Yesterday, in Publisher's Weekly, there was a long and excellent discussion of the lawsuit filed by four scholarly publishers against the allegedly unregulated use of e-reserves at Georgia State. The publishers argued that they were being deprived of income and the long article presents many sides on this story. The lead from that story is below and, for the full story, here's the url: http://tiny.cc/ogegy
Now, I am the co-chair of the Duke Digital Task Force, the taskforce that crafted, studied, proposed, and had unanimously accepted by Academic Council Duke's Open Access Policy, a policy which allows Duke authors to have the final draft (prior to copyediting) of our articles in subscription-only journals to be in a Duke Library repository where anyone can have access to it. ( Here's that link for more information: http://www.hastac.org/blogs/cathy-davidson/open-access-duke ) Given this championing of open access (in this highly specified and limited form; you have to go to the actual publication for the final version, publishers and authors all have the right not to participate, etc), you would think that I might be siding with Georgia Tech in this lawsuit. Well, think again. And then yet again.
On the one hand, I have said in print, in an article called "Research is Teaching," that I find it appalling that professors of English would ever use a course pack, whether we pay the publisher or not. My argument in this case is not about the rights of publishers; it is about the self-respect of a discipline. According to the survey published by the MLA, 88.8% of departments in Carnegie Research/Doctorate Institutions report that the publication of a scholarly monograph is either "very important" or "important" for tenure. 88.8%! It is hard to think of any issue in academe with such consensus. Yet English as a discipline has one of the lowest rates of faculty requiring their students to read and/or buy monographs. My argument is that 88.8% of our Research I English Departments use this one criterion for judging excellence and then we do not even practice what we preach. Shouldn't we be teaching the genre to our undergraduates (because we believe it is intrinsically worthy enough to determine someone's career in the academy) as an estimable form? And shouldn't we be requiring full monographs to our graduate students so they can learn this genre in the way one learns all things that one is supposed to aspire to and imitate---by studying it? It makes no sense. If we don't really believe the monograph is important, get rid of it! In the meantime, abolish the course pack altogether, require at least one scholarly monograph in every English class, and then we show respect to the genre we say that we live by and we give back something to the publishers who, right now, are expected to publish our work but who experience abysmal sales of it.
The short term result is they won't publish our work anymore and that will kill junior members of the profession, to have the standard of the monograph without the venues for publishing it. What could be more self-defeating.
If you want to read this article, and you are an MLA member, you go here: ADE Bulletin 149 (2010), pp. 5360 (8). And MLA has given me permission to reprint it and I've done so at this link on the www.hastac.org site: http://www.hastac.org/blogs/cathy-davidson/research-teaching
Now here is the irony: this morning, in the wake of the Publisher's Weekly article, I really wanted to be able to give all of my HASTAC readers a url so they could go right to my article. It's not a counterargument; it's more like an argument that sidles up to and glances against the Georgia State lawsuit, posing the issues in a different way. Had the Duke Open Access Policy been in effect now, I could send you to the repository. Now, I cannot. So if you are not an MLA member, you either need to become one to read my argument or you have to take my word for it in the summary above.
My larger point? We are in a confusing and damned-if-you-do-damned-if-you-don't moment for publishing. Scholarly publishing loses money. Scholars who do not publish (at present) lose careers. How do we balance these complex and intertwined issues in a sane way? That is our question.
FROM PUBLISHER'S WEEKLY-- http://tiny.cc/ogegy
A Failure to Communicate
In a lawsuit against Georgia State University over e-reserves, scholarly publishing faces a defining moment
Jun 14, 2010
The case, known as Cambridge University Press, et al. v. Patton et al., involves a popular practice known as e-reserves, or electronic reserves, on college campuses and the murky contours of copyright and fair use in the digital age. But perhaps the most notable aspect of the suit is that publishers are in essence suing their very partners in the scholarly publishing enterprise (including a university librarian), something critics say represents something of a waterloo for publishing.