Refereed Journals versus Edited Volumes

From: Stevan Harnad <>
Date: Mon, 29 Oct 2001 10:37:22 +0000

On Mon, 29 Oct 2001, [identity removed] wrote:

> Dear Stevan
> I just got a message from XXX who is putting together
> something called the YYY. I think it's a good idea
> except for the fact that the publisher is the Vanity Press of academia,
> ZZZ. I can't stand ZZZ because of their outrageous pricing policies
> (i.e., "charge $150 for a 100-page book and then only libraries can buy
> them, but that's ok, we'll make money even if not a single individual ever
> buys the ZZZ book") and complete lack of anything that could reasonably be
> called a distribution system... I was asked to direct one of their
> collections at one point and told them to get lost. Now I'm in this tricky
> position: I think the YYY book is a good idea and I probably should
> contribute something to it, but doing so implicitly supports ZZZ's
> completely cynical policies, which I really don't want to do. Then XXX
> told me that you're the "latest participant" in the book. Is your decision
> on this firm? With all of your (perfectly justified) railing against
> publishers-cum-raptors, I am a tad surprised that you'd accept to work with
> ZZZ. What's your opinion on all this? Do you think I should break down
> and accept to work with ZZZ? I sort of wish you hadn't
> accepted to work with them... Please let me know what you think, if
> you've got a second. Thanks.

It is quite natural that you should ask me this question. Here are my

(1) My "railing" is restricted to refereed journal articles, which are
author give-aways and could be distributed online-only, with all the peer
review expenses paid, without charging the reader anything. (And even
there my railing is not against publishers, or even against high-priced
publishers, or the height of their prices. It is, if anything, against
authors, for their slow-wittedness in grasping that the solution --
self-archiving -- is in their own hands. My only quarrel with
publishers is if they try to use copyright policy to stop
self-archiving -- and even that we have found a legal way to
circumvent, so on balance, no railing at all.)

    7.5 Publishers

(2) Books in general are another matter. They are not author give-aways,
there is no way to produce a high-quality paper book without charging
for access, free electronic copies could conceivably kill the market, and
authors want and need the quality standards and quality-control of a
reputable publisher. There is the electronic vanity-press option, but
that is not what most authors want or need. If they do, however, have a
choice among publishers who have agreed to do their book, they can
choose on the basis of the publisher's pricing policy and distribution
if they wish.

    Harnad, S., Varian, H. & Parks, R. (2000) Academic publishing in
    the online era: What Will Be For-Fee And What Will Be For-Free?
    Culture Machine 2 (Online Journal)

(3) Edited books are another matter, and fall between the two foregoing
categories. Their chapters too are author-give-aways (their nominal
royalty amounts per contributor are risible, even for the editor,
although the latter usually does somewhat more work). But the transition
to an online-only system with the peer-review costs (if there is peer
review!) paid out of annual subscription savings
is not
strictly applicable to edited volumes, because there is no annual
subscription to save: The volumes are bought by libraries on a case by
case basis -- although in practise some prestigious series are as sure
of an institutional market for all their items as established
journals are.

(4) Nevertheless, the very same legal solution that applies to the
self-archiving of refereed journal papers will also apply to edited
volumes and conference proceedings: Self-archive the pre-submission
preprint in your institutional Eprint archive, try to alter the
subsequent copyright transfer statement for the final, accepted
draft to retain (only) the right to self-archive that draft online too,
and if the publisher insists on the transfer of all rights, attach a
link between a "corrigenda" file and the already public pre-submission
preprint file, listing the changes that need to be made to make them

And that is exactly what I intend to do with my chapter to the
YYY volume.

Best wishes,

Stevan Harnad

NOTE: A complete archive of the ongoing discussion of providing free
access to the refereed journal literature online is available at the
American Scientist September Forum (98 & 99 & 00 & 01):

You may join the list at the amsci site.

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Received on Mon Oct 29 2001 - 10:39:35 GMT

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