The link below is to an article that takes a look at Bookshop.org.
For all its faults, 2020 appears to have locked in momentum for the open access movement. But it is time to ask whether providing free access to published research is enough – and whether equitable access to not just reading but also making knowledge should be the global goal.
In Australia the first challenge is to overcome the apathy about open access issues. The term “open access” has been too easy to ignore. Many consider it a low priority compared to achievements in research, obtaining grant funding, or university rankings glory.
But if you have a child with a rare disease and want access to the latest research on that condition, you get it. If you want to see new solutions to climate change identified and implemented, you get it. If you have ever searched for information and run into a paywall requiring you to pay more than your wallet holds to read a single journal article that you might not even find useful, you will get it. And if you are watching dire international headlines and want to see a rapid solution to the pandemic, you will probably get it.
Many publishing houses temporarily threw open their paywall doors during the year. Suddenly, there was free access to research papers and data for scholars researching pandemic-related issues, and also for students seeking to pursue their studies online across a range of disciplines.
In October 2020, UNESCO made the case for open access to enhance research and information on COIVD-19. It also joined the World Health Organisation and UN High Commissioner for Human Rights in calling for open science to be implemented at all stages of the scientific process by all member states.
There is clearly an appetite for freely available information. Since it was established earlier this year, the CORD-19 website has built up a repository of more than 280,000 articles related to COVID-19. These have attracted tens of millions of views.
Europe has led the way
Europe was already ahead of the curve on open access and 2020 has accelerated the change. Plan S is an initiative for open access launched in Europe in 2018. It requires all projects funded by the European Commission and the European Research Council to be published open access.
A 2018 report commissioned by the European Commission found the cost to Europeans of not having access to FAIR (findable, accessible, interoperable and reusable) research data was €10 billion ($A16.1 billion) a year.
In 2019, open access publications accounted for 63% of publications in the UK, 61% in Sweden and 54% in France, compared to 43% of Australian publications.
Australia is lagging behind
Australia’s flagship Australian Research Council has required all research outputs to be open access since 2013. But researchers can choose not to publish open access if legal or contractual obligations require otherwise. This caveat has led to a relatively low rate of open access in Australia.
The Council of Australian University Librarians (CAUL) and the Australasian Open Access Strategy Group (AOASG) have long carried the torch for open access in Australia. But, without levers to drive change, they have struggled to change entrenched publishing practices of Australian academics.
Our Curtin Open Knowledge Initiative (COKI) project has examined open access across the world. We have analysed open access performance of individuals, individual institutions, groups of universities and nations in recent decades. The COKI Open Access Dashboard offers a glimpse into a subset of this international data, providing insights into national open access performance.
This analysis shows a steady global shift towards open access publications.
For example, in November 2020, Springer Nature announced it would allow authors to publish open access in Nature and associated journals at a price of up to €9,500 (A$15,300) per paper from January 2021. This was a signal change for the publishing industry. One of the world’s most prestigious journals is overturning decades of closed-access tradition to throw open the doors, and committing to increasing its open access publications over time.
At the moment, the pricing of this model enables only a select group to publish open access. The publication cost is equivalent to the value of some Australian research grants. Pricing is expected to become more affordable over time.
It’s not just about access to facts
This international trend is a positive step for fans of freely available facts. However, we should not lose sight of other potentially larger issues at play in relation to open knowledge – that is, a level playing field for access to both published research and participation in research production.
Put another way, we need to pursue not only equity among knowledge takers but also among knowledge makers if we are to enable the world’s best thinkers to collaborate on the planet’s signature challenges.
All of this is good news for people who love to access information – but the bigger overall question for the higher education sector is about the conventions, traditions and trends that determine who gets to be considered for a job in a lab or a library or a lecture theatre. There is much more to be done to make our universities open for all – a future of equity in knowledge making as well as taking.
The links below are to articles reporting on Bookshop.org, an alternative to Amazon that is beginning to take shape.
For more visit:
The links below are to articles reporting on the purchase of Simon & Schuster for over $2 billion US dollars by Bertelsmann, the parent company of Penguin Random House.
For more visit:
The link below is to an article that looks at bookshops/bookstores and asks are they essential businesses?
In a new series, writers pay tribute to fictional detectives on page and on screen.
