Welcome to the Free Online Scholarship Newsletter July 31, 2001
Because of the ebrary and Sklyarov stories, I've been visiting a lot of e-book sites recently. I still think the FOS movement is primarily about journals, but this is a week for a lengthy digression into e-books.
First ebrary e-books now online
ebrary has an interesting business plan for putting academic books online. They are free for users to read and search, and only cost money to copy or print. Copy and print charges are on a "photocopy" model at roughly $0.25 per page.
In recent months ebrary has been lining up academic publishers as partners. So far it has recruited California, Cambridge, Columbia, McGraw-Hill, MIT, Pearson, Springer, Stanford, Taylor & Francis, Yale, and just about as many more. During this time we could see the momentum building, but we couldn't see the texts themselves until July 25. The first public beta is offered through the Learning Network and is limited to books on business and economics.
First-time users must install ebrary's InfoTools, a set of navigation aids, printer controls, font settings, and other utilities. The tools are compatible with both Netscape and Explorer, and install themselves almost as soon as you consent to download them.
I viewed a sample book by Peter Garber on historical manias. Sure enough, I could read and search the full-text without charge. The navigation aids are unobtrusive but a bit slow. You must load each page individually (no auto-scrolling with your mouse wheel), and endure long waits to jump any distance forward or backward. There is a search box to search across a collection of books, which is very handy, but there is no search box for individual books. To search for a term within a given book, you must find it in the text and highlight it. Then you can click an option to search the book for that term. Searches always start at the beginning of the book, even if you'd rather start where you are, and they highlight all occurrences of the search term in the book. I could not figure out how to turn off the highlighting when I had found what I wanted.
If you highlight even one word of text, and try to copy or print it, a dialog box pops up asking you to log in to your account, or create a new account, in order to make the purchase. If you try to get sneaky and use your browser's print command rather than the InfoTools print command, then you waste a sheet of paper printing an admonition that this won't work. Clearly InfoTools is more than a toolkit. Some piece of code is telling my browser not to print the text it is displaying.
There are some minor problems to work out: navigation is slow, searching is inflexible and non-intuitive, and smart quotes in the table of contents are garbage characters. I would also like full disclosure on what InfoTools does to my system. But in general the service works as advertised. Its texts are not fully free, but they are unabridged and free to read and search. This is definitely progress.
It won't be long before Cambridge, McGraw-Hill, Yale, et al, have good data on whether free online access to their texts increases or decreases the sales of print copies. Meantime, we can be glad they are trying the experiment.
Learning Network's collection of ebrary e-books
[sample book] Peter Garber, _Famous First Bubbles: The Fundamentals of Early Manias_, MIT Press, 2000
Joint ebrary and Learning Network press release of the public beta
* Postscript. Because ebrary joined OCLC in June, its e-books will be indexed in WorldCat, the OCLC Online Union Catalog.
* PPS. ebrary uses PDF files. (It's no coincidence that John Warnock, co-founder of Adobe, is on ebrary's board, and his son, Christopher Warnock, is ebrary's CEO.) As I hinted in the last issue, Dmitri Sklyarov's method of bypassing PDF encryption could thwart ebrary's plans. Users could copy and print as freely as they could read or search. But so far ebrary shows no sign of delaying the service in order to solve this problem.
* PPPS. Why doesn't ebrary offer free online access to journals as well as books? ebrary doesn't say, but I suspect the answer is that readers of an online journal article have little or no residual need to buy a print copy of the same text, while readers of an online book might still want a printed copy. If so, then we may see the paradoxical situation of widespread free online access to books, for which publishers pay authors, *before* widespread free online access to journals, for which publishers don't pay authors. If things fall out this way, however, it will not mean that widespread free online access to journals will never come. It only means that it won't come from for-profit publishers who provide it as bait for print purchases.
Free e-book library launched
Phoenix-Library is a collection of free online e-books in all common formats, launched on July 14. It has risen from the ashes of Rocket-Library.com, a user-run library of free e-books operated by Gemstar e-Books and TV Guide. Rocket-Library had to shut down when users persisted in posting copyrighted works without the consent of the rights holders. Phoenix-Library is supported by eBooksFrance, a Belgian non-profit organization.
As with Rocket-Books, Phoenix-Library allows users to upload books to the site. However, Phoenix only vouches for the quality and authenticity of texts produced according to its specs, and these quality-controlled texts are not available free of charge.
The History E-Book Project
Ronald Musto and Eileen Gardiner are digitizing history books and putting them on the web. The plan is to publish 500 backlist monographs and 85 new titles, all in electronic form and in the process to create templates, technologies, and experience that will apply to other scholarly monographs. Their work is funded by a Mellon grant to the American Council of Learned Societies (ACLS). While the project was funded in 2000, Musto and Gardiner are interviewed in this week's _Chronicle of Higher Education_.
