Re: Book on future of STM publishers

From: Albert Henderson <chessNIC_at_COMPUSERVE.COM>
Date: Thu, 18 Jul 2002 16:09:12 -0400

on Thu, 18 Jul 2002 Fytton Rowland <J.F.Rowland_at_LBORO.AC.UK> wrote:
> This is an interesting point. In some disciplines, there is a tradition of
> writing journal articles based on one's PhD research -- some of them perhaps
> published before the thesis is written -- while in other fields the practice is
> to turn one's thesis into a book. However, the thesis itself, in its original
> form as an examination document, is usually made publicly available in the
> library of its home university, and is indexed in various secondary services
> such as Dissertation Abstracts. If universities in future mostly have OAI-
> compliant servers, and theses are submitted in electronic as well as printed
> form, there seems to be no obstacle to each university mounting its own theses
> on its server for free worldwide access.
> But... Stevan often makes the point that his concern is purely with the
> scholarly journal literature, which is given away by its authors, and which
> should be avialable free of charge to other scholars. He goes on to say that
> this argument does not apply to other kinds of publication for which authors
> are traditionally paid, which is the case with books, even scholarly books. On
> that argument, having to pay 30 Euros for Meier's book is o.k.
> Hmm... So, if we are in a discipline that uses journals, free access is o.k.;
> free access to the raw thesis is also o.k.; but if the discipline is one that
> has the tradition of a book based on the thesis, then free access is not o.k.
> What do others think of this line of argument?

        The fundamental flaw in Stevan's position is
        that it discounts the receipt of value --
        recognition and targeted dissemination -- exchanged
        by the journal author. If one recognizes that the
        journal publisher does provide such value, the
        journal author is on the same footing as the book
        author. "No man but a blockhead ever wrote, except
        for money," as Samuel Johnson observed. Steven's
        position is out of bounds. The question is moot.

        In the case of the dissertation, the acceptance
        is of a lesser value, since it is student work.
        Most books derived from dissertations require a
        good deal of additional work before they are
        publishable in the usual sense and recognizable
        by the world beyond dissertation examiners.

        The future of STM publishing is a great topic
        for magazines that have a short shelf life.
        They can attract a curious readership and sell
        lots of advertising by puzzling over questions
        without answers.

        I for one have serious doubts whether the future
        of any industry niche would be a fit subject for
        a student dissertation. Most predictive visions
        offered decades ago by "experts" are today only
        meaningful as evidence of lobbying and other
        promotional efforts. Book or dissertation, I
        would expect to shelve this topic near astrology.

        Best wishes,
Albert Henderson

Received on Thu Jul 18 2002 - 21:09:12 BST

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