Apologies — liveblogged, but forgot to post this from the conference…

First on, McComas Taylor and Grazia Scotellaro, ‘E-texts: a new experience in learning objects’. Took us through the example of ANU E-View student textbook, The Joy of Sanskrit.  Excellent presentation taking us through the process of creating and using the e-text, which students loved.  The book is a first-year course — students wanted one for second-year studies.  Downsides — hard to correct errors, and students download the errors even while they’re being corrected.  Also, they want more interactivity, eg quizzes, in the book.  Grazia demonstrated the book – video didn’t work (poor connection throughout the conference, and audio was poor, too), McComas stepped in with neat examples.  The book is rendered like a pictorial book, same aesthetics as the Mac bookshelves mimesis on the screen.  Skeuomorphic design, rather than a flatter, cleaner design.  Can we not invent an aesthetic that is different from printed text?  Also, when I have a book I like the feel of it, the sense that I’ve read thus much of it, and have got thus much to go, etc – which I don’t get from a graphic render.

Next, Kathy Bail, Chief Exec, UNSW Press Ltd: ‘Monographs: new frontiers’.  The company is not for profit.  Largely a description of the Press and its output.  Print sales exceeded downloads of e-book of a poetry collection, but no analysis of why that might be so – topic? price? aesthetic of either? Inter-relations of these factors and others?

Finally, Agata Mrva-Montoya, Publishing Manager, Sydney UP, on ‘Beyond the monograph: publishing research for multimedia and multiplatform delivery’. Can’t hear her too well but presentation on Prezzi bodes well – seems to be comparison between ‘tradigital’ books (print driven, discrete and static, stability as a sign of a text’s authority) and other newer formats of books.  She noted the scholarly ecosystem – HERDC + ERA requirements.  See Oberlin Group and their Faculty Survey (2014), according to which most important is prestigious publisher, high-quality peer review, etc. See also Kathleen Fitzpatrick, Planned Obsolescencewhich is up on Media Commons Press.  Digital scholarly editions?  these are researcher-led, collaborative projects in digital humanities.  Digital format only, few presses involved since 1990s, and typically no publisher involved.  One example of this is The Charles Harper Library.

Publishers have been focusing on online content platforms — access to journals and books, subscription-based, metadata, and alerts and social networking options, what we’ve seen happening, eg Oxford Scholarship Online, University Publishing Online, Project Muse, Books at JSTOR.

Going beyond tradigital?  Book + website — see The Ma-yawa wangga repertory.  Or Book + blog, eg Sherman Young, The book is dead.  Long live the book.  How about Publisher’s website — see OpenBook Publishers — you can read books online and there’s lots more functionality.  Also Apps — grammar apps, dictionaries, and pronunciation guides, etc.  See OUP for examples.  A great source is Touch Press — see especially their The Waste Land app.  And another is Shakespeare’s Sonnets.  Agate drew upon Com score Report 2014, time spent on digital media, mobile app vs browser splits, revealing the rise and rise of mobile devices. But how does mobile affect our reading – what do we read on them, or merely access information?  See Andrew Rashbass, The Economist (2012) – Leanback 2.0 – first, second, third ages.

Ebooks vs print books — greater accessibility, treater portability, easily quotable and searchable, dictionary integration.  downsides no random access loss of graphic interface and conventions, confusing interface, clunky note-taking interface.  Apps give multiple lawyers of content including multimedia.  She showed this graphic –


Apps were suitable for translational and education purposes, bridge from theory to practice, opportunity to broaden audiences, greater engagement with content (interactivity and gasification), ability to access multiple literacies.  Eg The Front-line Leader, Chris van Gorder. (?)  Cost is a major factor.  Multiple platforms?  Multiple devices?  Ongoing maintenance?  It’s often a closed commercial environment, too.  Excellent presentation, full of insight and suggestions for future development.

Final session, Harold Short of Digital Humanities Research Group, U of Western Sydney, on ‘Digital editions: opportunities and challenges’.  Early ideas included this slide


which led to this slide:


So what is dig hum?  It’s a space for collaborative engagement, large-scale or small, multiple technologies and audiences. We’re now into third generation projects, with wide use of social media for conduct of research and dissemination of results, crowd-sourcing, visualisation, emphasis on play, imagination and interpretations.  What are digital editions?  Source materials may be multiples & or complex, rich contextual materials, multiple access paths, types of users and publication modes.  Eg Henry II Fine Rolls Project, a project by King’s College London.  Collaboration between Kings and National Archives.  Print publisher Boydell & Brewer.  Online publication preceded print volumes, 3 printed, fourth in preparation.  Print vols are apparently preferred by researchers for specific fines or days; online for searching and analysis.  There is a ‘fine of the month’ and a Knowledge Transfer Advisory Group/exhibitions/courses/blog, involving teachers, journalists, academics, archivists.

Another eg — Journey to Horseshoe Bend – an archive of films, sound recordings, photos, documents objects — ceremonial life of Arunda people is a particular focus, with many ceremonies and objects sacred.  It’s allied to the concept of digital repatriation, and work with communities, eg ‘digital story telling’.  Another — Prosopography of Anglo-Saxon England.  Collection of information about all known people in A-S England.  Used crowd-sourcing to develop narratives around factoids about A-S persons.

