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Thursday, May 5, 2011

University Press Publishing: "This Is Madness"

Under the headline "Adventures in Deadweight Loss," blogger Matt Yglesias laments the nonsensical economics of academic publishing, citing the case of an important new book on political philosophy that is priced on Amazon--with a discount!--at $82.40. Key quote: "I do wish people working in the academic world would think a bit harder about this economic/scholarly model. Professors employed at research universities are getting public and charitable funding because we think the production and dissemination of knowledge is important. That means it’s important to think about what’s actually a good way of disseminating knowledge."

Amen.  Here's how the university press "model" has been described by one expert: "We publish the smallest editions at the greatest cost, and on these we place the highest prices and then we try to market them to the people who can least afford them.  This is madness."

Who said it?  Chester Kerr of Yale University Press.  And when did he say it?  In a once-famous report about university presses . . . published in 1949.

La plus ca change, etc. etc.

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