Juan Pablo Alperin (BMath, MA) is a multidisciplinary scholar with over eight years of experience in online scholarly publishing. He recently joined the Publishing@SFU faculty, teaching “Technology and the Evolving Forms of Publishing” (PUB 802), “Technology and the Evolving Book” (PUB 401), and Publication of Self in Everyday Life (PUB 101). He is a collaborator on the Public Knowledge Project at Simon Fraser University and kindly agreed to the below interview.
Hometown: La Plata, Argentina
Research interests: Scholarly communications, social media metrics (altmetrics), Latin America, publishing technologies
Recent publications: See Google Scholar profile or ImpactStory
- Publication of Self in Everyday Life (PUB 101)
- Technology and the Evolving Book (PUB 401)
- MPUB Technology Project (PUB 607)
- Technology and the Evolving Forms of Publishing (PUB 802)
Publishing@SFU: This is your first semester at SFU, briefly tell us your career path? Where did you start? How did you get here?
My path to become a professor in publishing was a meandering one. I did an undergraduate in Computer Science at the University of Waterloo, a six month stint teaching and working in high schools across Uganda. Upon returning from Uganda, almost by chance, I ended up doing a Masters in Geography (also at Waterloo), where I worked on a Geographic Information System (GIS) for helping education planners in Peru.
Ready to leave academia and being a professional career, I came across an opportunity that allowed me to develop innovative technologies in a non-corporate setting. I accepted a position as the sole software engineer in a medical journal based out of a research centre in Toronto. The journal was a pioneer in Open Access, powered by the Open Source software Open Journal Systems, and it gave me the opportunity to be creative with software solutions to publishing problems.
After a year of living in Toronto, I returned to my native Argentina and worked as a researcher and systems developer for the makers of Open Journal Systems, the Public Knowledge Project. As I focused more on the research aspect of my work, I started a doctoral program at the Stanford University Graduate School of Education, which lead me to being a professor here at SFU!
Publishing@SFU: If you were going to design a program to be “Juan Pablo”, what courses would be in this program?
These five courses would probably be a good first semester in the “Juan Pablo” program.
- Introduction to Scholarly Publishing: To understand most of what I do it is essential to understand the basics of how we communicate and disseminate research.
- Open Knowledge: I am a strong advocate for Open Access and Open Source, and with these “Open” models comes a culture of openness that drives much of the knowledge ecosystem around academia. You can actually already take this course, as a MOOC, offered jointly be SFU, Stanford, UBC, and KNUST.
- Global Higher Education: The reason I am motivated to work on scholarly communications is because I feel that strengthening research culture can have a positive impact of systems of higher education around the world that, in turn, can have positive impacts on all sorts of social and economic development. Research is only one output from a system of higher education and anybody wanting to be me would need to have that broader contextual understanding.
- Data Analysis and scripting with Python: I love the Python programming language and I find it useful for all sorts of tasks. From Web Scraping, to data analysis, to small automation tasks on your machine. Its useful for programmers and non-programmers alike! I do all my bibliometrics and altmetrics analyses with Python.
- Bibliometrics and Altmetrics: I do a lot of analysis of the production, reach, and impact of research. This involves traditional bibliometrics (coauthorships, citation networks, etc.) and more recently altmetrics (social media metrics).
Greatest professional achievement: I am proud of how I managed to gain a broad understanding of scholarly publishing in Latin America in a very short time.
Most marked characteristic of your teaching style: This might be my brutal honesty. I have high expectations of students and make it clear to them when they are not rising to the challenge. I do my best to do this in an encouraging way, but you have to ask the students how often I succeed.
Qualities you most appreciate in students: This is a little cliché, but I like students to be self-motivated. While I see it as my job to inspire students to care about the subject matter, I appreciate and thrive on their own motivations for learning. I do not like it when students are simply “Doing School”.
Alternative career: I have always had the dream of setting up a small hotel in the Patagonia or somewhere else beautifully isolated. My wife would take care of greeting the guests and making sure they were comfortable, and I would make them delicious sandwiches and espressos.
Lesson to live by: Do not be afraid to say what you think or ask for what you want.
