Tuesday, February 12, 2013

When Publishers Attack

Before I get into the heart of this post, let me be completely up front about something: I consider Dale Askey to be a personal friend. Not only has he written a guest post for this blog, but he was also a member of my Frye Leadership Institute cohort. (A slightly unrelated note: Frye has recently been renamed The Leading Change Institute.) That all means that when it comes to Dale, I am definitely biased. So I'm sure you'll understand that when I learned that Edwin Mellen Press is suing Dale (and Dale's employer, McMaster University) for libel, I was beyond astonished.

If you want details about the case, many others have written about it already:
Rather than duplicate their efforts, I'm going to talk about the online librarian community's response. 

You see, the truth is that academic publishing has been broken for a long time. The prices are astronomical; the way authors end up having to sign away their copyrights in order to publish with top tier journals and publishers seems almost criminal; and the fact that getting tenure is dependent on publishing in the top tier outlets makes the whole thing a vicious cycle with no way out.

I feel like Edwin Mellen suing Dale is yet another escalation in this increasingly adversarial relationship between publishers and librarians. It brings to mind a recent strip from Savage Chickens:


Citing Savage Chickens might seem ludicrous, but an academic press metaphorically biting the hand that feeds it is equally unbelievable. It sounds like a headline from The Onion.

So what has the librarian community done? Mostly, we've "thrown rocks" at Edwin Mellen Press by highlighting the absurdity of the situation and bringing it to the attention of a broader audience. There are blog posts and a hashtag: #freedaleaskey. There is even a Change.org petition with 1500+ signatures. I'm sure there are blog posts and articles that I've missed that discuss the case, and I'm equally sure there will be many more written. (This page seems to be tracking what is written.)

Why is all this happening? Because the truth these days is, "When publishers attack, librarians fight back."

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