Revolt of the ScholarsWritten by Sam Vaknin
Scindex's Instant Publishing Service is about empowerment. The price of scholarly, peer-reviewed journals has skyrocketed in last few years, often way out of limited means of libraries, universities, individual scientists and scholars. A "scholarly divide" has opened between haves (academic institutions with rich endowments and well-heeled corporations) and haves not (all others). Paradoxically, access to authoritative and authenticated knowledge has declined as number of professional journals has proliferated. This is not to mention long (and often crucial) delays in publishing research results and shoddy work of many under-paid and over-worked peer reviewers.
The Internet was suppose to change all that. Originally, a computer network for exchange of (restricted and open) research results among scientists and academics in participating institutions - it was supposed to provide instant publishing, instant access and instant gratification. It has delivered only partially. Preprints of academic papers are often placed online by their eager authors and subjected to peer scrutiny. But this haphazard publishing cottage industry did nothing to dethrone print incumbents and their avaricious pricing.
The major missing element is, of course, respectability. But there are others. No agreed upon content or knowledge classification method has emerged. Some web sites (such as Suite101) use Dewey decimal system. Others invented and implemented systems of their making. Additionally, one click publishing technology (such as Webseed's or Blogger's) came to be identified strictly to non-scholarly material: personal reminiscences, correspondence, articles and news.
Enter Scindex and its Academic Resource Channel. Established by academics and software experts from Bulgaria, it epitomizes tearing down of geographical barriers heralded by Internet. But it does much more than that. Scindex is a whole, self-contained, stand-alone, instant self-publishing and self-assembly system. Self-publishing systems do exist (for instance, Purdue University's) - but they incorporate only certain components. Scindex covers whole range.
The Internet and the Library Written by Sam Vaknin
"In this digital age, custodians of published works are at center of a global copyright controversy that casts them as villains simply for doing their job: letting people borrow books for free."
(ZDNet quoted by "Publisher's Lunch on July 13, 2001)
It is amazing that traditional archivists of human knowledge - libraries - failed so spectacularly to ride tiger of Internet, that epitome and apex of knowledge creation and distribution. At first, libraries, inertial repositories of printed matter, were overwhelmed by rapid pace of technology and by ephemeral and anarchic content it spawned. They were reduced to providing access to dull card catalogues and unimaginative collections of web links. The more daring added online exhibits and digitized collections. A typical library web site is still comprised of static representations of library's physical assets and a few quasi-interactive services.
This tendency - by both publishers and libraries - to inadequately and inappropriately pour old wine into new vessels is what caused recent furor over e-books.
The lending of e-books to patrons appears to be a natural extension of classical role of libraries: physical book lending. Libraries sought also to extend their archival functions to e-books. But librarians failed to grasp essential and substantive differences between two formats. E-books can be easily, stealthily, and cheaply copied, for instance. Copyright violations are a real and present danger with e-books. Moreover, e-books are not a tangible product. "Lending" an e-book - is tantamount to copying an e-book. In other words, e-books are not books at all. They are software products. Libraries have pioneered digital collections (as they have other information technologies throughout history) and are still main promoters of e-publishing. But now they are at risk of becoming piracy portals.
Solutions are, appropriately, being borrowed from software industry. NetLibrary has lately granted multiple user licences to a university library system. Such licences allow for unlimited access and are priced according to number of library's patrons, or number of its reading devices and terminals. Another possibility is to implement shareware model - a trial period followed by a purchase option or an expiration, a-la Rosetta's expiring e-book.