Archives for the month of: February, 2017

The U. S. Copyright Office defines it thus:

“Copyright law protects a work from the time it is created in a fixed form. From the moment it is set in a print or electronic manuscript, a sound recording, a computer software program, or other such concrete medium, the copyright becomes the property of the author who created it. Only the author or those deriving rights from the author can rightfully claim copyright.

There is, however, an exception to this principle: “works made for hire.”
If a work is made for hire, an employer is considered the author even if an employee actually created the work. The employer can be a firm, an organization, or an individual.

The concept of “work made for hire” can be complicated. This circular refers to its definition in copyright law and draws on the Supreme Court’s interpretation of it in Community for Creative Non-Violence v. Reid, decided in 1989.”

Their circular provides more detail.

Probably the most obvious example of “work made for hire” is work written by an employee as part of the scope of their employment. Think journalists. Other categories depend on an agreement between the parties. Thus, perhaps if you were employed by a publisher as a Production Director and wrote a few last-minute entries for an Encyclopedia, fleshing out its coverage of baseball, your work would only be work made for hire if you had a piece of paper in which your publisher asked you to do the work under these terms. The fact that I didn’t have such a piece of paper doesn’t really matter, as I had/have no intention of suing for what is an utterly worthless right. Of course the law courts might decide that this was in fact part of the scope of my employment even though my job didn’t involve writing stuff, and although I wrote in the evenings while not in the office. One of the constant problems about copyright law is that you can rarely be certain about things: you can only really know as a result of a law suit — and law suits cost more than the bone of contention is usually worth.

Publishers contracting out jacket design to freelance designers should no-doubt note somewhere in their communications with the designer that the result will be considered work made for hire. No way you want to be delaying a reprint gettting permission for a copyright holder.

It’s a bit much for Education Dive to publish a story headlined “University press humanities  publishings [sic] on the decline”, a report on a Mellon research project by Joe Esposito and Karen Barch in which the authors state the opposite: “We do not believe that there is sufficient evidence for the five-year span of this study (which may not be long enough to extrapolate trends) to assert that the level of humanities monograph output has decreased. Our view is that it probably has not, but to prove this point one way or the other would require a study over a longer timeframe. A potential project for 2019 would be to add five years of data to this study (2014-2018), which would enable more meaningful trend analysis.” And the very fact that the report is coming from the Mellon Foundation, long-time supporters of university press publishing, especially of the monograph, surely hints that the doctor may be at the door, not that death is imminent.

The study, which you can find here, groups the publishers into four categories, following the practice of the Association of American University Presses, ranging from smallest to largest, with an additional group of Associate Members of the AAUP. Group 4 for instance contains the nine largest U. S. presses, California, Chicago, Columbia, Harvard, Johns Hopkins, MIT, Princeton, Teacher’s College, and Yale. (Because they are so much larger than Group 4 presses, Oxford and Cambridge, although they participated in the survey, are not included in the numbers analyzed, as their numbers would distort the picture.) The AAUP has 85 member presses, plus 16 Associate Members. Mr. Esposito introduces the project at The Scholarly Kitchen.


Monograph sales are unsurprisingly small — interesting how little difference there is between hardback (not cloth please) and paperback sales. The report’s authors mention that they also have knowledge of “Macmillan and Taylor & Francis (Routledge), both of which have academic book programs that do not look very different from that of many university presses. The sales are almost entirely institutional. These commercial programs are significantly profitable. Is there a crisis in the monograph or is the crisis in the marketing departments of university presses?” This strikes me as a bit of a non-sequitur: who says a university press humanities monograph with an average five-year sale of 347 is not profitable? (Just because the sale is small doesn’t have to mean the book is making a loss, though it may make that more likely.) Certainly this report is not making that claim: as far as I can see doesn’t look at costs and profitability. I suspect that there may just be a tiny bit of rhetoric behind the claim that monograph publishing is so hard. After all, if you say it’s not too bad and we’re managing to get by, Mellon’s response might be expected to be less generous. Whereas in the commerical world, if you admit that your monographs are mostly dogs, you may find them being put down, so your very job depends on putting forth an encouraging picture.

