Exhibit: Bibliothecaphilia MASS MoCA (9/29/15 – 1/1/16)

September 28, 2015 by

Readers in New England may be interested in this announcement about MASS MoCA’s exhibit “Bibliothecaphilia” reposted from Book History at Harvard.  Anyone who has seen this exhibit and wishes to report back is invited to do so.  “Bibliothecaphilia’s” exhibit page can be found hereThe Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art in North Adams, MA, is always worth a visit.

For centuries, libraries have exerted a quiet sort of gravity, pulling us in with the promise that for a while, in the hushed, book-filled corridors, we can exceed ourselves. But, in this age of eBooks and library apps, does the physical and philosophical space of the library remain relevant? And what qualities define a library? Can libraries exist digitally, or be constituted of things other than books? The six artists in Bibliothecaphilia, explore the medium and ethos of libraries: institutions straddling the public and private spheres, the escapism that libraries offer, libraries’ status as storehouses for physical books — and thus for experiences and knowledge — and the way that these objects circulate and are re-used. Participating artists include Clayton Cubitt, Jonathan Gitelson, Susan Hefuna, Meg Hitchcock, Dan Peterman, and Jena Priebe.

The exhibition coincides with a year-long initiative at Williams College (including the Williams College Museum of Art and Clark Art Institute) dedicated to books, libraries, and information. It focuses on exploring the diverse ways in which people preserve and convey ideas, creative works, data, and other forms of information. The project features a wide array of public presentations, performances, courses, and exhibitions (including at the Williams College Museum of Art and Clark Art Institute) that imagine the theme from many perspectives.

This exhibition is made possible by the Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute in support of MASS MoCA and the Williams College Graduate Program in the History of Art.

Bibliothecaphilia is curated by Allie Foradas.

Tuesday, September 29, 2015 – 09:00 to Friday, January 1, 2016 – 17:00


1040 MASS MoCA Way

01247 North Adams, MA

United States

Harvard edX MOOC: Robert Darnton’s The History of the Book

September 22, 2015 by

I have never been in favor of pushing online teaching in the humanities, but the Harvard edX series makes the most of blending digital technology and humanities teaching.

Readers may be particularly interested in Robert Darnton’s course, which begins this week, “The History of the Book in 17th- and 18th-Century Europe.”

Gregory Nagy’s “The Greek Hero in 24 Hours” is superb, despite the requirement that epics be read in specific translations available only electronically. (A cumbersome 900-page print-out option only inspires desire for separate printed texts).  That said, Nagy’s course is fantastic, and Robert Darnton’s course looks equally valuable.

The Harvard/MIT Edx platform for free online courses rolled out in 2012, not without controversy. as this and other articles suggest.  The courses are making me think–both about their subject matter and about online teaching.

Students, Reading, and Ebooks

September 20, 2015 by

E-book: an electronic version of a printed book which can be read on a personal computer or dedicated handheld device.

–Oxford English Reference Dictionary

A 2012 study at the University of Ulster by Sarah Smyth and Andrew P. Carlin provides mixed messages regarding students’ attitudes toward ebooks and their actual use of them. Students claimed to prefer printed texts, objecting to ebooks because of difficulties in navigation and the distractions of the internet.  Yet they also used ebooks “heavily during peak study times prior to exams and assessment deadlines” (Smyth and Carlin, 195).

A “sizeable chunk of respondents,” however, did not engage with electronic texts at all, suggesting that reading competencies or digital competencies (or both) may be splitting into those who can use etexts comfortably and those who won’t or can’t.

Most students in this study accessed ebooks through “a laptop or PC (68%), followed by smartphone (21%), ebook reader (9%), and tablet computer (1%)” (188).  Reading a novel or an epic on a smartphone seems dispiriting–and bad for one’s eyes.

Students found ebooks helpful for making copies, and they appreciated their remote access, searchability, and cost, but they overwhelmingly preferred print (71.4% and 61.6%) for “pleasure of reading and ease of reading” (189).  They tended to use ebooks for research (66%), with only 18% reading ebooks for pleasure and 12% for lecture preparation (186).

