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So here is the post from 144L

But here is the original draft!

My Library People, I’m aiming this post at friends, fans, passers-by as well as you so forgive the informality…the goal is having fun with a complicated idea.
What is this? This is an attempt at analyzing David Rosenthal amazing article which can be found here ( Now, I favor humor over facts on this blog. Also, I made no effort to clearly distinguish my ideas from his but I will say that he never compared Academic Publishers to the mob, but I did. Say what you will the implications of Omertà Dude, at least it’s an ethos.

If you are looking for an analysis of the article to take seriously look here ( But not here!
So, all the good ideas are David’s and all the crazy stuff that doesn’t make sense is my fault. Okay, objectivity is gone, you get that this is supposed to be fun, get your favorite beverage out, smoke’em, if you got’em.
So, to do this right we have to get a few things in mind.
The First Thing
Metcalfe’s Law (fancy Spirograph)

The deal is this. If you are the only person in the world with a phone, that isn’t worth very much. After all what would be the point? Now, if you have two phones, well you can call and be called by the other phone. Now, the more phones the more valuable each phone becomes.

Because of this law (so says the article) you eventually get beasts like Microsoft. Why you ask? My guess because if everyone has the same operating system they can all run the same apps, everyone using Windows would be like everyone having a phone. Case in point, pretty much uses everyone uses MS Office and if you send a document made in Open Office… well try it for fun.
I’ll take a shot at this golden Metcalfe, because my view is that the internet is now platform. In one respect it validates the argument because the internet is the protocol that won out over all the others (books by fax, really?!). In the other respect so long as Mac’s, PC’s and Linux boxes can access web based applications the OS doesn’t matter so much so long as the browser knows what to do.
Look at where any browser on any OS can chat on almost any chat/social network. So, I don’t think you have to get one super beast out of the deal. You can shoot the law down just by saying the network would be useless if everyone on the network spoke a different language (no one would understand what the heck the other was talking about, seems oddly familiar)…but you get the idea.
The Second Thing
Publishing as a business is a tough nut to crack and if you are going in to publishing and starting doing what people have been doing, you are doomed. The model for how scholarly things are published are about to get rocked by new technologies (which can be a good thing if you are not doing it old school, mabye).
I’d have to agree. Take a look here

The Third Thing
It’s the cheese, I mean the protocol!

I assume nothing, well, little. So for the uninitiated, HTTP is a way of computers taking to each other (like ways of sending things in the mail, FedEx, UPS, catapult, etc), HTML is format, a song can be on an 8-track, LP, Compact Disk, mp3 but the song is still the same song.
Most articles you’ll find are like songs, static files. But cool websites are all about user generated content, like Flickr for example. It very well maybe that articles will be completed documents pulling many resources together into something that looks more like Flickr or something cool like that than just a static PDF.
There are two ideas here; one is that sites are no longer singular and that they can change. Take this very site for example, if you were to archive it you’d also have to archive the Google Maps, the Tweets, LastFM songs, and all the sites we’ve linked to…which end up being many a Gigabyte. So this site is really made up of other sites. Really, it’s content generated on other sites which then communicate stuff to this site (Think First Thing). Articles could become the same, pulling information from many a source and in a sense, live. This is my assumption of what I think Dave meant, but keep with the idea for now….
To archive correctly you’d also have to archive the different versions of this site, the themes we’ve used for example. If academic articles are heading this way, how do you preserve it when preservation is tough as it is? This is a new country we are talking about, the wild west of the interwebs!
And if you did it right (let us just say) and get all the links working lovely, you will have to contend with making all the backend profitable or at least make the effort worth it. “Ingesting” or scanning/backing stuff up, is pricey, a pain and needs constant hosting and mothering. How to make a model like that profitable while the very objects are getting more complicated?

Forth Thing
This Thing of Ours

If you want to get tenured, you need to kiss the ring. At least I said ring. And I mean the ring of the Big Journals. If you want to get Made in the big bad world of Academia, you got to do the work! So, if you are a Big Journal, you got a captive audience because getting tenured means going to the Big Journals which are then pimped out by the Big Publishers which are the same guys that will charge you an arm and a leg to get a copy of same article you wrote. If you use National Institute Of Health money you got to make it public, so that’s a plus.
Fifth Thing
Viva La Revolution

The music industry once upon a time had control of how music got to people and hence had control of the artist and the wealth the artist created. Now the RIAA are suing pirates for getting music without the music labels seeing a penny and by pirates I mean people who got fed up with the music industry because they are bunch of jerks who have it coming (so the theory goes). The thing is, the RIAA got lawyer happy when they started losing the crazy cash they were getting, not because they were going broke, they just they expect to keep the Mad Money coming from selling CD’s. Keep that in mind because we’ll be coming back to that later but think Second Thing for now.

