The Academy is Broken Stories

The backward ways of academic book publishing -- and the leadership void

As an independent scholar who is often asked to contribute to anthologies of academic essays, I find the high price and Creative-Commons-hostile nature of academic books to be a serious deterrent to reaching my intended audiences -- or to even publishing with academic book publishers. Their books are priced between $100 and $150, for the library market. The publishers (Sage, Elsevier, Cambridge, etc.) reject or are ignorant of Creative Commons licenses, precluding easy or cheap sharing via the Internet. And the long production cycle means that it can be a year before my work reaches reader, at which point real-world developments have often changed. If I were a regular professor, however, I would have no incentive to challenge these problems because tenure-and-promotion policies reward the familiar, prestigious publishing venues, and few academics have educated themselves (or been taught) about copyright law, fair use and CC licenses. Older academics, at least in the humanities, are often more print-oriented than network-adept in their scholarship.

 

While open access journal publishing has at least made significant (but incomplete) inroads, academic book publishing remains in a primitive, under-developed state, despite the availability of suitable technology systems. The core problem would appear to be about institutional inertia and blind disciplinary/cultural prejudices among administrators. What could be an effective catalyst for galvanizing new attention and action in those precincts?

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Idea No. 45