The table below lists the most popular kinds of ebooks:

Texbooks                               56%

Fiction                                    19%

Research monographs           18%

Encyclopedias & Dictionaries  7%

This study unearths a utilitarian approach to reading–unsurprising, given that most reading by students will be homework.  But it also hints tantalizingly at students’ desire for the pleasure of printed texts.   At what  point do we begin to consider whether we are encouraging students to enjoy reading? Are the digital texts we make available conducive to the pleasure of reading?  Is it time to acknowledge that printed texts offer a more functional, concentrated, and pleasurable reading experience than ebooks, something we want to share with students?  Do we need to consider the cult of the printed book and the pleasure of reading as parts of a successful teaching formula that ought not be erased by the prevalence and fashion of ebooks?

Works Cited

Sarah Smyth and Andrew P. Carlin, “Use and Perception of Ebooks in the University of Ulster: A Case Study,” New Review of    Academic Librarianship, 18:176-205, 2012.

Digital Projects at SHARP 2015 — Part 2 ArchBook

August 23, 2015 by

In a previous post we presented an overview of the SHARP 2015 Digital Showcase, with a focus on two projects and a promise to follow up with a discussion of two additional ones. This post partially fulfills that promise with a look at Richard Cunningham’s presentation of ArchBook: “Architectures of the Book Knowledge Base” at SHARP 2015. (A post on Jordan Michael Howell’s “Digital Bibliography Quick Start” will be available shortly).

Attractively designed, ArchBook is a resource focused on “specific design features in the history of the book.”

It seeks, however, to be more than a digital version of a work such as Glaister’s Encyclopedia of the Book. Thus, rather than aim for full coverage of book architecture or design terminology from A to Z, the site offers in-depth articles devoted to selected elements in the history of the book. Each essay or entry charts a given feature’s initial appearance in the history of the book through its historical transformations and, in some cases, eventual vanishing. Likening their approach to Raymond William’s Keywords, the editors note that the articles are crafted to spur responses, further thought, and additional investigation. The idea for the resource emerged from work by the Textual Studies team of the Implementing New Knowledge Environment (INKE) project in 2009; grants from SSHRC (Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada) secured by Inke and Alan Galey (University of Toronto) funded the project through 2013. Thus, while ArchBook had not been previously demonstrated at a SHARP conference, it is a resource that has been around for a while. (Indeed I have used it in my courses since 2013.)

To date, eleven “entries” or essays have been begun, and nine completed. Alan Galey’s Openings bears the earliest publishing date, 3 January 2012, and Laura Estell’s Commonplace Markers and Quotation Marks is the most recent entry, having been published in January 2014. Other topics covered include Decorated Letters, Flaps, Girdle Books (in progress), Grangerizing, Manicules, Pages (in progress), Table of Contents, Varorium Commentary, and Volvelles. As seen in this view from the Manicules page, each entry consists of five sections navigable by tabs: Definition, Historical Overview, Spotlight, Notes, and Works Cited. (Note: the sixth tab shown, Post-Publication, does not appear for all entries; moreover, this link is broken. However, the project blog does feature a post about manicules).

This entry’s historical scope extends from the classical era through iAnnotate’s stylized manicule designed for digital reading needs; such extended temporal coverage typifies the essays. Multimodal, the essays are also accompanied by images, and additional images appear in the 116-item image database.

The entries have evidently shaped the far more extensive glossary. Many terms from the essays are briefly defined in this section, including some of the entry topics. For instance, the glossary features an explanation for a “volvelle” (or wheel chart; it “consists of one or more layers of parchment or paper discs or other Over 125 items are defined, and they span a surprisingly broad range of topics. Alongside entries for watermarks, signatures, fascicle, gutter, gathering, one will also find definitions for PDF, commonplace book, presentation copy, plate, and multiple words related to typography and printing.

