Microtransactions, Blockchain, and the Future of Publishing

While you may not be familiar with the term “Blockchain,” I’m willing to bet you’ve heard of bitcoin. The crypto-currency is getting a lot of attention lately, as some early adopters and investors are seeing massive returns.

Blockchain is the technology behind bitcoin, the system used to secure the currency. Rather than belaboring the details of how Blockchain works, suffice it to say that the system creates a secure ledger for the tracing of individual pieces of content or data. This article from Harvard Business Review goes into more detail – The Truth About Blockchain. Wikipedia also features an extensive and well-sourced entry on Blockchain. Continue reading “Microtransactions, Blockchain, and the Future of Publishing”

Breaking Down Barriers: Search and Knowledge

One of the perpetual challenges academics must address in publishing their work is the paywall. Yes, organizations like Elsevier add value to the work through proofreading, peer review, and copyediting; but that value comes at a steep cost. Because companies that supply the means of production do so for profit, academic material like research papers, dissertation, and other knowledge-driven content becomes a commodity for sale. Continue reading “Breaking Down Barriers: Search and Knowledge”

The Scholarship Monopoly

No I don’t mean the game we all played as kids with railroads and hotels and a questionable gentleman in a top hat.

Scholarship monopoly is a very serious concern for academics of all sorts. Really, any monopoly is a concern in any kind of business or industry. It’s a given that competition helps us grow, inspires us to try harder, and pushes the best ideas and products to the fore. Academia is slightly different, in that competition is more about comparing and checking theories and ideas with peers. Rather than directly competing with each other, academics work off each other to verify data and draw conclusions.

So where does the monopoly come into this?

The publishers of academic content, those responsible in a large part for disseminating academic findings and pairing academics with peer reviewers. But what if those publishing were concentrated into a very few, for profit companies? The potential for a monopoly arises.

This is exactly the current dilemma academic publishing is in. Much like the traditional publishing industry, academic publishing is dominated by a “Big 5” group of publishers, accounting for almost 50% of all academic publishing per year.

To get a more complete understanding of the academic publishing and dissemination lifecycle, let’s first break down the stages of this process:

  1. Research
  2. Publishing
  3. Evaluation

Research is the meat of the content creation process, and rests entirely with the academic—be it a professor, researcher, or student. The individual finds and evaluates data, forms a hypothesis, and gathers their conclusions to form their content.

With content gathered, the publishing process begins. Traditionally, this involves sending the content to a publisher, who has a staff of editors and designers to layout and prepare the content. What begins as data ends up a fully formed paper or even a book. In most instances, the content creator is detached from this step.

Finally, the content in it’s completed form is evaluated by other academics. Once the content is deemed as complete by peer reviewers, it becomes a part of the greater body of academic work. Student’s learn from it, professors teach from it. The content takes a place among all other academic material.

The problem academia faces stems from the handling of this three-stage process. From From the “Knowledge Gap” project:

“At first sight, there is an obvious concern of a conflict of interest. This is especially true when the supplier of academic journals is also in charge of evaluating and validating research quality and impact (eg: pure, plum analytics, Sci Val), identifying academic experts to direct to potential employers (eg: Expert Lookup), managing the research networking platforms through which to collaborate (eg: SSRN, Hivebench, Mendeley), managing the infrastructure through which to find funding (eg: plum X, Mendeley, Sci Val), and controlling the platforms through which to analyze and store your data (Eg: Hivebench, Mendeley).”

The acknowledgement is that companies like Elsevier have begun to rebrand themselves as Analytics tools for the gathering and dissemination of academic knowledge materials, distancing themselves from the strictly publishing oriented role they previously focused upon. Because Elsevier (and the other large academic publishers) owns a disproportionate amount of the existing publications of academic value, they are well positioned to capitalize on this content by offering increased analytical data from this content. But the control over such a portion of the academic content creates a monopoly, limits competition, and provides academics no real choice other than to buy into the monopoly.