Juan Pablo is an instructor in Publishing Studies, with research interests in new media technologies and scholarly publishing, and he leads several research and development projects aimed at improving the quality, impact, and reach of scholarly publishing in Latin America.
His expertise include editorial workflow management, indexing, XML production, software development, scholarly communications, Web technologies, and social media metrics. He complements his professional experiences in publishing with a background in Computer Science (University of Waterloo) and Education (Stanford University).
Juan Pablo can be found on Twitter at @juancommander.
Page Two, a literary agency with a twist, celebrates its first anniversary. Run by publishing veterans (and MPub alumni) Jesse Finkelstein and Trena White, Page Two represents authors seeking traditional publishing contracts but also atypical authors who are looking for innovative paths to publishing.
Jesse and Trena have 30 years of combined experience in the book publishing industry, and they worked together on the management team at D&M Publishers Inc., which at the time was Canada’s leading independent book publisher. Their personal career paths have instilled in them a commitment to high-quality editing, design and production, areas where the traditional publishing industry has excelled, and they bring that professionalism to all their projects.
Regarding Page Two’s origin says Trena, “we wanted to offer authors options and support them in publishing successfully and professionally regardless of which model they chose to publish under—whether traditional or self-publishing or some hybrid of the two. We felt deeply engaged by publishing innovation and wanted to create a new kind of publishing business model. The premise was that we wanted to be ultra-nimble, so we built a business that can be flexible as publishing continues to evolve.”
The focused, yet nimble, nature of Page Two is apparent when looking at their strategic publishing projects over the first year. Jesse and Trena act as traditional literary agents, brokering book deals between authors and publishers. They do consulting to self-publishers on everything from their book concept to distribution options and sales and marketing strategy, and often clients also hire them to assemble a team to produce their self-published books or, in the case of organizations, to help establish their publishing programs.
There’s nothing self about self-publishing and there’s little tradition in the way that authors traditionally publish these days. Trena and Jesse must draw on their diverse experience in all aspects of book publishing—editing, licensing, sales and contracts—to service their clients’ needs. The two provided the following example from the past year:
“Two of our authors had Globe and Mail bestsellers, and two, Michael Pond and Maureen Palmer, were on the B.C. bestseller list for about two months for their book, The Couch of Willingness. Two of those books were hybrid deals that we set up: the authors chose to self-publish and we brokered trade distribution deals for them with publishers. It’s that kind of arrangement that best highlights the creative ways we serve our clients. We’ve also been busy doing outreach to independent booksellers for the Association of Canadian Publishers and helping the Association of Book Publishers of B.C. with an ebook marketing project. And we just hired a talented project manager, Carra Simpson, who is also a graduate of the MPub program. Maybe our biggest success is that we’ve been really busy. There’s definitely a demand for our services.”
When asked what the year ahead brings, Jesse said, “we’re very excited to have just landed a contract with a US organization helping them establish a publishing program. We will be doing much more of this type of work — helping non-publishing organizations produce and monetize books.”
And somewhere in between their packed schedules and the end of the year, the team at Page Two plans to celebrate their first anniversary with a party to show their appreciation to the many people who have supported and worked with them over the last year. For the immediate ringing in of a new business year, this busy duo (now trio) will just have time for a toast over cocktails.
Get insights on publishing at Page Two’s biweekly blog: http://www.pagetwostrategies.com/blog/
Or like their Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/pagetwo
Last Tuesday Publishing@SFU welcomed the 20th cohort of MPubbers to the Master of Publishing program. Not only are the students new, so are some of the faculty. Indeed, a whole bunch of things are new.
This fall, the Publishing Program at SFU enters a phase of major renewal. We have a new faculty complement—John Maxwell, Roberto Dosil, Monique Sherrett, Juan Pablo Alperin, Scott Steedman and Shannon Emmerson—some of whom are new to the Masters Program, others new to SFU, and that brings a lot of new energy to the program.
Industry members and MPub alumni may notice that this year is the first year the Publishing Program will be running without its founding director, Rowland Lorimer. Rowly, who founded this program back in the late 80s, early 90s, designed it to strike a balance between rigorous research-based graduate study and hands-on, industry-engaged practice. The success of the program over the past two decades is very much due to his vision, and that balance. Rowly is on sabbatical this year, leading to his official retirement in 2015.