ArchBook shows much promise, but it also displays some of the issues we have discussed on EMOB over the years. The thought-provoking, well-researched entries benefit greatly from the long view each takes of its given topic, the accompanying images, and the references provided for further reading. The essays clearly took time to craft, and the time factor perhaps explains why only nine have been completed since the project’s inception in 2009. While there are detailed instructions for authors about entries, few have evidently answered the call to contribute. Similarly, the post-publication tab mentioned above seems to have failed to take off. ArchBook’s home page explains that “each ArchBook entry contains a post-publication discussion section with links to the project blog and related wikis, where readers are invited to continue the discussion,” yet no such exchange has been forthcoming. We have discussed the difficulties of generating exchange in digital resources devoted to that purpose many times on EMOB. We have highlighted the challenges most clearly perhaps in our multiple posts on EEBO Interactions, whose ultimate demise we noted in a post dated March 2013. We have also discussed the problems of sustaining such archives and resources, be it a matter of funding or the economics of time. Perhaps the decision to showcase ArchBook at SHARP 2015 was an effort to both publicize and to gain more users, responders, and entry authors for what is already a highly useful resource. Perhaps this post will also assist in attracting more notice to ArchBook.

The Library Beyond the Book (…and Beyond the Human)

August 9, 2015 by

Jeffrey T. Schnapp and Matthew Battles’s The Library Beyond the Book (Harvard University Press, 2014) is a multimedia publishing experiment that moves beyond slapping a CD of music onto a book’s inner front flap or uploading music onto a related web site.  This book’s material is interlocked to material on a slew of media: a dedicated web site, a 24-minute documentary, relevant digital reviews about the film and Harvard’s MetaLAB in Harvard Magazine, and even a playable deck of cards (more on this later).

This gothic disassembly and reassembly of the book’s traditional parts is intentionally disquieting–more Frankenstein’s monster than utopian order.

Like Shelley’s monster, the volume questions its own narrative.  It opens with a steampunk cartoon in which Melvil Dewey time travels from past to future, gleefully outlining the history of libraries and insisting on the library’s facilitation of dialogue between the living and the dead.  The cartoon’s closing tableau reveals the domed reading room of the future library holding no books at all. Instead, an announcement from a loudspeaker informs Mr. Dewey that his volumes are “ready for download.”  The Victorian Mr. Dewey is triumphant.  The library of the future is here.

Four sections of subsequent text question this cartoon’s playful certainty, replacing Dewey’s confidence with provisional speculation.  The volume’s first line announces that the title “The Library Beyond the Book

is a provocation, not a description. It gestures toward a threshold being traversed at the time of writing, not toward an era when books will vanish and bookshelves will be seen only in virtual versions, brimming over only with e-books.

The threshold being traversed involves dismantling the linear momentum of the book.  The volume’s typographical design disrupts forward progress, in part through red-inked epigrammatic meditations on the future library that run down the right margin of each spread, forcing one to turn the volume 90˚ in order to read them. These future scenarios are deliberately whimsical, and reviewers have complained about the book’s abstractions.  Though such complaints mistake theory for pragmatism, they are understandable given the legitimate anxiety about the future of libraries.

Perhaps most whimsical is the companion deck of playing cards available for purchase upon request, on which the red-inked “provocations” are recorded.  But here too the whimsy is richly informed.  The deck recalls the organization of the first card catalog, designed by the historian Edward Gibbon on the backs of playing cards. Assumptions that these provocations matter, that they should be saved for posterity, that they should be the stuff of meditation are made frivolous by the medium of playing cards, even as we recall that playing cards are not only sometimes preserved in archives but also valuable for the insight they provide into the past.  Gibbon’s card catalog provides one example; the famous playing cards narrating the fictional Popish Plot provides another.  If items as apparently frivolous as playing cards should be collected and stored in libraries, where does the collecting end?