At its page on the project, the ACLS says that one of the project goals is to "[e]nsure that commercial vendors do not take undue control of the electronic assets of the scholarly community." However the e-texts are not free. Campuses will buy site licences to the collection, which range from $300 to $1,300, depending on campus size. Another project goal is to be self-sustaining after the Mellon money runs out.
Goldie Blumenstyk, 2 Former Professors Look to Technology to Bolster Scholarly Presses' History Offerings
Project home page
ACLS page on the project
Questia gets boost from AOL
Questia delivers digitized books and journal articles directly to paying students, along with tools for highlighting the texts and generating properly formatted footnotes and bibliographies. The texts are usually available free of charge in the students' institutional libraries. So students pay for the convenience of online access, searchability, and the associated writing tools. And they pay dearly: $19.95 per month or $149.95 per year. Under the terms of a new Questia-AOL deal, AOL has agreed to give its members a free one-month subscription to Questia.
Questia teams with AOL
Publishers of e-texts provided by Questia
Questia (so far silent on the AOL deal)
AOL (so far silent on the Questia deal)
Amazon enters the research paper business
Amazon has launched a new service called e-documents. As you browse or search its offerings, and find a title you like, just click to charge your credit card and download the document in PDF format. Amazon has a section of white papers free to download, but most of the documents are not free and not close. On the first page of Amazon's offerings of "Computers & Internet" documents, the prices range from $110 to $2,500. On the first page of "Science & Technology" documents, the prices range from $150 to $3,000.
Amazon doesn't let you sort by price, so it's difficult to find the upper end to the price range. But with a little surfing I found a 68 page document priced at $4,500: "Working with High-Tech Start-Ups," by Nicole Weber. Nicole Weber has four other e-docs in the service, each priced over $2,000. All of them, like all the other Amazon e-docs I saw at the site, have expiration dates. The downloads are valid for only 60 days, like the trial period for software. After 60 days, the text locks up and you can't read it. If you think paying $4,500 for 68 pages gave you some rights over your copy of the text, rights usually associated with purchasers, then visit ElcomSoft.com for software to break the security on PDF files. (See the Dmitri Sklyarov case from the last issue, with some follow-up below.)
The research papers in the service tend to be published by private, for-profit firms like International Data Corporation (IDC), Accenture, Zona Research, and Faulkner Information Services. The only academic publisher currently in Amazon's list is the Harvard Business Review.
Amazon provides the same array of auxiliaries for e-docs that it provides for books: user reviews, publisher blurbs, real-time sales rankings, links to items (books and e-docs) on similar topics, links to items by the same author, canned searches on related categories, and current awareness by email for keywords of your choice. Imagine this kind of infrastructure for documents that you really wanted.
(Thanks to Ellen Fernandez-Sacco for bringing this to my attention.)
Section on free white papers
* Postscript. The 60 day time limit is a pretty good indicator (in case the price wasn't) that these documents have only a tangential relationship to truth-seeking. They are about profit-seeking by their authors and profit-seeking by their readers, even if they only help readers profit because their authors have something acute or accurate to say. If you can make more than $4.5k from a 60 day glimpse at a document, then from one point of view the document is worth the price. If you think there are people poised to make this kind of money from your research, then from one point of view it's worth the risk to price your work at this level. I find this profoundly depressing even if there is a model of rationality according to which it is rational for both buyers and sellers (who used to be called readers and writers). I know there is a lot of useful research locked away in private corporations, where it will profit them before other researchers have a chance to learn it or build on it. But heaven help us if this or Amazon e-docs is the future of research in all fields where good information and true theories are financially lucrative. Will physics articles which might help design a faster computer chip migrate from academic journals to for-profit research firms and Amazon's e-docs, just because they can? Will mathematics articles which might help write a more secure encryption algorithm migrate to e-docs for the same reason? It is not human greed but human cleverness which makes this prospect depressing. Because we are clever, we can find ways to make use of, and hence make money from, nearly any pebble of knowledge. That creates the conditions for a market in knowledge, not just in chip design but virtually across the board. The best reason to resist the market model is that free access to information and research will produce more knowledge more quickly than limiting access to those who can afford to pay or those who are in a position to profit from it. If so, it will produce more wealth more quickly. Note that this is the same argument for leaving public assets public, especially when they profit multiple private concerns.
* IBM and several Canadian biomedical institutes have launched Blueprint Worldwide, non-profit organization to oversee the Biomolecular Interaction Network Database (BIND), a completely free online database of research articles on protein interaction in humans and other animals. The purpose is to accelerate the development of new medicines.
* BioMedCentral is now OAI-compliant.
* SPARC has launched SPARC Europe. Several European organizations are co-sponsoring the new arm of SPARC, including LIBER, CURL, JISC, and SCONUL.