John Maxwell is the new Program Director. He has been with the program for a dozen years and is actually a product of the MPub program. John was a graduate of the very first cohort way back in 1995.
In his welcome message to students, John said the following:
“Publishing was a different beast back then. Much has changed.
“The world today, in 2014, is a much more exciting and interesting time to be studying publishing.
“What we are witnessing today is nothing less than the very infrastructure of modern democratic culture in tumultuous evolution, on its way to its next phase.
“If you ask me, there is no more interesting place to be in the world than right here. No more interesting time to be here. The world of publishing is in revolution; we will shortly witness which parts of it are destroyed, and which parts remain.
“Better, you are positioned to have a hand in it.
“Congratulations on a good choice! Congratulations on being here!”
The new faculty and students are all eager to get underway. For those readers unfamiliar with MPub, students spend two classroom terms at SFU—September to December, and January to April—doing a combination of practical, lab-based courses; seminars, and project courses in which they create things; make things. It’s a heavy workload, and each cohort goes through it all together.
The following summer, students participate in an internship at an industry placement. During the internship term, each student must define and conduct a research project on, and on behalf of, the internship host. Students conduct original research: a piece of description and analysis of how things actually work. Or perhaps how they should.
In the fall following the internship, students draw the research up into a formal project report. It’s like a masters thesis but a little shorter, more practical, and there is no thesis defense. There is, however, a supervisory committee of 3: two from the Publishing@SFU faculty, and one industry supervisor.
If all goes well, by next Christmas, this year’s cohort will have completed all the requirements and be able to put those sought-after little letters after their names: MPub
More important, the program will change them and challenge them in unique ways. They will know vastly more than they do now. They will have experienced things, and accomplished things that are not even dreamed of today. They will have met a lot of fantastic industry professionals, and they will have a practical, working sense of what publishing is really about, and what matters.
By the end of the program, this year’s cohort will know enough, and know enough people, that each can forge a career in the field of publishing—whether that’s by landing a job in an existing publishing company, or by starting their own, or by doing something else that nobody’s thought of yet.
As John eloquently put it in his welcome message to the students:
“You will become—you are already, really, by virtue of sitting here this morning—part of a network of MPub people, who are shot through the publishing industries in Canada and even around the world. More than two hundred alumni, you will find them in every corner of the publishing world.
“Those people are your family now; they have been through what you are about to undertake. There’s a certain rite of passage element to this (and you’ll understand especially when you get into the Book Publishing Project towards Christmas) that binds all MPubbers together.”
One of the program’s many strengths is its ability to introduce students to alumni and industry guests over the eight months of in situ time, as well as the core faculty it draws. Briefly:
- Roberto Dosil (MPub 1998 and multi-award winning book designer) is and has been one of the core faculty for 7 or 8 years.
- Monique Sherrett (MPub 1997 and leading marketing consultant to Canadian publishers) has taught in the program before and is joining the core faculty this year.
- Juan Pablo Alperin (fresh out of doctoral work at Stanford) is a new member of the core faculty this year.
- Scott Steedman (professional editor) has taught in the undergraduate program, and joins the faculty to take over the editorial course from Mary Schendlinger, who retires this fall.
- Shannon Emmerson (who runs Forge & Spark Media) is back for another year to teach the periodical publishing project.
- Jo-Anne Ray (program manager) is the extraordinary woman who has the last word.
So, with this faculty—and with the MPub cohort of 2014—Publishing@SFU begins a new chapter in this program’s history.
Believe it or not, the SFU Master of Publishing program is 20 years old. And with 200 graduates calling the shots in publishing all over the world, we’ve got a lot to celebrate.
The inaugural MPub Alumni Event was held in Toronto and Vancouver this June, and more than 50 attendees celebrated in style.
5 cash prizes were also awarded to alumni to recognize excellence and innovation in publishing.
Winners of this year’s MPub Awards for Excellence and/or Innovation in Publishing included:
- Meghan Macdonald
- Xiaoyan Huang
- Heather Sanderson
- Craig Riggs and Kiley Turner
- Monique Sherrett