Some 30 years ago I was in my first year as a professional academic. I had a full teaching load, but I also knew that if my career was to go anywhere I needed to publish – and not just anywhere, but in scholarly journals. And so, having written what I thought was a pretty good little scholarly article, I offered it to one publisher after another. The main impact of this exercise was that I could compile an exhaustive glossary of rejection phrases. However, I did eventually place the masterpiece, and so began my career trajectory.
Recently I tried to get hold of a copy of this wonderful article. I wrote to the publisher and got a very nice reply. They could photocopy it for me, and would charge as little as £120 for doing so. OK, it isn’t really a masterpiece, and I certainly don’t think that a copy of the 26 pages is worth that amount of money. So, no thank you.
But here we have one of the key problems of modern academic life. Lecturers must publish, and not just anywhere. The journals that are accepted as good places in which to be seen know this very well, and they abuse the market. They are far too expensive, and as a result really only libraries can afford them. And as library budgets get cut everywhere, they too are now having to be choosy.
In fact, whether we are talking about books or journals, academic publishers present us with really major problems. There are not many of them, and they are not customer-focused. It is time to leave all that behind us. The academy should develop and manage online journals where academics can place their work and where this will be appropriately peer-reviewed. It is time to break away from a publishing sector that has some of the most restrictive practices of the modern business world. It is time to open up publishing opportunities for academics and to make it easy for others to access what has been published.