Onarbor Addresses Academic Publishing Challenges with Crowdsourcing, Peer Review

Onarbor Addresses Academic Publishing Challenges with Crowdsourcing, Peer Review
Scholarly publishing is a constant source of contention within the academic community, as the pressure to publish has led to a division of sorts between what is considered worthy publication and what amounts to little more than a scam. The requirement to publish academic papers, journal articles, and even full-length titles in various fields is often a deciding factor in continued employment with a college or university, and even has implications in securing research opportunities and grant funding. In other words, it’s publish or perish.

Unfortunately, the world of academic publishing is even more notoriously difficult to break into than the world of trade publishing. With often small-numbered committees of just two or three individuals deciding what is worthy or not, many frustrated academics have grown disillusioned with the industry. One such person is Tim Peterson, a biology doctoral candidate from Harvard who actually secured a paper for publication in a prestigious journal, but he recalled that the entire nine-month ordeal left him feeling as though there had to be a better way.

Peterson founded the site Onarbor, a platform that not only provides a publishing pad for quality works, but also encourages peer review that goes well beyond three stuffy academics looking over the tops of their glasses at the mountain of submissions. Instead, Onarbor builds a community of reviewers, people whose own “scores” are generated based on their reviews of prior submissions. Essentially, if a reviewer simply passes through a fluff piece, his score as a reviewer can drop, making him less of a prestigious name associated with a submission.

More important than just the publishing and review opportunities, though, is the ability for users to crowdfund particular projects through donations. Interestingly, cybercurrency source Bitcoin is accepted on the site for crowdfunding.

In this article on Onarbor by Avi Wolfman-Arent for The Chronicle of Higher Education , Peterson is quoted as saying this model stands to rise above the current method of peer review due to the sheer numbers of people who will review a submission. It’s one thing to have a triumvirate of academics with a political agenda to declare your work as suitable, but it’s something else entirely to have thousands of highly qualified professionals make that assessment.

While the trade publication industry is slowly but surely release its stronghold as the only viable publishing route and erasing some of the stigma associated with self-publishing, we can’t look for the scholarly industry to do that anytime soon, especially when there’s serious money to be made by blocking publication of some pieces and allowing others. In time. though, sites like Onarbor could potentially make enough of a name for themselves that the scholarly publication community sees the rigid stronghold for exactly what it is and agrees to accept the validity of a community-vetted platform.

Onarbor Addresses Academic Publishing Challenges with Crowdsourcing, Peer Review

Reach Out and Read Earns LOC Prize, Receives One Million Books from Scholastic

Reach Out and Read Earns LOC Prize, Receives One Million Books from Scholastic

At this weekend’s National Book Festival, hosted by the Library of Congress, book distribution and reading awareness organization Reach Out and Read was presented with the David M. Rubenstein Prize for the charity’s work to combat illiteracy, especially among low-income and underserved demographics of children. In addition the $150,000 prize, Reach Out and Read had a new surprise today: a donation of one million books from the world’s largest children’s publisher, Scholastic .

“We believe that literacy is the birthright of every child and the pathway to success in school, and it starts by creating a home library from which children can access and choose books that will set them up for a lifetime of independent reading,” said Richard Robinson, Chairman and CEO of Scholastic, in a press release today. “Scholastic has been a longtime supporter of the work Reach Out and Read does to promote early-childhood literacy, and their proven model continues to successfully prescribe reading for all children and their families during their visit to the doctor.”

“We know that books build better brains – and a million young brains will be shaped for the future through this incredible donation from Scholastic,” continued Reach Out and Read’s Executive Director Anne-Marie Fitzgerald. “Scholastic is our oldest and most generous partner, and without their continued commitment, we would not be able to help children grow up to become readers and support parents as their children’s first and most important teachers. As Reach Out and Read is poised to begin its 25th year, these books, along with the award from the Library of Congress, will be instrumental in creating a new generation of readers. On behalf of our 12,000 pediatricians and the millions of children we serve nationwide, I thank Scholastic for this tremendous gift.”

Reach Out and Read distributes over 6.5 million books each year to low-income families in order to build home libraries of books. The organization also works with health care providers who specialize in children’s health to distribute materials and to encourage reading in the home, especially oral reading in order to build word recognition, reading fluency, and to foster family time. The organization has already been proven to be quite effective, as children served by the program typically score several months ahead of their non-served peers in reading.

