In June the Archaeology publishing world was rocked by a very significant event, but no one actually noticed it. What am I talking about? Taylor-Francis Group, itself part of a larger company, has bought out Maney. You can read the press release here. What does this mean and why should you care?
What does this mean?
First let’s start with a shameless plug- I predicted this very thing happening months ago but I was wrong about the timeline-
“This pressure for publishers to have more journals has led to a very interesting development in Archaeology publishing. When data was gathered in 2012 the publisher Maney had a total of 15 Archaeology or Archaeology-related journals. When the journals were re-examined towards the end of 2014 that number had climbed to 30. This growth came from absorbing the journals of smaller publishers like Oxbow and Left Cost Press, being contracted by societies to manage their publications, and creating brand new journals. At this pace in less than five years they could control more than half of the subscription based English language market in archaeology, if trends hold. That will give them a very powerful negotiating platform in Archaeology. This pressure to increase collections is not unique to archaeology. At the beginning of 2015 the publishers Springer and Macmillan merged (Springer 2015). A sample of people working in publishing found that most of them expect to see more mergers like this in the future (michael 2015). The general trend in publishing is for larger publishers.”
The quote is from an Open Access paper I published with the OA journal Archäologische Informationen. It was part of an issue (all of which are Open Access) on Open Data and Open Access I highly recommend you read- http://www.dguf.de/index.php?id=9 . I don’t mean to come off as a self promoting jerk by sending you to my article but …. it is several thousand words that give you an overview of the current publishing environment in Archaeology and where it is heading. But if you don’t want to read that issue, did I mention Open Data!?!, the sparknotes version is-
- Publishing is consolidating into bigger and bigger publishers who own more and more of the Archaeology journals.
- This consolidation is driven by a nasty feedback loop of the need to have more journals so that Universities won’t cancel their bundled subscriptions.
- There are more people publishing than ever before and in a few decades we may have 500+ english language archaeology journals.
This is across all publishing but in Archaeology Maney had decided to “corner the market” (anonymous source in publishing). Strategically, this made a lot of sense for Maney. They were a small to medium sized research publisher who needed to expand to survive but most other publishers have carved out strong holdings in more lucrative fields. No one was attempting to do that in Archaeology so they saw a gap in the market and went for it. And for the last few years Maney has been creating or acquiring Archaeology journals like crazy– doubling in two years when they were already the largest publisher in terms of number of journals.
With this acquisitions Taylor-Francis Group cements its position as the dominate publisher in Archaeology. They will publish a combined 45+ “Archaeology” journals. The term “Archaeology Journal” is hard to label because Archaeology is so interdisciplinary and there are lots of crossover and combine journals. But giving a liberal definition this new publisher will publish the same number of journals as all the other major commercial publishers in archaeology- Wiley-Blackwell, Spring, Elsevier, and Cambridge University Press.
Adding in smaller publishers like SAGE, OA publishers like Ubiquity, and independent society publishers like the Society of Antiquaries of Scotland’s keeps them from having over 50% of the market but for how long. They (Maney and now Maney+T&F) are seeing year on year growth in the number of journals they publish in the range of 50-100%.
Why should you care?
Ask the Dutch. The Dutch Universities have failed to reach an agreement with Elsevier about journal subscriptions and in a year all Dutch Universities could lose access to all Elsevier journals. Now imagine that happens with T&F group- that is the loss of 45 archaeology journals if your library can’t negotiate. If trends hold and in five years time that is the merged T&F+Springer+Cambridge University Press and we are talking about 100 Archaeology journals or the vast majority English language journals that publish Archaeology.
‘A single death is a tragedy; a million deaths is a statistic‘
Supposedly Stalin said that and it is oh so true with publishing. Most Universities do not have access to 100+ Archaeology journals. Most Archaeologists make do with limited access to a couple of journals and their personal bookshelves. To lose access to Journals they never read will mean nothing to them. However, if you lose access to that one journal on your specific topic i.e. The International Journal of the Archaeology of Underwater Basket Weaving, well that can be devastating … sort of. Many Archaeologists will simply turn to the Black Market and obtain access illegally online as Eric Kansa has discussed before:
“Many researchers, particularly our colleagues in public, CRM, and contract archaeology or our colleagues struggling as adjunct faculty, either totally lack or regularly lose affiliations with institutions that subscribe to pay-wall resources like JSTOR. Many of these people beg logins from their friends and colleagues lucky enough to have access. Similarly, file-sharing of copyright protected articles is routine. Email lists and other networks regularly see circulation of papers, all under legally dubious circumstances. Essentially, we have a (nearly?) criminalized underclass of researchers who bend and break rules in order to participate in their professional community. It is a perverse travesty that we’ve relegated essential professional communications to an quasi-legal/illegal underground, when we’re supposedly a community dedicated to advancing the public good through the creation of knowledge about the past.”