Trixie Belden, girl detective, does not rank in the world’s pantheon of cool sleuths. She’s unlikely to appear in a Coen brothers’ film (à la Marge Gunderson in Fargo (1996)), for example. Nor did she issue from the pen of hardboiled, mid-century crime writer Chester Himes.
Instead, she was the creation of Western Publishing — the American maker of Little Golden Books who wanted to market low-cost mysteries and adventures to children after the second world war — and Julie Campbell, a writer and literary agent who responded to their call.
Campbell wrote the first six books in the series from 1948 to 1958. The rest, some 30 or so, were composed by ghostwriters between 1961 and 1986 and published under the pseudonym, Kathryn Kenny.
As a child, I had no inkling of this origin story. So far as I knew, Trixie Belden was from Crabapple Farm, Sleepyside, in the Hudson River Valley. She had three brothers (two older, one younger) and her best friend was Honey Wheeler, met in the original book, The Secret of the Mansion (1948), which I read more than 30 years after it was first published.
Friends like these
Honey was rich and beautiful. So was Diana, who turned up a bit later in the series and was memorably said to have violet eyes. Trixie was neither of these things.
In the first book, at the age of 13, she found her detective vocation by uncovering the fortune of a deceased recluse. She also met its beneficiary. Jim Frayne, a runaway with a brutal stepfather, would become Honey’s adopted brother, Trixie’s blossoming love interest, and a member of the Bob-Whites, Trixie’s club of friends who formed the support cast for the Belden-Wheeler Detective Agency.
Whether searching for a lost weather vane or tracking down an arsonist, Trixie was at the centre of all the mysteries, which I avidly read and reread.
My attraction to Trixie was not a matter of projection or identification; my world was clearly unlike hers.
I did not anticipate that I would come across a rabid dog; rescue a pilot from a burning aeroplane; or have to suck blood from my brother’s toe to prevent his poisoning by a copperhead. (And that was all in only the first book of the series).
Trixie was obsessed with horses, I was more interested in her setter dog, Reddy. Trixie was terrible at maths, which had yet to cause me trouble.
The differences between us didn’t matter so much as our shared interest in “running all the information through [our] mental computer” (from 1977’s The Mystery of the Uninvited Guest). I wanted to figure things out, just like Trixie. She nonetheless had many amateur sleuth competitors on my primary school reading list.
Tips for young detectives
I had the non-fiction Detective’s Handbook out on constant library loan. It was instructive in disguise-wearing and decoding. Then there was Enid Blyton’s The Famous Five and The Secret Seven, and also Nancy Drew.
The child-groups constituting the two former titles were like the Bob-Whites insofar as they also formed detective communities. Although to my mind they put inordinate value on passwords, badges and boarding school holidays.
Nancy Drew was undeniably admirable in her older sophistication but a little too polished for my still-developing taste. She was confident and self-contained, which is surely why Hollywood created movie versions of her and why the intrusion of the Hardy Boys franchise into her narrative made no sense to me. It wasn’t like she needed any help.
By contrast, Trixie Belden was more accommodating and needing of others. She sometimes said mean things, and would then regret them and apologise.
She knew she wasn’t as pretty as Honey or Diana and, while that worried her a little, she shrugged it off and had far more interesting existential doubts. In the 17th book, The Mystery of the Uninvited Guest, she speaks of feeling as if she were inside a glass box:
All the people of the world march past me … I know that when I can tell just one person who I am, the glass will melt and I can join the parade.
I’m sure at the age of eight or nine I had only a vague idea of what she meant, but it sounded a lot like what growing up was all about.
Smart and sensitive
Sticky situations, mistaken identities and stolen jewels were always worked out, revealed or returned to their rightful owners in the end. And the motives behind these events weren’t always nefarious.
Reassurance was offered in the sympathetic knowledge that circumstances, rather than moral flaws, can bring about bad deeds, and that detection itself trod a fine ethical line.
Trixie’s conscience was pricked by her practices of eavesdropping, surveillance and occasional breaking-and-entering. At times she determined that the status quo, which her detective work ostensibly upheld, was not right.
Maths might have stumped her, but as Honey appreciatively recognised of her friend:
Trixie was a down-to-earth person, keenly aware of information gathered by all of her five senses — plus that extra sense called horse sense.
