Monday, June 23, 2014

Trials and Tribulations of a book editor

Over the last few days I've been thinking about The Great Big MOOC Book, something that's been a project of interest since my first MOOCs (cMOOCs back then) and something I finally got the wheels off th ground, posted a call for chapters, even though I didn't have a publisher, got a number of great proposals that my two great colleagues, Rebecca Hogue and Alan Girelli, helped read, evaluate as well, and provide comments to the authors, and we're off! The call for papers also got the notice of JHU press, which was a nice compliment to my modest effort, and it seemed that we were nicely on track.

Of course plans change, things happen, and one of them being that I am starting a doctoral program at Atahabasca Univeristy this fall (EdD in distance education). I am wondering how much of my time The Great Big MOOC Book will take this fall semester. I've got 8/10 chapters in for review by me and my fellow reviewers. I was planning on having a rough draft ready for my trip to Athabasca this summer in order to give AU press a copy and see if they are interested in seeing if they would like to publish it (open access) but it looks like my new deadline for this should be around November or December. One of the reasons I want to pitch it to Athabasca is that they offer a free PDF, in addition to the paid paperback version. This was something that I had in the call for chapters as a feature of the book (it being open access).

In the meantime, I've had conversations with two people who've published books, through publishers, about their experiences. Since I am new to this, there is much to learn; both on the editing front, as well as the interface-with-the-publisher front. What I learned was that edited volumes, such as The Great Big MOOC Book, have a hard time with publishers because (at least from what I gathered from my two sources) academic publishers are in an academic monograph frame of mind when they review manuscripts, and edited volumes are much more difficult to get approved. I don't know if this is universally true, but it is giving me pause to ponder.

If finding a publisher (who wants to publish and offer an open access downloadable) of this book proves to be too much of a hassle, I seem to have a moral dilemma. On the one hand I may be able to get a publisher, but no open access. On the other hand, I have a potential venue for publishing that is open access, but it is an open access journal, not a book. It appears to me (at least from what I read in various places in academia) that people value book chapters more than journal articles (even if they are for a special issue). So the conundrum is this. Should I really spend a lot of time looking for a publisher that does OA, and risk the chapters going stale? Or should I pursue a more assured path to getting the research out through a special issue of a journal?

This experience has made me rethink the other book I was planning, the instructional design of MOOCs, for which I have already got 12 tentative chapter titles and topics. What are your thoughts?

The silver lining here is that this experience is giving me ideas and potential paths for future jobs and careers after the doctorate is done (since tenure track jobs are an endangered species).


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