Digital Resources and Ethics

by

While numerous EMOB postings have discussed issues of access and quality surrounding digital resources, we have yet to discuss these issues extensively within the context of ethics. A September 30th post on Barbara Fister’s Library Babel Fish, “The Great Disconnect: Scholars without Libraries”, spurred me to think more about the ethical side of questions that we’ve been raising. Fister’s post was inspired by the Association of College and Research Libraries (ACRL) blog’s post, “Underground Resource Sharing”, that in turn was motivated by other posts, including one by a blogger who, upon graduating, suddenly discovered he lacked access to JStor” (ACRL blog). As the ACRLblog post’s title indicates and Fister’s post explores, there is an underground market for commercial subscription, password-protected databases. The post by the dismayed blogger who found himself without access to JStor generated numerous comments that offered the underground market as an obvious solution to his problem. For instance,

Virtually everyone I know who’s not employed by a top-tier R1 has a bootlegged EEBO account: through friends who are still grad students, advisors, or friends with cushier jobs.”

These comments prompted Fister to respond:

Comments on his post pointed out that, duh, you just get a friend to send articles to you, or you join a Facebook or FriendFeed group dedicated to swapping articles or just get somebody’s login. Too bad we spent so much on EEBO – apparently everyone has a bootleg login.

The notion that “everyone has a bootleg login” as well as the remark, “Too bad we spent so much on EEBO” gave me pause. While I have known a case in which someone shared his login with a few former students (now colleagues elsewhere), I was frankly surprised to hear that this practice is seen to be so widespread. Am I being naive? And, as Fister’s reply suggests, if it is so common, then the practice certainly has financial implications not only for the commercial owners of these resources but also for the institutions that allocate funds (often student technology fees) to purchasing these resources. As Fister also noted, these databases are not free, and it is telling that the surprised blogger could have spent several years if not many earning an advanced degree and remain clueless about the economic issues, costs, and licensing terms associated with these resources.

The exchange also raised questions about sharing an article or a text with a colleague at another institution that lacks access. I have done so on occasion and had considered the gesture a favor to another colleague. I have also performed a quick search and sent title results to a friend. While I can count on my hand the number of times I have done so, this post made me realize that this good-will gesture has another side to it as well if practiced regularly–and perhaps even if practiced only rarely or at all. So, is the use of bootleg logins rampant? What do others on emob think about this underground trafficking, the sharing of passwords and articles or texts? Is the rare sharing of an article or text unethical ultimately? Are these questions of degree? Or are all of these activities equivalent? And how do we view and balance these questions of ethics against those related to the ethics of the digital access divide separating the scholars who have these resources from those that don’t?

On the POD reprint-publishing front, I just discovered this week a new level of ethical low. A student came to me for help in finding a copy of Frederic P. Miller, Agnes F. Vandome, John McBrewster’s Fan Fiction: Fan Labor, List of Fan Fiction Terms, Legal Issues (2010) for a paper she was writing on copyright issues. Well, we couldn’t find the title in WorldCat, etc. though it did come up in Amazon and Google Books. The work was published by Alphascript Publishing, which, as Wikipedia’s Signpost reports, sells free articles as expensive books”, and this title is just one of many they are “publishing.” A general Google search revealed the scam being perpetuated by this outfit:

An Amazon.com book search on 9 June 2009 gives 1009 (6 August, gives 1,859) “books” from Alphascript Publishing.[nan 1] 1003 of the books are described as “by John McBrewster, Frederic P. Miller, and Agnes F. Vandome”. They are called editors in the book listings. It seems the only content of the many books is free Wikipedia articles with no sign that these three people have contributed to them.

The Wikipedia article also notes:

The articles are often poorly printed with features such as missing characters from foreign languages, and numerous images of arrows where Wikipedia had links. It appears much better to read the original articles for free at the Wikipedia website than paying a lot of money for what has been described as a scam or hoax. Advertising for the books at Amazon and elsewhere does not reveal the free source of all the content. It is only revealed inside the books which may satisfy the license requirements for republishing of Wikipedia articles.

The piece concludes by noting that “PrimeHunter has compiled a list of the 1009 titles,” and this list was as of June 2009. The specific title that led to this discovery sells for $49.00 on Amazon.