Reach Out and Read Earns LOC Prize, Receives One Million Books from Scholastic

Paperight to Shut Its Doors

Paperight to Shut Its Doors
In sad news for extending the reach of ebooks and print-on-demand, global distributor Paperight has announced that it will cease operations. The company operated under an anti-piracy/pro-book access model that licensed ebooks from publishers to be sold via photocopy shops across various regions in Africa.

Good e-Reader first wrote about Paperight in 2013 when the group won a digital innovation award at CONTEC, the preshow event to the Frankfurt Book Fair. At the time, it was truly astounding that a company could win such an award for getting more people to read print books.

Paperight operated in remote regions by filling a need for licensed content. Until the company’s arrival, many book stores and university textbook vendors offered a library of single-edition titles that students or their parents would photocopy for a fee. This wasn’t only spurred on by piracy efforts, but also by the fact that many publishers lack a licensing agreement in certain African countries, and therefore did not sell their titles within the region. The only way to access the material was through photocopied piracy.

Paperight changed that by licensing the digital edition and allowing readers to purchase the book via a lower cost license, which the shop owner would then print out on the copiers and bind. Call it a highly rudimentary Espresso book machine, if you will.

While many cultures might be willing to pay a little more to not have to stand at a copier and generate their own books, that has proven to not be the case in the markets that Paperight served. At this time, while optimistic about where the industry can take their pioneering efforts and where their work will take them next, the company has had to close its doors.

Paperight to Shut Its Doors

eBook Review: Cinderella Spinderella by Mark Binder

eBook Review: Cinderella Spinderella by Mark Binder
Verdict: 4 Stars

When you’re up for a digital book innovation award at the Digital Book World Conference and Expo and you lose out to the powerhouse that is Scholastic, Inc. , that’s still pretty impressive. Fortunately for Light Publications and their ebook Cinderella Spinderella, what makes their book great isn’t just the full-color illustrations, audio read-aloud, realistic page turn, or any of the other typical things we’ve come to expect from enhanced ebooks. What makes this title so great is how much thought and effort the creators put into the actual representation of the story.

Exhibit A: Cinderella is in a wheelchair, something that her evil stepsisters laugh at her for. Then the fairy godmother–who is actually a homeless woman–shows up and dresses Cinderella in a magical black garbage bag.

Exhibit B: When Cinderella does get to go to the ball, obviously…well…she can’t dance, at least not on those ridiculously impractical glass slippers. But the prince is so intrigued by her that they sit and play cards all night, talking and getting to know each other (no silent staring into each others’ eyes and not speaking…looking at you, Disney).

Exhibit C (and the most profound thing of all): With the download of this one book, the reader gets to pick Cinderella’s and the prince’s ethnicities, a fact that makes me prouder of Light Publications than I have been of any other digital publisher in a long time.

Along with other bonus features, this book is an educator’s dream and is sure to delight any reader. The need to download the book to a computer or laptop first and then transfer it over to the phone or tablet was a minor annoyance, a factor that hopefully the creators will take into consideration down the road. But overall, the book and its 25 possible story versions was pure genius that speaks to readers of any background.

Cinderella Spinderella is available at lightpublications.com/dropcard.

eBook Review: Cinderella Spinderella by Mark Binder

School Libraries Vital to Literacy Rates Among Students

School Libraries Vital to Literacy Rates Among Students
Libraries present an interesting conundrum to policy makers and patrons alike. A Pew Internet study , for example, showed just how mixed-up the sentiments surrounding libraries can be, with reports from one survey stating that “95% of Americans agree that the materials and resources available at public libraries play an important role in giving everyone a chance to succeed [and] 81% of Americans ages 16 and older say that public libraries provide many services people would have a hard time finding elsewhere.” But at the same time, those very same survey respondents reported that48% of Americans have visited a library or bookmobile in person in the past year, [and] 30% of Americans have visited a library website in the past year.”

So if we all agree that libraries are important centers of learning and provide services that individuals cannot get elsewhere, even if we ourselves do not make as much effort to visit a library on a regular basis, why is there such a budget problem for libraries?

One report coming from Australia’s educational system painted an even more alarming picture. According to the fifth annual Softlink Australian School Library Survey, there is a direct correlation between how well-funded and well-stocked a school library is, and how high the literacy rates and reading performance of the school’s student body are.