The limitations of storing is the topic of the project’s highlight, the brilliant 24-minute documentary, Cold Storage, which is an improvisational tribute to Alain Resnais’ Toute la memoire du monde (1956).  Toute la memoire du monde documented the organization of France’s beautiful Bibliothèque nationale; Cold Storage examines Harvard Library’s decidedly homely remote storage system.  Both French and American documentaries dispel romantic concepts of the library, but a comparison of the two exposes the increasingly diminished role of the human in the highly functional and mechanized archival vaults of today.

Directed by Cristoforo Magliozzi and narrated by Schnapp, Cold Storage takes viewers behind the scenes to the gargantuan breathing machine that is the Harvard Depository, a sprawling concrete monster that bends humans to its will as it exhales and inhales books sent to and from readers at Harvard’s libraries. In climate controlled concrete bunkers, shelves tower above and beyond sight, forcing human assistants to use electrical lifts to reach them. Drone technology allows cameras to capture a perspective from non-human heights.  The resulting point of view is that of the building viewing the tiny workers lifted mechanically to shelves no human could reach without robotic help. Because of the volume of books sent there daily, books are cataloged and shelved by size, not by content.  The result is a collection

designed for the eyes of laser scanners, inventory tracking systems, and mechanically-aided acts of retrieval. . . . The HD reduces its sparsely-distributed human agents to parts in a cybernetic machine that speaks a language not of authors, subjects, and titles, but of barcode label identifiers and the ID numbers they encode (139).

That laser scanners are now part of an intended audience is also suggested by the dust jacket designed for The Library Beyond the Book.  An impossibly long barcode runs down the left side of the front cover, a hyperbolic indication of the book’s need to be “readable” by lasers in either Amazon warehouses or book depositories or both.

The lifespan of the depository poses a problem that has always haunted libraries: finding space.  Its climate controlled bunkers preserve books and other records for hundreds of years, but the concrete bunkers themselves will last between 70 and 100 years.  With new books added to the collection’s 9 million items daily, the project is “unsustainable,” explains Matthew Shehy, head of access services.

To the old, though intensifying, problem of sustainability is a new problem of concept, one that Battles suggests in his earlier volume, The Library: An Unquiet History.  The machine-controlled bunkers of the HD force a reassessment of the beautiful and coherent religious metaphors we often use for libraries—”cathedral,” “monastery,” “hermitage,” and “refuge.” In those spaces, humans could collaborate with texts and others to construct a sustained cultural memory and identity.  By contrast, the bunkers of today contain numbers of texts growing so quickly that not only cataloging but also comprehension seems beyond the scale of human minds.

Everyone should watch Cold Storage for its creepy revelation of the non-human design of the very institution on which we rely to preserve, celebrate, bemoan, and understand the human record.  For all its irreverent play, this  multimedia project makes a serious point, leaving us to consider how best to respond to a monstrous body that was designed with the latest technology without full consideration for its place in human society.

Digital Projects at SHARP 2015–Part I

July 25, 2015 by

The Society for the History of Authorship, Reading, and Publishing (SHARP) has featured digital projects at its conferences for many years now. With the SHARP 2013 conference at the University of Pennsylvania, SHARP began the tradition of hosting a stand-alone digital projects showcase at its conferences. During a two-hour time slot, creators present and demonstrate their projects to attendees. SHARP 2015, held in Montreal this past July 7th through July 10th, offered attendees the following fourteen fascinating digital projects and tools:

