Welcome to the Free Online Scholarship (FOS)
October 5, 2001
Free online audio-scholarship
Can we harness the Napster revolution for scholarship? Probably
not. But any literature turned into an audio-book or audio-article can be
stored in MP3 format and swapped through the many P2P networks created for music
files. Some of these networks will work just as well with text files, but
for now let's focus on audio-scholarship.
AudioBooksForFree.com is one of several sites where you can see a decent
selection of free audio-books already in MP3 format and ready for
swapping. Even a quick glance at these sites, however, shows that
audio-book collections rarely include important academic work and never include
cutting edge research. If a book is recent and copyrighted, then either
the author isn't giving it away or nobody is dictating it into an audio
file. If a book is in the public domain, and centuries' worth of important
academic books are, then it must compete with other public domain books for the
limited resources put into dictation. So far the market forces that select
books for audio distribution are favoring novels and self-help books over
academic titles. Without external nudging, say, from foundation money, I
don't see this changing any time soon.
If you look at the audio book sites that charge for their content, you'll
find fewer MP3s and more cassettes and CDs. You'll also find a better
selection of academic books. But "better selection" here just means enough
to keep you awake on a cross-country car trip, not enough for a serious journal
article. Even if you were willing to pay for audio-books and settle for
isolated or elementary titles, cross-country drivers in history or religion will
be luckier than those in chemistry or mathematics.
There's no reason in principle why academic authors who give away their
journal articles wouldn't also give away audio versions of the same
articles. The problem is to inspire the person-years of dictation (I
almost said, "mobilize the army of dictators") needed to create a useful archive
of free online audio-scholarship. There's a niche here waiting to be
filled, not only for the visually impaired, commuters, and joggers, but for all
the multitaskers who aren't happy unless they (we?) can do laundry, clean the
oven, burn fat, and catch up on recent research at the same time.
If you're willing to rip a music CD and make your own MP3 files, then
perhaps you're willing to download some text-to-speech software (I recommend the
free version of ReadPlease) and sic it on any piece of digital scholarship you
can pull up on your screen. If you go to this trouble, at least for free
scholarship that authors have consented to give away, then don't trap the
resulting audio files on your hard drive. Make them available to others
through Napster, Gnutella, LimeWire, BearShare, or other P2P networks, and help
grow a distributed archive of free online audio-scholarship.
* Free audio books
* Priced audio books
* Text to speech software
* Some government agencies and private-sector organizations are voluntarily
deleting from their web sites scientific information and other content that they
believe might help terrorists. Among the self-censoring groups are the
American Federation of Scientists, the Center for Disease Control, the National
Imagery and Mapping Agency, and the Environmental Protection Agency.
* TheScientificWorld has acquired ScienceWise. The resulting company
must now be one of the larger providers of online scientific information,
although it hasn't yet published figures on its new size.
* The Association of American Publishers (AAP) is offering a reward for
information leading the conviction of copyright violators. If you read the
fine print, the AAP makes clear that it means violations of rights held by
publishers, not violation of rights held by purchasers and readers.
* Contentville has closed. Contentville was a vendor of nearly every
kind of online text --from books and magazines to scholarly journals, ebooks,
dissertations, movie scripts, and speeches. It allowed one-stop searching
for this content, but charged for access.
* Thirty-two companies led by Sun Microsystems have formed the Liberty
Alliance Project, an open authentication system designed to challenge
Microsoft's Passport. (PS: Whichever system prevails, there will be
a fairly uniform method for identifying who you are when you come to a site
asking to download content. This will allow publishers to implement
sophisticated access rules. Bottom line: life will be easier for
publishers who want to limit access to paying customers and yet simplify access
for these paying customers.)
* The federal Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS) has awarded
$3.5 million to 18 libraries to digitize some of their collections and put them
on the internet free of charge.
* The city of San Francisco has prohibited the use of web filters on
city-owned computers in public libraries. The move effectively cuts off
San Francisco libraries from federal funds. The city Board of Supervisors
may use city resources to restore any funding lost through the move.
* In the beginning, many commercial and academic web sites used banner ads
to subsidize their operations and provide their content free of charge.
Then readers learned to ignore the ads. Then advertisers turned to
blinking text, distracting animations, annoying sound effects, and pop-up and
pop-under windows. Then readers downloaded ad-blocking software. Now
advertisers strike back with ad-blocking-blocking software. If the
software at a publisher's site detects that you are running ad-blocking
software, then it stops feeding you whatever free content the publisher had been
providing. (PS: Readers, the ball is in your court. How long
will it take to write ad-blocking-blocking-blocking software?)
* Scirus, the Elsevier search engine for science (see FOSN for 5/25/01
added U.S. patents to its database.
* The CIA is looking for a few good librarians.
New on the net
* ITPapers.com is a new archive of white papers in information
technology. Users must register, but registration is free of charge.
