I am working through multiple aspects of academic publishing and trying to select what is holding back academic publishing AND what it has yet to do that one might imagine would be a good idea?

Or am I missing the point and the important question/issue lies elsewhere?

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OR think of it like this. WHAT is holding back the OAC or the OAC Press from becoming a better example of academic publishing? What are the issues? Or maybe people think its reached its full potential? 

OR what would the perfect publication platform of scholarly work look like, and what would it be its primary features?

or shoudl we just fuck it all off and become editors and submitters to wikipedia?

The oligopoly -- Wiley, Springer, Elsevier, Taylor and Francis -- charge exorbitant prices and apparently are concerned only with how many copies they can sell, not the content. I was asked recently by one of them to write a book on any topic of my choice. Journals are a nightmare. Their journals cost ten times more than equivalents published by a scholarly association. The Harvard librarian deicded to cut them all, since they were making it impossible to buy books, and encouraged a movement to start. Many routine publishers seem to be more obsessed with physical and commercial throughput than with quality of editorial content. I have witneseed the collapse of standards across the board.

Of course there has been a massive expansion of books published per capita and a lot of these should not have been published, would not have in times past. So the sorry story is driven on both sides, academics and publishers. Having said that, the main point of publishing a book is the career spin offs that come off it, not the money. Nor are all disciplines in the same boat. Anthropologists tend to write for each other and their narrow subject matter shows. How long this can last, who knows?

It is another matter to reach a publishing editor. This takes careful research on their website, a proposal of only 2-3 pages (they don't read more than that). Go for one at a time, don't pick the most likely first, since you learn on the job and can often blow your best chance by peaking too early.

I always say that only a handful of humanity have ever published a book. What makes you think you could be one of them?

This is easy. Most people have to work at something else besides part-time publisher. The payoffs in status are lower. The same goes for running the OAC. There is a widespread academic trait that leads the inmates to think they have no time, when they do. In the end it is anthropologists who stifle the energies available. There is nothing in the discipline that would encourage people to believe they can make a better world (see the article by Fran and me on the OAC -- I bet very few who claim an interest in it have read it).

Abraham Heinemann said:

OR think of it like this. WHAT is holding back the OAC or the OAC Press from becoming a better example of academic publishing? What are the issues? Or maybe people think its reached its full potential? 

What's holding back the OAC from being an example of better publishing? We have to find a way to get more people interested, on board, and participating in the process. We also have to make a renewed effort at communication. But more than anything I think that a core group has to develop something that is consistent and reliable before trying to pull more people into this thing.

I don't think there's a perfect publishing platform, but ideally a good new platform would be both widely accessible and user-friendly, while also having a way of reviewing/evaluating content (eg open review).

I agree with Keith that one of the biggest problems in publishing is that CONTENT matters less than selling copies and subscriptions. A good new publisher needs to make content primary, and find ways to produce and distribute material that challenges some of the dominant problems. Another big issue that people tend to rely on impact factor, for example, rather than taking the time to evaluate the content itself.

Keith:

"I always say that only a handful of humanity have ever published a book. What makes you think you could be one of them?"

Good question. In terms of why I asked it, it simply because I am trying to get the experience of you and the other admins and anyone experience on the subject. I don't plan on being a publisher per se, I simply plan on trying to evaluate AND suggest to you and other OAC admins the results of evaluating how OAC Press might take further steps AND then implement them. That is my agenda. Thank you for making me think about whether I accidently didnt realise I thought I might be wanting to be a publisher. Your question clarifies it. I dont want to be, but I would like to be part of a team or process of improving publishing, plus I am not going away so I am going to keep pushing. My visual revamp of OAC Press was meant to be a small concrete demonstration that I am serious and committed.

"There is a widespread academic trait that leads the inmates to think they have no time, when they do. In the end it is anthropologists who stifle the energies available. There is nothing in the discipline that would encourage people to believe they can make a better world (see the article by Fran and me on the OAC -- I bet very few who claim an interest in it have read it)."

Yep I agree, but I do not have that trait. Ask any of my peers or lecturer/supervisors. So nuff said, I am not happy simply moaning about them or waiting for them all to wake the fuck up. Plus I actually think there is plenty good anthros out there then it seems, that aren't getting heard, or equipped to believe they can make a better world. So my question is then, how do you imagine the OAC, OAC Press in particular can be a part of 'anthros believe they can make a better world'? or cant it?

