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Discussion Entry: Changing Book Publishing Models

June 22, 2013

A work colleague posted a link on twitter to a very interesting story. I thought it would make a great discussion entry for this week’s assignment.

The HoTT Book

This blog article describes a new book that has been published by twenty-four mathematicians on homotopy type theory (I don’t even know what that means!). Essentially, this book was created, edited, revised, and published by the collaborative efforts of these professionals. The entire process took six months. The blog author indicates that this book breaks the mould of traditional academic publishing which often takes years of painstaking peer review correspondence with a single author. The blog author states that others are invited to review and even edit the book in a continual publication model. “Anyone can take the book and modify it, send us improvements and corrections, translate it, or even sell it without giving us any money.”

This has implications for academic research and scholarly communication that need to be reviewed and discussed, particularly in this age of open-access and continual publication. Please review the below issues and questions, and feel free to respond to any or all of these questions.

What are the exciting possibilities of this new publishing model? What are some of the concerns?

“Anyone can take the book and modify it, send us improvements and corrections, translate it, or even sell it without giving us any money.” How does this process ensure quality information for use in future research about this theory. What versions will be used? What versions will be cited and how will future researchers find the ‘correct’ version to use and cite in their own research?

This book was created in an open source fashion by twenty-four mathematicians. How will academic authors be able to document their individual work to receive appropriate credit for tenure consideration; it is still a ‘publish or perish’ world!

This has a similar open structure to Wikipedia. Typically Wikipedia may be used as a starting point, but never as a citation or ‘ending’ point in quality academic research. Will this book end up as a starting point or ending point in quality academic research given the open editing allowed.

Libraries provide access to print and online resources in an organized manner and over time. Researchers depend on libraries for stable access to quality resources far into the future. What is the role of libraries in providing access to books that continually change through open access editing? How will access to this book be ensured for 10, 20 or 50-plus years in the future, so that academic researchers then can also view this book.

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