  • Jonathan Armoza, “Topic Words in Context (TWiC)”
  • Belinda Barnet, Jason Ensor and Sydney Shep, “A Prototype for Using Xanadu Transclusive Relationships in Academic Texts”
  • Troy J. Bassett, “At the Circulating Library: A Database of Victorian Fiction, 1837–1901”
  • Léon Robichaud, “Bibliographie de l’histoire de Montréal”
  • Richard Cunningham, “Architectures of the Book Knowledge Base”
  • Bertrand Gervais, “Arts et littératures numériques: du répertoire à l’agrégateur”
  • Joshua McEvilla, “Facet-Searching the Shakespearian Drama”
  • Jordan Michael Howell, “Digital Bibliography Quick Start”
  • Hélène Huet, “Mapping Decadence”
  • Mireille Laforce, “Des innovations pour faciliter le dépôt légal à Bibliothèque et Archives nationales du Québec” ”
  • Sophie Marcotte, “Le projet HyperRoy”
  • Andrew Ross, Sierra Dye and Melissa Ann McAfee, “From Wandering Peddlers to Purveyors of Bit-Streams: The Rebirth of Scottish Chapbooks in the Twenty-First Century”
  • Chantal Savoie, Pierre Barrette, Olivier Lapointe, “Le « Laboratoire de recherche sur la culture de grande consommation et la culture médiatique au Québec » : un ambitieux système de métadonnées pour mieux comprendre la culture populaire”
  • Mélodie Simard-Houde, “Présentation de la plateforme numérique Médias 19”

Complete abstracts may be found here on the SHARP 2015 conference website.

This two-part post, however, will focus on a few projects most relevant to EMOB’s focus. Part I will focus on Joshua McEvilla’s “Facet-Searching the Shakespearian Drama” and Andrew Ross, Sierra Dye and Melissa Ann McAfee’s “From Wandering Peddlers to Purveyors of Bit-Streams: The Rebirth of Scottish Chapbooks in the Twenty-First Century.” Part II will cover Jordan Michael Howell’s “Digital Bibliography Quick Start” and Richard Cunningham’s “Architectures of the Book Knowledge Base.”

Joshua McEvilla‘s “Facet-Searching the Shakespearian Drama” showcased his An Online Reader of John Cotgrave’s The English Treasury of Wit and Language, a resource aimed at encouraging the study of neglected seventeenth-century dramatic authors whose work and contributions have been overshadowed by the attention given to Shakespeare.

(Click to enlarge)

As the site’s introduction explains, John Cotgrave’s The English Treasury of Wit and Language (1655) is the first seventeenth-century book of quotations to draw its material exclusively from early modern dramas. As such, Cotgrave’s collection “provides a means of studying the original reception of the plays of Shakespeare with the plays of other dramatists” (Cotgrave home). In turn, Dr. McEvilla’s construction of a digital edition of Cotgrave’s work—complete with a concept-based faceted search tool (introduction and search tool), a full list of all the known plays from which the quotations are drawn, data tables, and much more—harnesses the power of the digital to transform this printed resource into a dynamic tool. Besides assisting researchers and encouraging study of neglected English seventeenth-century dramatic works, the Online Reader of John Cotgrave’s ETWL also seems useful for teaching English drama in an advanced undergraduate classroom or graduate course. For those with access to Early English Books Online (EEBO) and/or 17th and 18th Century Burney Newspaper Collection, McEvilla’s tool could serve as an important complement in assisting students understand the contexts for the drama contained in EEBO or in providing them with a guide for selecting texts in EEBO. That the bookseller Humphrey Moseley held the license to print Cotgrave’s work is also worthy of note. As David Kastan recounts in “Humphrey Moseley and the Invention of English Literature,” Moseley played an important role in what he terms the “invention” of English literature (see Agent of Change: Print Culture Studies after Elizabeth L. Eisenstein, Univ. of Mass Press, 2007, pp. 104-124).

Andrew Ross, Sierra Dye and Melissa Ann McAfee’s Scottish Chapbook Project at the University of Guelph draws from the university’s collection of Scottish chapbooks—the largest such collection in North America. A true exercise in collaboration, the digital project results from the cooperation of the university’s Archival and Special Collections and its Department of History”. Not only have librarians, faculty, and graduate students been involved, but undergraduate students (114 since 2013!) in Dr. Andrew Ross’s digital humanities course have helped to build various exhibits as the one depicted in this image.

Exhibit: A Groat's Worth of Wit for a Penny

Exhibit: A Groat’s Worth of Wit for a Penny

(Click to enlarge)

Besides the exhibits, the site also features teaching modules geared to high school instruction, thus extending the reach of this work beyond the university student population.

