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SOPA and PIPA Protests: The Government Pokes the Sleeping Lion

20 Jan

Wired online protests

The government is dealing with a whole new breed of opposition this month as it attempts to pass the house bills called SOPA(Stop Online Piracy Act) and PIPA(Protect IP Act). The Internet community has been known to be a group largely apathetic towards activism, but as major Internet hubs like Imgur, Wikipedia, and reddit go down , Internet junkies everywhere are realizing how these bills are greatly affecting their everyday lives.

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From the Publisher’s Desk: Taming (or Not) the Textbook Market

18 Jun

A recent article at Inside Higher Ed, “Taming the Textbook by Market” by Steven J. Bell, takes yet another look at the ever-increasing price of textbooks and posits yet another solution to the problem. As he writes: “What if instead of being forced to buy a $160 textbook, your students had access to a compendium of online resources handpicked and customized by you [the instructor], and available at no cost to them, unless they preferred to purchase a low-cost, print-on-demand copy?”

What if, indeed?

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What’s Yours is Mine: Ethics and Etiquette of Mobile Communication

14 Jun

Living in the information age, I have heard lectures on technology’s effect on print publication in numerous journalism and English classes.  In my classes, we debate questions like:

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Publishing Conferences: The Changing Landscape of Scholarly Communication in the Digital Age

8 Feb

confbanner2Blogging has been light lately—then again, blogging is almost always light—but the last month has been particularly busy with the PR blitz about to kick off for the new RV DVDs and forthcoming RV books. (Certainly, however, it does seem like a million years ago, not just a month, since I had the time/inclination to spend a big chunk of publishing-related energy doing things like editing videos of trips to Abilene.) This next week, though, will be a change of pace as I’ll be attending The Changing Landscape of Scholarly Communication in the Digital Age conference at Texas A&M in College Station, Texas.

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Book Projects: The Ethics Reader

18 Jul

Most book projects conclude in one of two ways—either with a published book or an unhealthy amount of despair and frustration in conjunction with no book at all—but the how’s and why’s of initiating projects are almost limitless. Some books come to us as complete manuscripts. Some projects we set up on our own because we see (or think we see) some inherent commercial viability. Some authors want to make money. (Well, they all do, but for some it’s more of a priority than for others.) Some want the satisfaction of the heft of their own books in hand. Some want to formally pass on to their students the information they’ve developed for their classes.

Some authors are sick of using Xerox machines.

That impulse was the genesis of TECHNE, a first-semester college composition anthology, that I edited way back when with a couple of colleagues, Joyce Gorgan (back then Joyce Spivey) and Amy Patrick, in the TSTC Waco English department. All three of us—plus other instructors on the department—relied on our own outside materials that we fairly regularly copied to distribute to students—nothing, of course, that would violate Educational Fair Use guidelines!—as opposed to using the official textbook for the class. (For my part, I was always a big fan of Richard Ford’s “In the Face” and Bryan Woolley’s “Burgers, Beer and Patsy Cline” and Wayne C. Booth’s “Boring From Within.”) Finally, it dawned on us to put our own composition reader together that gathered all the materials faculty in the department liked to use. (At the very least, we figured it would save us the time and cost of killing endless trees to Xerox handouts.) So, in addition to the essays above, we wound up with an excerpt from Paulo Freire’s Pedagogy of the Oppressed (Joyce’s choice) and part of Longinus on the Sublime: The Peri Hupsous in Translations by Nicolas Boileau-Depreaux (1674 and William Smith) (by way of Amy) in and amongst roughly fifty total essays that covered all kinds of styles, addressed different kinds of audiences, and demonstrated different rhetorical modes.

