To be published or to be read, that is the question scholars increasingly face.
Although publications with reputable university presses or journals continue to be the cornerstone of the tenure and promotion process, many remain inaccessible to a broad audience, bound up, as they often are, in paper volumes or locked behind paywalls required by the outmoded business practices of scholarly publishers.
Take this recent experience as illustrative of the situation scholars committed to Open Access face.
An article I recently wrote was published in the The Bloomsbury Companion to Aristotle, edited by Claudia Baracchi. It includes articles from a number of notable scholars and I am very happy to be included among them.
Even so, however, the volume is expensive. As of this writing, the hardback is $137.74 (though the Kindle edition is a bargain at $88.49). I am told they plan to release a lower priced paperback soon, it is difficult to see how the article will find wide readership locked away in a codex behind such a prohibitive pay wall.
After posting an abstract about the article on my blog and linking to the book, chuk and dirk commented that the cost of the book was a significant barrier for them. This prompted me to ask Bloomsbury if I could publish a .pdf copy of my article on my blog.
In response, Bloomsbury said that they could not permit this because of concerns about piracy, but they did create a website to make my article available to read until May 2014.
I would be interested in your thoughts on the website they created for this. Take a moment to visit the link to The Peripatetic Method: Walking with Woodbridge, Thinking with Aristotle.
While I very much appreciated the creation of this site, I was struck by a number of its limitations. First, the resolution of the text on screen is low, detracting from the reading experience. Second, there is no way to download the article for reading later — which, of course, was part of the purpose of creating the site as opposed to allowing me to post the .pdf. Finally, there is also no way to view other articles in the book, even partially, nor a way to purchase the book, should a reader be interested and willing.
Don’t misunderstand, I appreciate the creation of the site as a response to my request. Even so, it didn’t provide what I really want: to give full access in an ongoing way to anyone interested in reading my work.
In thinking about possible alternative models, I wondered if it would be possible to allow me to publish my article as a .pdf file if I would agree to post a link to the book along with it. That link might direct people to a digital version of the whole book, where interested readers could read excerpts of the other articles in the volume. Perhaps the publisher could give those who access the book through that link a discount on the purchase of the physical book. Even one or two sales would likely offset whatever cost is lost by opening my article to a wider public.
The business model here would be to leverage the social media and web presence of authors to drive interested readers to a specific volume. Bloomsbury’s creation of the website for my article goes some distance down this road, but it doesn’t go far enough. The website is only available through May and, although they have allowed me to post the Word document of my chapter here, the reader is not able to download and annotate the published version.
I have embedded the final draft of the essay below, with the page numbers of the published version in square brackets in the text so readers can easily cite the published version. The full bibliographic information is this:
- Long, Christopher P. “The Peripatetic Method: Walking with Woodbridge, Thinking with Aristotle.” In The Bloomsbury Companion to Aristotle, edited by Claudia Baracchi, 311–326. 1 edition. Bloomsbury Academic, 2014.
If you are a member of the Penn State academic community, you have access to the volume itself through the Penn State library, so I have also posted it to Scholarsphere with access limited to those with a Penn State access ID: The Peripatetic Method via Scholarsphere.
If you do read the full volume, I hope the excellent design, editorial and creative work that went into its production is obvious. The design and editorial labor was undertaken by the press and Claudia Baracchi — and it was no small task to do it as well as they did. However, the lion’s share of the creative labor, of whatever new knowledge is articulated in this volume, was undertaken by the contributors.
The disparity between the work we put into the volume and the value we receive in return is a gap worth considering.
A book chapter in an edited volume with top scholars in the field certainly has a positive, but difficult to quantify, impact on a scholarly profile. That impact somehow translates into decisions concerning promotion and salary increases, but the direct monetary value of a single book chapter is minimal. Monetary value is, however, only one aspect of the value of publishing, a minor one from my perspective. More important for those of us committed to Open Access and concerned for the wide dissemination of ideas is the public dimension of publication — the degree to which publishing involves making something public. As a faculty member at a land-grant institution whose mission in part is to provide “unparalleled access and public service to support the citizens of the Commonwealth,” it seems incumbent upon me to ensure that my work is shared as widely and as publicly as possible. Yet, when the barriers to public access are set as high as they are in this case, the number of possible readers diminishes significantly.
It seems here that its being published is hindering the work from being more widely read.