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Academic publishers want it on the cheap

Academic publishers are notoriously stingy and often not only don't pay their authors but may even expect said authors to pay for the pleasure/honour of appearing in their august pages. I accept that in some cases, when a journal is being published at a loss, this may be justified. I've published many papers without payment myself. But textbooks are not the same as journals in that respect; textbooks are published to make money.

In the last few weeks I've twice been approached by textbook publishers who wanted me to contribute chapters. The first actually asked me to pay €670 to be printed! I didn't bother answering this, but another intrigued me enough to make me ask for more information.

This was a large organisation that publishes many books and journals, some quite technical and mostly expensive. I was told I could submit a book or edit one, in which case I would get some royalties if there were any sales. I could also submit a chapter for inclusion in a planned book. For this I would receive a free e-book on publication. The publishers said their terms were "standard for academic publishers". Here is my reply.

Thank you for your reply. I would not be prepared to submit or edit a book so these remarks relate only to the proposed chapter.

I don't agree that your terms are "standard for academic publishers". It is true that some of these don't pay their authors but others do. I have written three chapters this year for two well-known academic publishers who offer at least a copy of the (expensive) hardback textbook and payment as well in one case. While I accept that in some circumstances writing an academic piece might be done pro bono, that would not be the case here since your organisation is a commercial enterprise.

I cannot see that a free e-book is adequate recompense for the large amount of work that would be entailed in writing a chapter for you. Accordingly I must decline your invitation.

Yours sincerely,

Anthony Campbell

This sort of thing really makes me angry. Many young professionals and academics are anxious to be published in almost any form because they hope it will advance their careers. Publishers take advantage of this to get them to work for nothing. It doesn't apply to me, of course, because I retired a long time ago, but for those who are just starting out it's a different matter.


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