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Most useful textbook and academic posts of the week: January 4, 2019

New YearThe new year is always an opportunity to reflect on the past and look forward to the future. In this first week of 2019, we begin our collection of posts with two that look back at works from 1923 which have now entered the public domain and the related future of copyright reform. We continue with a couple posts focused on how writing is taught at the college level and advice for PhDs and PhD seekers interviewing and networking at conferences this year. Finally, we have found a few articles focused on the publishing industry at large, including the future of PLOS, open access publishing, and “The Great Acceleration”.

Whatever your writing efforts have in store this week, we hope the new beginnings of a new year provide time for reflection, preparation, and anticipation of what is to come. Happy Writing!

Whose words these are

It has taken 20 years, but we finally can celebrate Public Domain Day by welcoming works that are no longer restricted by copyright into our shared cultural heritage. The Sonny Bono Copyright Extension Act of 1998 scooped up two decades-worth of material about to enter the public domain and shoved it back under copyright protection, largely to satisfy a few rightsholders – corporation and estates of dead writers and artists – who controlled profitable works. Disney, which has made an entertainment empire largely from exploiting works in the public domain, was a force behind the 1998 extension, which is why it’s often known as the Mickey Mouse Protection Act.

Welcoming back the US Public Domain

The Public Domain is our shared cultural heritage. Part of the bargain that is struck with the government to enable copyright protection is that works must eventually emerge from under that protection. While copyright reform efforts continue, it’s nice to see at least some small sliver of balance restored to the equation.

‘Why they can’t write’

Author discusses his new book about “killing the five-paragraph essay” and other ways schools and colleges could do a better job of teaching writing.

An ode to teacherless writing classes

An uncredentialed writing instructor, Gizem Karaali, shares some effective tools learned through trial and error. As a writing instructor who did not trust her ability to instruct said writing, I found the title of his book, Writing Without Teachers, enticing. Wouldn’t it be lovely if my students could figure out how to write without me? Then I would not feel so guilty. Reading the book changed my life.

That time of year again

A junior professor provides advice for interviewing and networking at national conferences like those taking place this week. Now that the holidays are behind us, hundreds of humanities Ph.D.s and Ph.D. seekers are back to thinking about national conferences, whether because they have scheduled interviews at one or are considering the more general networking possibilities these conferences bring. In this piece, I offer some advice to help to deal with those preliminary interviews.

Poor financials pushes PLOS to ponder future prospects

PLOS is not a financially diversified company. It is almost entirely dependent upon a single revenue model (the article processing charge) from a single journal (PLOS ONE). This makes the publisher highly vulnerable to market changes and competition with larger, more diversified publishers, like Springer Nature, which publishes Scientific Reports. In 2017, Scientific Reports overtook PLOS ONE as the largest scientific journal.

PhD Talk for AcademicTransfer: Open Access Publishing

You may have heard that a number of countries in Europe recently signed Plan S – so I’m here to help you navigate what this means, and how this may impact your research. Over the past few years, more and more researchers have criticized the traditional model of publishing, where the author transfers copyright of his/her work to a publisher, who will then charge subscription fees to libraries or individual users so that they can access the contents.

Welcome to the great acceleration

I like to think of the period that we’ve entered into now as “The Great Acceleration,” a term coined by author Warren Ellis (or, as a recent exhibition states it, “Everything Happens So Much“). We aren’t really dealing with new issues – arXiv has been around posting preprints since 1991, mergers have been common for a while now (Wiley buying Blackwell happened more than 11 years ago), and the open access movement has been front and center since at least the year 2000. But, like every other aspect of our lives in this interconnected, digital utopia in which we live, we’ve reached a point where everything feels like it’s happening at once.