On a happier note, this week I received an invitation for a trial subscription to InteLex’s “The Eighteenth Century”, part of its Past Masters English Letters series. InteLex, a corporation located in Charlottesville, VA, publishes “highly accurate full text databases in the humanities.” Its Past Masters English Letters series series, produced in association with Oxford University Press, features “scholarly electronic editions of the correspondence, journals, notebooks, and memoirs of the most important figures in English literature and other fields from 1100-1950.” Although I have yet to arrange for a university trial subscription, what seems encouraging about this series is the following testimony:

In the world of scholarly electronic publishing, InteLex continues to get it right, as they have from the beginning: working closely with scholarly editors, selecting high-quality editions to digitize, marking them up carefully and well according to international standards, and permitting libraries either to rent them over the Internet or to purchase, own and locally house them, as we do print editions–all at reasonable prices. I recommend InteLex databases to libraries wholeheartedly, not only because they are superior publications and a good deal, but also because InteLex is the kind of electronic publisher that academic libraries need most in the 21st century.

—Scott Dennis
Humanities Librarian and Coordinator
Core Electronic Resources
Harlan Hatcher Graduate Library
University of Michigan

As Scott Ennis’s words suggest, resources offering well-chosen texts that are marked up using recognizing standards, produced with scholarly input from start to finish, and sold for a reasonable, fair price are the types of tools we do need for the 21st century. In light of this post’s topic, this list of characteristics also outlines an ethical template that publishers would be wise to follow in making digital products available.

Based on the list of authors (Gay and Swift, both Fieldings, Humphrey Wanley, Humfrey [paleaographer, Anglo-Saxonist, librarian, 1672-1726] and many more figures including late eighteenth-century ones) and its extensiveness (the series contains forty-eight volumes of correspondence) this offering appears to be valuable; in a future report I will report on my experiences using it.

36 Responses to “Digital Resources and Ethics”

  1. Tweets that mention Digital Resources and Ethics « Early Modern Online Bibliography -- Topsy.com Says:

    [...] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Nick, Sharon Howard. Sharon Howard said: RT @mercpol Digital Resources and Ethics: While numerous EMOB postings have discussed issues of access and quality … http://bit.ly/dtli60 [...]

  2. Anna Battigelli Says:

    Thanks, Eleanor. And, no, you are not naive in being surprised by claims that everyone has bootlegged access to these digital resources. I know many scholars who need access to commercial databases, particularly text-bases like EEBO and ECCO, but judging from their complaints, not one has access to bootlegged accounts. The rumor that acquiring such access is common needs to be stopped because it masks the very real problem of access.

    I completely agree with Barbara Fister that we ought to be both more alert and more active in securing open-access scholarly publishing, though this is no easy task. Just as important, we need to acknowledge the very real problem of access for those trained to use text-bases that become unavailable to them once they get jobs. Maintaining those jobs, after all, will almost always be contingent on using and thus having access to such text-bases.

  3. Eleanor Shevlin Says:

    Thanks, Anna. Your sense that underground trafficking is not as common as some of these posts suggest matches mine. My own situation straddles that of the have and have-nots; my institution does have ECCO I and EEBO, but we don’t yet have Burney nor ECCO II, and we no longer have Brown’s WWP.

    Of course, inequalities existed in our pre-digital world, but the proliferation of digital resources has seriously altered and widened the gap. We do have a serious responsibility to advocate for and seek open-access resources, but we also need to educate ourselves about the costs involved and the hidden labor entailed in creating digital tools. I also worry about outfits such as Alphascript that see an opportunity in freely available texts as the basis for expensively priced works.

    On a different note, my list of authors for InteLex does not convey the diversity that that InteLex’s resources appear to offer. See the list of InteLex authors.

    • Anna Battigelli Says:

      I agree. Two interrelated missions are before us: the first consists of diminishing the digital divide by advocating for something like open access; the second, on which the first is contingent, involves becoming educated about the true costs of digital tools, including the value-added costs.

      Robert Darnton‘s ongoing effort to explore academic publishing online seems key to the latter. Better communication among librarians, instructors, administrators, and commercial interests is key to the former. One of the goals of this blog is to explore this complex issue.

      Has anyone used InteLex? I would be interested in hearing more about this. Perhaps a separate post on this project would be timely.

  4. Eleanor Shevlin Says:

    Yes, both these issues are key to our focus, and the issues also have overlaps.

