For those of you who have become cynical in the face of academic publishing, an enterprise sometimes accused of supporting itself in spite of rather than in support of the ideas contained in the books that are its product, I share with you the following email I received from IGI Global:
Subject: Forthcoming Copyright Years - Invitations to Publish
Dear Prof. ______:
Greetings, I hope all is well! I would like to personally invite you to consider submitting an edited book, handbook of research or encyclopedia proposal within your field of research and expertise for possible consideration as a publication for our forthcoming 2010 and/or 2011 copyright years.
Editing a book grants you the valuable opportunity to enhance your area of expertise, and also provides many other scholars with the opportunity to benefit from the contents of the publication. A systematic approach is required in bringing together a group of scholars with the same research interests to collaborate on a single publication. Editing a scholarly book calls for certain leadership and coordinating skills, as well as tremendous guidance from the publisher of the work. The perspective editor will need to be prepared to designate an honorary advisory board of 5+ individuals to support the scholarly credibility of the title. Edited books contain a minimum of 15 chapters and a total of 135,000-170,000 words.
To begin, upon acceptance of your proposed book project, our development team will provide you with a copy of our comprehensive guide, "Guide to Editing a Book" which leads you step-by-step through the publication process. This guide allows you to benefit directly from our years of experience related to publishing edited scholarly books. IGI will provide you with the needed support to organize your ideas, identify contributing authors, review contributions, and put together a high quality publication!
For further information please see: http://www.igi-global.com/acquisitionprocess.
Should you be interested in editing a book or encyclopedia, please e-mail us a prospectus (5-10 pages) for possible consideration to firstname.lastname@example.org by ***NO LATER THAN December 27, 2008.***
Your book prospectus should include:
3-5 SUGGESTED TITLES for your proposed publication that will distinguish your theme from competing titles
A SYNOPSIS of your proposed publication, including a concise DEFINITION of the subject area
INTRODUCTION TO THE SUBJECT AREA addressing a complete explanation of the discipline and its implications
5-10 INDEXING KEYWORDS for your proposed subject area
OVERALL OBJECTIVES AND MISSION of your proposed publication and why it should be published
SCHOLARLY VALUE AND POTENTIAL CONTRIBUTION to information science, technology and management literature
PURPOSE AND POTENTIAL IMPACT explaining and justifying why your theme is viable and how it will expand the field of research
UNIQUE CHARACTERISTICS of your proposed publication and how it is distinguished from existing titles within the subject area
PROSPECTIVE AUDIENCE for such a publication and how the availability of such literature will aid this prospective audience
POTENTIAL USES for your publication, identifying potential context(s) this book will be utilized, such as library reference, upper-level course supplement, resource for instructors, etc.
POTENTIAL BENEFITS readers will gain from your proposed publication and benefits to enhance available literature
EXISTING COMPETING PUBLICATIONS and their advantages and disadvantages in comparison to your proposed publication
TENTATIVE TABLE OF CONTENTS listing all possible areas of coverage
PLAN FOR REACHING CONTRIBUTORS identifying networks, creating website for call for papers, distributing information at conferences, etc.
POTENTIAL SOLICITATION CHANNELS / VENUES (list-servs, societies, universities, etc.)
PROJECTED TOTAL PAGE / WORD COUNT for proposed publication
TENTATIVE TIMETABLE for the entire project
COMPLETE MAILING ADDRESS phone, fax an de-mail information FOR EACH EDITOR / AUTHOR
A COPY OF YOUR VITAE listing education and publication records FOR EACH EDITOR / AUTHOR
If you have any questions regarding this invitation, please do not hesitate to contact us at email@example.com. We look forward to hearing from you soon!
As you will doubtless agree, a letter addressed to Prof. _____ probably does not constitute a "personal invitation." In fact, IGI's is one of the weirdest emails I've received in recent memory, from the bizarre subject line about "copyright years" down to the bad English of the "perspective editor" (someone with enough foresight to delete?) and "honorary advisory board" (a board that does something only in name?). Some of my colleagues received the same message as I did, so it was clearly sent in bulk.
At Nick's suggestion, I had an enjoyable time reading the Wikipedia talk page about IGI Global. There, contributors note that despite the fact that IGI calls itself "The industry leader in delivering scholarly knowledge in computer science and information technology management," not a single publication in the ACM Digital Library has ever quoted an article from an IGI book. (Someone else clarifies that a search using the publisher's former name, IDEA Group, in fact yeilds 15 citations, 8 of which are self-citations.)
Their tentative conclusion? IGI releases "write-only" publications: "The business model seems to be: young academic writes book, publishes here, library purchases overpriced book, academic now has a book published, gets a new job at another university, has library there purchase book, etc."
The idea of write-only publication is probably unique to the academy, and points to one of the remaining perversities hidden deep under our greying ivory towers: the idealistic pursuit of publication in the interest of documenting ideas and disseminating them to an audience of colleagues sometimes conflicts with the practical pursuit of enough publications to win tenure or promotion. It is a practice that the public ought to know more about, because it flies in the face of what universities ought to pursue: discovering and sharing knowledge for the public interest.
Here's another way to frame publishers like IGI: they are vampire presses. They appear to be alive (disseminating ideas), but really they are dead (concealing ideas). They capture and feed on fragile individuals in order to advance their kind as a whole. They move in the shadows, sealing deals with institutional buyers under cover of night. Their goal is to hide their secret and pass it down through generations, adding to their number only as many as are needed to progress the line.
Now if only I could parlay such observation into a wildly successful adolescent fiction and film series...