Can e-books and open access come to the rescue? This may turn out to be less likely than we’d imagine. A collaborative AAU/ARL/AAUP research project into open access for humanities and social science monographs, proposes the provision of grants to publishers on condition that the monograph is made available for Open Access. However as Peter Berkery of the AAUP says in his Book Business write-up, it all depends: “without the embrace of scholars OA monographs cannot proliferate.”

Will this all turn out to be another solution in search of a problem? Monograph publishing has never been easy. Sure, it’s no doubt harder now, but technology, especially in the form of print-on-demand or ultra-short-run printing (leaving the e-book on one side for the moment) is busily providing help.

This Ted Talk, shared at The Scholarly Kitchen by David Crotty, tells us about the origins of our numbering system.

If you get this blog via e-mail and see no video here, please click on the title to view in your browser.

The representation of these digits in type can be done in two ways: old style and lining. Old style figures extend up and down from the x-height, unlike the lining figures shown in this typeface: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 0, which are of uniform height. I prefer old style (though they should never be used in mathematical setting), and find it slightly disconcerting that when I draft a piece in this WordPress blog the numerals show as old style, whereas they will actually be displayed in a different, sans serif font. Here’s the draft of this paragraph:screen-shot-2017-02-24-at-12-13-57-pm

As far as I am aware almost all sans serif fonts just have modern numbers. The only exceptions I can find are Maxima and ITC’s Goudy Sans which provide both modern and old style. Optima, a sort of serify* sans serif face also has both. Here are both sets in Goudy Sans.


Number: “The precise sum or aggregate of a collection of individual things or persons; the quantity or amount”

Numeral: “a word expressing or denoting a number”

Digit: “A whole number less than ten: any of the nine or (including zero) ten Arabic numerals representing these”

Natural numbers: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, . . . all the way “to infinity and beyond”

Whole numbers: 0, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, . . . Like Natural but including zero

Integers: . . . -3, -2, -1, 0, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, . . . Like Whole Numbers but including negative numbers too

Rational numbers: All of the above but including fractions, decimals which end, and decimals which repeat or have a pattern

Irrational numbers: Decimals which never end, like √37 and π

Perfect number: A number the sum of whose factors, excluding the number itself, is exactly equal to the number itself

Abundant number:  Same story, but with a total greater than the number itself (e.g. 18)

Deficient number: Same story, but totaling less than the number itself (e.g. 8)

Amicable numbers: If the sum of the factors of a = b, and the factors of b = a, the numbers are amicable (e.g. 220 and 284)

Cardinal number: “A number which answers the question ‘how many?” As opposed to

Ordinal number: Marking position in an order or series: first, second etc.

Nominal number: A number used to identify someone or thing (e.g. Social Security Number, or 10 on Harry Kane’s back)

Prime number: A natural number greater than 1 with no factors

Composite number: A natural number which has more than two factors

Directed number: A number which is either negative or positive. (Zero is neither negative nor positive)

Imaginary number: The square root of a negative number

Transfinite numbers: Cardinal numbers indicating the size of infinite sets

Real number: a number that can be located on a number line

Complex number: A member of the most general or inclusive set of numbers used in algebra: a number that can be expressed in the form a + bi, where a and b are real numbers and i = √-1

Number complex: the compulsion to list all these crazy definitions.


* Optima has swellings at the top and bottom of verticals which to my eye make it a sort of transitional face between serifed and sans serif, although it is really a sans serif face.


Should scientific research be available free?

