17.208 Web publishing

From: Humanist Discussion Group (by way of Willard McCarty willard.mccarty@kcl.ac.uk)
Date: Fri Aug 29 2003 - 01:16:30 EDT

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                   Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 17, No. 208.
           Centre for Computing in the Humanities, King's College London
                         Submit to: humanist@princeton.edu

             Date: Fri, 29 Aug 2003 06:08:25 +0100
             From: scaife@uky.edu
             Subject: Nature article: ant book deepens divide over web publishing

    Nature article: Ant book deepens divide over web publishing
    Nature 424, 985 (28 August 2003); doi:10.1038/424985a

    Ant book deepens divide over web publishing


    [SAN DIEGO] A disagreement about ants has highlighted increasing conflict
    between biologists and book publishers over the release of scientific
    monographs in print and online.

    Brian Fisher, an entomologist at the California Academy of Sciences in San
    Francisco, is pressing for permission to publish data about ant species on
    the Internet. Under the terms of a book deal he signed last August with
    Harvard University Press, he cannot put material from his forthcoming
    monograph online for at least four years after it is printed.

    The argument is just one example of the tension that is pervading several
    fields of systematic biology, researchers say. Many systematists want to
    publish their data and images on the web at the same time as they publish
    their monographs hefty books that can document years of research. But
    publishers fear that simultaneous web publishing will reduce sales of the
    high-cost monographs.

    "We are on the cusp of a renaissance in systematics," says biologist Edward
    Wilson of Harvard University in Cambridge, Massachusetts. "But we are in a
    transition period of one form of publishing to another."

    Fisher's deal with the Harvard press involves a monograph on the ants of
    Madagascar, where the isolated and diverse ecosystem is of special interest
    to systematic biologists. Fisher hopes that the book will be published next

    But Fisher also recently helped to launch AntWeb (http://www.antweb.org), a
    website that includes photographs of ants from Madagascar and California
    (see Nature 424, 242; 2003). Harvard press officials are resisting his
    attempts to publish much of his data online before the monograph is
    published, worried that it will dent the book's future sales.

    "I don't think the web release of material will hurt book sales; it will
    actually increase them," Fisher says. Other researchers cite the US
    National Academies Press as an example of a publisher whose free online
    publication of its studies boosts its print sales. =20 Correspondence shows
    that Harvard press disagrees, and is concerned about its ability to recover
    its costs in producing the monograph if AntWeb publishes much of its
    contents.Harvard press officials declined to comment on the dispute.

    "These are difficult questions," says Lynne Withey, director of the
    University of California Press. "People disagree about whether the web
    hurts or helps." Officials at the California publisher are studying 30 of
    their social-science and humanities books to determine the impact of online
    publishing on a traditional monograph.

    The recent publication by Harvard University Press of Wilson's book
    Pheidole in the New World: A Dominant, Hyperdiverse Ant Genus also brought
    criticism from some quarters about the lack of immediate free web access to
    its contents (see Nature 424, 727; 2003). He says that the publisher is now
    putting the book online.

    Wilson thinks that the best solution is for book publishers to put
    monographs online 6-12 months after print publication. He says that = his
    latest book might be one of the last of its kind "one of the last of the
    great sailing ships", as he puts it, adding: "We need to work out some
    arrangement with publishers."

    2003 Nature Publishing Group

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