Monday, 7 January 2013

Academic #publishing, openness and #books altogether

With this new calendar year dawning, I am set to get my first eBook out there in the open. At this point I think it will be a low cost book, one that will ask possible readers to pay 2,99 dollars for a 50 page book on how to set up your own training based on the MOOC-format for non-profits and business purposes and why such a format can add to corporate and non-profit training.

Before deciding to go for a specific low cost format, I was exploring the horizon of contemporary publication options. There are is quite a bit of chaos out there with all these new options: self-publishing, publishing a paper book versus an eBook, heavy prizing versus free books, academic or not... And then I read this small comment, coming from Dominik Lukes (@techczech) adding to a discussion on the upcoming xED book "a book about education stuff, moocs, etc" as it is described by its authors.
In his comment Dominik raises a torch for free, academic publishing and in doing so he lists a few examples Cory Doctorow and Tor books, Martin Weller and Bloomsbury Academic (see a bit further down, for it is indeed a great free book).

But then Dominik adds:
the real coup would be to start your own open academic press and get lots of leading scholars publish through it. Maybe run a Kickstarter campaign for each new book. But that’s just me dreaming.

And to be honest ... that is the thing that struck a cord. Maybe not necessarily the academic part, for I believe all spheres should join forces at times (non-profit, corporate, academic) when it comes to publishing.
Furthermore I feel it is time to focus and not knit when a book is published. Like a chapter approach rather then a lengthy non-fictional approach. I can understand that authors want to add everything in a book, but ... it is simply becoming impossible if you look at the vast knowledge added to each field of expertise. So writing on the changes that affect Higher Education might give rise to a thick book, but ... I would prefer short manifests, each touching a specific area. That each manifest would link to others for those interested in reading more: yes, but not that I had to buy a lot of text where I would only be interested in a part of it.

So... why not set up an academic, or broader publishing company enabling authors to publish thin, yet very focused works for reasonable or free prices? I would love to see that. Because to be honest, the biggest fear and doubt I have is how to get my book known to a broader public. I mean, it is all good and well to write one and to decide to go for a low cost approach, but ... getting readers is the main aim, for like that discussions can take place and any possible ideas can be strengthened, changed or added.

On the other hand, some publishers really have great initiatives already, like this book by Martin Weller on the Digital Scholar (loving it!) published for free by Bloomsbury Academic.
Gladly sharing the abstract:
While industries such as music, newspapers, film and publishing have seen radical changes in their business models and practices as a direct result of new technologies, higher education has so far resisted the wholesale changes we have seen elsewhere. However, a gradual and fundamental shift in the practice of academics is taking place. Every aspect of scholarly practice is seeing changes effected by the adoption and possibilities of new technologies. This book will explore these changes, their implications for higher education, the possibilities for new forms of scholarly practice and what lessons can be drawn from other sectors.