Author Archives: golub

AnthroSource drops UC Press for Wiley-Blackwell

(cross posted from Savage Minds )
While the news has not been made official yet, many of us have already heard unofficially that AnthroSource is dropping its contract with University of California Press and moving to Wiley-Blackwell. We don’t know much about the deal so far, but at this point a couple of obvious things jump out that are worth mentioning.

First, the University of California press was very author-friendly and interested in exploring new forms of digital scholarship, including ones that attempted to innovate traditional publishing business models. Wiley-Blackwell, on the other hand, is a newly-minted merger of Wiley and Blackwell in which Wiley acquired Blackwell for 572 million pounds, and altogether the new company will publish over one thousand journals. Compared to the UC’s relatively modest journals program, Wiley-Blackwell is clearly ‘big content’ with a capital ‘C’. Library groups opposed the merger writing letters to the Department of Justice and European Commission.

The original goal of AnthroSource was to do something new and innovative—to find a way to transform a scholarly publishing program. While everyone wanted the AAA’s publishing program to be sustainable they wanted to try new ways of achieving this goal, and this was a goal that the University of California Press was interested in exploring with us. The move to Wiley-Blackwell, then, signals that the AAA has given up this goal and decided instead to get into the business of digital publishing in a very traditional model. It marks, as one commenter put it in a private email, “This is not only a sad day for scholarly publishing, but a sad commentary on the state of scholarly publishing. By going with Wiley-Blackwell, AnthroSource is destined to be just another electronic journal package, and anthropological scholarship will be no more accessible than during the print era, locked behind closed silos.”

Overall, then, it appears that publishing in anthropology is polarizing into large organizations interested in enforcing scarcity in the digital space and smaller groups trying to find ways to allow scholarship to flourish under the new circumstances that it finds itself. It is a bit sad to find that, as the middle drops out of this field, the AAA has chosen to ally itself with Big Content in this regard.

The other major impact of this decision has to do with the internal structure of the AAA itself. The creation of AnthroSource problematized the relationship between individual sections (who actually produce journals), AAA leadership (who theoretically are supposed to be in charge) and AAA staff (who actually are in charge). This was natural—change means rethinking existing arrangements. The move to Wiley-Blackwell, however, might aggravate the tension between these three parties. In the past, political issues in the AAA and the AAA budget were (relatively) separate—issues of anthropological involvement in military intelligence, the ethics of Napoleon Chagnon’s fieldwork, and so forth were important issues that could be dealt with by the sections and leadership while the staff, essentially unsupervised, kept the budget limping along. The politics of publishing, on the other hand, connect anthropological ethics with our association’s budget in a way that inescapably focuses attention on the previously-unthematized role of staff in running the AAA. My fear is that section are, frankly, facing taxation without representation—their bottom line is being affected by decisions into which they have little input.

It will probably be some time before we see any concrete changes in AnthroSource based on this switch. But when we do some of the main issues to track will be:

*Will the AAA publishing program manage to break even? If so, at what price?

*What will happen with the current AAA author’s agreement? The AnthroSource Steering Committee worked hard to create an author’s agreement that preserved the author’s right to archive their work. If we see this agreement change, then I think we should all really start panicking.

*Will sections be able to participate in decisions that affect them? Will smaller journals continue to flourish?

As the AAAs in DC approach, we’ll be talking more about these issues. Personally, I am increasingly happy with the idea of avoiding publishing in AAA journals at all. If it were not for the realities of tenure and my attachment to all of the people in sections who are working so hard to keep their journals afloat and publishing high quality work, I’d be happy to opt out of any involvement in AAA journals whatsoever.

With a business model like this, who needs enemies?

(this has been crossposted from Savage Minds)

The latest issue of Anthropology News is out and features an op-ed by Alex Golub (i.e. “me” — this blog doesn’t seem to attribute entries to particular authors) on open access publishing and the AAA (you can read the full text of the piece here). Actually that is not quite true. The piece is not really about open access anthropology — it is about closed-access anthropology, the “reader-pays” model that the AAA currently to fund its publication program. At the last AAAs it became clear to me that the biggest problem that sectional publications (think American Ethnologist and Medical Anthropology Quarterly) were having was staying in the black. In an atmosphere were the costs of publication threatened the existence of journals themselves, no one was interested in talking about open access because “giving it away for free” was perceived as an even worse situation than the one that journals were currently in.

