The most useful textbook & academic posts of the week: January 26, 2018
Jeremiah Laabs reminds us that “If writing didn’t require thinking then we’d all be doing it.” This week we have a number of articles to get you thinking. For textbook authors, you may be thinking about the disruptive opportunities within the market seeking to solve the problem of high prices, you may be considering options for digital textbooks, or maybe you’re thinking about OER. Both textbook and academic authors with blogs may be thinking about how to repurpose blog articles into a book.
Academic authors may also be thinking about choosing the right dissertation topic, new opportunities in journal publishing, research impact factors, quantity vs. quality concerns in publishing, and roadblocks to accessibility. Whatever you’re thinking about, we hope it leads to better, more productive writing this week, and that these articles may help you think clearer.
It’s no secret that the education sector is ripe with opportunities for disruption and innovation: Edtech venture funding exceeded $1 billion in 2017, and the market is expected to grow to $93.76 billion by 2020. Entrepreneurs are using digital technology for diverse applications: to facilitate online education,train coders in developing countries and innovateclassroom collaboration. But one major issue within education has yet to be solved: the unbelievably high price of textbooks.
There are often many questions surrounding the idea of digital textbooks for newcomers. Where do I get digital textbooks? How long do I have access to the digital textbooks I buy for? How can I access the digital textbooks? Can I share the digital textbook? Is it harder to read a digital textbook than reading a physical textbook? People that are hesitant to try it for one reason or another often overlook why people would turn to physical textbooks to begin with – the convenience.
The results are in: Two years after implementing an open educational resources (OER) initiative for Oregon’s 17 community colleges, students in three transfer degree programs spent 16 percent less on course materials, for a combined savings of more than $1 million.
If you’re thinking about blogging and book-ing, it’s worth spending a bit of time on the differences between your average academic blog, whether in ebook form or not, and the more mainstream academic monograph. Here’s a few key points of difference to start off with.
It’s undeniable. The dissertation engenders a love-hate relationship, with all the exasperations, frustrations, teeth-clenching, and eye-rolling, and occasionally all the affection, elation, and fulfillment (eventually) of a primary human relationship. Therefore, your topic should be one that initially excites you, during the process sustains you throughout the inevitable peaks and gulleys, and eventually morphs into a satisfying career.
If you are a publisher or any other vendor, achieving lock-in is a highly desirable goal. It safeguards revenues, helps in introducing new products (or add-ons to the original product), and may improve margins. If you are a customer, it’s important to determine how much lock-in you can tolerate. Having zero lock-in is probably impossible (no one will sell you anything), but monolithic providers are not working in your interest and have found a way to circumvent the sharp costs of competition.
The free platform, started in the Netherlands by software engineer Vincent Tunru, enables academics to start their own preprint journal “in a matter of minutes.” Academics can use the platform to share early research findings, as well as lab notes, conference posters, data and other work.
Journal growth seems more vertical these days. Instead of building horizontally through specialization, many publishers have been focusing on their cascade — a term used to describe a portfolio of related journals ordered vertically by measured (and perceived) importance.
The concept of research impact pervades contemporary academic discourse. Its prominence can be viewed as part of an increasing demand for academic institutions and individual researchers to demonstrate the practice and policy implications of their work. Yet, despite its widespread usage, research impact remains an unclear and contested concept.
Many scholars are encouraged to focus on the quality not the quantity of their publications, the rationale being that becoming too focused on productivity risks reducing the quality of one’s work. But is this, in fact, the case? Peter van den Besselaar and Ulf Sandström have studied a large sample of researchers and found that, while results vary by field, there is a positive and stronger than linear relationship between productivity and quality (in terms of the top cited papers). This same pattern appears to apply to institutions as well as individual researchers.
If we’re honest, accessible publishing is central to the mission of academic publishing, and to the vision of most publishing organizations. So, it’s high time to bring accessibility out of the margins and into our daily lives. All publishing programs must include a permanent budget line for accessibility. This does not mean millions of dollars for each release, but a drip-feed of improvements add up quickly to a more accessible way of doing business.