Glasstree is but one of many alternatives to the traditional academic publishing and review mechanism. I am not writing this piece today as an advertisement for Glasstree in specific terms, as we often have in the past. What’s more important is to acknowledge the process of academic publishing and the stranglehold large academic publishers, under the guise of “Information Analytics Companies” and residing behind a paywall, have on the availability of knowledge.

There have been and continue to be pockets of opposition to the academic publishing model, but the cost of avoiding the mainstream publishing methods is steep. Academics find themselves without the needed means of reviewing and disseminating their data, trapped outside the broader field of knowledge. Research and data published outside of traditional means have a perceived lack of credibility.

Coupled with the reduced cost of digital printing and the connectivity of modern communications tools, the means and costs of academic publishing should be plummeting, while the openness and access to materials should be broader than ever. This is not the case, and one possible (if not likely) cause is the grip large academic publishers have on the entire process. Anytime so much data is concentrated with so few entities, the risk of monopoly is great. This data is crucial, as it represents the broad knowledge of all of academia.

As one of many alternatives to the currently accepted academic normal, Glasstree wholeheartedly encourages all researchers, students, and educators to carefully consider their options when disseminating their knowledge, and to take any opportunity they can to break from the normal models with self-publishing, independent reviews, and institution based printing.

The independent publishing revolution has slowly asserted itself on the traditional publishing industry; now it is widely considered a formidable adversary of the old publishing model, and the publishers of years’ past are scrambling to take on digital printing tools to remain competitive. Academia can learn from this despite their differing needs. The financializing of academic publishing will not stop now that it has proven to be profitable. As such, academia must adapt if the individuals and institutions hope to maintain the standards for their work and to prevent the overwhelming monopoly traditional academic publishers, under their new moniker “Information Analytics Companies,” are quickly attaining.

 

 

 

Using APIs in Academia

Academic publishing is a necessity, yet continues to be a point of concern for institutions and individuals alike. Academics, students, teachers, and researchers all need the ability to publish and share their findings, but the model academic publishers utilize is woefully inadequate. Not only do publishers exploit their authors for profit, they also gate this content, meaning some information may never see publication regardless of how important or valuable the information may be.

Glasstree’s continuing mission is to break down those barriers. We started by introducing self-publishing to academia with Glasstree’s publishing tools. Instead of hoping to be accepted by a publisher, Glasstree empowers academics to take control of their content by publish it themselves!

Lulu is Glasstree’s parent company, and together we aim to make knowledge, literature, and publishing available to everyone. Whatever your story – be it a fictional novel or a dissertation – we are here to help you share.

The next step in our evolution is here: Print API.

What is an API? And how does this new tool benefit academics interested in self-publishing? Keep reading and we’ll explore these questions.

 

Even if you’re unfamiliar with the technical aspects of APIs for software, you’ve almost certainly encountered them online without realizing. The acronym API stands for “Application Programming Interface.” Most basically, API is code that allows two unique pieces of software to talk to each other. This, in and of itself, is pretty simple.

Retailers, individuals, and institutions all make use of APIs to expand their capabilities and offer their users more options, better pricing, faster shipping and much more. Lulu’s Print API serves the same functionality. Once the API is integrated, users can create unique “buy now” options on their SHOP pages within their websites, and all orders placed are channeled into our global printing network, to be fulfilled by the same process as any order on Glasstree.

Breaking down Boundaries, Creating Partners

From a technical stand point, our Print API service may not seem like an exciting piece of news for the individual author (APIs run in the background and are never seen). API tools are usually meant for web developers, who implement the cross-platform code so the two discrete programs work in harmony. The average author might have little need for an API connection if they don’t want to deal with selling directly from their website.

That being said, publishers and academics need APIs for many things. We understand that need, because we’ve lived in that world for the last fifteen years. We’ve witnessed, year after year, small and independent publishers who start up, bring on a handful of authors, publish a few books, and then eventually fold. Yes, of course, some small publishers succeed, and some even succeed beyond all expectations. We’re more concerned with the publishers who couldn’t keep up.