So in fact the focus of the piece is not on open access, but reader-pays business models and the unspoken assumption that many at the AAA that they are a tried and true method of keeping journals afloat when compared to the utopian but supposedly ultimately suicidal open access option. The goal of the piece is simply to point out something that everyone already knows but conveniently forgets when they begin talking about open access — namely, that the current reader-pays model for funding AAA publications is broken and has been broken for a long time.

The key, I claim, is that an ethical commitment to open access has prompted an entire community to develop what I clunkily call “open access-inspired business models”. That is to say, the open access community has developed methods to radically lower the cost of publishing and that these methods are what make some sort of open access a realistic option. The second half of the piece then focuses on what would have to happen for the AAA to attempt to incorporate some of these OA-inspired models in their own publishing program. Personally, I’m not holding my breath. But it is important for people to realize that it is the open access model (and all that it entails), not the reader-pays model, that is financially ‘realistic’. Check it out.

Oral Tradition: Another Open Access journal

I am teaching a week on Homer and ‘verbal art’ in one of my classes. I am not a Homer scholar and asked a friend in classics what they might recommend I read to present students the state of the art on oral tradition. The answer, not surprisingly, is Oral Tradition, a great open access journal from the Center for the Study of Oral Traditions. They are even scanning in back issues so that eventually the full run of the journal will be available. This is a great resource for any anthropologist whose work overlaps with folklorists or anthropological linguistics.

Two Pieces by David Graeber

Over the next couple of months I’d like to make this blog a place to learn not only about OA issues in Anthropology, but about open access texts in general. How better to demonstrate the importance of OA than to showcase all the great OA work that is being Done?

In this spirit I want to point out two pieces of David Graeber’s that are available free and for download:

Both of these are innovative, imaginative works by an important young scholar. And best of all, they are available for the entire scholarly community.

Call for papers: Open Access Research

(Here’s a call for papers for a promising new journal — please do consider publishing with them!)

We have recently started Open Access Research (OAR), a peer-reviewed, open-access journal that will enable greater interaction and facilitate a deeper conversation about open access, including topics such as:


  • open access journals

  • institutional support for open access

  • open access publishing services and software

  • open access repositories (both institutional and subject-based)

  • electronic theses and dissertations

  • the impact of open access on scholarly research and communications.


If you are engaged in research relating to open access, or if you have an article in mind, please contact us. OAR‘s first issue will be in August, 2007 and will subsequently be published three times a year. Submissions received by March 31, 2007 will be considered for the August issue; subsequent submissions will be considered for future issues.


Send inquiries to:


William Walsh

Head – Acquisitions

Georgia State University Library

100 Decatur St. SE

Atlanta, GA 30303


Editors-in-Chief: John Russell (University of Oregon), Dorothea Salo (George Mason University), William Walsh (Georgia State University), Elizabeth Winter (Georgia Institute of Technology). Please see our website for a full list of editors and editorial board members. Open Access Research is published by the Georgia State University Library using Open Journal Systems software.


Open access in action: a Pacific example

In November 2006, Tonga was swept by a wave of civil disorder. One of the casualities of this was the Friendly Islands Bookstore, one of the few places in Nuku’alofa (the capital of Tonga) where you could go to purchase academic books.

Enter Michael Evans, a professor of anthropology at the University of British Columbia Okanagan. Mike knew that some of the few remaining copies of his book Persistence of the Gift: Tongan Tradition in Transnational Context were detroyed and that few now existed. As a result he got in touch with his publisher and asked whether it could be made available online. The publisher agreed, and you can now download Persistence of the Gift in its entirety for free from UBC.

As Mike’s book demonstrates, diasporic communities are central to the Pacific — more Tongans live outside Tonga than in it these days. By making his work available on the Internet, Mike can present his research to Tongans overseas in addition to people in Nuku’alofa. Indeed, in a world where even ‘remote’ countries like Tonga have regular access to the Internet and specialist books like Mike’s cost US$80, Mike’s book is now more accessible to people everywhere (Nuku’alofa included!) because he has made it open.

Of course not all of us have to wait for riots before we make our work open. Rather than assume that our publishers will say ‘no’, why don’t we approach them and ask them if we can put our old and out-of-print books up online? As Mike’s example shows, publishers are often more receptive to this idea than we might imagine.

Can the AAA avoid typical digital publishing mistakes?