    For example, a draft of an ACRL White Paper: Open Access and the ACRL Serial Publishing Program notes the possible costs to authors if an open access model was instituted:

  5. Funding the conversion of C&RL [College and Research Library journal] to open access via author payments would require fees ranging from $1,480 to $2,260 per accepted article.
  6. Another alternative would be to charge a submission fee for all articles submitted for consideration. As there are more articles submitted than published; this would result in a lower charge—from $470 to $715—that would be imposed on all authors who submit articles.
  7. A combination of submission and acceptance fees would result in submission fees ranging from $250 to $370 accompanied by publication fees of $770 to $1,160.
  8. Authors whose articles are rejected would pay only the submission fee. Authors whose articles are accepted would pay both.

    This scenario raises additional questions about the potential new forms of inequities. Would an author’s institutions help pay or pay for the costs involved in submitting and/or having a piece published? If not, would authors be able to afford the costs involved?

    As for InteLex, a quick search of WorldCat shows primarily Canadian institutions holding the Eighteenth Series. However, that might not be truly the case. I would also be interested in hearing from others whose institutions do have this resource and thus have used it over time. As I noted, I will report on my trial subscription experience.

  9. Dave Mazella Says:

    Two comments: the first about Intelex is wow, this database would be perfect for my project. I’m not aware of anything comparable in terms of keyword searching of correspondence. Then of course the heart sinking feeling that an institution like mine, which only acquired EEBO last year, would take years before it would consider this.

    The second comment is about the institutional politics of open access, which I think ultimately is the best option for universities like mine, though I understand the steep pricing of submissions. I still think this is better than the current system. Either that, or figuring out some kind of system like the one Peter Reill discussed for professional organizations providing assistance for at least temporary access.

  10. Eleanor Shevlin Says:

    Dave,

    I would urge you to contact InteLex; I suspect that you would be able to receive a month’s trial. Plus, the cost might be something that would be agreeable to your university. The testimonials do stress the “reasonable” cost (of course, “reasonable” can mean different things to different people).

    Yes, open access routes, with author payments or other types of funding, does seem more equitable than the existing system. Yet, I did want to note that this route is not “free” either. Moreover, this model of open access is more for academic journal articles and not the kind of databases that feature primary texts such as EEBO or ECCO. 18thConnect seems as if it might offer another model of access for these texts, one in which volunteer labor in correcting and the like would grant access to particular works. That said, what Peter Reill had been pursuing is the option that I would most like to see adopted for these primary texts, but I think those efforts are stalled for the moment.

  11. Dave Mazella Says:

    Thanks, Eleanor, for the tip. I am also checking to see whether any institutions in my area have access to it.

    I’m not sure why the inequities in virtual academic resources are galling in ways that, say, inequities in brick and mortar facilities, are not. No one is surprised that one institution provides better offices or dorms than another. Maybe because it cuts across our notions of “professionalism”? In principle scholars working in the same field should not suffer because of differences in institutional affiliation. This is the principle behind practices like blind peer review. But phenomena like this really bring home the differences between scholarship as practiced at one kind of institution versus the scholarship practiced at another.

  12. Carnivalesque 68 | Mercurius Politicus Says:

    [...] woodcuts, part 2 Google Reader shared itemsDefenders of the Arts 20 November 2010 Gavin RobinsonDigital Resources and Ethics 19 November 2010 Eleanor ShevlinSchool feedback 15 November 2010 AnnetteWhere is Siegfried [...]

  13. Hex Says:

    As a member of the general public and non-academic in any form, I would like to comment briefly on something. I very much enjoy reading Early English texts, to the point of being willing to pay for access to them. Yet EEBO, I have found, will not even consider allowing me to do so, because I am not a student, historian, or other academic.

    I really don’t understand why, and it is very frustrating.

    • Eleanor Shevlin Says:

      To date EEBO does not make available individual subscriptions–whether short-time access, yearly or otherwise–and the lack of individual subscriptions overall would account for your lack of access (as opposed to your being outside the academy).

      I do believe that EEBO has been considering the possibility of individual subscriptions.

      • Anna Battigelli Says:

        It would help make the case for individual subscriptions if we had a general sense of the numbers of potential non-academic subscribers. I’m not sure how best to do this other than to have people comment here on their awareness of interest in EEBO on the part of the general public.