One of the biggest problems facing many small publishers is the cost associated with printing and fulfilling book orders. The price to print and ship can be prohibitive for small publishers, who likely are operating on a limited budget and need to make the most out of every dollar invested. Print API is an answer to the funding problems these small publishers face. Because the Lulu Print API can be implemented to allow for direct print on demand services at low prices, small publishers can remove the cost of printing and storing books from their budget.

Just like using Lulu’s self-publishing tools, the Print API features all the formats and sizes Lulu has to offer, at the same low prices, and with the same quality and global shipping you’ve come to expect from Lulu. The difference is that publishers the world over can plug into our network while maintaining their brand’s independence.

Harnessing the power of the Web

 

The API process capitalizes on Internet connectivity to enable collaboration among a variety of companies and individuals, further opening the printing and publishing world to more readers, authors, and publishers.

Pricing is another important aspect to consider with an API connection. Rather than pricing your book on the Glasstree site for your profit and our commission, you price it with 100% return of profits. The price you charge on your site is entirely up to you! With the API integrated, the order bills from Glasstree to you for the printing and shipping, while the amount you charge a customer is entirely on your end. This expands on the already generous and easy to control profit model Glasstree utilizes.

In a university setting, an API tool is a means to offer the institution’s students and teachers a means to publishing and sharing their work all from within the institution. The college bookstore can host these print-on-demand titles on their website, and facilitate printing through the API connection. Costs are minimal, and the bookstore can easily make the necessary profits, all while control overhead and storage.

An API connection completely removes barriers to publishing. The institution need only implement the API and provide the file standards for uploading (the same specifications used for publishing on Glasstree). Students, teachers, and researchers can all publish their works at a minimal expense, while their institutions can list these books via our API on a college bookstore website for anyone to purchase.

Integration is In

Using API integration is more than just the cool new thing happening across the web. Take a look at this article from TechCrunch last year, “The Rise of APIs”. While the title sounds very Terminator-esque, the point the author makes is clear: third-party APIs are the future, and they are here to shake up the way the Internet works. The opening paragraph of the article sums it up; ” there is a rising wave of software innovation in the area of APIs that provide critical connective tissue and increasingly important functionality.”

While a clean and easy-to-navigate interface is always going to be important, the ability to quickly implement a new program through API connections is what will keep web based retailers one step ahead. Adding new features, replacing out of date products, and generally being able to work with the range of other programs on the web is a key to staying relevant; using API connections solves all of these problems. All modern software providers are conscious of API connectivity, and the implications of creating software that does not allow for API integration. The way of the future is sharing, through both open and private API connections, and mutually finding success through shared programming.

Lulu and Glasstree embraces this mentality wholly. From the first day, we’ve been a company designed to help content creators better share their stories and knowledge. Enabling API connections with our print network is a logical and necessary step for us.

Looking to the Future

Academia has always been an institution that had to keep an eye toward the future. Because schools and teachers are the ambassadors of knowledge for generations to come, the means to disseminate and archive knowledge has always been critical.

Look for more from Glasstree in the future, as we continue to make innovations in the publishing community. For now, you can check out our API/Developer’s Portal site at developers.lulu.com to learn more about Print API and see if the tool might be right for you.

In times of geopolitical and economic instability how can innovative technologies drive new revenue opportunities for institutions and research funding in the UK?

By Jean Roberts

Abstract

This article examines how the emergence of innovative technology platforms, recently introduced by new players in the university services space and public arena, has the potential to open up additional revenue generation opportunities for the university research funding toolkit. How aware are universities of these new technology platforms and their revenue potential? Given anticipated EU funding upheaval (and potential removal/reduction of funding sources), uncertainty surrounding Brexit, and the lack of clarity in the lead-up to Brexit (creating what looks to be a prolonged period of instability and cross-messaging in funding circles), the time is now ripe for university management, financial stewards and library managers to embrace new technology platforms as part of their strategic finance planning in order to take advantage of new emerging revenue models in combination with existing operations.

