Subject: Re: Free software and free music have some similar problems.
From: Rich Morin <>
Date: Fri, 23 Jul 1999 16:55:39 -0700

At 8:31 AM +0900 7/24/99, Stephen J. Turnbull wrote:
ST>    Rich> academics make anything from their writing efforts.  I'm
ST>A richly deserved consequence of our ever-more-prolific simulation of
ST>intellectual activity.  Those of us who _can_ write _do_ get paid for
ST>it, although not via peer-reviewed channels.  (I've been paid for my
ST>writings; evidently the quality cut-off is not particularly high.)  I
ST>hope we never do get paid for publication of research; the information
ST>overload argues for _less_ academic publication, not more.  Or better
ST>indexed and quality-rated publication, at least.

A friend of mine, who is a professor of Philosophy, wrote a book that
was published by Oxford University Press.  I dunno, but I suspect that
this implies some level of QA?  Anyway, her topic is so specialized
that she will be luck to sell more than 1000 copies.  As a publisher, I
wouldn't _take on_ a book with this sort of distribution, so I don't
blame OUP for not sending her much money.  Meanwhile, however, she needs
to keep up with the writings of her colleagues (and these books tend to
be rather pricy!), so it's a good thing her lifestyle isn't very fancy.

And, BTW, I have also written for pay (a few books, 200+ articles),
but I don't claim that I get paid more than my friend does because my
writings are better (though they _are_ aimed at a far bigger audience).

>    Rich> hopeful that peer-reviewed electronic publishing will
>    Rich> eventually help to resolve some of this problem.
>It will reduce costs of distribution somewhat, but that's not where
>the costs are anyway.

I disagree, presuming that you mean "information distribution", rather
than "book distribution channels".  A $50 book typically results in a
$2.50 royalty to the author.  Everything else goes to the publisher
(and associated suppliers) and the distribution chain.  So, 95% of the
money is not getting to the author.  There aren't any villains in the
piece, really; it just costs a lot to print up, ship, and store paper.

>The top journals will remain the top journals because everybody wants
>to publish there, including the Nobel-caliber scholars.
> will get a following only if Steve can
>provide value=added by spotting papers that don't make it in the big
>journals, but deserve to, and on a regular basis.  Once that gets
>going, of course, it can take advantage of the "all the best articles
>are here, that's where I want mine published" effect, but that's not
>automatic.  Keyword indexing and free lance reviews will help, but not
>that much.

True, but one of the (ironically) amusing things about the current setup
is that much of the reviewing is being done on an unpaid basis.  If the
same folks put their imprimatur on a web site, it _should_ gain much of
the same clout...  Really, it's up to the academic folks to decide what
they want to do; once they decide to accept epublishing, the commercial
publishers won't be able to do much about it...

Rich Morin:, +1 650-873-7841,
Prime Time Freeware:, +1 408-433-9662,