I find it difficult to give a clear Yes or No answer. It rather depends on the authors and their intentions and preferences. It just is the fact that a paper will automatically be protected by copyright, and copyright exists to provide encouragement to authors (by giving them some income ideally) to continue to make discoveries. As with any kind of property the author can assign the copyright, and this usually happens with journal articles, so that the copyright becomes the property of a publisher. I regard the ownership of a copyright by a learned society or a university press as a pretty unthreatening situation: after all the university press has a mission to extend learning, so might be trusted not to exploit this ownership. Of course not all publishers are idealistic university presses, and perhaps some university presses are less idealistic than others! I think we can assume that while academics’ motivation in writing journal articles is probably not to make money*, they definitely don’t do it to make money for large corporations.

Many authors of papers in scientific journals are employed by universities or research institutions, and are paid, via salary, to do the research that they write up in journal articles. Whether or not this salary comes from public funds, one could argue that the work has already been paid for by the public in one way or another. Journal publishers tend not to pay for the creation of the papers they publish: everyone, editors, referees, authors, being engaged in a sort of general-welfare effort. Now this is fine as far as it goes, but add that inevitable element — profit-seeking publishing companies — and the waters become turbid. Elsevier is everyone’s favorite villain in this scenario, and their profitability, in the 30% band, does nothing to blunt the attacks.

Sci-Hub to the rescue! (It even has a Wikipedia page.) A Russian organization, it has downloaded thousands of academic papers onto the web where they are available free of charge. Unsurprisingly Elsevier is suing.

At The American Council on Science and Health Chuck Dinerstein blogs about Sci-Hub, and the problems of the unaffiliated scholar. Being forced to go underground and get your stuff free can’t help stimulating feelings of guilt. But still, if it’s there, it’s pretty easy to us the “knowledge wants to be free” kind of argument to justify getting it. There appear to be more mundane problems with Sci-Hub: Scholarly Kitchen has an article on Sci-Hub and identity theft.

The price of academic journals is a real problem. It costs so much to subscribe to important journals that libraries find their book budgets squeezed more and more. Of course there are costs involved, but one cannot avoid the reflection that many journal subscription prices are ludicrously high: can 24 issues really “be worth” more than $15,000 a year? Presumably it can, or people wouldn’t be paying up. Publishers and their subscription agents seek to alleviate this price problem by bundling, but of course getting a discount on a couple of journals by subscribing to half-a-dozen more doesn’t really save you money. Justin Peters’ article at Slate on why academic journals cost so much is pretty sensible, but for me it goes off the rails when it claims “after World War II, heavy government and industrial funding of university science laboratories led to unprecedented specialization of the sciences. This outcome in turn led to a new crop of specialized scientific journals with similarly narrow foci so that these specialist scientists could have outlets in which to publish their research results. As the number of publications increased, academic libraries felt obliged to subscribe to them all or to as many as possible.” Isn’t it more likely that specialization in the sciences results from the nature of knowledge? We no longer talk about “natural philosophy” because to do so would obscure the differences between philosophy and logic at one end and, let’s say, interpreting the Hadron Collider’s results for particle physics at the other. The more we find out about our world the more complicated the structure of scientific (and all other) knowledge becomes. This isn’t a result of government funding: the ramification of government funding is a result of it.

Here’s an article from BloombergView, (linked via The Digital Reader). I’m always surprised at these people who go on about how iniquitous it is that publishers (especially these days Elsevier) charge for material which is available for less elsewhere. “If you want to read an article from the Journal of Financial Economics, and you don’t have a subscription or access to a library that does, publisher Elsevier will charge you $39.95. For one article!” shouts Justin Fox. You rarely see complaints at The Folio Society’s “unscrupulous” attempts to get you to pay $75.95 for Jules Verne’s Twenty Thousand Leagues under the Sea, when everybody knows it is available for free as a Kindle book! Hey; we publishers are in business! Our job is to get money from readers. If there are folks out there who find it simplifies their life to buy that article from Elsevier at $39.95, who are we to tell them they can’t do that? Naturally it doesn’t sound good, and is surely bad PR, but as long as there are buyers we’ll offer the service. The real problem arises when there’s not a free version out there of course.

