64. On Academic Publishing
To publishers, academic content in humanistic journals is, in many ways, interchangeable? We’ve told Taylor and Francis [or whatever corporate publisher] that our work in researching and writing is valueless by giving them not just first publishing rights but a whole slew of rights that come with them in our contracts for free. We’ve even told them that editorial work is valueless by serving as academic editors for free. (LEA/Erlbaum at least used to fly editors out to New Jersey to learn more about the system. Some small humane perk.)
And as long as most of our journals are essentially rubber-banded into membership in the associations (and most Comm journals are, no?), the content is, from the publisher’s standpoint, essentially interchangeable. (How much does QJS’s circulation vary with the quality of the work? Probably nowhere near as much as it varies with “whether NCA is being held somewhere nice,” because for some large critical mass of members, the discount on registration at the convention is the real motivator to join/subscribe.)
To the extent that we have embraced this system, we have entered into an abusive relationship and invited our partners to treat us badly.