Florida and the last mile of logic 
Back in 2007, I opted to change the license for my logic textbook, forall x. The removal of the Non-Commercial provision meant that, since then, people have been allowed to sell copies of the book and of any derivative works they might make. At the time, I wrote this:
There is little danger that a publisher will sell an overpriced deluxe edition of forall x, because the Sharealike provision would preclude them from exercising restrictive rights over it. The content would still be free.

I was perhaps a bit too optimistic.

A while later, a company began selling a poorly made ebook version on Amazon. I wrote a review telling people not to buy it and pointing them to where they can download it for free.

Today I discovered that University Press of Florida is offering forall x for $32.50. They assigned it an ISBN and everything. Their product page does not have any product description at all. If you do a search, though, the description includes information about how to get a copy from Lulu where it's available for $8.50.

They also have the title slightly wrong: "Forall x: Introductory Textbook in Formal Logic" rather than "forall x: An introduction to formal logic"

At the same time, the Senate is considering legislation to support more open licensed textbooks in an effort to make college textbooks affordable. We need to remember that an open license only saves the bit that would be paid to the author. The last mile is getting the text into student hands, which requires not screwing them on printing costs.

UPDATE nov19: I just spoke with someone at UPF. They print the book on-demand for Orange Grove, an imprint which has offered it on Amazon since 2009. So it was already something I knew about, really.

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There's open and then there's "open" 
I was an invited speaker last week at DIY Publishing and the University, an event held by the NorthEast Regional Computing Program. I was there because of forall x; the organizers had found me through the Creative Commons database.

Most of the speakers talked about electronic resources, like institutional archives, student videos, or MOOCs. I was the odd man out, because forall x is a traditional textbook. Although it is distributed electronically, it is designed to be used as a physical workbook. Today I ran across an article in Salon which supports my old-school approach; it argues that people just don't comprehend material read on screen or on a tablet as well as material read on paper. Yet the difference is not so clear or strong that we should imagine it is inevitable. Future students may be better at learning from electronic documents, and future technology might present them in better ways. I will still be teaching a decade or two from now, and my preference for paper may be something I'll need to get over.*

One nice result of the NERCOMP event is that I now have a better understanding of MOOCs. A MOOC (the acronym stands for Massive Open Online Course) allows people from all over the world to register for and take a course. They might watch videos of lectures, participate in a discussion forum with other students, take tests on their computer, and so on. Because the courses are free, they are often mentioned in the same context as open-access textbooks.

The thing I learned is that "open" in MOOC just means open enrollment. Anyone anywhere is free to take the course. The course materials might be released under a Creative Commons license, but they might just be under traditional copyright. MIT labels its MOOC material "some rights reserved" and, although that is a standard label on CC-licensed material, MIT does not specify an specific permissions. Because they don't say, "some" is legally equivalent to "all". The difference is just a flourish, because "all rights reserved" would not sound as welcoming.

So I was also the odd man out because I was one of the few presenters specifically concerned with open access issues.**


* Even if there are cyborg students in the future, though, there are still concerns of equity. Even if it gets to the point where digital natives with advanced e-readers think better with electronic documents than with paper documents, economic disparities will mean that other students don't. Of course, the future of the university as an enterprise is also up for grabs in the next decade or two.
** Not the only one. Thomas Dodson, a librarian from Harvard, talked about their open access repository of faculty research.

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This post is the previous post warmed over 
In an epicycle of self-promotion, I am profiled by the UAlbany College of Arts and Sciences because my open access logic textbook was adopted at Cambridge. Also, according to Google Scholar, forall x is my ninth most cited publication.

When I couldn't sort out a time to have a picture taken for the story on the website, I got permission from Matt Slater to send them this photo which he took at the Metaphysics&Philosophy of Science conference last year.




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It takes a village to write a book 
My open access logic book, forall x, is going to be used this Fall for the first year logic course at Cambridge. I was contacted by a librarian there, who said that the course leader had edited a version especially for their course. So, she wanted to know, how should the book be listed and how should I be credited?

My reply, below the fold.
Read More...

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No clever title, this 
Here is a despairing rant about the cost of textbooks and how my attempts to do something about it have been frustrated by bullshit:

I wrote forall x because existing logic textbooks were ridiculously expensive and were rapidly reissued in new editions so as to kill the market for cheaper, used copies. My book is written to be a physical book. It has practice problems, solutions in the back, reference tables, and content which is best accessed by thumbing back and forth between various sections. So I allowed students to buy it as a course packet, paying only the printing cost.

Because other people beyond just my students might want to use it, I made it available for download on the internet. Faculty at dozens of schools have used it as a course text, and lots of people have used it for independent study. To reiterate, electronic availability was just for distribution to the broader world.

When the copy shop across the street from campus closed, I let the campus bookstore sell the course packet. The first semester I did this, they charged a reasonable $10. The second semester, they jacked that up to $20 without letting me know. So I started using the copy center on campus instead. Last year, the copy center closed. The only place that will sell course packets off campus is several miles away, and students grouse if I ask them to schlepp over there.

So for this coming semester, I asked the campus bookstore to determine how much they would charge. The answer: $27.15. For 160 pages. That are covered by an open license. I was told, "That price is solely based on production costs."

My reply: "The course packet service you are using simply lies about production costs. It's the worst kind of bullshit."

So I am just going to point students to the PDF and encourage them to print their own copy. Many of them won't, which will be a mistake. They would do better in the course if they had the textbook in an accessible form. Working practice problems on scratch paper is easier with a workbook than in front of a computer screen. But they could pay 15 cents a page for printing and still save money over what the bookstore would have charged.

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