Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Do authors still need publishers?

I've been in touch with the publisher of my first book, Springer, about writing another one, this time on systems failures in regulating the internet.  I would like to release it under a creative commons licence and price it at less than £15.

Springer was one of the first big publishers to try open access publishing as far back as 2004, primarily with academic journals. They describe their perspective on open access thus:
Open access publishing makes articles published in a journal freely and permanently available online. Open access journals operate in the same way as traditional journals, including stringent and thorough peer-review. The only difference is the business model, whereby a fee is levied upon publication. Articles are then freely available and can be redistributed and reused as long as the article is correctly attributed.
And this short video gives a decent overview:

The company is fairly new to releasing books under creative commons licences but told me that if I wanted to go down that route there would be an initial fee and that the print version of the book would be priced at £44.95.

By coincidence I was reading Anthony Horowitz's article in yesterday's Guardian, Do we still need publishers? when the further details came through from Springer by email.  The fee would depend on the number of pages in the book.  The minimum fee would be €15,000 if the book was shorter than 200 pages; and €75 per page for longer books.  So a 312 page book (like my first) would cost €23,400.

On Springer's open access journals there appears to be a reliance on authors' academic institutions providing the up front publishing fee. So it was a natural question from Springer's perspective to ask whether the Open University would be interested in providing some funds for me to publish my book with them under a creative commons licence. The answer, given the funding squeeze on universities in the UK, is no.

There are a lot of very smart, hard working and dedicated people at Springer but, even if universities were not facing financially straitened circumstances, €20k+ up front for publishing a book is not a good business proposition.  Hopefully my friends at Springer will find a more viable and sustainable model for publishing creative commons and open access books.  Until then I'll have to look for another publisher if I want to CC my next book.

Anthony Horowitz, by the way, concluded we do need publishers and he values highly the important values and standards they bring to the table.
"I asked my own publisher, Jane Winterbotham, why I needed her and she came straight back with the reply. She said she'd call me next Tuesday...
Jane is a brilliant editor ... without Walker, Alex Rider would never have seen the light of day... feeling is that in some indefinable way, having a publisher raises the bar...
Publishers do, I think, provide an imprimatur, a sort of quality control... I don't like being what Apple calls "talent". I'm an author. And I write books, not "content"...
... traditional publishers have less to fear from the digital revolution than they think... For me, the digital revolution offers fantastic opportunities – if you grab hold of them."
The outline of the book I sent to Springer was -

Systems failures in regulating the Net

1. Systems

  • What's a system?
  • The internet: a complex system
  • Our system of governance and regulation

2. Systems failures

  • ICT systems failures
  • Regulatory systems failures
  • Internet regulatory failures
  • A pattern emerges: Vaughan’s normalisation of deviance

3. Decision making on Net regulations

  • Garbage cans rule: technological ignorance of policymakers
  • The shift key circumvention tool
  • Rationality drought
  • Reactionary politics: "Events, my dear boy, events"
  • Think tanks and grand plans
  • Media, politics and the criminal justice system: a case study in phone hacking
  • Benjamin Franklin v hacking
  • Money - republic lost
--->      normalisation of deviance in the institutions of regulation

4. Copyright rehashed

  • The internet and piracy as progressive taxation
  • Innovation not lawsuits
  • BT v Secretary of State for Business on the Digital Economy Act
  • BBC HD DRM saga
  • Golan v Holder - Eldred all over again?
  • EU term extension 2011
  • Google book settlement
  • ECJ SABAM v Scarlett
  • Post SABAM web filtering alive and kicking
  • SOPA and PIPA: social network activism a temporary blip?
  • The economics of copyright
  • Robert Heinlein, 1939 thought for the day

5. Crime

  • The 24 hour news cycle and politicians
  • Cybercrime
  • Something must be done. 
  • We've done something.
  • Something has been done
  • EU stupid plans to mandate web blocking
  • Cybercrime booming business in economic hard times
  • McKinnon and O'Dwyer
  • Legislate in haste, repent at leisure

6. Erosion of liberty bit by bit, byte by byte

  • Privacy a thing of the past: the nothing to hide fallacy
  • Social networks: anti privacy architectures and norms
  • Stolen phones and consequences: AMP v Person's Unknown [2011] EWHC 3454 (TCC)
  • US Supreme Court and medical privacy: Sorrell v. IMS Health Inc.
  • Teaching hospitals and the Gordian knot of medical privacy
  • No data protection on NHS Choices
  • EDPS and the data retention directive
  • R v Commissioner of Police of the Metropolis on DNA and fingerprint retention
  • Free speech and the intermediaries as choke points
  • Net neutrality and/or co-regulation
  • Great firewall of China… + UK + US + …
  • How Islamophobia has become socially acceptable
  • Wikileaks and Bradley Manning: saint or sinner
  • Search & seizure: US v Jones on GPS tracking
  • School fingerprinting and the ASCL: convenience and deviance
  • UK, the Human Rights Act and the European Court of Human Rights
  • A patent on what?! IBM, Apple, Google, Amazon, Facebook, Intel, Microsoft and Turing
  • Judge Bonello’s last stand
  • A UK bill of rights or a constitution for cyberspace?

7. End runs and trade negotiations

  • WIPO treaties
  • Cybercrime treaty
  • EU Directives
  • ACTA: transparency lost & Commissioners at war

8. Avoiding normalised deviance in regulating the Net

  • Understand the technology and science
  • Fundamental principles of social regulation apply
  • Law and cyberspace
  • ---> Sagan's Demon Haunted World: Science as a Candle in the Dark