October 2012

Spending my day in four late trains yesterday that were all held captive by the German winter, I managed to read this very good report on “The Current State of Open Access Repository Interoperability (2012)” from our colleagues from Göttingen, the Coar Initiative.

Repositories are indeed becoming an interesting alternative to the knowledge distribution by academic journals. That is why in August Elsevier, the publisher of 2,000 scientific journals, acquired Atira, the company who developed the full text repository PURE.


There is much to be thought about and a lot needs to be debated, though one thing is clear: more and more universities make their researchers file their writings in a repository (indeed, the Hybrid Publishing Lab’s researchers will have a track&trace session with PURE during our next big meeting). So who is interested in Open Access needs to follow this development, and this report gives quite a good overview on Open Access Initiatives dealing with them.

Download: “The Current State of Open Access Repository Interoperability (2012)” from “The Confideration of Open Access Repositories”.

What is open access? Nick Shockey and Jonathan Eisen from PHD Comics take us through the world of open access publishing. A really nice attempt to explain the idea of open access in a different way and easy to understand for everybody.

RobinHood_OA_OERIn looking at how books can be remixed, cut-up, recompiled, augmented I decided to enquire into a specific area of educational publishing the standardised textbook. Specifically I wanted to see what European examples of Open Educational Resources (OER) services were available in this area.

So far I’m still on the lookout, in the universities and HE sectors there are a good number of services but as yet I haven’t found any European commercial OA providers. One example educational research body which covers textbooks is the  Joint Information Research Council (JISC) in the UK, which has been supporting ground breaking OER research across at least fifty institutions. You can see the results of this three year programme which is just coming to an end this October (2012) on their Evaluation Toolkit site.

When you look over to the US you see a completely different picture with commercial providers adopting OA open business models and state legislatures passing bills to make Community College (pre-degree two year study HE colleges) textbooks as free or low costs CC textbooks.

The shift over to OA on textbooks is so complete that a US educational standards body (State Instructional Materials Review Association SIMRA) has renamed its oversight committee from the ‘textbooks’ to ‘instructional materials’ group as an indication of the digital switch over.

In California, State Governor, Jerry Brown, recently signed a bill (27 Sept) to support free and low cost textbooks licensed under Creative Commons.

In the private sector Flat World Knowledge have developed a business around OA textbooks (oops instructional materials) for the Community College sector, with free to use books online and minimal charges for purchases and college licenses. Books are on average 80% lower in price than high profit margin commercial publishers.

What is clear is that the scarcity economic model practiced by publishers is over and that in a European context we’ll be seeing a further wave of universities, educational bodies and private companies offering OA instructional materials textbooks.

News source on the US textbook changes
SIIA – The Software & Information Industry Association is the principal trade association for the software and digital content industry.

Other links
PIRG 2010 report found open textbooks reduced prices by 80%. PIRG (Public Interest Research Groups). http://www.hewlett.org/uploads/documents/A-Cover-To-Cover-Solution.pdf

The innovative University of Innsbruck Press has recently published a quite interesting book with essays “On Media, Knowledge and Education: Cultures and Ethics of Sharing”


Opened by an introduction of my colleague Volker Grassmuck – “The Sharing Turn” -, the texts focus among others on learning with videos, the new value of the quote, and sharing as educational practice with a case-study from University of Udine among others. The book has three parts, “Social Dynamics of Sharing”, “Communities and Institutions” and finally “Theorien und Praktiken des Teilens” (theories and practices of sharing).

Quite a good one. And the best, you can buy the printed copy for € 27,90, or download it here for free: Wolfgang Sützl, Felix Stalder, Ronald Maier, Theo Hug (Eds.): Cultures and Ethics of Sharing / Kulturen und Ethiken des Teilens, 2012, innsbruck university press • iup ISBN 978-3-902811-74-5