Predatory publishers: a real problem

April 29, 2013

Predatory publishers are an increasingly prevalent problem. Jeffrey Beall’s list is getting a lot of coverage recently, including stories in Nature and in the New York Times.

But the most recent and troubling predatory-publisher story I’ve read is about a lawsuit. No, not the Edwin Mellen Press libel suit. Three publishers are suing Delhi University for selling course packs to students that use excerpts from their textbooks.

This lawsuit despite the facts that (A) Indian copyright law has an exception for educational exercise; (B) the course packs don’t affect publisher revenue because there is no way Indian students can afford the books; and (C) Thirty-three of the authors specifically named as meriting protection in the publishers’ petition have publicly stated that they want no part in the suit, telling them “it is unfortunate that you would choose to alienate teachers and students who are indeed your main readers”.

You can read the whole article at Firstpost IndiaNot in our name: Academics oppose publishers, support photocopying. Pretty vile behavior there by the publishers, who apparently consider maintaining total control more important than education in a developing country that desperately needs it.


The truly horrifying part of this is that the case was filed by Oxford University Press, Cambridge University Press and Taylor & Francis — three publishers who we’ve been used to thinking of as reputable, and who want researchers to think of them as trusted partners.

But they’re not, are they?

This is not an isolated example. It’s just one more example of how academic publishers have made themselves the enemies of science, of education and of progress in general. And yes, I do understand that publishers are unhappy to be characterised in this way, but but but …

Dear publishers: if you don’t want to be called enemies of science, stop being enemies of science.

Seriously. This isn’t complicated. For decades you’ve been able to get away with whatever crapulent manoeuvres you’ve wanted to pull, and we’ve not been connected enough to do anything about it — or even know about it, most of the time. But those days are over. The world is connected. When you act like jerks, we will call you on it.

So just stop acting like jerks. Number one on the agenda: stop suing your customers.



7 Responses to “Predatory publishers: a real problem”

  1. JayNair Says:

    Yep, starting to get annoyed as half my junky email is now from publishing offers of dodgy repute

  2. […] This post is triggered by Mike Taylor’s post “Predatory publishers: a real problem“. […]

  3. […] posted “Research banana republic“, where I take the side of Mike Taylor’s post “Predatory publishers: a real problem“. In that post Mike Taylor criticizes among others the Cambridge University Press, which is the […]

  4. […] This isn’t hypothetical. The three publishers whose self-descriptions I quoted above are Taylor and Francis (“passion for digital distribution”), Oxford University Press (“education by publishing worldwide”) and Cambridge University Press (“advancing learning, knowledge and research”). The very same three publishers who are currently suing Delhi University for photocopying excerpts of their textbooks. […]

  5. […] Lawyers to sue people who access published materials in ways the publishers don’t like […]

  6. […] another horrible example of how organisations that call themselves “publishers” do the exact opposite of publishing. The good people I know at Elsevier — people like Tom Reller, Alicia Wise and The Other Mike […]

  7. […] In fact, it’s worse than that. The only role of copyright in modern scholarly publishing is to prevent societal benefits arising from scientific and medical research. […]

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