Now we turn over another stone: is it OK for a publisher to republish a free, open access article, and charge money for it? At Scholarly Kitchen, Joe Esposito, using his early experience at New American Library as evidence, says yes, as long as the rights are taken care of. The ability of publishers to sell public domain stuff, Shakespeare, Dickens etc. for good money despite free versions being available continues to impress, and why shouldn’t this be true in the world of scientific journals? David Crotty, also at Scholarly Kitchen explains the legality of all this which involves Creative Commons licensing, not just ©.

We are, I suspect, stumbling towards a solution to all this. Now that we have the internet, Open Access together with an Article Processing Charge provided by the authors or their funding institutions, does show a way forward. In the old days when the only avenue to publication was through the printing press we had no alternative: in the modern on-line world we can’t allow gear-changing from that old world to obscure the purpose behind the entire system of research and publication. Barbara Fister seems to think so in this piece form Library Babel Fish. Naturally publishers are going to dodge and weave in an attempt to preserve their valuable properties — and as Rick Anderson recounts at Scholarly Kitchen they are doing so quite well. The very definitional difficulties addressed in yesterday’s post provide publishers with opportunities to appear to be doing good while at the same time maintaining the status quo. We need to straighten out our thinking. Is this another of those tragedy of the commons problems — worth nobody’s financial investment to cure? Publishers have an asset to protect and scholars and libraries cannot force change. If it’s not all available via Open Access the libraries still have to subscribe to the journal.


* The situation with books and the reproduction of chapters or sections from books is rather different. It is much more likely that an academic book is written with the hope of earning a bit of money for the author. Of course there may be no financial motivation, but only the author can know this, and thus publishers as agents for their authors, have an obligation to be vigilant in the protection of the copyright.



Some of the things I write about are pretty straightforward. There’s not too much more you can say about the Applegath vertical printing machine. Topics like Open Access and Copyright are so onion-form that as soon as you start writing you have to peel off another layer as the topic ramifies before you. I have three different draft essays on Open Access on the go, each with various fascinating links attached to them. If I amalgamate them into a massive unit it’d take hours to read — so of course just wouldn’t get read.

So, at least in part to clear my own mind, I thought I’d get rid of the basic definition problem here. Rick Anderson, an admirable clarifier writing at Scholarly Kitchen attempts to explicate overlapping definitions that tend to bedevil discussions of this subject. Those devilish details! In the course of that piece he links to an earlier attempt at the same thing. The second part of his discussion, focussing more on goals, can be found here. All these papers, and the links he provides, are worth reading if you have any interest in Open Access.

I’d never really thought about it, but even back in medieval times when paper was being made by hand there were standard sheet sizes. These were no doubt less formal and rigid than today’s, but sheet sizes turn out to have grouped around certain popular sizes which played the role of standard sizes. After all you had to have moulds and deckles: these were reused time and again. If your customers got used to paper in these sizes, neighboring paper makers would tend to conform to the same or closely similar sizes.


The Schoenberg Institute for Manuscript Studies at the University of Pennsylvania has created the Needham Calculator, a tool for calculating sheet size of manuscripts. Enter a few details and bang, bang, there are the dimensions of the original sheet. The Penn Libraries blog describes the tool and its rationale.

The Scholarly Kitchen has an interesting essay by Robert Harington of the American Mathematical Association under the title The Value of Copyright: A Publisher’s Perspective. This provides a sober overview of where we stand today. Harington reminds us that different authors have different “copyright” motivations.

Are there not now three types of copyright? If I’m right, that’s surely a problem, and they ought probably to be covered by three different legal arrangements.