 

Read the full article at https://insights.uksg.org


Jean Roberts is Business Development Director for Glasstree Academic Publishing

 

Academic Publishing: Then and Now

Education and Academia are an ever evolving organism, changing to fit the times and the demands of the population. In the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, academic merit and scholarly reputation were tied most closely with social status and not knowledge! Academia grew from a “who you know” institutional structure to a merit based design, emphasizing the recognition of published works as a means of evaluating the scholar.

This model persisted, and eventually gave rise to the need for dedicated academic publishing, to facilitate the many intellectuals, scholars, students, and researchers who wished to both share their knowledge and grow their reputation. Today academic publishing is the standard metric for demonstrating expertise in a given field. It is all but assured that an aspiring academic will publish, and continue to publish throughout their career.

In the last century academic and scholarly publishing has grown tremendously, following the same growth acceleration as the size and enrollment of colleges across Europe and North America. Publishers and educational institutions have scrambled to keep up. In this mix entered the commercial publishers, who prioritized profit and reach over quality. As with any commercial endeavor, the classic goals of university and learned society publishing shifted from a scholarly mission to profit generation.

Glasstree offers itself as a middle ground to this problem. A means to publish important and relevant academic work in a timely and cost effective fashion, without sacrificing the opportunity to realize significant profits for the author(s). We believe that profits are important, but that they should not be controlled by a small number of large commercial publishers.

Academic publishing differs from traditional publishing in important ways, and any publishing company seeking to facilitate academic publishing must operate with these concerns in mind. In particular, peer-review has become a tense subject among individual academics, who fear the profit driven publishers will leverage the importance of peer-review to constrain or control what materials are available.

The alternative is Glasstree, a fully supported publishing company without the constraints traditional publishers impose. Offering all the services a scholar or student will need, with none of the restrictions, Glasstree integrates the independent publishing mentality without sacrificing any of the tools academics need for their work.


Glasstree enables academics to make a significant profit from their own work, reversing the traditional academic publishing revenue model, which typically pays authors an average of just 9% royalties, to offer 70% of the profits from sales. Its accelerated speed-to-market allows academics to publish their research in a matter of days or weeks, sharing their insights in record time.

For more details on Glasstree Academic Publishing, please visit https://www.glasstree.com/

Start-up story: Glasstree Academic Publishing

By Jean Roberts

Glasstree Academic Publishing is a non-licence cloud-based content dissemination platform supporting e-book, print and open access (OA) publishing, which was launched in November 2016. Glasstree is a subdivision of Lulu.com, a large USA-based independent publishing platform which has published more than two million books since 2002. Lulu analyzed their author database and discovered that at least 38 per cent of Lulu’s content was produced by academic authors independently publishing their works. The company was keen to look at ways it could better understand and support this academic community. It became apparent that this pattern of publishing was indicative of an emerging trend, a drive to seek alternative means of getting content into the public domain, embraced by a group of academic entrepreneurial innovators who wanted their work to become accessible and were willing to sacrifice their relationships with traditional publishing in order to do so.

After conducting direct discussions with a representative sample of those academics, Lulu supported the concept that every academic professional in every institution should have the right to publish their monographs, books, articles and papers independently. After major collaboration with these academics, Glasstree Academic Publishing was launched to better support their needs and provide a focused academic content platform, incorporating the same functions and services as a traditional academic publisher would provide. The idea was not only to replicate, but to improve upon the experience that traditional publishers provide to authors, particularly as regards the ability to redirect ownership and revenues back to the author. Glasstree offers print and digital options, copy-editing services, gold OA and peer review, as well as various discoverability and impact metric tools.

The fundamental principles of Glasstree are:

  • providing an equitable profit-sharing model for academics and their supporting institutions
  • providing better control and visibility of content
  • the ability for authors and institutions to set the price of their own work
  • a quicker route to market
  • a fairer profit-sharing model (70 per cent of royalties instead of the industry average of nine per cent).

Read the full article at insights.uksg.org/


Jean Roberts is Business Development Director for Glasstree Academic Publishing

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