Should one publish only in open-access journals and presses?

As a writer who happens to be connected with universities (for a pittance), the issue of publishing is somewhat important. I have also been involved extensively in major editing roles over the years, with both journals and books. A question that keeps coming up is where one should publish? I do not mean the best press for the sake of one’s career. I mean whether one uses conventional publishing at all. Perhaps the biggest threats to conventional publishing for profit are free access to books (such as library genesis) and open access publishing. I have commented on the free book matter earlier, when library.nu was closed down through court action by a consortium of publishers. And I have observed that publishing as an intellectual is probably one of the most exploitative exercises around, for you do all the work and receive virtually nothing for your efforts. Any profits made and retained by the publisher, let alone the copyright.

As many know, open access publishing is another dimension to that challenge. No wonder, then, that there is open warfare between traditional publishers and open-access publishing. Open-access is characterised as dodgy and third-rate. Example of scams abound, such as the Review of European Studies, which asks for a few hundred dollars to submit your article. Universities also play the game, or rather an old game. In the past, they have shored up publishing by constructing an aura of respectability around certain ‘reputable’ publishers, whether commercial or university presses. Positions rely on publishing in such places, as does the obnoxious practice of promotion, as do research assessment exercises, as do grants. Open-access publishing continues to be frowned upon by many. I recall a left-wing scholar saying to me that he always found material in print by traditional publishers much better than open-access work. But then, I guess that figures if you are after a conventional career in the star system of academia. It’s refreshing, then, to view once again the Hitler video concerning open-access:

So what would it mean to say that you will no longer publish in, review for, or do anything to assist profit-based publishing. That you will give your energy only to open-access publishing? The question is as much one for me, since I have published and continue to publish widely in conventional forms. So it was sobering to read through some of the journals listed in the Directory of Open-Access Journals. A vast number of them are from places in the world where money is very tight, where people can hardly manage rent and food, let alone journals and books. Of course, we like to forget the fact that genuinely new ideas always appear outside the mainstream avenues of intellectual work and publishing. A few of those include Spinoza, Negri, Darwin, Descartes, Leibniz, Rousseau, Kojeve, Schweitzer, Guattari, Lacan, Marx, Engels, Lenin, Mao …

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2 thoughts on “Should one publish only in open-access journals and presses?

  1. Boer wrote, “I recall a left-wing scholar saying to me that he always found material in print by traditional publishers much better than open-access work. But then, I guess that figures if you are after a conventional career in the star system of academia.”

    To understand the issue properly, one has to separate out the various elements. If one simply takes the issue as a whole, then one simply slips into an either-or position. Instead, we should separate out a) the notion of literature as private property, from b) literature editorial-ship as quality control.

    It is perfectly true that academic literature goes under a peer review system, making it have a certain level of quality control, thereby making it’s publications more factually reliable — as supposed to any blog, which anyone can say anything about anything without limits. There is nothing anti-leftwing about quality control, about fact-checking and about setting limits on publication according to truthfulness and accuracy. No leftwing person should be ashamed about using traditional publishers as a source for collecting information on a topic.

    It’s only when we look at academic literature as private property that the issue is shaped differently, and so our views should be different. The owners of the journals and databases are a bourgeois class, who don’t do any work themselves but make massive profits; they are therefore a parasitic group, and should be gotten rid of. Journals and databases should be controlled, run and managed by the writers and editors.

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