It was this sort of impulse that led us to a project that, logistically, we have been working to line out for a while: an ethics reader with entries from The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy as selected by Troy Williamson of TSTC West Texas in Abilene. That is, Troy has used the SEP for his ethics classes for a while now but, resource-wise, the big dilemma is that every time he assigned a reading students would rush to the library or open computer lab and print out the entry. Now, don’t get me wrong . . . students shouldn’t be stuck to the nth degree with every possible cost known to mankind. On the other hand, if higher education was still totally free—as it was in California for so long—none of us at TSTC would have jobs because the school would have closed its doors long ago. So, it was after talking about this ever-present fine line—making resources available to students without soaking them for every bit of money they probably don’t even have—with Troy a while back we decided to see if a licensing agreement could be worked out with the SEP to publish a low-cost print anthology of the readings he uses.

Well, I’m happy to say that after many discussions by phone and email, the details have been worked out and The Ethics Reader: A Selection of Entries from the 2007 Edition of The Stanford Encyclopedia as selected by Troy Williamson is slated for publication in December 2007. Many thanks are due to Dr. Edward Zalta, Principal Editor of the SEP. This collaborative print project was a first for them and he deserves much kudos for working out a way to allow it to happen instead of saying no to something new (which would have been, of course, the easiest course of action). Then again, it’s pretty logical that anyone who works at a place called The Metaphysics Research Lab would be open to abstract concepts and ideas.


Book Publishing Operations: Intellectual Property Agreements

14 Feb

Happy Valentine’s Day from Harlingen as my acquisitions trip finishes up today. (Tomorrow I’ll have a full day of driving as I head back to Waco.)

This morning I had meetings where intellectual property agreements were signed by Diana Gafford and Dr. Mike Hosseinpour of the Developmental Math department and Art Olivares of the Machining Technology department at TSTC Harlingen. So this seems to be an appropriate time to discuss intellectual property issues that we deal with on a regular basis.

“Intellectual property” can be loosely defined, in the sense I’ll be discussing it, as either a newly created concept/process or a new product. For example, if you invented a cold fusion process that worked and could be replicated, that would be an example of the former type of intellectual property. If you wrote a book about cold fusion, that would be an example of the latter.

In the case of publishing books written by people not employed by TSTC, there are two options for contractual agreements concerning the work produced. First, it may be work-for-hire (that is, we pay someone a flat rate to write a book that the school subsequently owns). Or, second, if the work is owned by the author, they authorize us to publish it and then reimburse them on a royalty basis (that is, a traditional author-publisher relationship).

In the case of faculty producing new concepts/products while employed by a college or university, the situation can be a bit more complicated. That is, some schools say that faculty can do research during their typical work day at a school using school resources to produce new intellectual property that by default will belong to those faculty members. In the case of MIT’s OpenCourseWare project, the school even actively works to freely disseminate on the Internet certain materials—that is, intellectual property—developed by faculty. At the other end of the spectrum, some schools will say that any work done on school time using school resources belong solely to the school. For an examination of the problems that can arise from this approach, I’d suggest taking a look at Jennifer Washburn’s University, Inc.: The Corporate Corruption of American Higher Education.

TSTC has taken a thoughtful middle position in that before new intellectual property is created, faculty and the school sign off on agreement before a project is begun to establish ownership of the final “work” to be created. The specifics of TSTC’s guidelines can be found in its System Operating Standard on Intellectual Property. This is a long document that has been revised many times but, for our purposes in publishing, there are three basic options for ownership of the intellectual property created: employee, institution, and joint employee-institution.

Most of the time—given the particulars of a project—we opt for joint employee-institution ownership. In this case, the copyright for the work completed stays in the name of the TSTC faculty/authors who, in turn, license TSTC Publishing to publish to completed work for as long as it is in print. At the same time, because there is joint ownership, this means that faculty can work on these projects during their normal work day at the school and use school resources such as computers, printers, and so on.

So, in the final analysis, with persons not employed by the school, it’s a one-step process where we sign a contract with them to publish a book. With persons employed by the school, it is a two-step process where we first complete an intellectual property agreement prior to be project being begun followed later on—as a project’s development meets certain benchmarks—by a contract to publish the resulting book itself.


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