ITPapers offers free online access to 23,000+ white papers.
* The National Library of the Netherlands and IBM have joined forces to
study the best methods for the long term preservation of digital
information. An outline of their research project is now on the web.
* The Defense Technical Information Center (DTIC) has created a small
archive of full-text papers on homeland defense. Presumably it will only
grow in the months ahead.
* The ALA has put up a web page responding to the September 11 attacks and
(implicitly) to the likelihood of legislative challenges to traditional freedoms
enjoyed by library patrons.
* Did you know that Bill Clinton's presidential papers are being put online
by the Government Printing Office? I didn't. His papers from 1993 to
1999 are now online (the latest volume just last month), with more to come as
they are ready.
Share your thoughts
* Collection Description Focus (CDF) and CIMI would like your thoughts on
resource description at the collection level. If you have worked in this
area, consider filling out their online questionnaire.
* The Resource Discovery Network (RDN) invites all its users to fill out a
web questionnaire. It will remain online until late November or early
December. All who participate will be entered in a drawing for Amazon gift
* John Kirriemuir is undertaking a JISC-funded study of the use of gaming
consoles (e.g. Sega Dreamcast, Sony Playstation2, Nintendo Game Boy) in learning
and research, especially in UK Higher Education. If you have any relevant
experience, he'd like to hear from you.
* The World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) is considering a controversial policy
that would allow patent holders to charge licensing fees for the implementation
of new web standards using their patented technologies. The public comment
period has been extended until October 11.
W3C patent policy proposal and email addresses for comments
EFF objections to the policy, links to related sites, and suggested
In other publications
* An October 4 story in _ContentBiz_ reports the results of an experiment
at MarketingSherpa's Knowledge Store. When a report is available either in
print or PDF, and both formats have the same price, 52% of buyers will choose
the print version. When the print version is only slightly more expensive
than the PDF version, buyers preferring it drop to only 10%.
* In the October issue of _Learned Publishing_, Liz Bennett has a guest
editorial in which she surveys just how thoroughly the scholarly publishing
landscape has changed in recent years. She argues that to survive in the
new environment scholarly publishers must learn to collaborate with libraries,
learned societies, and one another.
* Also in the October issue of _Learned Publishing_, Joost Kircz argues
that an electronic scientific articles is not merely a print article in a new
medium. We should rethink the nature and purpose of the scientific
publications in light of the opportunities offered by the new medium. He
discusses 10 criteria for scientific publications (formulated by an
international working group in 2000) and argues that they leave much room to
create "new ways of expressing knowledge" in an electronic, interactive
medium. Part 2 of his study will appear in the next issue.
* Also in the October issue of _Learned Publishing_, Edwin Shelock
criticizes the ALPSP and learned societies for failing to take advantage of
opportunities created by the internet for wide and inexpensive dissemination of
scholarship. He asks why learned societies think more like commercial
publishers than their own members. Shelock is past chair of the
* In the October issue of _First Monday_, Terje Hillesund asks whether
ebooks will change the world. "In many societies, printed books have been
associated with enlightenment, education, scientific and cultural development,
the national state, democracy and capitalism. Modern society is unthinkable
without printed books. E-books, however, make society thinkable without
* In the October issue of _Cultivate Interactive_, Thibault Heuzé
summarizes the many projects of the EU's Community Research and Development
Information Service (CORDIS) for promoting access to online research.
* Also in the October _Cultivate Interactive_ Paul Miller, David Dawson,
and John Perkins describe the background and results of an international meeting
in July to build synergy and interoperability among the many disparate national
online cultural heritage initiatives.
* Also in the October _Cultivate Interactive_, Concha Fernández de la
Puente gives an overview of recent developments in online European cultural
* Also in the October _Cultivate Interactive, Philip Hunter identifies the
56 content management and web publishing systems now available, and provides a
URL and short description for each one. This is a sequel to his June
_Ariadne_ article on why universities resist content management systems (see
FOSN for 7/3/01
* In the October issue of _Wired_, Jeff Howe has a wonderfully clear and
detailed introduction to digital rights management (DRM) technology. In
the print edition of the magazine, you can only read the first page "for
free". To read the rest, you have to tear off a perforated strip of paper
from a long, detailed, hilarious Reader Licence Agreement.
(This article won't be available online until October 16.)
* On October 1, NYU Press published Siva Vaidhyanathan's book, _Copyrights
and Copywrongs_. Quoting Vaidhyanathan from an interview in _Wired_:
"It's very clear that reckless copyright enforcement can chill speech. The
message of my book is that we've gone too far. There are ways in which the
copyright system becomes an engine for democratic culture. But once you
increase the protection to an absurd level, you end up having a negative effect
on this process."