Among the site’s goals stated in the SHARP abstract is the aim of supporting “an ongoing analysis of the role of woodcut images for the popular readership in Scotland during the early modern period” as well as “the goals of the recently formed Chapbook Working Group of the UK Bibliographic Society.” At present one can browse 416 items, and more are being added regularly. The ultimate aim of this project is to integrate all the estimated extant 10,000 Scottish chapbooks in an interconnected site. Such a long-term goal of integration and interconnection is a promising one, especially in terms of centralizing sources and information on a given topic. As a related aside in terms of integration of projects, Benjamin Pauley’s Eighteenth-Century Book Tracker (see prior emob post, post, and post) is now being phased out, and its information being incorporated into the English Short Title Catalogue.

Please explore these tools and offer your comments and suggestions.

Folger Digital Anthology Encoding Specialist Posting

July 14, 2015 by

The following announcement from Owen Williams at the Folger Shakespeare Library may be of interest to readers.

Digital Anthology Encoding Specialist

Posting Date: 7/6/2015

The Folger Shakespeare Library, located on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C., is seeking an encoding specialist for a 2 year NEH grant funded position working on our Digital Anthology of non-Shakespearean drama (or early modern English drama). The Folger is a world-class research and cultural center on Shakespeare and the early modern age. Home to the world’s largest and finest collection of Shakespeare materials, the Folger offers activities that range from scholarly seminars to theatrical performances, from K-12 outreach to exhibitions and lectures.

The Digital Anthology Encoding Specialist (DAES) will work closely with our CLIR Postdoctoral Fellow in Data Curation on a new project to establish clear and consistent encoding of 36 carefully selected plays from the early modern period using Text Encoding Initiative (TEI) markup. The DAES will be responsible for helping develop the XML schema, correcting current markup, and enhancing existing encoding work to correctly identify and verify such elements as act and scene divisions, speakers and speech prefixes, cast lists, stage directions, or other information. They will help establish standards and workflows for coding correction, participate in project documentation, and identify areas for further improvement as the project develops. This is an exciting opportunity to be in on the start of a project that will open the study of these, and other, plays to a wider audience on open and free platforms. This is a grant funded position at no more than 50K a year plus full benefits.

The ideal candidate for this position will have a working knowledge of early modern drama, including the works of Christopher Marlowe,  John Marston, and others, as well as significant training or experience in TEI markup language. Requirements: B.A. in relevant field with a preference for M.A. in early modern English drama, history of early modern theatre, or literature, or equivalent professional experience, strong knowledge of Early Modern Drama, experience with TEI markup, and familiarity with the concepts behind Early English Books Online-Text Creation Partnership (EEBO-TCP). Preference will be given to candidates familiar with early modern descriptive bibliography, text mining, topic modeling, digital indexing, and/or digital publication.

Interested applicants should submit their resume and a cover letter, with the subject line ‘DAES’ to jobs@folger.edu or by mail at Attn:HR/DAES, Folger Shakespeare Library, 201 E Capitol St SE, Washington, DC 20003. Incomplete applications will not be considered. No phone calls please. EOE.

Digital Public Library of America (DPLA) — A Brief Update

July 4, 2015 by

Since the launch of the DPLA in April 2013, the staff under the direction of its director, Dan Cohen, have been pursuing various projects to determine best ways to develop this resource/tool further and broaden its serviceability. In an April 2015 whitepaper, “Using Large Digital Collections in Education: Meeting the Needs of Teachers and Students” authors Franky Abbott and Dan Cohen set forth one set of plans for making the DPLA valuable in K through 16 settings. The plans resulted from research supported by the Whiting Foundation and yielded a program that enlists the help of educators through another initiative funded by Whiting. The following 15 June 2015 “Call for Educators” on DPLA’s blog describes the kind of partnering with educators that DPLA is seeking to undertake:

The Digital Public Library of America is looking for excellent educators for its new Education Advisory Committee. We recently announced a new grant from the Whiting Foundation that funds the creation of new primary source-based education resources for student use with teacher guidance.

