Teaching and Learning in a Net-Centric World

on edited book chapters

Over the last couple of weeks I’ve had occasion to think about authoring and editing contributions to edited books. In this post, I’ll releate these incidents and then try to draw some conclusions.

1. Olaf Zawkler Richter and I have been working for the past 16 months on an edited book tentatively titled Towards a Research Agenda in Online Education. The chapter topics were chosen through a  systematic examination of the top issues in the distance education literature during the past decade. We then contacted the “grandest guru” in each of these research topics and asked them to write a chapter summarizing the issues and outlining a research agenda in that area. Of course, they weren’t all willing to do so- no coincidence that the most accomplished people are also the busiest!. But we were very pleased with the list of authors who agreed to author a chapter for us. Of course they didn’t all come in on the due date, but we  were pleased with the results. Olaf and I edited each chapter and each was sent back for revisions, and soon the book was ready for a publisher.

Both Olaf and I were committed to publishing in an open access press and  perhaps this choice of publisher influenced the the high participation rate of our ‘gurus. Thus. we choose Athabasca University Press for submission. The manuscript was reviewed internally and then sent for external review. Last week (about three months later) the reviews came back. One of the reviewers was particularly hard on some chapters and his comments were described by one of our authors as “boorish and ad hominem”. Nonetheless they were useful and will result in edits to most of the chapters.

So hopefully in the New Year, I will be announcing the availability of this book through AUPress.

2. I received an invitation from my friend Allison Littlejohn to contribute to a proposed book to be publsihed by Routledge entitled “Reusing Open Resources: learning using networked resources” .  I like Allison,  the topic is close to my heart and I am sure that my usual co-author Jon Dron and I could create a useful chapter for the text. I also think Routledge is a quality press, and I have received a few nice (well to be clear. nice in my game is anything over $1,000 dollars) for the work that Randy Garrison and I published  (Garrison, D. R., & Anderson, T. (2003). E-Learning in the 21st century. London: Routledge.

However. I have been recently plugging “The Pledge” in my keynotes – ” I will no longer submit my work to closed publications nor participate in review or editorial functions for closed publications”. I should say that just occasionaly there are reasons for each of us to “fall off the wagon”  but I do want to insure that my work is not withheld form the majority of citizens of the world- especially those in developing countries.  So sadly, I will have to decline Allsion’s offer to contribute a chapter.

3. I then received a second request for a chapter, this one for publication as an open access (CC BY) distribution and published as part of the ASF series by Carl von Ossietzky  University of Oldenburg. This text to be titled The online education technology landscape: Theories, perspectives and practices is edited by three colleagues I have met over the years Lisa Marie BLASCHKE, Carl von Ossietzky University of Oldenburg, Germany; Gila KURTZ, The College for Academic Studies, Israel and Stella PORTO, University of Maryland University College, USA. The call for chapters is clear and precise and I think I’ll try to get a contribution related to our work on the elgg based Athabasca Landing.

4. Last week I received my annual royalty cheque and statement of sales from AUPress for the edited, 2nd edition of the Theory and Practice of Online Learning. Sales of this text seem to be slipping (time for 3rd edition!!) but downloads are still significant. The text sold 245 copies last year resulting in $5753 books sales, plus $1,415 revenue from sales in electronic format. It is a bit of mystery why people pay for downloads to their e-reader, when they can download free from the publisher’s site, buy I don’t mind taking their money. These sales resulted in a HUGE cheque for $358.41 for me. The AUPress also recorded 14,225 downloads, down from 57,800 last year. Over the years of this text it has been downloaded from Athabasca over 100,000 times, but it is also stored and distributed from many other sites (for example scribd and e-booksdirectory.com), so it impossible to tell the exact number of downloads, except to say that it is way over 10 times as many reads as any of the other seven books that I have authored, edited  or co-authored!  So (at least for the editor) publishing open access does pay both in dissemination and in $$$!

5. Finally, at the Athabasca Graduate Student Research conference last week, I was pleased to hear an excellent presentation from a Masters degree graduate on refinements to the COI model that Randy Garrison, Walter Archer and I developed years ago.  I asked the author if she had published the results of her work, hoping to entice her to make a submission to IRRODL (the Journal I edit).  She told me that she had submitted the results for publication in an edited book to be published (closed access) and edited by her supervisor.  This I think is quite unfortunate. Chapters in edited books IMHO, have nowhere  near the prestige and influence of the same work in a quality, peer-reviewed journal. Further, if the chapter is in a closed book, the chances of it being read by more than a few hundred are small. This results in very little impact or result from the considerable work involved in a quality thesis project.

So, it will likely be obvious where these 5 incidents are leading. I won’t belabour the point about increased accessibility and value of publishing in open access press. However, I would like to remind authors – and especially students, that the biggest winners from edited texts are the editors. Sometimes the editors work hard to achieve the name recognition and royalties that may result, but in every case, the value to the chapter author is small in comparison.  The recognition and prestige of the editor’s name  MIGHT result in wider readership and distribution, but not necessarily.

So my advice to new researchers is to publish your work open access, in a quality journal first, then save a few implications for research pr practice for edited books.  That is of course until I come asking for a chapter in my next edited book 🙂 !!!

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