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September 07, 2005

Our License

The hoopoe, our emblem

One of the Disseminary’s purposes entails demonstrating the value of using digital technology for publishing academic resources. We want to operate at the convergence of three forces that act upon academic publishing in the area of theology and relgiious studies: first, that academic publishing tends toward low profits, high expense, and limited circulation; second, that digital technology diminishes distribution costs almost to the point of insignificance while dramatically increasing the size of the audience; and third, that institutions with an interest in religious education (not only colleges, universities, and seminaries, but also congregations and foundations) allot considerable sums as stipends for teachers to prepare material that goes unpublished.

The first and third points mean that scholars and teachers constantly prepare material for presentation, which publishers cannot afford to distribute (despite a vast audience for such material). Although a global audience seeks opportunities to learn more about religious, spiritual, theological topics, print publications reach mainly local readerships (“local” that is, by nation and to some extent by language); costs relative to transportation, as well as import/export duties, constrict the extent to which interested learners can gain access to books and articles from other nations. The Disseminary can make texts available around the world, to schools, libraries, and individuals wherever there’s internet access.

We will continue to seek support for commissioning publishable works, but we will also negotiate with conferences, endowed lectureships, and other venues for the permission to distribute texts that have already been commissioned by these sources.

The Disseminary license (which we’re still trying to get pinned down in legal writing) will work this way:

  • The work will be distributed on the terms of a Creative Commons “Attribution — Noncommercial — No Derivs” license. That is, works published by the Disseminary may be copied and distributed freely so long as the work is properly attributed to its author, so long as no charge is made for that distribution, and so long as the work is not changed in any particular.
  • The Disseminary will publish the work in a variety of formats. Wherever possible, we’ll distribute works in XML (for archival and web-services purposes), in HTML (for convenient online access), in PDF (for convenient, standardized printing), and in MP3 audio.
  • The Disseminary will arrange with authors to license the prerogative to print their works with a print-on-demand commerical publisher (from whom authors would receive conventional royalties).
  • The author retains the right to re-use any material published by the Disseminary in any future projects. In theory, an author might publish a monograph with the Disseminary, discover that its ground-breaking importance arouses the interest of a major print publisher, and contract with that print publisher to distribute a print edition of the monograph. The original material would stilll be available through the Disseminary, but the new edition (possibly revised or expanded) could be bought in bookstores from the commerical publisher.

We believe that this mode of publication ably serves all interested parties, without instituting a pointless rivalry with familiar publishing institutions. Academic authors typically receive very little in exchange for their compositions; our model proposes both an initial stipend and the possibility of future royalties. Moreover, a significant part of teachers’ motivation to publish arises from their commitment to circulating their ideas, an end that the Disseminary can serve much better than conventional publications. Readers benfit from having free access to texts in a variety of convenient forms. Even print publishers benefit from having this alternative medium by which authors can distribute hard-to-market works (odd-length monographs, extremely technical works, Festschriften, conference proceedings and symposia, for instance). Moreover, the Disseminary can help print publishers recognize commercially-promising authors.

The Disseminary will publish both peer-reviewed texts (in the Quadriga series) and, in the Hoopoe series, texts that (for various reasons) merit publication apart from peer review. Our program of publication will make finely-prepared educational resources available around the world at no charge, at the same time expanding and enhancing the audience for theological and religious books.

Posted by AKMA at September 7, 2005 02:21 AM


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