  1. Copyright protects big, expensive projects, like movies, where a financial return is fundamental to the whole undertaking. Recouping the investment might take years. It represents part of the company’s capital base.
  2. Copyright also covers books, (and other works such as photos, drawings etc.) where a modest financial return is more often than not all that is needed. Because of lower investment costs this will probably be delivered more quickly.
  3. Copyright also covers on-line materials. These materials may often be the same ones as covered under 1. and 2., but are more easily shared, and are often published on-line with the intention that they should be more easily shared.

Copyright in things like software, typeface designs, industrial design in general, even maybe electronic games might form a fourth category, but might perhaps flip over to the Patent system.

Part of the reason, I think, that copyright has become overstretched is our habit of using the term “intellectual property”. Copyright wan’t designed to protect intellectual property, it was designed to encourage innovation by allowing protection to the physical expression of “intellectual property”, so that people would be encouraged to make more of it. Talking about just intellectual property allows the protectionists to expand the discussion without having to make any arguments (c.f. death taxes).

What strikes me is that the things you wouldn’t want people doing to your intellectual property are rather different in each of these three cases. In the third category, you don’t want someone citing, quoting from or reproducing your work without giving credit, or without indicating if they make any changes to what you wrote. And that’s it. This seems perfectly acceptable to almost everyone, and might, without damage, be made a perpetual requirement, having no direct reference to the rest of copyright law. It’s analogous to the Creative Commons license. One could see a system which imported along with the image, or link the appropriate notices. Something like RefME could possibly be tweaked to achieve this. We might call this kind of copyright Access Right.

If you are a corporation and invest millions of dollars in creating a movie series you want/need to recoup your investment, and then to continue making profits off the product. That is after all why you are in business. Because a corporation can live for ever, such a right might justifiably also live for ever. Let’s call this Investment Protection Right. We might reasonably charge a good-sized fee for granting this protection.

Then that would leave Copyright to cover the rest: in my world, books. Nobody has a problem with protecting the author from the theft of his/her work; it’s the number of years of that protection that we often find problematic. I think there’s a consensus out there that “life of the author plus 70 years” is just too long (based as it is on the “life” of Mickey Mouse). Allied to the automatic vesting of copyright in a work immediately it is recorded in tangible form, this lengthy term has created a huge category of orphan works — works protected by copyright, but by a copyright held by a person who has vanished, thus preventing anyone getting permission to use the work in protected ways. Reducing the term to a number of years without regard to the author’s survival would surely be sufficient. Maybe 25 years would be OK?  Is it really essential to keep copyright protection going on John Grisham’s The Pelican Brief, published in 1992? A film was made of it in 1993, so Mr Grisham needn’t worry about Hollywood ripping him off. Warner Bros. no doubt have an interest in protecting the movie under my Investment Protection Right, but surely copyright in the book isn’t hugely valuable any more. Mr Grisham may still be happily receiving royalties but his publishing contract could allow for Random House to pay royalties whatever the copyright situation.

It might be right to point out that I selected Mr Grisham not as any kind of copyright protectionist — I have no idea what he thinks about all this. I chose the book as an example of a literary copyright which would have been very valuable in 1992 and for a few years thereafter, which still earns, yet which doesn’t on the face of it carry any inherent need to be sedulously protected for another 70+ years. In other words, a trade book.

See also Term of copyright.

enschede-haarlem_type_foundry_in_1892Joh. Enschedé en Zonen was founded in Haarlem in 1703, and began making their own type in 1743 at a time when most other printers had abandoned foundry work and were buying their types from outside. The company continues as a security printer printing banknotes, postage stamps etc.  In the world of typography the company is perhaps best known as the place where Jan van Krimpen’s font were made.

This film showing Paul Helmuth Rädisch cutting punches by hand at Enschedé in 1957, is narrated by Matthew Carter who also provides a fascinating discussion following Carl Dair’s short film.

Carl Dair, a Canadian typographer, worked as in intern in Haarlem in 1956-7 and while he was there made this film of what was a dying craft. Dair’s Epistles to the Torontonians was reviewed in the TLS of 27 January 2017. The film, Gravers and Files is included in a CD accompanying the book, though it is also available on-line at YouTube (as here) and at Vimeo.