        The Academy should provide access to cultural material of interest to the general public, but figuring out how to do this for expensive text-bases like EEBO–so expensive that many academics do not have access to it–is a challenge.

        Perhaps Jo-Anne Hogan will help answer this question.

      • Eleanor Shevlin Says:

        The POD partnerships that EEBO and ECCO have initiated with BiblioLife do make texts–albeit for a fee–available to the general public. My sense from viewing customer comments on Amazon and the like is that there is at least some general interest among non-academics in these older texts.

  14. KellyFJ Says:

    The issue is not just “bootleggers”, but also a very serious question of access. I am a PhD candidate at a public U doing work on Broadside Ballads. Without EEBO, my dissertation would not be possible. This is in part due to the highly competitive for funding for research in the UK. Fortunately I obtained a grant that allowed me to work at the British Library for 9 very productive weeks – but that archival material is only a fraction of the material I’m using for my project. I’d love to have gone for longer, work-cross archive, but there simply wasn’t the funding. EEBO allows me access to some of those archives I can’t afford to go to in person.

    On the other hand, I am terrified about the day I finish my PhD and lose access to EEBO, ECCO, JSTOR, and ProjectMuse. The reality is that only a very small fraction of graduating PhDs get jobs in the academy, which means that the majority of us end up jobless and cu- off entirely from these kinds of databases which, frankly, are absolutely necessary to “maintain scholarly activities”, publish, and turn dissertations into manuscripts – the qualities were are told are absolutely necessary to even be considered by a hiring committee. We get stuck in a sick cycle of “you didn’t get a job because you didn’t publish enough,” followed by “but now that you’re graduated, you’re cut off from all resources that could let you publish in the time you are desperately searching for a job.” I don’t want to bootleg data – but if it comes to using a friend’s log in and being able to stay on top of current literature, turn chapters into articles, and thus remain a viable candidate for the years I might be on the job market w/ minuscule income (paying several hundred or a thousand dollars is absolutely out of the question when you’re making less than a grad student and desperately adjuncting), it is likely in my future.

    Most grads/former grads who bootleg don’t do it b/c they’re lazy, they do it because they can’t afford not to – both in terms of access cost and the edge they lose if they don’t do everything possible to remain a viable job candidate. As far as sharing with less fortunate colleagues – many of these programs seem to be to be the bare minimum an institution should be able to afford – those who are stuck without EEBO, JSTOR, MUSE are severely disadvantaged compared to colleagues whose institutions provide access. It only entrenches the divide in the academy between those who can afford access and those who can’t, and continues to code that gap in the language of rightousness and meritocracy (denying access to those who weren’t”good enough” to get into an institution that can afford access – the “good enough” being measured by how much money the institution can afford).

    On the other hand, to echo some of the earlier comments, we also have to recognize (and those us us involved in the digital humanities do), that there is a very real human, archival, and digital cost associated in building these databases and maintaining the sources. Something that EEBO, JSTOR, etc might consider is working inconjunction with University libraries to allow “alumni access”. There is no way I could afford to pay for access to each database separately, but I would happily pay $50? $100? per quarter for remote log-in access to the same databases I have access to now that I’m a grad. This could be easily made progressive based on the person’s employment/status – recent jobless grads pay a lower fee than say alums of the same university who are gainfully academically employed but don’t have access at their current institutions.

    Finally, as someone who uses EEBO in the classroom – students love it, but unless it’s connected to a class assignment, they forget it exists. I don’t see hoards of undergrads desperate to illegally access these sites.

    • Anna Battigelli Says:

      I would hope that Directors of Graduate Studies are raising this issue with their librarians. KellyFJ, this might be something to look into. I have often wondered why universities have not followed through with a version of your suggestion for alumni access, though I suspect that commercial databases might object.

      Providing alumni access seems absolutely necessary for graduate students. Alumni access might also enrich and usefully broaden academic debate pertaining to items in these textbases.

    • Eleanor Shevlin Says:

      Yes, I would think–and hope–that Director of Graduate Studies are pursuing this issue.