We are currently recruiting a small group of enthusiastic humanities educators in grades 6-14* to collaborate with us on this project. Members of this group will:
•build and review primary source sets (curated collections of primary sources about people, places, events, or ideas) and related teacher guides
•give feedback on the tools students and teachers will use to generate their own sets on DPLA’s website
•help DPLA develop and revise its strategy for education resource development and promotion in 2015-2016

If selected, participants are committing to:
•attend a 2-day in-person meeting on July 29-July, 30 2015 (arriving the night of July 28) in Boston, Massachusetts
•attend three virtual meetings (September 2015, November 2015, and January 2016)
•attend a 2-day in-person meeting in March 2016 in Boston, Massachusetts (dates to be selected in consultation with participants)

Participants will receive a $1,500 stipend for participation as well as full reimbursement for travel costs.

DPLA has also been receiving significant funding from additional sources for other efforts–including funding its “hubs,” both its content ones (“large libraries, museums, archives, or other digital repositories that maintain a one-to-one relationship with the DPLA and assist in providing and maintaining metadata for content”) and its service ones (“state, regional, or other collaborations that host, aggregate, or otherwise bring together digital objects from libraries, archives, museums, and other cultural heritage institutions”). In a big boost to its hub development, the DPLA has recently received $1.9 million from the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation and $1.5 million from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation); it will use this support to advance their efforts in “connecting online collections from coast to coast by 2017” (“Digital Public Library of America makes push to serve all 50 states by 2017.”)

Happy Digital Bloomsday!

June 16, 2015 by

It’s June 16, the celebrated day of James Joyce’s Ulysses, during which Leopold Bloom wanders through Dublin.  June 16 is also the day on which Bloom met his wandering wife Molly.

Traditional Joyce fans attempt to read the entire Ulysses (or parts of it) in a 24-hour period on this day.  Digital celebrations also exist, including representations of Joyce’s text in both bar codes and tweets.   The tweets divide the novel into 96 15-minute sections.  For more, see this NPR story.  Book historians may prefer to celebrate this day by looking at the history of Ulysses‘s book covers here.

My heavily annotated 1946 Modern Library hardback, lovingly rebound by a marvelous librarian at UNC (the always-to-be-admired Rachel Frew), is still my favorite way of reading Joyce’s novel.

Academic Credibility and Commercially-Run Scientific Journals

May 18, 2015 by

While EMOB typically focuses on issues and databases associated more with the humanities, we have on occasion discussed scientific commercial databases–often in terms of the unwieldy control they exercise and the exorbitant subscription fees they charge. In a post several years  ago “The Big Bundle Steal: Open Access and Subscription Databases”, we discussed how some scholars in the scientific community have been working hard to find other avenues that will wrest control from these large firms and place that control back into the hands of those in the academic community.

In this context, EMOB thought it might mention a situation that has recently transpired in Australia involving the country’s leading academic medical publication.  When the  journals division (AMPCo) of the Australian Medical Association decided to outsource the production of its renowned Medical Journal of Australia to the hugely powerful mammoth Elsevier, its equally well-respected editor, Dr. Stephen Leeder protested that “working with Elsevier was ‘beyond the reach of my ethical tolerance'” (Sydney Morning Herald 4 May 2015). As a result, Leeder, who had not been informed about the decision to outsource until it was a done deal (The Guardian, 4 May 2015) was fired by the AMA from his role as MJA‘s editor.  In response 19 of the 20-member editorial board have resigned. While the ultimate fallout over AMPCo’s decision to retain Elsevier and dismiss Leeder remains to be seen, Australian academics in the field are predicting that scholars will shun the MJA.  Accusations of Elsevier’s launching “fake” medical journals (ones that appeared too closely aligned with major pharmaceutical firms)  in 2009 seemed  to have already caused many to question its credibility.  Maybe problems of credibility, more than outrageously high subscription fees, will prove to be the price that is finally too high for  the academic community to pay.


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