At the request of list members, I am republishing part of the exchange on IT Forum between myself and Larry Lipsitz, and absolutely great guy who publishes Educational Technology Magazine. I’ll leave it to you to guess which voice I am. 🙂
Now, let’s see if I am getting all of this thread right: Magazine
publishers, book publishers, electronic services providers, software
development outfits, and related corporate entities are engaged in a
gigantic hold-up of teachers and learners,
In some cases, absolutely. Have you seen what Elsevier charges for a
subscription lately? There is no better phrase than “giagantic
But your first statement implies that I and others are anti-publisher.
I am not. I do believe, however, that the following GRE style test
item should be pondere by many people:
Ice delivery is to Refrigeration as Academic publishing is to ???
It is famously known that huge ice delivery corporations went out of
existence because they didn’t understand what their core business was.
They *thought* it was delivering ice. In reality, it was keeping
things cold. In days of yore, publishing and distributing information
was a capital intensive business. But it simply isn’t anymore. In my
opinion, “publishers” need to understand that their value no longer
comes from disseminating information. We can all do that ourselves
(this list, our blogs, and print-on-demand services like lulu.com
being examples). There is still value to add, however, in providing
editorial services and facilitating peer review. I believe that
“publishers” who think their value to the academic ecosystem comes
mainly from the fact that they can get information to people (i.e.,
their value is in their ability to “publish”) have their eyes closed
to refrigeration technology.
denying billions of people free access to — everything!
Whether good or bad, is is definitely true that people are denied free access.
The solution is simple: Eliminate all such corporate entities
We don’t want to eliminate them. We want them to evolve in response to
what is happening technologically, and provide only the value we need.
As per above, our community does not need help *disseminating*
information. We need editorial services and peer review.
and empower “the community” to invent and produce all
educational and informational materials,
This is already the state of things. Period. As researchers we: (1)
come up with the ideas for our research, (2) find the funding for our
research, (3) carry out our research, and (4) describe our research in
artifacts we believe will be useful to others. In other words, we work
hard to carry out research that willadd value to humanity. What value
does the publishing industry add to our effort? It (1) facilitates
somewhat objective peer review of our work, which is difficult for us
to do ourselves, and therefore valuable, (2) provides editorial help
with our writing, which is frequently painful / tedious / difficult
for us to do, and therefore valuable, (3) disseminates our work, which
we are now perfectly capable of doing ourselves, therefore adding no
value, and (4) demanding that we who concocted, funded, carried out,
and wrote up the research then hand over the rights to copy or share
those artifacts to the publisher, which certainly adds no value
to be available without cost at all times and places to everyone.
This would be our goal, yes. I’m not sure we can ever reach this goal,
but we can work hard at being asymptotal.
Nobody would ever make any money peddling information,
That is right. Because distributing information can be done by anyone
– including my 8 year old who blogs his summer research projects.
Distribution, or “peddling,” is no longer a problem we need help
solving. We need other kinds of help, as per above.
which, as everyone knows, “deserves to be free.”
Not sure how to respond to this anthropomorphizing. =)
Of course, professors would still earn their salaries, as meager as they might be, and schools would still charge tuition (to be paid either by students or taxpayers), but that’s a different story,
Yes, people will still pay tuition. But they won’t pay tuition for
information. Information is already freely available to them
everywhere. The library (content vetted by “real” publishers), the
Internet, MIT OpenCourseWare, etc. And why *is* MIT willing to give
away all the content for all 2000 courses in their catalog –
http://ocw.mit.edu/ ? Because they understand the information alone is
of very little value. People don’t pay tuition to MIT in order to get
professors’ books, watch their videos, or partake of other
“publishable” information they produce. They can get that stuff
elsewhere, for free, legally (libraries, etc.). People pay
universities for (1) interactions and relationships with professors,
(2) the chance to build social networks with other students, and (3)
accredited degrees. Thus MIT, Carnegie Mellon, Rice, Tufts, Michigan,
Utah State, and eventually all other schools will give away their
content – because “peddling content” is not where the primary value in
a formal education is. The value is in people and degrees.
having something or other to do with high-minded motivations,
Yes, having received multiple six figure offers from corporations, I
know that I stay in academia for what might be described as
“high-minded motivations,” as do most others I know. We could all make
more money if we moved to the private sector. So, obviously, something
else is motivating us.
and being totally opposite to the greed of
those mean intellectual property holders, who, as noted, must be destroyed
(totally destroyed!) if true educational opportunity is to exist.
They’re not mean per se. They simply seem to be more interested in
holding on to their 19th century business model (distributing
information is capital intensive and therefore where our key value
lies – we own a press!) than in responding to the needs of the public.
We don’t need help disseminating information anymore. We need other
kinds of help. We don’t want them destroyed, we want them to reinvent
themselves so they provide us the value we need.
Did I get all of this right? And where does one go to sign up for the revolution?
As a publisher, you could be a leader in the revolution. Provide us
editorial services for a fee, no copyright strings attached. Provide
us peer review services for a fee, no copyright strings attached.
Believe it or not, we’ll pay for a “Good Housekeeping Seal of
Approval”(TM!) that says “This artifact has been reviewed by objective
experts in the field and passes muster.” Become the little logo placed
on articles that let’s people know, “Oh. This should actually be a
decent piece of writing.” Those are the types of services we need. You
could provide them. We will pay for them. The Public Library of
Science is doing this in other fields (http://www.plos.org/faq.html).
Lead education in the same direction!