Report contains a summary of the Public Library of Science initiative and reprints the open letter which launched it.

* The latest (April 2001) issue of the Journal of Digital Information is devoted to Networked Knowledge Organization Systems.

* The latest (May 2001) issue of D-Lib Magazine contains an overview of CrossRef at its first birthday.

* You might already know this, but I just discovered that ScienceWeek offers free subscriptions to residents of developing countries.  For this purpose a "developing country" is any country below the top 28 in GNP, which are listed on the web site.



If any readers plan to attend one of the following conferences, please share your observations with us through our discussion forum.

Preservation in the Digital Age
Paris, May 27-30

Electronic Cultural Atlas Initiative
Sydney, June 12-16

Digital Past, Digital Future: An Introduction to Digital Preservation
San Francisco, June 15 (OCLC session at ALA Annual Conference)


The FOS Newsletter is still very young and I'm building the subscription list.  You could help the cause by forwarding copies to colleagues who might wish to subscribe. 

Did you know that there is a discussion forum attached to this newsletter?  Did you know that it contains all our back issues, or that back issues and discussion postings are searchable?


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Peter Suber

Copyright (c) 2001, Peter Suber

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