“It’s encouraging that the survey results demonstrate some stabilization of school library budgets in Australia,” Softlink’s Managing Director, Nathan Godfrey, said. “Budget allocations have stabilized, however we are not yet seeing any upward trends.”

“Many school libraries are operating under lean conditions, which makes it difficult for them to introduce digital innovations and resources which can influence learning and literacy outcomes.”

The report went on to investigate commonalities such as the link between highly trained library staff and student success, digital adoption in the schools and book checkouts, and more. Interestingly, mobile device use and after-school access to the libraries’ digital materials played a key role in this year’s findings.

According to the report, “This year, 43% of respondents said half or more of their student population owned a personal mobile device (iPod, iPad, smart phone or other tablet) a similar figure to 2013 (44%). The percentage of respondent schools that indicated they provide digital devices to students reduced from 58% in 2013 to 44% in 2014. This corresponded to a higher percentage of respondent schools that encourage BYOD use both inside and outside the classroom (from 14% in 2013 to 24% in 2014). In 2014, 13% reported that they encourage BYOD use at school but only outside the classroom and 19% indicated that personal device usage was not encouraged at their schools’. This year 27% of respondents indicated that they have a BYOT/BYOD strategy. This reflected a substantial increase of schools who have implemented a BYOT/BYOD strategy from 2013, when the result to the same question was 19%.”

School Libraries Vital to Literacy Rates Among Students

eBook Review: Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Hard Luck

eBook Review: Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Hard Luck

Verdict: 4 Stars

Game developer and author Jeff Kinney has done it again with a new Diary of a Wimpy Kid title, Hard Luck (Amulet Books). In this go around, life is even tougher for everyone’s favorite cartoonish middle schooler. Not only does he have the usual obstacles to juggle, like unpopularity, not doing well in school, and the proverbial middle child problems, this year, and even bigger threat has invaded: a girlfriend.

Specifically, Greg’s best friend’s girlfriend. Rowley, who could be counted on to be Greg’s wingman in all situations, somehow has attracted someone of the opposite sex, and therefore dropped Greg like third period French.

Part of the fun of the Wimpy Kid books is that they are completely relatable to both current readers and to adults who remember the angst of middle school. Apart from that, readers can also enjoy the “you, not me” aspect to Greg’s misadventures. While the book series has been banned in several US schools and libraries due to the attitudes and misbehaviors of some of the key characters, the entire series and this title in particular are perfect for reluctant readers who might identify with the constant uncertainty Greg feels.

Hard Luck is available now, and currently holds the number one bestseller spot on several retailer and book lists.

eBook Review: Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Hard Luck

iStoryTime Announces Children’s Enhanced eBook Giveaways

iStoryTime Announces Children’s Enhanced eBook Giveaways

One of the first companies to begin producing high-quality, interactive ebook apps for the little readers among us was zuuka’s iStoryTime, who has produced many of the licensed movie adaptations on the market. Through agreements with companies like DreamWorks, iStoryTime has released exciting renderings of storybooks to go with popular titles like Kung Fu Panda, Shrek, Rise of the Guardians, Madagascar, and more.

Throughout the rest of the month, iStoryTime will be giving away free copies of select titles to all users via access codes scattered among app and publishing industry websites around the web. Today’s ebook, for example, is Kung Fu Panda Holiday, and the code is only available by visiting smartappsforkids.com .

Of course, Good e-Reader had to get in on the fun, so visitors to the site on December 26th will find the unique code needed to download a free copy of the interactive book Shrek Forever After, based on the final movie in the beloved Shrek series.

A full list of the titles to be given away includes:

12/18 – Kung Fu Panda Holiday
12/19 – Turbo
12/20 – The Smurfs 2
12/21 – Ice Age
12/22 – How to Train a Dragon
12/23 – Rise of the Guardians
12/24 – Arthur Christmas
12/25 – Barney’s Storybook Treasury: What Can It Be?
12/26 – Shrek Forever After
12/27 – Meet Biscuit
12/28 – Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs

This giveaway would be a fantastic opportunity for teachers and librarians to fill their classroom iPads with vetted, high-interest content that contains bonus games, highlighted read-alouds, independent reading, and more.

To find out where the codes will be available, follow iStoryTime on Twitter and Facebook for daily instructions. Once readers have the code for their iOS devices, they will open the book title in iTunes and select it, then tap “Use Storycode” to grab the free ebook.

iStoryTime Announces Children’s Enhanced eBook Giveaways