Thursday, February 28, 2013

Not All Heroes Wear Body Armor

The saving of Timbuktu’s priceless historical manuscripts in Mali owes everything to the bravery of an unlikely group of heroes – archivists and librarians. These manuscripts have been subject to destruction by invaders for centuries. The latest incursion was by a coalition of Tuareg separatists and Islamic militants in April 2012. Each time foreign invaders threaten Timbuktu, however, whether a Morrocan army in the 16th century, European explorers in the 18th, French colonialists in the 19th or Al Qaeda militants in the 21st – the manuscripts disappear beneath mud floors, into cupboards, boxes, sacks and secret rooms, into caves in the desert or upriver to the safety of Bamako, Mali’s capital. Abdel Kader Haidara, the owner of a large private collection of manuscripts, described how, soon after the rebels reached Timbuktu, he and fifteen others worked for a month at night packing manuscripts into metal trunks, cataloguing them, locking the boxes with two keys and then hiding them. He would not say exactly where they were hidden, only that the manuscripts had been “dispersed” in more than 1,000 boxes. Timbuktu’s manuscripts are incredibly varied, in both length and subject. Some are fragments, single pages or a couple of leafs, while others are entire bound volumes hundreds of pages long. They cover topics as diverse as science, medicine, history, human rights, law, poetry and literature, but the vast majority are of a religious nature: handwritten Qu’rans, accounts of the life of the Prophet, prayers and expositions of Islamic philosophy. The overall value of the manuscripts is in their documentation of Timbuktu’s lost heyday as the centre of Islamic scholarship and the trans-Saharan trade routes of the 15th and 16th centuries. A so much more edifying story than that concerning the bombing of the National Library of Sarajevo.

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Don't Count the Printed Word Out Just Yet

Some interesting results on the e-book versus the print book for children readers. These results were announced at the 2013 Digital World Conference & Expo in a session entitled Children’s Publishing Goes Digital. Kristen McLean, founder and CEO of a company named Bookigee, reported that “teen attitudes toward e-books are ‘snapping back’ to print. She cited the ability to swap favorite titles and the decreased novelty of e-readers as possible motivators. “E-readers” observed McLean “are not a social platform.”

A Codex study uncovered similar attitudes in younger children. “Less than half of kids age three to 12 are reading or experiencing digital books,” Peter Hildick-Smith, said. “Print is still king.”

When asked why teens’ preferences were shifting toward print books, publishing executive Tina McIntyre said, “Kids model their behavior after their parents . . . they’re still seeing their parents read physical books.” Carl Kulo, senior data analyst at Bowker, added, “It’s all about focus.”

Print books don’t provide the same distractions that a full-loaded tablet offers, and this remains attractive to a majority of parents.

Saturday, February 23, 2013

I'm Not a Vanity Publisher, I'm a Predatory Publisher!

I learned a new term today “predatory publisher.” A vanity publisher is one who will take your money willingly to publish your book when all of your submissions to regular trade publishers have uniformly been rejected. Those rejections probably mean the manuscript is just not very good – but don’t worry about that, the vanity publisher doesn’t concern him or herself with quality. They just want the money involved in helping you to realize your quixotic dream of seeing your very own book in print.

A predatory publisher on the other hand is in business to take advantage of the hundreds of thousands of those poor miserable creatures who are in desperate pursuit of academic tenure. Often these are struggling academics who have submitted to legitimate refereed journals only to have their manuscripts turned down. What now they say? Well here’s a journal that will accept my article if I will only pay them a fee of several hundred dollars.

One of these publishers, The Canadian Center For Science and Education, is currently suing Jeffrey Beall, associate professor and scholary initiatives librarian at the University of Colorado Denver. Beall’s transgression? He publishes an extremely useful online list of suspect journals entitled Potential, Possible or Probable Predatory Scholarly Open-Access Publishers (Attention all Scholars: see The CCSE is part of that list and they think that Beall’s inclusion of them is defamatory and libelous. In my opinion any court would be wise to dismiss charges of libel against Beall and instead bring charges of fraud against CCSE.