      Alumni access is hindered by commercial licenses and their fee schedules, which (I believe) are often based on enrollment numbers. At many universities alumni can gain continued borrowing privileges for an annual fee. But that fee does not include access to many or all electronic databases. About a decade ago, I had investigated securing privileges at Penn because I wanted access to its databases. The annual fee was $750.00–and did NOT include access to electronic resources.

      I do know that some universities and university departments have worked on developing special arrangements for independent scholars to grant them access to the resources they need to sustain an active scholarly agenda. Yet, such arrangements are done on a case-by-case basis and not a true solution.

      • Anna Battigelli Says:

        I’d like to hear from librarians who negotiate these contracts. What can faculty do to help these contracts serve the larger community more effectively?

  15. Eleanor Shevlin Says:

    Absolutely! Many thanks for your post. You articulate exactly the imperative need for access to these databases to 21st-century scholarship. Access is one of the key issues that emob has often foregrounded. Indeed, we have actively been pursuing channels that would help gain wider access to these databases for all U.S. scholars. (Related posts include Unequal Access and Commercial Databases and Summary of the “Some Noisy Feedback Roundtable, ASECS; we’ve also had discussions with vendors and officers in societies).

    One of the reasons the “bootleg” issue attracted me is because it promotes the erroneous idea that everyone has access through illegal channels–and clearly that is not the case. I also wanted to draw attention to the ethical issues entailed in the two-tier system that is quickly developing and that KellyFT so well details.

  16. Barbara Says:

    I don’t think librarians have much leverage to negotiate alumni or other access. We do what we can for our communities, but even so – EEBO requires an upfront investment of tens of thousands of dollars, plus a much smaller annual fee, and yes, it’s based on some magical ratio of FTE students and ability to pay. We pay over ten thousand a year to share three seats with two other institutions (each of which pays over 10K annually) for one science database, which means anyone trying to use it faces being shut out. Three seats is not a lot for three colleges to share, but we couldn’t possibly afford to get it by ourselves.

    I was surprised by the comments about EEBO suggesting people routinely use bootleg passwords – that had never occurred to me, and I doubt the faculty who want to use it with their students would be willing to go through the back door that way. But I am guessing that these database providers won’t sell single-subscriber subscriptions because that might undermine their library market. In many cases there are few people actually asking for access to some of these pricey databases, but only a library will pay $30 or $40,000 to provide it to them.

    By the way, when I wrote “too bad we paid so much for EEBO” I was joking… but in a pained way.

    • Anna Battigelli Says:

      Thanks for this. It’s great to have your perspective.

      I would like to hear more about how librarians don’t have much leverage to negotiate access. On the one hand, I can see the truth of this claim, in that commercial databases will initially be closed to this possibility. On the other hand, isn’t it the responsibility of those negotiating these contracts to raise difficult questions about their impact, particularly with regard to questions about access?

      I’d like to hear more about what can be done, especially by schools currently negotiating such agreements. Eleanor’s point that consortia can be arranged points to the variety of agreements that can be shaped. Additionally, the package of products included can be shaped and their prices negotiated.

      Is there no room for additional dialogue regarding access?

      • Dave Mazella Says:

        This has been a very interesting discussion for me, because I’ve had some very successful collaborations with librarians in my institution, but getting input into these kinds of decisions has been much tougher. This is unsurprising, considering the budgetary pressures librarians are facing, along with everyone else.

        Nonetheless, I wonder about this list’s feelings about the “commercialization” of research libraries, as this is discussed by Daniel Goldstein in the Chron of Higher Ed:

        http://chronicle.com/article/Library-Inc/124915/

        If these kinds of questions of access are above the paygrade of librarians, then who is responsible, and accountable, for the impact of these kinds of policies on institutions and the profession?

      • Eleanor Shevlin Says:

        As for the “commercialization of libraries,” Goldstein’s article notes a number of trends that I have also observed. Students, for one, seem far more familiar with the names of purveyors than journals. Homogenization of holdings also seems to be an increasing development (though this point is germane only to institutions that can afford access), and journals not bundled are suffering.

      • Anna Battigelli Says:

        Goldstein’s essay is interesting, not least his point about the consequences of commercializing libraries:

        By outsourcing ownership to mega-vendors, libraries have introduced the commercial interests of the journal providers into what had been an internal academic transaction between a library and its patrons. Purveyors of e-journals provide access to their titles on sites that are designed to bolster brand recognition and encourage repeat visits. This practice is good for business but not for scholarship. It is common to hear library patrons say that they found information on “Informaworld” (the platform of publisher Taylor and Francis) or “ScienceDirect” (Elsevier’s platform) and not to know the name of the journal in which the article was published. Students especially have become purveyor-dependent, when they should be familiarizing themselves with the best literature, in the best journals, regardless of who sells it.