We will become a profession of the honest knowledge poor or the unscrupulous knowledge affluent.
Above My Pay Grade
Another trend that I discuss in that article is that buyers i.e. libraries, Universities, are banding together into consortiums to get better deals from publishers. That is why all Dutch Universities are losing access instead of just one or two, they are all part of the same bargaining group. The rise of consortiums means that libraries and academics have very little choice in what they buy. The consortium deals will eat up 70% 90% 110% of their budgets. Essentially, we are heading, quickly might I add, towards a world in which archaeologists at Universities will have little input, if they are lucky, or no input in what sort of journals they can read.
Why do I Welcome our New Archaeology Publishing Overlords?
There are two reasons I welcome our new overlords. One is that they could be benevolent dictators. With a dominate position in Archaeology our overlords may offer better access to the 80-90% of archaeologists that don’t have ready access to University resources. It could be that we see a renaissance in research publications facilitated by a strong centralized publishing system. It sure could allow for some streamlining- one submission portal, one set of house styles, one place to find all publications, etc.
The second reasons is because in a cold, calculating, and, I will be honest, jerkish way this could do wonders for Open Access. Imagine the changes that will happen when the US or UK loses access to 90% of archaeology journals? The outcome will likely lead to greater access for the 80-90% of archaeologists that don’t have ready access to University resources. Though PhD students and early career researchers, especially those from marginalised groups or with little resources, will be hit hard during such an upheaval as they will lose access and not have the resources to obtained it or possibly publish. Which makes me a jerk for wishing ill on some of my fellow archaeologists to help the majority of other archaeologists…….. or does it? A good topic for this years Ethics Bowl at the SAAs? Along with the ethics of breaking the law by putting articles online and making one’s research accessible, to name a few topics that could be discussed.
Here are the current archaeology journals offered by the commercial publishers I mentioned.
Combined Maney and T&F
Arms & Armour
Bulletin of the Council for British Research in the Levant
Childhood in the Past
Conservation and Management of Archaeological Sites
English Heritage Historical Review
European Journal of Archaeology
Heritage & Society
The Historic Environment: Policy & Practice
Industrial Archaeology Review
Journal of African Diaspora Archaeology and Heritage
Journal of Community Archaeology & Heritage
Journal of Conflict Archaeology
Journal of Field Archaeology
Journal of the British Archaeological Association
Journal of Wetland Archaeology
Midcontinental Journal of Archaeology
Palestine Exploration Quarterly
Science and Technology of Archaeological Research
Yorkshire Archaeological Journal
Azania: Archaeological Research in Africa
Danish Journal of Archaeology
The Journal of Island and Coastal Archaeology
Time and Mind: The Journal of Archaeology, Consciousness and Culture
International Journal of Architectural Heritage
International Journal of Heritage Studies
Archaeological and Anthropological Sciences
African Archaeological Review
International Journal of Historical Archaeology
Journal of Archaeological Method and Theory
Journal of Archaeological Research
Journal of Maritime Archaeology
Vegetation History and Archaeobotany
Journal of World Prehistory
Archaeological Research in Asia
Archaeology, Ethnology and Anthropology of Eurasia
Digital Applications in Archaeology and Cultural Heritage
Journal of Anthropological Archaeology
Journal of Archaeological Science
Journal of Cultural Heritage
Quaternary Science Reviews
Arabian Archaeology and Epigraphy (AAE)
Archaeology in Oceania
Archeological Papers of the American Anthropological Association
International Journal of Nautical Archaeology
International Journal of Osteoarchaeology
Oxford Journal of Archaeology
The Australian Journal of Anthropology
Cambridge University Press
Journal of Roman Archaeology
Cambridge Archaeological Journal
International Journal of Cultural Property