I went to the website of CCSE and was troubled by at least three issues:
  1. there are no company executives listed anywhere on the site;
  2. CCSE publishes statistics on accepted and rejected articles for each journal they purportedly publish but the reader doesn’t know if acceptance versus rejection is based on quality of work OR on the willingness or unwillingness to pay a stiff fee ($200 to $500 per article) for publication.
  3. many if not most legitimate scholarly journals do not even charge author fees for publication.
So the watchword here like so many other areas in life is “caveat emptor.” But perhaps the final word should go to scholar Airil Haimi when he reports: “You mentioned CCSE, right? I was one of those stupid enough to get duped by them, sorry to say. The print journal came all the way [from] . . . wait for it… wait for it…CHINA. Obviously the owners are based there. Don’t waste your hard-earned $$$ and really, DO NOT tarnish your own reputation by publishing in these bogus journals. I learned the hard way :-(.”

A Publisher unclear on the concept

Imagine if a critic in the Globe and Mail wrote a book review and the author and publisher did not like the fact that the review was largely negative and then mounted a major law suit against both the reviewer and the newspaper. Or imagine if a film critic writing for Walrus Magazine wrote a damning review of a new film release and the director and the studio mounted an attack against both the reviewer and the magazine.

If these law suits, or similar ones, were successful then that would mean the right to fair and open criticism in any arena of our society would become an absolute impossibility. And that is the very fundamental value at stake in a 4.5 millon dollar libel law suit brought about by Edwin Mellen Press against a McMaster University Librarian Dale Askey. Why is Askey being sued? For doing his job too well. It seems that Askey as part of his professional duties at his former position at Kansas State University made professional judgments about the quality of the books produced by various academic publishers. In a blog entry he recorded his critical impressions of the poor quality of Mellen Press books, their careless editorial standards and their poor contracts with authors. Askey made both positive and negative remarks about various academic publishers based on many years of experience in academic book selection at a time when declining budgets meant that university library selectors needed to be more critical and discerning about what they actually purchased. Mellen, instead of defending their policies and practices as a publisher, saw fit to resort to blatant intimidation and to just hammer Askey over the head with a heavy lawsuit. It should be noted, however, that this isn’t the first time that Mellen has gone after a critic. In 1993 the publisher sued Lingua Franca magazine over an article that referred to the company as a “quasi-vanity press cunningly disguised as an academic publishing house.” Mellen thankfully lost that case. And Mellen most thankfully will lose the Askey case as well. If not then we are all in very, very deep trouble.

Friday, February 22, 2013

Broadsides for everyone

To celebrate Will Reuter and his work, we are creating our very own gallery for digital and letterpress broadsides.  

Thursday, February 21, 2013

William Rueter (Aliquando Press) receives Sixth Robert R. Reid Award


William Rueter (Aliquando Press)
with Rollin Milroy (Heavenly Monkey):

Sixth Robert R. Reid Award Presentation

On Thursday, March 21st, 2013, The Alcuin Society will present their sixth award for lifetime achievement in the book arts, The Robert R. Reid Award and Medal, to William Rueter, of Aliquando Press. He will be interviewed by Rollin Milroy, of Heavenly Monkey (Vancouver), accompanied by illustrations of Rueter’s work.

William Rueter RCA MGDC is a private printer, hand binder, and printmaker living in Dundas, Ontario. He studied at the City Literary Institute, London, England, and the Ontario College of Art. From 1965 to 1998 he worked as a graphic designer specializing in book design, including employment as Senior Designer at the University of Toronto Press.

He established his private press, The Aliquando Press, in 1963, producing more than 100 books and many broadsides to date. The Press reflects Rueter’s interests in graphic design, typography, calligraphy, music, and a wide variety of poetry and literature. Work of The Aliquando Press won an honorary diploma at the Schönste Bücher aus aller Welt exhibition in Leipzig in 1987 and a bronze medal at the Internationale Buchkunstausstellung 1989.

Work of the Press has been shown throughout North America and in Japan and is included in public and private North American and European collections, including the Toronto, New York, and San Francisco public libraries; the College of William and Mary, Williamsburg; the British Library; and the Museum van het Boek, the Hague.

Rueter has taught graphic design and bookbinding in Canada and graphic design in Barbados and the Philippines. He explores the media of wood engraving and linocut in some of his own books and is challenged by the technique of monoprint. As a printmaker, bookbinder, and graphic designer he has been in solo and group shows in Dundas, Hamilton, and Toronto. He is a member of the Royal Canadian Academy of Art and is a past nominee for the Saidye Bronfman Award for Excellence in the Crafts.

Fletcher Challenge Room
Harbour Centre
Simon Fraser University Vancouver
515 West Hastings Street
Vancouver, BC

7:30 pm
Thursday, March 21

For more info:  Leah Gordon or 604.732.5403