Boycotting Elsevier? When did this happen?
Obviously I haven’t been paying attention at all! I was going to write about Bloomsbury (the wonderful people who published Harry Potter) and their decision to open a branch in Delhi, but this seems slightly more relevant!
Elsevier is a very well known scientific/academic publisher (I sent them at least one application while I was looking for work) and, in the academic aspect, is quiet similar to the publisher I work for now. I do know though, from overhearing conversation my line manager’s had with potential authors over the phone, as well as listening to the editors around me discussing royalties and advances, that the academics who write, edit or are simply involved in the creation of our products, are paid for their work. I didn’t realise that there were publishers who don’t pay academics, like Timothy Gowers at Cambridge University. I can’t imagine that there is no money involved at all and I think it needs to be clarified that it seems academics aren’t paid for their editing and proofreading services.
According to The New York Times, 34 mathematicians issued a statement last week denouncing “a system in which commercial publishers make a profit based on the free labour of mathematicians and subscription fees from their institutions’ libraries, for a service that has become largely unnecessary.”
The impression I’m getting is that textbooks are sent to academics, professors, lecturers for editing and proofreading, sent back to the publisher who then publishes the material and sells it back to the academic through the university library…no wonder a boycott is taking place! This is a fairly aged model that comes from a time when information was not easily accessible. The internet is an easy source of information to take advantage of, the problem is, of course, that the it tends to be a somewhat unreliable source. Knowing there are these simple alternatives though, should make publishers more aware of the fact that the services from these academics are valuable. If the publishing house cannot afford to pay them, then at least offer some form of discount to the academic when he places an order.
Funny enough, we talked about this in a meeting at work and my publisher mentioned a few things that were not referred to in the article. Over the years Elsevier has set up a system where they will ‘force’ customers to buy a bundle of their digital journals. If a library or institution is interested in one in particular, they won’t sell it as a single product but only offer it as part of a package. This means that many institutions are made to spend 70% of their budget on products they don’t actually want. Of course this is Elsevier’s attempt at controlling the market of STM journal publishing. I have a feeling that it’s backfiring…
Mathematicians Organize Boycott of a Publisher