Ryan:

"We have to find a way to get more people interested, on board, and participating in the process."

I do not think this is as hard as we might imagine once, as you say, there is a more coherent core ambition that talks to people and the platform to match it.

"We also have to make a renewed effort at communication. But more than anything I think that a core group has to develop something that is consistent and reliable before trying to pull more people into this thing."

FULLY AGREED. Thats why I suggest a group skype over the summer to see where the core group is currently, and whats missing and recruiting that. And then YES, rolling that out further. ONe setp woudl also be coordinating with the rest of the best online anthrosphere to see how to help each other.

"I don't think there's a perfect publishing platform, but ideally a good new platform would be both widely accessible and user-friendly, while also having a way of reviewing/evaluating content (eg open review)."

Open review is precisely what I have been technically researching and testing. The signs are good, though it would help if people with more experience of it would outline how they think it best works so I can make sure the technical capability is there to make it possible. Currently I think I have mostly cracked it, through adapting Justin's initial suggestion of CommentPress.

"I agree with Keith that one of the biggest problems in publishing is that CONTENT matters less than selling copies and subscriptions"

Funding or getting the right people with the right amount of time and motivation for the OAC Press for example, so that there is a focus on content is a problem I have been thinking through and have some suggestions but thats a different discussion. From the other perspective I think there is also the matter of good content speaking for itself, as long as its not confined to the restrictive jargon of most journals, this should be (probably is) an explicit editorial and peer-review principle for the OAC.

"Another big issue that people tend to rely on impact factor, for example, rather than taking the time to evaluate the content itself."

Yep on the other discussion thread, though as you mention 'taking the time' is a very big societal question I agree we should not forget to brain-storm as well.

Hi, Avi. I meant that only a handlful have had a book of theirs published, not had dared to be a publisher. I was referring to the current academic norm that, if you want to get ahead, you must have a book or two published. Many people waste years of their life trying to write a book which is actually beyond them, just because it is expected. I was trying to break into that bind. Also I now see that I misi.nterpreted your opening remarks. I read them as your frustration as a writer seeking publication and some of my comments were addressing that. I understood your reference to the OAC Press, but thought it was normative rather than practical. So I said something about that. Maybe there was some sociological confusion arising from the fact that you are already part of the OAC Press, but were appealing to the world rather than to your partners. I read that as a move towards abstraction that could be made more concrete perhaps with your partners.

So publishing and editing as a profession or art is very demanding, even more than writing a book. I think it is my own highest achievement to be good at it. When I joined Twitter and Facebook, I saw myself as an editor producing links that readers would expect to be good. I have edited three collections in as many years and published 14 books with half that number of publishers. I launched and published single-handed my own pamphlet series and sold 7,000 copies of ten pamphlets in three years before handing over. I edited an African Studies series at Cambridge University. We opened up participation to the OAC Press and at one stage had 17 participants, including Giovanni da Col of HAU fame. It proved unworkable. Many of them preferred to have their say than get things done. Eventually, Huon, Justin and I decided to run it ourselves without asking permission. We have got out quite a lot. Huon and Justin have assembled two collections of working papers, one cultural and one economic.  I would say that I am more of a better world person than they are and we accommmodate our predilections as an editorial trio. This year we published our first book, on Emanicipatory Politics, bringing together most of the fighting communist movements extant.

If you look at the list of working papers, more than half would merit the better world designation, Graeber, Miller, Sullivan, Anderson, Conroy, Fischer, Kabamba, Webster, Farage, Souleles, Taylor among them. We are moving towards book-length publications and have once again opened up to those interested.

I know that you are committed and have much needed technical skills. If this incipient conversation has failed, then one of the ingredients of success is good conversationalists. It's not as if you lack a point of entry.

A good new publisher needs to make content primary

What kind of content? For what purpose? For which readers? As it stands, the idea that better content alone will attract more readers is logically equivalent to the proposition that if you build a better mousetrap people will buy it.

and find ways to produce and distribute material that challenges some of the dominant problems.

The ways must reach our intended readers and deliver the content  with sufficient frequency to a large enough number of readers to keep them engaged.

The items mentioned here are not a solution. They are, however, essential considerations in any effective communication strategy. 

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