Category Archives: An Akronism

States’ Rights and Wrongs: Obamacare and Gay Rights.

Union and States’ Rights…delivers a rare treat for American historians: thoughtful considerations on the abstruse but important ideas of interposition, nullification, and secession by leading constitutional scholars. Any historian who would like to have a thoughtful answer for the perennial student questions relating to states’ rights and southern history—Was secession constitutional in 1861? Is nullification legal today? What did the Founders think of interposition? and so on—will do well to consult Union and States’ Rights. Every essay brings forth interesting observations, startling facts, and greater understanding of the three states’ rights ghosts that have haunted the Union since 1787.

From The Journal of Southern History, Volume LXXXI, No. 1, February 2015.
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Lake View: Barney Taxel’s photo meditation on Cleveland’s landmark cemetery

Press book gets rave review. Go here and see!

Congratulation Mr. and Mrs. Taxel!

taxel_lvc_c

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Say Goodbye to the Cleveland Sport’s Curse

congeni03-01Now that the Cavs are in the NBA finals, will a championship come to town? It’s been a long drought since the Browns won it all in 1964. A first-class postage stamp cost five cents then, but who mails letters these days anyway. And the local pay phone call went for ten cents. But Superman can’t even find a phone booth anymore. And the Beatles first appeared on the Ed Sullivan show in 1964. Ancient history.

That’s how long it has been. But maybe, just maybe, Euclid Avenue will be filled with Clevelanders watching LeBron James and his teammates parade downtown as NBA champions. If you don’t know how heartbreaking Cleveland sports fans have had it, you have to read this and weep.

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The Holidays are Here and I

The holidays are here and I’ve put together a little list of the gifts that most university press directors might want. I’m not sure if all of these items are readily available, but maybe some innovator will find the time to manufacture them.  Or perhaps, the Association of American University Presses will create a new research division to prototype and license some of them. After all, we need some new ideas every day!

  1. The End All and Be All Nano-Editor. This magnificent organism bonds with manuscripts submitted by scholars, a few of whom can write, and automatically digests the content, re-animates it into understandable chunks, and outputs the content into digital streams readable on all e-book platforms.  Or as one intern who worked at The University of Akron Press said – “I didn’t know you had to correct so many things from professors.”
  2. The Administrative Artificial Intelligence Robotron – A full-fledged, economically priced, artificially intelligent android that can answer questions like
    1. “So what do you do at the university press?”
    2. “Is this where I call to gripe about my professor?’
    3.  “Why don’t you publish books that sell?”
    4. “People still read?”
  3. The Full Body Proposal Scanner. A device that detects inane proposal before they can enter the front door of the Press. Depending on the specific technology, the scanner can turn away proposals from authors who
    1. have discovered a numerical pattern in the bible that foretells world destruction;
    2. have found a new set of micro-elements that a friend detected while drinking his seventh latte at Starbucks; and
    3. have uncovered a box containing letters from a twelfth-century mystic that debunks all of word history
  4. The Crown of Design Sense and Sensibility.  A remarkable product, based on galvanic principles, that, when placed on an author’s head, eliminates all interest in book design including dispelling the notion that a snapshot of the author with his or her parent’s at Machu Picchu is perfect for a monograph that deals with American elections.
  5. The Editorial Board Buzzer Beater. A small instrument that sends powerful waves to the brain’s pleasure center, and is especially useful in situations when one board member has objections to a project because he/she wants to play devil’s advocate, or she/he doesn’t like the spelling of the author’s first name.  The device needs to be used carefully because it could cause perpetual joy.

Of course we all need more money, but that will be under the next year’s budget tree.

Happy Holidays

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Why Peer-Review is a Necessity!

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October 7, 2013 · 12:05 pm

University Presses: As Different as Their Books

Recently, the University of North Carolina Press was awarded a $250,000 grant from the William R. Kenan, Jr. Charitable Trust to address challenges brought about by the digital transformation in publishing. The Trust located in Chapel Hill, NC has long been a supporter of UNC. The Press hopes the grant will allow them, in part, to develop sustainable models for university presses within the digital environment. For many small presses, $250,000 could enable them to run their operations for a few years.

As a press director of one of those very small university presses, I am fully aware of the continuous search for business models that are intended to fix the decline in scholarly books sales. I also know that the idea is pretty fruitless. Presses’ existences have been questioned since they started to crop at institutions of higher learning. The joke still goes around that university presses publish books that most people don’t read. In 1895 when the Ladies’ Home Journal released Five Thousand Books: An Easy Guide to the Best Books in Every Department of Reading, not one university press was listed under the respective publishers.  Popularity has never driven the university press world. Content has.

University presses, as other organizations that are built to be experts in particular areas, are facing a world in which content is being selected and valued differently. The rise of social sites has allowed individuals, who might not have the necessary credentials to define the value of movies, music, books, etc. This trend is not necessarily destructive, but when coupled with instant dissemination, opinions can be generated in vapid or speculative ways.  Once made public, those opinions are hard to eradicate.