* OCLC plans to take the best practices for digital access and preservation and apply them to the archiving of web documents. It is working with the Government Printing Office, the Connecticut State Library, and the Joint Electronic Records Repository Initiative.
* Springer-Verlag will work with libraries in China, Germany, and the U.S. to build the Electronic Mathematics Archiving Network Initiative (EMANI). The press release does not say whether the content will be accessible without charge, which is a reason to think not. Another is that Springer is owned by Bertelsmann. EMANI does not yet have a web site.
* The Linking And Exploring Authority Files (LEAF) Project is conducting a survey of its users and potential users. If you have a moment, share your thoughts.
Sklyarov follow up
* Although Adobe has withdrawn its criminal complaint against Sklyarov, Sklyarov remains in a Las Vegas jail. His release depends on the prosecutor, not the victim. At first many media sources reported that the prosecutor was Robert Mueller, George Bush's nominee to be the new director of the FBI. There was speculation that Mueller would make a decision in the Sklyarov case with one eye on his upcoming Senate confirmation hearings. But then it became clear that the Sklyarov decision actually lies with Mueller's successor, David Shapiro. The maintainers of a web site opposing Mueller as FBI director posted an apology, and pleaded with Mueller, should he be confirmed, not to subject them to cavity searches at airports for seeking justice in the Sklyarov case.
Apologies to Mueller site, formerly the Reject Mueller site
Boycott cancelled site, formerly the Boycott Adobe site
* The _Chronicle of Higher Education_ reports that scholars, especially in computer science, supported Sklyarov rather than Adobe in the recent controversy. Quoting a spokesman for the Electronic Frontier Foundation, "We've never seen as much of an immediate response from the academic community as with this Dmitri Sklyarov case."
* Do you remember the DeCSS case (covered in our June 1 issue)? DeCSS is software for bypassing the encryption on DVD's. The hacker magazine, 2600, posted the DeCSS source code on its web site and linked to other sites publishing the code, for which it was convicted last year of violating the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA), the same statute under which Sklyarov was arrested. 2600's appeal is still pending. In response to the DeCSS case, Carnegie Mellon computer scientist and leading DMCA critic David Touretzky created a web catalogue of programs that also unscramble DVD encryption. This is a long preface to the news that Touretzky has now also created a web catalogue of methods for bypassing Adobe's encryption.
David Touretzky, Gallery of CSS Descramblers
David Touretzky, Gallery of Adobe Remedies
* Here are some of the more important pages on the Sklyarov controversy that I didn't or couldn't cite in the last issue.
Sklyarov's PowerPoint presentation, which triggered his arrest
Planet eBook index of articles on ElcomSoft, Sklyarov, Adobe, and DMCA
eBookWeb's page of recent e-book news, most devoted to the Sklyarov case
Anonymous, ElcomSoft Supporters Miss the Point
_Planet eBook_ free copy of an unfree article from _Seybold E-Book Zone_
Scott Harris, Uphill Battle for Russian Programmer
Lawrence Lessig, Adobe in Wonderland
Jon Noring, Finding the balance for End-users, DRM and the DMCA
Roger Sperberg's analysis of the issues
Part 1, http://www.ebookweb.org/opinion/roger.sperberg.20010712.aebpr.htm
Part 2, http://www.ebookweb.org/opinion/roger.sperberg.20010715.aebpr.htm
Siva Vaidhyanathan, Putting a lock on e-books: A new cold war looms over your right to read
EFF's DMCA Archive (Sklyrarov issues are DMCA issues)
Non-Sklyarov follow up
* In the April 24 issue I described Eric Eldred's lawsuit to overturn the Sonny Bono Copyright Term Extension Act. The Bono act retroactively adds 20 years to the life of existing copyrights, further delaying the transition of copyrighted works into the public domain. Under the Bono act, copyrights now last 95 years. Eldred maintains a web site of full-text books in the public domain, and simply wanted to serve readers better. He lost in district court and on July 13 he lost his appeal in circuit court. He's now considering an appeal to the Supreme Court.
Eldred v. Ashcroft (July 13 decision of DC Circuit Court)
Eldred's page of full-text books
Eldred's "Support Online Books" page
Berkman Center page on the case (good background but not up to date)
* Michael Eisen, one of the leaders of the Public Library of Science initiative, said in a Copenhagen conference that most journal publishers were hostile to the PLoS proposal to put articles online free of charge within six months of their print publication. Eisen concluded, “The only alternative is to create a way to publish our own journals.”
(Thanks to Joshua Schachter for bringing this to my attention.)
