The End of Commercial Journal Publishers- The First Signs of the Academic Publishing Apocalypse

Posted on March 16, 2012


Edit 3/20/2012– this piece is meant as criticism of current publishing regimes but my sense of humor is a bit dry and I don’t think everyone understands it. Apologies if this came off as critical of the pirates when it is meant to be critical of others. 🙂

Revelation 6:1-2
1 And I saw when the Lamb opened one of the seals, and I heard, as it were the noise of thunder, one of the four beasts saying, Come and see.
2 And I saw, and behold a white horse: and he that sat on him had a bow; and a crown was given unto him: and he went forth conquering, and to conquer.

People are pirating academic literature!!! Ok, so it is not as dramatic as the heralding of the apocalypse in the book of revelation but it is a sign of things to come. There have been a few underground websites where academics post their journal articles and other members of the networks can view them. Since these are private websites they sort of fall into a grey(gray if your British) legal area.

Now however, people have started to post whole books to peer to peer file sharing sites. Yes, just like with TV shows and Movies. I guess you could call it pirated knowledge? Some of the recent titles that have been put out:

Trepanation: History, Discovery, Theory  ebook

The Bioarchaeology of Metabolic Bone Diseaseebook

Bioarchaeology – The Contextual Analysis of Human Remains  ebook

With a message telling people to download the books but that the links would only be up for a week.

This is how the music industry and now movies/TV industry lost lots of their profits. Interesting enough the artists in these fields, contrary to the propaganda put out by the industries, did not suffer from their work being pirated. Is Pirated Knowledge the future of academic publishing?

I think Pirated Knowledge speaks volumes to two trends everyone in the academic world we should be paying attention to. One, what we produce is valuable enough for people to break the law to obtain it. Think about that for a second. Archaeology matters enough that people risk heavy fines to learn more about it. Maybe we should stop writing for each other and focus a little more on the public who are risking lots to be involved.

Two, the prices of knowledge is so expensive that people are now willing to pirate the material. Hmmm most economists would call that a market failure. That is that the current system is not providing people with what they need. Something else to think about.

Posted in: Publishing