Sixth Thing
Middle Earth is shrinking

So, you know how the middle class is disappearing? Same thing happens in the World Wide Web, you get your Yahoo, your Google and your Bing. Then, you get your smaller niche sites, say some librarian who really likes road trips and library advocacy. The point is the middle ground is empty because you digg (sic) the big sites, skip past the mediocre sites and check out the small niche sites. Again, Second Thing, as a byproduct of the First Thing.

Seventh Thing
Greed is good, for screwing things up
You see, the big Academic Publishers are a Hasa, a pig that don’t fly straight (a colorful way of saying, bad business model). Take Nature for example, of the big fishes in the pond. Mighty large, and you can make some cash distributing them, you can make more cash bundling them with other journals. Go with the bundle and get the site license or just get one journal a time which is a pain to use, getting one article at time is a joke and so that’s how libraries got their budget’s jack Soprano style.
The thing is, there are only so many big fishes and if you watch gangster movies you know that if you want to make more money, you got to cut your product. Here come the crappy journals, the NutraSweet in your Yayo. Well, with junk journals you’ll need papers, and oh, they ain’t too shy about what they publish. Think Fourth Thing and you’ll see there is an endless supply.
Devil’s Advocate

Okay, so you are chilling in your office of you Academic Library Publishing Company, and the thing is you got too big to make more money. You are pretty much only game in town, there are no more customers. Well, you could try to jack up the prices, but your clients only have so much money or maybe you could cut down on your expenses, easier said than done. You want to lay off your people? You are already giving discounts to developing countries, it’s not like you totally don’t have a heart, it’s just business.

But the point I think David is making is that these Academic Publishers expect this Mad Money to keep coming and can’t adapt quickly enough to changes both the economy and tech and while they are not closing shop and selling beads on the boardwalk, the future looks bad in part because people could find a way to live without them.
In my view, the weakness of the Publishers is that they are actually are on far more an even playing field than they would like to be….
So, let’s look at the music industry again for a wee bit of comparison.
You can pay per song like you can pay per article (there are differences, but go with the flow). Now, this means you are in a catch 22, because if you charge the same per song you can’t charge extra for the good stuff and charging extra for the good stuff turns people away.
And since people will pay for what they want instead of buying bundles, it shows bundles ain’t the way to go. If you charge too much music will get pirated because DRM doesn’t work. Why? So long as it can come out a speaker, it can be recorded and distributed. Articles are just files like music files, and fancy articles aren’t here yet. So, articles can be pirated, or more likely than not, someone asks for a copy from someone who can get it, think of it as an underground interlibrary loan.
The point of the comparison is to illustrate the problem with the profitable distribution of content, because it is a problem for all who do so.

To make things interesting, Google is pretty damn good at finding things on the ye old interwebs. So, if researchers just post their findings on their University sites, it will get indexed and found reasonably well (in theory). And since everyone including researchers uses Google, it kind of works out that you don’t need the monstrous Academic Publishers if we just posted stuff on the web. But is being at the mercy of Google really the way to go?
If researcher were to strike it on their own you’d need to get that peer review element, you can create a group like The Galactic Senate but for academic publishing, and then just post it on a Galactic Senate but for academic publishing server and make their own OPAC.
Let us make sense of this madness, or fake it to look cool because this is getting long.

David has some ideas to throw down with the big guys. Give a place for scholars to place their work for free, if they use Amazon’s clouds charge’em and throttle connections that don’t use the University’s platform. Yes, we are at the mercy of Google if there isn’t a Galactic Senate of academic publishing with its own OPAC.
Yes, easier said than done. That is have a place where scholars can post their stuff, get it reviews and accessed for free. As memory and internet protocols progress, questions of preservation will have to be dealt with, but it is fully possible to have a free peer reviewed system. There are open source journals in existence, this is slowly happening because the tech is allowing it and researchers are just as fed up as music fans. We need a big enough push for it to move from a small niche thing to a big thing and between the finical pain of Big Publishers, the new found tech, and the willingness of some people to publish open source maybe enough of a mix of disruption and tech advancement that it could be pulled off.

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