* In the May 7 issue I described iPublish, Time-Warner's attempt to find the good books rejected by commercial publishers. I was somewhat skeptical, and in the May 18 issue reported the Authors Guild objections to iPublish's standard contract with authors. For a more positive review, see John Baxley's first-hand experience with the service. (He agrees with the Authors Guild, however, about the contract.)
John Baxley, An iNsider's View of iPublish.com
Time Warner E-Book Contract Could be Big Mistake for First-Time Authors
From the Authors Guild Online
In other publications
* In the July 27 issue of the _Chronicle of Higher Education_, Scott Carlson reports on the increasing acceptance of JSTOR. Libraries have grown to trust it in part because it is a non-profit organization. Its prices are scalable and pegged below its costs. (The rest of its costs are made up by foundations.) However, its prices are still too high for many small institutions, and some critics worry that libraries are making a mistake to discard their large collections of print journals just because the same issues are available from JSTOR.
* In a July 27 posting to _The Book and the Computer_, Gordon Graham tries to get past the hype surrounding electronic publishing and offer a realistic future of book publishing. Graham is the editor of _Logos_, the journal of book publishing.
* In the July 24 _Financial Times_, Richard Poynder interviewed Stevan Harnad, professor of computer science at Southampton University and one of the most prolific and influential advocates of free online scholarship. Harnad is also the moderator of the SEPTEMBER98-FORUM, a large and long-running discussion of FOS issues hosted by _American Scientist_. After the interview appeared, Harnad posted some responses in the forum.
Poynder's interview with Harnad
Harnad's response to the interview, and other postings in the thread of his response
* In the July 19 issue of _The Jambar_, the student paper at Youngstown State University, Shannon Wells reports on the decline in student use of online journals. (Can FOSN readers shed light on whether this is a general phenomenon or a Youngstown phenomenon?)
* In the July 17 _SearchDay_, Chris Sherman reviews patents on search engine technology which, if enforced, could either halt or make expensive some essential forms of searching. Alta Vista owns some of these patents and has given public signals that it is getting ready to enforce them.
* In his July 16 column for eBookWeb, Peter Zelchenko argues that e-books will not bridge the digital divide as well as paper books. I was not prepared to find this argument persuasive, but Zelchenko surprised me.
* On July 11, Sharon Hogan testified before the Senate Committee on Governmental Affairs in support of S.803, the E-Government Act of 2001, arguing that free online access to government information would enhance both American democracy and education. ARL has posted her statement at its web site.
* In the July 5 _New York Times Review of Books_, Jason Epstein has an informed meditation on the future of reading in the digital age. He predicts the rise of print-on-demand and significant increases in author royalties. While he discusses only trade literature, he is particularly pointed on how publishers must change in order to avoid irrelevance and the competitive challenge from publishers that do change. He believes that publishers will be slow to digitize their backlists because publishers don't own the digital rights to their backlists and it would be prohibitively expensive to acquire them now. (PS: Epstein knows about the Rosetta Books case but wrote his article before the July 11 decision in federal court, which confirms his analysis; for more on the decision see our July 17 issue.)
* In a June report from the Council on Library and Information Resources (CLIR), Louis Pitschmann describes his research on how libraries can build sustainable collections of free digital content provided by third parties.
If you plan to attend one of the following conferences, please share your observations with us through our discussion forum.
* International Summer School on the Digital Library
Tilburg, Holland, August 5-10
* The International Cultural Heritage Informatics Meeting http://www.archimuse.com/ichim2001/index.html
Milan, September 3-7
* 5th European Conference on Research and Advanced Technology for Digital Libraries
Darmstadt, September 4-8
* DELOS Workshop on Interoperability in Digital Libraries
Darmstadt, September 8-9
* Experimental OAI Based Digital Library Systems
Darmstadt, September 8
* Preserving Online Content for Future Generations
Darmstadt, September 8
* International Autumn School on the Digital Library and E-publishing for Physics, Astronomy and Mathematics
Geneva, September 9-14
* Digital Libraries: Advanced Methods and Technologies, Digital Collections
Petrozavodsk, September 11-13
* EBLIDA Workshop on the Acquisition and Usage of Electronic Resources
The Hague, September 28
Since the last issue of the newsletter, the subscriber count has passed 400. Thanks to all of you who announced the newsletter in your own publications, forwarded copies to colleagues, or spread the word in other ways. I'm very grateful. I remember just a few months ago writing for the void, hoping to nudge the subscriber count from 14 to 16.
As if to mark the occasion, Topica has fixed its search engine. Now the back issues of the newsletter are searchable again.
Back issues of FOSN
This is the Free Online Scholarship Newsletter (ISSN 1535-7848).
Please feel free to forward this newsletter to interested colleagues. If you are reading a forwarded copy of this issue, you may subscribe yourself by signing up at the FOS home page or the FOS Newsletter page.
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Copyright (c) 2001, Peter Suber
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