Monday, December 31, 2007

Write-only publications

Note 2022-12-20: A lawyer for the company has insisted that I delete this 15-year-old entry. Since it is an important discussion, I am removing the name of the company. In my opinion, however, if lawyers enter the picture we are no longer in the academic realm. I prefer discussion to deletion. I have, however, removed the comments, which quite actively discussed readers' experiences with the publisher.

A former student who is currently doing his dissertation at another school asked me yesterday if I had ever heard of the publisher XXX. They were spamming a database research mailing list asking people to write a chapter for a book. He just started his dissertation, but was pretty sure that you don't get asked anonymously by a publisher to write a book, but personally by some respected editor.

I clicked on the site and was surprised to see that they call themselves "XXX". I had never heard of this publisher before.

Okay, so maybe I don't read the right books. The topics looked interesting - E-Learning was right at the top, then I saw the prices in a very small print: $1,750.00 (6 volumes), $94.95, $565.00 (2 volumes), $165.00

Who in their right mind would pay prices like this? I surfed a little further, as I had never heard of any of the editors and authors of these books. The Wikipedia entry read just like the advertising blurb - and quoted only articles that reprint press releases by the company.

I looked for peer reviewed articles in the ACM Digital Library that quote some book published by this publisher - no results. That's odd. I can google people who have their publication lists online and include books published here, but I can't find any serious quotation of any of the books. Of course, that doesn't mean it's not there, it just means I can't find anything right off.

Is this a case of write-only publication? With the pressure to publish so high, I am wondering how we can tell if publishing houses are legitimate, or only there for people to pad their publication lists, much as these fake conferences that keep popping up in interesting vacation spots. Step up, pay your price, get your publication.

Since I sit on a number of search committees, how can we tell if the publication lists of the applicants are "real" publications and conference papers or not? I am beginning to see the point in citation lists, although they, too, are not very reliable.

Digging deeper into the XXX site I find that they offer free online access to the books to libraries who purchase one of the overpriced books. Ah, this seems to be the thing. The authors do seem to exist; however, they teach at minor schools. The business model seems to be: young academic writes book, publishes here, library purchases overpriced book, academic now has a book published, gets a new job at another university, has library there purchase book, etc. etc.

Any thoughts on this? Am I being too pessimistic? Is this the only way for non-major-players to get published these days?