Over the years, I’ve represented both authors and publishers and I can honestly say that I have experienced first-hand the frustrations and animosity the academic community feels towards academic publishers. Besides the lack of compositional assistance, marketing support, and a complete absence of urgency, traditional academic publishers are now often viewed as cherishing profits over the advancement of knowledge and accommodate shareholders over authors.
This growing animosity can be traced to the following business practices:
Profiteering: In the absence of external subsidies, making a profit is necessary to ensure economic sustainability, however excessive levels of profiteering has lead many members of the academic community to doubt the publishers’ motivations and question the validity of their claims. Are publishers making huge profits in order to support further dissemination of academic content or do their choices simply benefit the company’s shareholders?
Opaque Pricing Models: How do traditional publishers determine the price of the content they choose to publish? Within a few minutes anyone with access to the internet can estimate the manufacturing cost of a book; however there seems to be no correlation between production cost and retail pricing. The lack of transparency in pricing for both journal articles and printed books suggests corporate policies aimed at excessive profit taking rather than fair market values.
Author Royalties: Typically, authors receive between 6 and 9% of net sales. Given that academic authors and researches are responsible for generating the content and for the content’s quality, the perception is that they do all the work for very little monetary reward.
As a result of these practices, many academic authors are publishing their work themselves using online self-publishing platforms. What are the advantages of publishing one’s own work?
Pricing: The author has complete control of pricing decisions.
Profits: By publishing independently, the author receives a majority of the profits. The author determines the retail price and therefore determines the amount of profit to be earned from the sale of their work.
Speed: Given advanced print-on-demand technologies, distribution networks, and cloud based integration, it is possible to publish an eBook in minutes. Printed books can be publishing and delivered anywhere in the world within a few weeks. With print-on-demand, there are no upfront costs to publish and no costly inventory of books to maintain. This means authors can edit and revise their work in real time rather than waiting for the next planned edition to be printed.
I am now using the experience I gained in professional associations and traditional academic publishing to help guide the creation and launch of Glasstree, an online academic publishing platform. Glasstree will provide academic authors with everything they need to publish their own work including free promotional tools, Digital Object Identifiers to aid in citation management, free global distribution, and an equitable royalty of 70% of profits from the sale of their work. Glasstree will be guided by the needs of the academic community as opposed to the profit-driven goals of corporate shareholders.
Internal beta testing is currently being done by invitation only…