What about sustainability of these projects — it’s not just preservation of data that’s important, it’s also the structure of the data that counts.  See Corpus Vitrearum Medii Aevi, or Sydney Graffiti Archive.  Or The Pompey Project, and the use of para-data to show what is reconstruction, guesswork, or has actual evidence.  Or Life After Wartime — curation?  Long-term preservation of these?

Challenges are that digital methods of research are changing as rapidly as methods of dissemination.  Change is the new constant.  There is blurring of authorial/editorial roles.  Scholarly acknowledgement of reward needs to be there; also curation issues – management, standards, etc.  Sustainability: content + technologies?  Long-term preservation, digital ephemera and re-use?  All important issues.

There are great opportunities for new forms of scholarship – enabling new questions to be pursued. Library engagement is essential from the start.  There are a variety of approaches to publication, and re-use and multiple audiences.  What about public engagement?  And greater engagement with creative processes?  See also Academic Book of the Future, funded project by AHRC

Great examples, great presentation.

Next up, Tim Sherratt, digital historian, web developer and cultural data hacker.  Gave a plug first for Trove.  He wanted us to think about the implications of linked open data — not just documents in containers, but free data that is shared.  What’s shared?  The labels or identifiers; the vocabularies used to describe an item.  Used in Facebook & Google.  He redefined a historian as a data-modeller – interesting idea, perhaps analogous to law as a platform.  Showed some of his work on Inigo Jones, weather forecaster, but lost me in the depths of JSON-LD.

Fading fast, so I’m going to skip the wrap up and call it a day, final thoughts this evening…


I missed the keynotes and some other sections of the conference, but from what I saw I thought it was a useful, in fact essential, conference for any academic staff thinking of digital publishing for research, data curation or learning and teaching purposes.  There were a few descriptions of University Presses etc that weren’t really reinventing university publishing, though they were clearly successful operations (on second thoughts, maybe that does reinvent university publishing).  But it was good to come across new organisations, new university presses and new projects in the field.  The best presentations were from those giving us practical, imaginative solutions to the near-intractable financial problems our libraries face, thanks to ever-rising purchase costs.  And from researchers in the field presenting new ways of thinking about wide varieties of scholarly publishing, reading and writing.  The multi-disciplinarity was really impressive.  Nothing from Law!  That has to change – actually there are rich comms innovations in our discipline; but we probably need to do better on innovation in scholarly communications generally.  One final thought – weren’t we all rather too polite to journal publishers?  For more on their practices, see here.  Or see George Monbiot here, where he observes that in 2010 ‘Elsevier’s operating profit margin was 36% (£724m on revenues of £2bn)’ which he observes was the same ratio as in 1998 — and in the midst of a global financial crisis.  That surely has a major effect on how much innovation we can fund in scholarly publishing.

Best conference poster, for me, was Georgina Taylor’s Open Access Button – more information here:


I couldn’t stay for the final wrap-up session, but I’d certainly like to see a follow up conference.  Many thanks to Roxanne Missingham and her conference committee colleagues Ross Coleman, Lorena Kallenopoulis and Agata Mrva-Montoya for planning and hosting this one.  For at least several projects that I’m involved with in the ANU College of Law, I found it very timely and very stimulating.


Had to miss the keynote, so in for the morning panel.  First up, Randy S. Kiefer, Exec Dir CLOCKSS.  This is a not-for-profit organisation dedicated to the principle of LOCKSS (Lots of Copies Keep Stuff Safe) + C = Controlled.  So they’ve developed a decentralised, geographically disparate preservation model, with 12 nodes worldwide, and seek to preserve orphaned and abandoned scholarly electronic content.  Effectively doing for e-resources what has been done for paper resources, particularly in the case of publisher failure and no pickup of their assets, discontinuation of journals, etc.  So this is in effect an ‘insurance policy’ for e-resources.  What is not preservation: commercial hosting (aggregation databases eg Gale, EBSCOhost, ProQuest, journal-hosting platforms, eg Ingenta.  There are two types of archives — global archives (CLOCKSS) and regional archives, eg British Library.  Generally content is only available in the country hosting the archive.  CLOCKSS is community governed, with publishers and librarians having equal say.  It reinforces the social value as memory organisations, insuring against geosocial and geophysical risks.  It’s a dark archive, ie a repository of safekeeping of content that does not grant access.  This limit on access protects the content from damage.  It’s open-source software.  The workflow includes trigger events, eg publisher no longer in business or change of platforms by publishers.  The archive is committed to OA, and is the only archive group to score a perfect score in Security and Technology.  Brazil is applying to become the 13th node (CLOCKSS Board has authorised 15 archive nodes).  Randy gave us impressive stats on global reach of CLOCKSS.  There are ongoing discussions on subjects such as space (since items are saved 12 times) and value to the community, as well as collection development policy.  Funding: comes from librarians, publishers (there’s a correlation between the efforts of CLOCKSS and the funding from publishers, which sounds like a reasonably sound model).  Solid idea, sound presentation.