Computer metaphysics also enforces black or white responses. Binary after all is a matter of off and on; zero or one; yes or no. Math and science, with their concrete answers, have risen above the humanities vague or fuzzy constructs. We do not place as much value on intuition or old wives’ tales. The digital revolution has given us a common language that excludes the outlier. The publication lists of university presses tend to suffer in this ecosystem

Studying the problem the UNC way is of some value, but statistical outcomes are not terrifically useful on a per-decision basis. Longshots beat favorites at the track and in the business world, too. That is, the conditions that might make UNC solutions viable for UNC Press might and probably won’t work for the University of Akron Press. The sample universes in which we exist are totally different making statistical outcomes less valid across the university press universe.

I’ll be happy to read the report that comes from UNC’s initiative, but I’d rather bet on the 30-1 sleeper in the eight race and also rely on intuition. For the University of Akron Press to remain relevant, we’ll need to:

  1. Incorporate the Press’s experience into online course development;
  2. Work to publish open-access textbooks;
  3. Find projects that represent the history and culture of Northeast Ohio;
  4. Offer traditional and e-books whenever possible and;
  5. Remember that better content equals better products.

Results speak louder than reports.

 

 

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Textbook from Another Era: Don’t Read them and Weep

As colleges and universities rev up their welcome-back- to-classes campaigns, a great majority of students will be carrying textbooks in backpacks that might weigh more than the equipment a football player dons for the homecoming game. True, some textbooks will take up only digital space and make the reader’s load as light as a swift soccer forward’s footwork.  Eventually, maybe, everything will be paperless, but that promise hasn’t even made it to the admissions offices on campuses across the country.

Students’ journeys to bookstores to purchase their modern texts on the principles of biochemistry, advanced semiconductor and organic nano-techniques, or environment in the new global economy have been played out for generations. A century ago classes in chemistry, biology, botany, and algebra were being taught by astute professors at lecterns from New York to California which required the textbook. Basic principles are basic principles?  Well maybe not. The following over-a-century-old text might not be so fundamental today.

 

Moral Training in Public Schools (1911)

Charles Edward Rugh et al.(208 pages, $1.25; @ $23 in 2013 dollars)

As the preface notes, students need to know “arithmetic may be an exercise in honesty as well as mathematics; that nature study offers the finest opportunity for truth getting and truth telling as well as scientific knowledge; and that history furnishes not only facts but great examples of moral choice and moral action.” However, today’s student might ask what is the moral lesson in multiplying two negative to get a positive or in blizzards other than back strains or how did the Spanish Inquisition represent good moral choice?

 

Manures and the Principles of Manuring (1894)

C.M. Aikman  (592 pages, $2.50; @ $46 in 2013 dollars)

Aikman indicates that the aim of his work is to supply in a concise and popular format to explain the chief results of recent agricultural research on the question of soil fertility and the nature and action of various manures. Other than what current students might think of shoveling this research aside, the text might be of use at Oberlin College’s Lewis Center for Environmental Studies. Each fall the center needs more raw materials, better described as student deposits, to recharge its internal power system to produce energy for the building. Some students go out of their way to use the facilities as a way of giving back to nature.

 

American Socialism of the Present Day (1911)

Jessie Wallace Hughan (261 pages, $1.25; @ $23 in 2013 dollars)

One reviewer noted that the text was “scholarly, clear and dispassionate presentation of socialism in the United States since 1850.” The author states that Socialism is now a force in the United States, which has to alarm Tea Party members who claim Barack Obama has brought the “demon” to America.   

 

Pure Foods Their Adulteration, Nutritive Value, and Cost (1911)

John C. Olsen (197 pages, $.80; @ $14.74 in 2013 dollars)

As Olsen explains, “In an age when intelligence and knowledge are recognized as essential to the most efficient performance of even very simple tasks, it is surprising that most of us eat what we like, with very little thought of the ultimate result. …The coal for our engines must be tested and analyzed, but the far more precious human organism is loaded with a heterogeneous mixture of fuel of unknown composition. We should not be surprised at low efficiency, inability to work, sickness, even the premature death of an organism which is given so little intelligent care.” It’s remarkable how advocates said the same thing yesterday, last year, ten years ago, etc. Maybe, we can save students a ton of money by finding books like this that can be downloaded for free and haven’t lost their relevance.

 

Optical Projection: A Treatise on the Use of the Lantern in Exhibition and Scientific Demonstration (1906)

Lewis Wright (438 pages; $2.25; @ $41.50 in 2013 dollars)

One reviewer notes, “Mr. Wright’s book gives all that is, at present, at least, necessary for a thorough study of the optical principles upon which the construction of the lantern rests. . . . The book is very full of useful detail, and is eminently practicable. … Will assuredly be warmly welcomed by teachers and lecturers.” The lantern technology is outdated but I’m sure a lantern app might just be available for the iPhone. Still, the story of Diogenes the Cynic, who went around the sunlit streets of Athens, lantern in hand, looking for an honest man is a metaphor for textbooks – the light of knowledge for students of all eras!

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