She might not be cool, today or then, but — well-surpassing her intended pulp-fiction status — Trixie Belden was smart and sensitive in the ways that mattered.
This year’s Booker prize shortlist offers the most diverse lineup ever with four female and two male writers, four of who are people of colour. But while the diversity of the 2020 shortlist for the best original novel is to be commended, the majority of the publishers of Booker-winning novels are still based in London.
This reflects that the concentration of power in UK publishing is still in the English capital. As such, non-English British writers published outside London are perennially disadvantaged by the Booker’s selection criteria.
And as it stands, of the 30 times the prize has been awarded to UK-based authors, it has only once gone to a Scottish author: James Kelman’s How Late it Was How Late, in 1994. It went once to a Welsh author – Bernice Rubens for The Elected Member in 1970 – while Anna Burns became the first winner from Northern Ireland in 2018 for Milkman. Three non-English, but UK-based winners, all of which were published by London presses.
The Booker is steeped in Britain’s colonial history, having originally been set up as an award for British and Commonwealth writers writing in the English language and published in the UK and Ireland.
The literary prize opened up its entry criteria in 2013 to allow submissions from writers born outside of Britain, its Commonwealth and its former colonies. This is a move that continues to rankle some prominent British authors with concerns US writers are dominating the line-up. All but one of the writers on the 2020 shortlist, are from the US or hold joint US citizenship.
Prior to this, the makeup of Booker winners was overwhelmingly male (67%), privately-educated (62%), and one-third of winners had attended Oxford or Cambridge University. No wonder, then, that Julian Barnes, former judge and winner of the prize, described it as “posh bingo”.
A publishers’ prize?
As with any literary prize, the Booker’s submission criteria has always influenced the kind of novels that are shortlisted. Its submission guidelines, which don’t allow entries from publishers who don’t publish at least two literary fiction titles a year, have created an unbalanced system.
And since a rule change in 2013, the prize is now weighted even more towards publishers with a history of having books longlisted for the prize – who are able to submit up to four entries. This change was said to be in the interest of fairness and to better “represent the levels of publishing the different sized houses do”. But many feel the changes work in favour of the bigger publishers.
In a country where publishing is so concentrated in the hands of just a few conglomerates who have acquired some of Britain’s most successful small presses, the chances of British novelists who are neither English, nor published by major London publishers, winning seems to be getting smaller. And for non-English UK novelists published by small presses (self-published works are ineligible for the Booker), the Booker is simply not a plausible option.
As Leigh Wilson, professor of English literature, has argued on this site: “Booker rules make submissions from small publishers very tricky because of the size of the print run required and the amount of money that involves.” This is compounded by the fact that: “The rules of eligibility are almost entirely now about the publisher, rather than the novel or novelist”.
Absence of small presses
The prize also often illustrates a disconnect between the publishing industry and the reading public. This gulf could be behind the surging popularity of the Guardian’s Not the Booker prize, a reader-nominated, deliberately tongue-in-cheek, rejoinder to the Booker’s perceived pomposity.
Indeed, Welsh writer Richard Owain Roberts’ debut, Hello Friend We Missed You – touted as the favourite for this year’s Not the Booker – would simply never have been considered for entry to the Booker. This is because the submission criteria makes it near impossible for small presses – like Parthian, Roberts’ Cardigan-based publisher – to even afford to enter.
This absence or marginalisation of writers in Wales, Scotland and Ireland seems not to relate to sales successes. Irish novelist Sally Rooney’s phenomenally successful Normal People, for example, didn’t make the step from longlist to shortlist for the Booker. This is despite it having a cult following, achieving substantial sales and being touted as the favourite when the longlist was announced.
But the Booker is far from alone in not reflecting bestseller lists. In his analysis of the Pulitzer prize for fiction (broadly the US equivalent of the Booker), author and academic, James F. English notes the number of shortlisted novels that also appear on that year’s top ten bestseller lists have been in steady decline – from a high point in the 1960s of 60% to under 5% in the 1990s.
That said, winning might not be all it’s cracked up to be, given a 2014 study found that literary prizes make books less popular.
The link below is to an article reporting on changes at Macmillan, following a period of turmoil at the company.
The link below is to an article reporting on supply issues hitting the book publishing industry.
The link below is to an article reporting on the latest attack on Amazon.