Next, Virginia Barbour, Medicine & Biology Ed Dir, PLOS.  She described the OA policy of Royal Society Open Science, which started in 2014.  Bit of a random roundup of the science open access movement, not really needed for this audience, too little time on the interesting ideas at the end.  Pointed in the direction of e-credit application for (largely) authors in science journals, versioning software, and the need to make data visible and accessible, but so fast couldn’t make sense of it.

Finally Lucy Montgomery, Dep Dir Knowledge Unlatched (KU), a not-for-profit whose vision is ‘a healthy market that includes free access for end users.’  As an academic, her monograph would be sold in small volumes and behind paywalls on the web.  She showed how print runs have declined from 1980 to 2010. Libraries are key markets for monographs – so what if every library didn’t buy a single copy of a book, but instead collaborated in providing a fee payment to publishers for OA?  Her institution (Curtin) started a pilot project, with QUT, Melbourne and UWS providing funding to refine the model.  Key supporters included the British Library Trust and the Open Society Foundation.

The project used CC-BY-NC or CC-BY-NC-ND licenses.  It deals with new books, and OA is immediate on publication (ie on embargo).  The title fee represents the basic cost of publishing a book (wd be interested to know how that’s calculated).  It’s fixed, so as the number of libraries participating increase, the fee total that libraries pay decreases, but increases for publishers.  Lucy gave interesting stats to show how it worked.

In 2013-14 KU ran a proof of concept trail.  28 new books from 13 publishers in literature, history, politics, media and comms.  At least 200 libraries would be required.  Max cost per library: $1680, averaging $60 per title. Publishers signed up included CUP, Bloomsbury, Duke UP, Edinburgh UP – a blend of European and USA university and commercial publishers.

Result?  297 libraries signed up, in 24 countries.  The cost was reduced to $43 per book.  Collections cost reduced from $1680 to $1195.  Over 100 libraries have re-registered to keep this going.  Most of the sign-ups were in USA and UK.  (Interestingly, HEFCE, and Scottish & N Irish FCs matched funding, generously).  Impact?  Total downloads – 23,159 (from mid-March-December).  USA & UK top download sites.  Mean average number of total downloads per book: 827.  Range per book: 176-1822 each.

From 2015 KU will take a small cut of the title fees to cover costs as volumes go up, helping to make the consortium sustainable.  I like this project a lot: it looks like helping libraries buy monographs at a time when budgets are under huge pressure from bulk-buy journal purchases from the likes of Elsevier.  It means libraries collaborate to engage with publishers.  And it makes financial sense for both sides of the contract, and makes even more sense for the academics who just want their texts to be as accessible as possible once they’re published.  Really good presentation.


The provincial, the global and the inner émigré

March 18, 2015

About a month ago I was out at Murrumbateman, visiting a couple of colleagues.   Craig and Skye invited some of us from Legal Workshop out to their fine house for dinner and a performance of Macbeth – in a winery, Shaws.  Think Birnam Wood translated to a vineyard.  The tiny touring company chose well.  Macbeth is […]

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Happy birthday, blog

March 17, 2015

On 17.3.05 I started this blog (first at Typepad, then on WordPress).  Even then I felt I was coming late to the blogging party, but thought I’d give it a go anyway.  And here we are, me and the blog, 10 years later. Bits of it are a wee bit neglected, needs a spring clean, […]

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Reinventing University Publishing, day one, pm session

March 17, 2015

This is Changing Horizons, the first panel session after the keynote which I had to miss.  Also missed first two presentations in this session.  Third up, Belinda Tiffen, Director Library Resources Unit and Scott Abbott, UTS ePRESS Project Officer, UTS, – ‘Keep calm and unlock research: reinventing UTS ePRESS.  Focused mostly on OA academic journals, a […]

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Reinventing University Publishing

March 17, 2015

I’m attending the above conference at ANU, organised by CAUL Library Publishing Advisory Committee, having to drop in and out because of meetings & other things, but determined to participate as much as possible – too important to miss.  CAUL notes in its conference blurb: ‘academic publishing and the scholarly communication environment is in a […]

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The PhD and beyond[:] the apprenticeship model of learning

March 2, 2015

At the kind invitation of Mary Spiers-Williams, I gave a seminar to our doctoral students here at ANU College of Law, last Friday.  For some reason WordPress refuses to render the slideset at the usual tab above, so you’ll find them over at Slideshare. The title is a sort of pun: the colon is and isn’t […]

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Vellum – the long view of data infrastructure

February 15, 2015

Yestreen I wanted to look at an activity I put together for students, oh way back in 1995.  I’m sure every law teacher has a similar one.  It was on statutory interpretation, written up briefly in this book chapter.  I located the file, clicked — and got the wee MS Word for Mac dialogue saying, […]

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Experiential learning & simulated clients

February 12, 2015

  Just finished reading a fine report on experiential learning, with simulated clients at the core of the analysis.  The report is published by the Institute for the Advancement of the American Legal System (IAALS), as part of its legal education initiative, Educating Tomorrow’s Lawyers, and is entitled Ahead of the Curve: Turning Law Students […]

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