For a while I have resisted the temptation to write a post about the print vs. digital sales switch, because trends don’t become trends till they have gone on long enough for a sufficiency of data to have accumulated. I’m not altogether sure we’ve gone long enough yet, but here’s a Bloomberg story which incorporates this graphic.


It may be that the trend line will switch again, but here it is. These trend line tabulations always look misleading of course. We are looking at rates of increase/decrease. If in year one you sell 500 e-books and in year two that goes up to 1,000 that represents an increase of 100%. If at the same time print-book sales move from 60 million to 59.9 million copies, that’s a decrease (which I refuse to spend time trying to calculate) but you know very well which bit of the pie you’d rather be holding. While looking at more or less 0% growth in one format and a 15% or so decline in another does at first glance appear pretty disastrous for the industry, do bear in mind that print sales represent about 75% of overall book sales, so a decline in the 25% portion doesn’t have as much of an effect as the graph might suggest. And those numbers on adults reading print books look amazingly positive to me. So positive I’m beginning to wonder if they can really be true.

I suspect the approaching maturity of the market is illustrated by the arrival of this post from Book Riot about the sorts of books one might prefer to read as e-books. The choice between e-book and p-book was never the naked moral choice presented by the ranting partisans of the new world. Surprise, surprise; the mature reader will find one format better for one purpose and the other format for another. I certainly agree with Ms Stinger about the suitability of the e-book format to the extremely long novels like  A Song of Ice and Fire. It’s just too hard to carry gigantic books around. (A friend recently confessed to knifing a hardback apart to take the unread portion on vacation with her.)

Why should a switch from print to digital incur such fury: after all we never argue about whether it’s better to read War and Peace in hardback or paperback, though maybe they did when paperbacks were first invented. I once had a colleague who wanted books only in paperback (but then he also claimed only to like cylindrical food). I preferred the hardback editions even though they did take up a little more space on the shelf, which was his objection. No Jack Sprat treaty could be worked out though. We both liked different books as well as formats.


Photo: Erik Kwakkel

Photo: Erik Kwakkel

Just as we are familiar with different grades of board (cardboard) for book binding* so apparently there are different grades of wooden board. Wooden boards, usually oak, are what used to be used in bookbinding way back in the benighted Middle Ages, and are of course much superior to our modern substitute. But even then there were shortcuts as the cutting diagram below illustrates.








This illustration shows the difference in cutting pattern of quarter sawn boards and plain sawn boards. The quarter boards maximize the amount of the grain (the growth rings) at right angles to the surface of the board. The Fitzwilliam Museum’s website shows photos of the warping a plain sawn board will undergo as opposed to the almost rigid quarter sawn ones.

In medieval times manuscript books tended to be bound in what’s described as the Gothic style. In this style the wooden boards were tapered at the spine edge so that the sewn sections swelled around them forming a natural round, rather than the forced round which gets bashed into them nowadays (if indeed any attention is now given to that feature). They were secured to the book by cords, or as in this photo, leather strips which were inserted into holes drilled through the edge of the board and were attached to the book block by sewing.


Of course comparison of gothic binding and what we supply today in terms of case binding is somewhat ridiculous, but I did think the board cutting techniques might be of interest. If anyone is thinking of building oak bookshelves from that tree they just cut down, this could be invaluable information.


* Binders board is the standard used for binding (quality) hardback books nowadays. The alternative, basically bits of thin cardboard laminated together, goes by the name pasted board, though in my time I have heard it referred to as chipboard, and strawboard. Binders board is basically a really thick sheet of paper, and as the fibers cohere more tightly it will not delaminate as a pasted board will when bashed on the corner. (The Etherington & Roberts Dictionary at the Print Glossaries tab above, has a clear definition.)