Monday, August 23, 2010

Letter to Unsustainable Journal

Today I received a notice from a journal asking me to subscribe. Here is my response:

I received your notice of the journal XXXX. I would love to subscribe to it, but I will not be doing so. Currently, I have NO plans for adding subscriptions with models of pricing which I believe are not sustainable. I do not believe that scholarly societies that have sold their journals to for-profit publishers are generally operating in a model which supports their own mission. If you do truly believe that no minister or theologian “can be adequately educated who is not acquainted with the debates this journal compasses,” you would charge a price for it that was sustainable for theological schools like my own and most of the other small seminaries that cannot afford to add journals at this price. I notice from the publisher's website that most of your board comes from large institutions that may be able to support prices such as these, but the large majority of seminaries are like my own that have 250 FTE or smaller. It simply is not feasible to continue to purchase all the journals we would like to have, nor even the ones we feel we need. I hope you will consider a model of publication that contributes to supporting our compatible missions of education, but until then, I cannot subscribe. I hope you will share this with your board and give it some thought.

I hope I receive a considered response.

I also had an interesting email conversation with a colleague at CTU about the book he has recently published with a publisher included in all the recent announcements about university presses going under. The publisher had not contacted him to say they were shutting down even though his book seems to have just come out this week. He is unsure about rights--he has a potential translation into Italian he is pursuing and now has to try to get all this in order. This is one of the outcomes if publishers do not use sustainable practices. Up until now, I tend to have tried to get my faculty colleagues to focus on the impact on the library, but now have a concrete example of what happens to the faculty member! In the announcement in IHE, one Rice UP board member gave a good summation. "Universities should focus on the role of disseminating scholarship, not pure sales. 'We're moving to a different era of scholarly communication where it's more accessible to more people, and where we don't have to worry about the commercial viability,' the board member said. The reality, the board member added, is that 'there is no commercial viability' in academic publishing and that the emphasis on such questions 'is killing humanities publishing.'" The IHE report on university press closures offers a few interesting non-traditional models that deserve experimentation.

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