Online Journalism Review (from the Annenberg Center For Communications) is running an long and interesting piece today on the top mistakes made by new online publishers . The author, Robert Niles, if bully on the possibility of making money by publishing online. However, he points out that some of mistakes that people make when going on line are intuitive, and that avoiding them involves some careful thought. Consider, for instance, what he considers to be the number one mistake that online publishers make: doing it for the money

Over the past year, I’ve spoken with at least a dozen newspaper-dot-com executives who’ve expressed frustration that their organizations are now playing “catch-up” to amateur niche media due to their company’s obsession with maximizing profits, in part by not funding new projects without immediate revenue attached. That policy’s left too many newspapers with seemingly “safe” but overly broad, voiceless websites that fail to engage the reading public, just like their print parents.

Another mistake is throwing money at your site

When I talk with people who have had success making money from online content, I see a common attribute: an independent writer who leads a strong community that generates hundreds, if not thousands, of pages of informative, compelling content.

What I don’t see is someone who first hired a staff, including editors, reporters and ad reps. Nor do I see someone with a large marketing budget, buying advertising in offline media to draw attention to their site. In fact, when I speak with people who followed that path, I inevitably hear complaints about how “no one’s making money online,” and a series of excuses for why their venture failed.

What lessons does this have for anthropology’s attempt to go digital? The first and most obvious point is that making your content as open as possible is not a mistake however, running your website on the principle that it absolutely must pay the bills is. As Niles puts it,

On the Internet, passion trumps professionalism. Yes, smart, disciplined online publishers are making money. It’s to be expected, with the billions of dollars advertisers are now spending online every year. But that can’t be the dominant reason you publish.

We as scholars know what good content is, and we are passionate about reading and writing it — no problem there. But are we being equally innovative in thinking about how to make money? This article, clearly, is about newspapers going digital, not scholarly societies. But even if scholarly publishing’s business model differs from that of online journalism, the principle that Niles enunciates are still relevant: the way to finding a sustainable business model for anthropological publishing must come through innovation, not trying out the same old analog tricks in a new digital space. And restricting content is, unfortunately, the oldest trick in the book.

Author’s right agreements: how to make them work for you

These days it is easy to put things on line — everyone has a web page and a graduate student or a member of the computer staff who can put PDFs of your articles and papers online for you even if you do not know how to do so yourself. The problem is not technical, its legal — every time you publish an article you sign an “author’s agreement” with a journal. If you are like me, you probably never read those agreements in detail and probably couldn’t understand the legalese even if you did. As a result a lot of us don’t feel comfortable putting PDFs of our articles on the web for anyone to access because we are afraid that we are violating our author’s agreements when we do so. Is there some way to avoid this problem? The answer, luckily, is yes.

Peter Hirtle has an excellent (and short!) solution to this problem in his article Author Addenda: An Examination of Five Alternatives First he summarizes the problem:

When an author publishes a book or a paper, many publishers ask the author to transfer all copyrights in the work to the publisher. But that is not always to the author’s advantage.

When authors assign to publishers all of the rights that comprise the bundle of rights known as copyright, they lose control over their scholarly output. Assignment of copyright ownership may limit the ability of authors to incorporate elements into future articles and books. Authors may not be able to use their own work in their teaching, or to authorize others at the institution or elsewhere to use materials.

One solution, he says, is an author’s addendum — a little bit of legalese that you add to the agreement with your publisher and sign that lets you save the rights you need in order to make your work open access.

Luckily, you do not have to write these addenda yourself — several organizations have already created legal boilerplate that you can use. In addition to SPARC (which we have already mentioned) he evaluates four other cut-and-paste addenda. There is lots of variation out there, so you should be able to find one that is right for you.

Now, some would say: Will my publisher ever allow me to use these addenda? The answer, surprisingly, is yes. Publishers often want your copyright so that they will not have legal problems everytime they want to add their collection to JSTOR or include their pieces in a reader or whatnot. An addendum that allows everyone — including them — access to your piece makes this easier for them. The other big concern of publishers is that you are going to put the same article in one of their competitor’s journals which of course is not the point of these addenda. On the whole, publishers are quite flexible if you let them know you are just going to include a copy of your article on your own website or on your institution’s website.

So give one of these addenda a try today and keep your grad students busy updating your website!

If you have any questions, please feel free to comment below and we’d be happy to answer them…