        Librarians have nearly impossible tasks, among which is the responsibility to consider the consequences of new purchasing procedures for the scholarly world. I do not think this can be done in isolation. Much more dialogue, both between librarians and faculty and also between colleges, seems necessary.

      • Eleanor Shevlin Says:

        Yes. One place that ongoing dialogue does seem to be taking place is within various library consortia and across consortia. Consortia also seem to have different practices. In some for example, not all members must agree to purchasing a particular database. As for faculty involvement, do most institutions have faculty who serve on its institution’s Library Committee?

        I will say decisions to cancel print journals are always brought to relevant departments, and decisions as to what titles can be dropped are made by us.

    • Eleanor Shevlin Says:

      Daniel Goldstein’s article that Dave cites helps explain the increasing lack of power that librarians, especially subject-specialists, have in negotiating with commercial vendors:

      …the big deals take the decision about which journals to purchase out of the hands of subject-specialist librarians, a trend that is leading to the homogenization of library collections.

      Like Dave, I have had consistently positive collaborations with librarians. Each department at my institution has a library liaison, and there’s a stack of Choice cards with information about new books and reviews that we can examine and indicate which titles should be order. In requesting electronic resources, I have dealt directly with the Director of our library, and he has been the one to prepare and submit written proposals for using student technology funds to purchase various resources. These proposals are submitted to, I believe, the Provost and done so on behalf of our department and others on campus for whom the requested databases would serve. Our library director has also played a leadership role in the consortium to which we belong–a consortium that has grown larger through a merger with yet another library consortium (a move perhaps partially geared to deal with the increasingly large commercial conglomerates that provide electronic journals and resources). At the Library of Congress, however, I approached the subject specialist to request that the LC subscribe to the Burney Collection. She was able to obtain a subscription, but she had nothing to do with the negotiation of price. A close friend of mine who works in the Senate Communication’s division has had, until recently, the responsibility for selecting resources and negotiating contracts with electronic resources vendors (e.g., Lexis Nexis).

      While only a speculation, it seems that the problem with bundling and little choice may be worse in the sciences than in the humanities–or that certainly seems to be the case when it comes to products such as EEBO and EECO.

  17. Eleanor Shevlin Says:

    Thanks so much, Barbara, for chiming in. I should say that I knew you were joking with the “too bad we paid so much for EEBO.” Yet, the comments from the other sources made the practice seem far more common. I don’t think it is.

    It has also been my impression that librarians do not have much control in negotiating these contracts. That’s one reason that I have been so interested in the JISC that negotiates these contracts for all universities in Britain. Of course, U.S. universities and colleges are not under a collective government oversight that enables such negotiation to work in Britain. Still, one could perhaps hope that major professional organizations/societies, perhaps joining forces with something like the Mellon Foundation, might be able to intervene in some way to negotiate lower prices and broader access in the U.S. Belonging to a library consortium seems at present to be one of the most effective ways to gain access for schools that normally could not afford a subscription. West Chester University’s membership in such a consortium appears to be a key reason that my institution was initially able to secure access to EEBO and ECCO I. Since then, technology fees paid by students have helped to fund access to other humanities tools–and, I hope, will also fund access to Burney and ECCO II soon. The consistently high usage figures that ECCO and EEBO have garnered at my university has been a key reason that the administration has been willing to approve the library’s budget requests for subscriptions to other databases like these ECCO and EEBO.

    The commercial outfits that have produced databases such as EEBO and ECCO, moreover, have invested more money than scholars sometimes imagine in creating these resources, so they also need to make something from their investment and outlay of capital.

    I believe that ProQuest is considering the possibility of individual subscriptions for EEBO. The fear of hurting their library market may be at the root of ProQuest’s and Cengage-Gale’s reluctance to do so thus far, but representatives have indicated at our round-table sessions that a key obstacle stems from the administrative complexities and costs involved.