* In the September 30 _Washington Post_, Roslyn Mazer reports that one
source of funds for the al Qaeda network was the sale of illegally copied
software and videos. (PS: Is this a good reason to redouble efforts
to enforce intellectual property rights? Will it be used to justify new
enforcement measures anyway?)
* On September 26, the ACM has posted a public letter to Senator Ernest
Hollings protesting the SSSCA (see FOSN for 9/14/01
). The letter argues,
among other things, that under the SSSCA colleges and universities would no
longer be able to teach advanced computer science. The ACM urges other
groups opposing the SSSCA to write their own letters to Sen. Hollings.
* The September 20 _Economist_ describes the Stanford Archival Vault (SAV),
Stanford's new P2P network of digital repositories.
* In the August/September issue of SPARC's e-news, Ed Sponsler and Eric F.
Van de Velde review the eprints.org software for creating OAI-compliant
archives, based on the CalTech Library's eight month experience with it.
The authors endorse the software and describe in good detail how to implement
and take full advantage of it.
* In the recent _Communications of the ACM_, Krzysztof Apt describes the
dramatic move of the journal, _Theory and Practice of Logic Programming_ (TPLP),
from Elsevier to Cambridge (see FOSN for 5/11/01
). This is the move that
proved that journals can divorce publishers that charge exorbitant subscription
prices. Unfortunately Apt's article is not available free of charge; the
ACM charges members $5 and nonmembers $10 for full text.
* In the latest (2001 but undated) _Educause Quarterly_, Joseph Moxley
argues that universities should join the Networked Digital Library of Theses and
Dissertations (NDLTD), which would provide free online access to this large and
useful body of literature.
* The British Library has published _Preservation Management of Digital
Materials: A Handbook_, by Maggie Jones and Neil Beagrie for the Council for
Museums, Archives and Libraries. The published version is not available
online, but the working draft from October 2000 is still available online.
* Proyecto Ensayo Hispánico is a free online collection of Hispanic
thought, launched by editor José Luis Gómez-Martínez in 1997. It contains
full-text essays, both public domain and copyrighted, by Spanish-speaking
authors in all academic fields. In addition to the primary text, the site
offers an introduction and bibliography for each author.
* The Library of Congress publishes a useful series of free online _Country
Studies_. There's no volume for Afghanistan, but the 100 other volumes
should help answer your questions about the rest of the world.
* After the first hijacked plane hit the World Trade Center, and before the
second plane hit 18 minutes later, the domain names worldtradecentercrash.com
and wtccrash.com had both been registered. In the next few minutes,
hundreds of variations on the theme were registered by claimants from around the
In the last issue I published an alert for the September report on
egovernment from the Taubman Center for Public Policy. In summarizing its
findings, I incorrectly said that this year 93% of government publications are
available online free of charge, compared to 74% last year. I should have
said that this year 93% of government web sites offered free online
publications, compared to 74% last year. Thanks to John Koch for the
If you plan to attend one of the following conferences, please share your
observations with us through our discussion forum.
* Summer School on the Digital Library 2001: Electronic
Florence, October 7-12
* Frankfurt Book Fair, How To Implement DOIs
Frankfurt, October 10
* Frankfurt Book Fair, Financing Possibilities for Digital Content
Frankfurt, October 10
* IT in the Transformation of the Library
Milwaukee, October 11-14
* Collections & Access for the 21st Century Scholar: A Forum to
Explore the Roles of the Research Library
Washington, D.C., October 19-20
* Intellectual Property Rights in the Knowledge-Based Economy
Washington, D.C., October 22
* International Conference on Dublin Core and Metadata Applications
Tokyo, October 22-26
* e-Book Lessons: From Life-Cycle to User Experiences
Waltham, Massachusetts, October 23
* Fourth Meeting of the [NAS] Committee on Intellectual Property Rights
(only parts are open to the public)
Washington, D.C., October 23-24
* Copyright Issues in the Electronic Age
Waltham, Massachusetts, October 29
* Paperless Publishing: Peer Review, Production, and
Washington, D.C., October 30
* The XML Revolution: What Scholarly Publishers Need to know
Waltham, Massachusetts, November 1
* Information in a Networked World: Harnessing the Flow
Washington D.C., November 2-8
* Electronic Book 2001: Authors, Applications, and
Washington D.C., November 5-7
* Content Summit 01
Zurich, November 7-9
* Internet Librarian 2001
Pasadena, November 6-8
* First Annual Meeting of the Text Encoding Initiative Consortium
Pisa, November 16-17
* ARL Workshop for Publishers: Licensing Electronic Resources to
Libraries: Understanding Your Market
Philadelphia, November 129
* Digital Media Revolution in the Americas
Pasadena, November 29 - December 1
This is the Free Online Scholarship Newsletter (ISSN 1535-7848).
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Copyright (c) 2001, Peter Suber