  18. Neil Howlett Says:

    I am an amateur researcher which means that I cannot access EEBO or JSTOR, even though I still have reading and borrowing rights from the UL at Cambridge. I also buy temporary access to academic libraries that are closer, as I live in Somerset. I find this a real disadvantage. As I work on two research projects in the early modern period some texts are simply not available to me. Even though I have reading rights these don’t extend to rare books. I am restricted to saving up references and then spending several intensive days in a row at the UL (not that I regret renewing my love affair with the stacks). Librarians are now not buying hard copies of journals that are available electronically, so short of the UL up to date journals are simply not available to me. Being outside an academic environment how easy it is to miss the most up to date research.
    I try to respect copyright and the financial investment in these resources, which I assume are wonderful for those who can access them. I have occasionally asked friendly academics to do look ups where there is no viable alternative (i.e., they can do something on EEBO in a few minutes that would take me at least a day). I’m restraining myself from imposing on my son who has just started as an undergraduate – I don’t know how long I will resist that easy email asking “could you just . . .”.
    This has become increasingly problematic as I get to the stage of checking off those references that are probably of no value, re-checking and finding the most obscure. It also means that the articles I write cannot give EEBO references. I still think amateurs have plenty to offer; we are not constrained by the restrictions of publishing deadlines, course restrictions and targets. I think my research is of high quality; I have given presentations to postgraduate conferences. I am some way off having the time to start my projected PhD formally, although I may have much of the research done by the time I do. I’ve even considered signing up for a cheap course somewhere and not actually attending just to get these rights.

  19. Eleanor Shevlin Says:

    Dear Neil,

    Many thanks for your comments. This issue of access is so frustrating, but also complex. I, too, have asked friends on a rare occasion to check or search a database that my institution does not have, and as I noted in my post, I have also on occasion done so for others. And, as you note, amateurs often do have very much to offer, so this lack of access is harming broader contributions. Moreover, the interest in earlier periods and research beyond the academy seems to be something that should be encouraged and embraced.

    I am under the impression that the 17th and 18th century Burney collection database is available at all U.K. public libraries, but obviously this is not the case for EEBO and JStor. Project Muse does not seem to be as common in academic libraries in the U.K., but I may be mistaken about that.

  20. Eleanor Shevlin Says:

    It also occurred to me, Neil, that a project such as 18thConnect geared to the 16th and early 17th centuries would be of great help to you and other scholars and researchers who lack access. 18thConnect will allow even those without access to search ECCO and, in exchange for correcting and editing work, even access to select titles. Once one has a list of titles needed, one could even perhaps purchase POD copies from BiblioLife. It is my understanding that plans for such a resource hub are under discussion both the for the pre-18th century and the modern era.

  21. Neil Howlett Says:

    Eleanor
    I’ve checked and the Burney Collection is available free to FE and HE institutions in the UK, but not public libraries, so the same as EEBO & JSTOR.
    There are some very good resources, like LEME and a lot of material conected with Shakespeare and the theatre. There are also some excellent collaborative amateur sites/groups connected to single locations.
    As always with the web finding them is haphazard. As my spiritual home is the UL in Cambridge I still fantasise about some Borgesian virtual catalogue room with every useful website neatly pasted into huge well organised ledgers. . . .
    An Early Modern Connect sounds like a good use of the way the internet can collate and concentrate the efforts of diverse contributors.

    • Eleanor Shevlin Says:

      Thanks, Neil. And apologies for the error about Burney. Perhaps because this tool seems as if it would be of great interest to genealogists I had thought that the JISC negotiations had included public libraries.

      18thConnect is just getting off the ground, but I suspect that it will be embraced–especially by those who lack access to commercial databases. If it is, then that will also further fuel a desire for an Early Modern Connect.

  22. Jo-Anne Hogan Says:

    As always, I really enjoy the lively and honest conversations that happen on EMOB and appreciate being given an opportunity to voice the database publisher’s point of view.

    On the issue of authorized EEBO user’s sharing their logins with colleagues or emailing PDFs, we are aware that this happens from time to time. Worse things happen, too. I tend to share Anna’s and Eleanor’s belief that sharing of bootleg accounts is not rampant. If individuals are willing to risk sharing their university credentials with colleagues to provide access to library resources (and whatever else is possible with that information in hand), then there is not much we can do about it – apart from imposing very inconvenient access controls on everybody, such as strict download limits or ceasing remote access.

    Authenticating users and minimizing the potential for abuse is an issue that all database vendors share. We are very fortunate to work with librarians who take the conditions of their license agreements seriously. They try to help us minimize the potential for unauthorized use by training their students and faculty on the terms of access, and they frequently help us identify and stop misuse on their campuses. There have also been instances of scholars reporting severe abuse by other scholars to us. So despite the odd problem, on balance we believe the vast majority of librarians and users do make ethical use of licensed resources.

    On the questions of affordability and individual access, we have been trying to make EEBO more accessible. Pricing for smaller institutions was reviewed last year and new U.S. customers this year include Oklahoma City University, University of Vermont, Furman, Kutztown University and Hillsdale College.

    We are willing to work with any scholar to help make a strong case for EEBO at their library and consider any issues or proposals from their librarians. Over 3,500 books are now sold on print on demand for roughly $12-$40/book, and that number will soon grow to 20,000 books. We would be very interested to hear how many potential non-academic EEBO users are out there as we continue to investigate other ways to offer access to EEBO or its books to individuals in a secure and cost-effective manner. There is a cost to everything we do and the needs of the majority usually determine where we spend resources for enhancements, such as the recent release of EEBO Interactions.

    To your point that there are very real costs involved in creating, maintaining and enhancing digital resources, free or commercial, you may be interested in recent developments around arXiv, the e-prints repository hosted at Cornell University. Cornell is seeking voluntary contributions from institutions to help support the $400k annual budget for this important, open-access resource.

  23. Eleanor Shevlin Says:

    Many thanks, Jo-Anne. Your perspective from the publisher’s point of view is extremely helpful, and we also appreciate hearing from you. I’m glad to hear that Kutztown now has access–it’s one of the universities in my state system.

    I also appreciate hearing about arXiv and the Cornell e-prints repository; it sounds as if it deserves a post.

  24. Anna Battigelli Says:

    Yes, thanks, Jo-Anne. It’s helpful to hear a publisher’s perspective. It would be nice to know how best to acquire a sense of the number of those willing to pay for individual subscriptions.

    Eleanor, I agree that arXiv and the Cornell e-prints repository deserve a separate post or posts.

  25. Bluebeard Says:

    First of all, it ought to be recalled that anything that anyone wants is obviously being distributed somewhere in a way which wasn’t intended, whether for a fee or for free. If universities are paying a lot of money for access, clearly access to these databases are desirable. I’m honestly surprised that anyone is surprised.

    Secondly, if we think of the fact that there are universities in the United States which aren’t paying for something like JStor, think of the situation in universities in the developing world, or in countries like China with restricted access to information. Does anyone really think that all the disenfranchised aren’t going to find a way to gain access?

    There is, in fact, a brisk trade in logins all over the internet. My own experience was as follows: in 2005 I didn’t even know academic databases existed. I enrolled in a class at a very good uni, discovered them and became hooked. Sadly, after the semester ended so did my access. I thought that was it. It was a fun few months for a curious guy who loves to learn and has pretensions of scholarship. Then, after a few dry months on a whim I searched the library login url and discovered that I’m not the only one without access that wanted in. Here I am nearly 6 years later, and I have multiple access points for JStor, the Gale and ProQuest databases, as well as Project MUSE, PAO and pretty much anything you’d want in the humanities – and I have never been without them in all this time. In all likelihood I never will have to be without it, so long as I am looking. Why would this surprise anyone? Incidentally, hunger for access to medical databases is magnitudes greater than for acess to humanaties databases. Let’s just say that thousands of medical students around the globe depend on bootleg access.

    Now, I know that the issues of access and rights is important, putting aside all the amorals like me – but this is meant as a kind of reality check.

  26. Eleanor Shevlin Says:

    While we have been focusing on humanities databases in the developed world, you are quite right that this frame represents a narrow view of inequities regarding access. The ability to afford memberships to professional organizations, attend international conferences, gain access to necessary print materials and much more is a very real problem for many scholars around the world.

    As for medical and scientific databases, the are indeed far more expensive–and far more in demand, I would suspect, globally. My surprise was the sense that American scholars who lacked official access through their institutions had just found other ways to access–and I still don’t think that’s the norm at all.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s


Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 123 other followers

%d bloggers like this: