Know Your Publisher: Annual Reports Edition #oaweek #oa
Have you read the annual reports for the largest commercial scholarly publishers? I have and I hope that you will too. These publishers generously make these key documents freely available on the open web. Here they are for some of the largest scholarly publishers, with a few notes of anthropological interest along the way.
As noted in its 2010 Annual Report, Springer established an agreement with the Anthropological Society of Paris.
Springer reported revenues of 866 million Euros for 2010. (about 1.2 billion dollars)
Annual Reports: http://www.springer.com/about+springer/company+information/annual+report?SGWID=0-175705-0-0-0
While it did not note any specific anthropology oriented activities in its 2010 annual report, Reed Elsevier does publish a number of scientifically oriented anthropology journals.
Reed Elsevier reported revenues of 7 billion 84 million Euros for 2010 (about 10 billion dollars)
Annual Reports: http://www.reedelsevier.com/investorcentre/reports%202007/Pages/Home.aspx
Informa (home to Taylor and Francis, which is home to Routledge)
While it did not note any specific anthropology oriented activities in its 2010 annual report, Informa does publish a variety of anthropology journals (Visual Anthropology, Medical Anthropology, Anthropological Forum, etc.) and many relevant books via its Routledge unit.
Informa reported revenues of 1 billion 226.5 million Euros for 2010 (about 1.7 billion dollars)
Annual Reports: http://www.informa.com/Investor-relations/Results–Reporting/
I cannot find an annual report for Sage Publishers. I think that this is because they are not (I think) a publicly traded company. Big news for Sage was partnering with the American Sociological Association to publish its journals beginning in 2010. Sage publishes such anthropology journals as Critique of Anthropology, Field Methods, and Anthropological Theory.
Company Information: http://www.sagepublications.com/
Wiley is a central partner for a number of anthropology societies, including the Australian Anthropological Society, the American Anthropological Association, the Royal Anthropological Institute. They did not specifically note any anthropological activity in their annuall report for 2010.
Wiley reported revenues of 1 billion 699 million Dollars for 2010.
Annual Report: http://www.wiley.com/legacy/annual_reports/ar_2010/financial.html
This sort of criticism has always struck me as odd.
Most of us succumb at one time or another to the temptation to covet the rewards of another while wishing to ensure that our own way of working and the rewards that flow from it aren’t disturbed in any way.
Issues from minor to major:
(1) Most of these organizations produce more than just academic journals. The figures quoted, I believe, are at the company, not the division level.
(2) Revenue is an inadequate measure if the implication is as I understand it. Companies can generate significant revenue and yet be losing money and laying off employees as their stock price sinks even lower and they head to the dust bin.
(3) If the implication is that companies are earning monopoly rents, then one might look at profit margins. The only way to earn monopoly rents is either through a legally-enforced monopoly or through collusion among competitors. I doubt that the former is being alleged, and if it’s latter, one wonders why there aren’t legal cases pending.
(4) If the implication is that there’s not enough competition, one wonders why one or more of those who have for many years decried the revenues going to journal publishers haven’t started their own. (In a much different era, United Artists was started by Charlie Chaplin, Mary Pickford, D.W. Griffith, and Douglas Fairbanks–hence the name–when they decided that they could do better on their own than under contract to the existing studios.) One suspects, instead, that the industry is competitive, but that it may be more insulated from the forces undermining the business models of other traditional media companies. Some insulating factors are discussed below.
(5) If various academic organizations chose to establish their own publishing platforms and management infrastructure, then they wouldn’t be paying for journal subscriptions–at least not to the incumbent publishers.
While we all know of notable moves in this direction, one gets the sense that, when tenure decisions are made, an article published in Science, for example, is more highly-regarded than an article published on http://www.InsertNameHere.com. One assumes that the basis for that is that Science is believed to be more selective. There may also be the matter of prestige among one’s peers.
Changing the former (decisions related to tenure) is a matter of department chairs and tenured faculty in the department and elsewhere in the university choosing to consider new “publications.” And in order for the new publication to be highly selective, it takes action on a large scale, beyond an individual university, and spanning an entire field of study.
Changing the latter is an individual decision that can be made at any time.
(6) The most interesting questions here go to the traditional approach to publishing and copyright.
The most interesting approach, and the one that would lead to the greatest increase in welfare here and around the world, would be if all academic disciplines conducted their research in the open and published results–perhaps even second by second, in the case of a scientific experiment–as they took place. (The tools to do this are largely in-place today.)
Rather than claiming ownership in any form, why don’t we claim “discoveryship” and make it as easy as possible for individuals and groups of any sort anywhere to “consume” the information from the discovery and “remix it” as they wish?
Finally, we all understand that the marginal cost of publishing a print book is significantly greater than the near-zero marginal costs from publishing online. Why aren’t “books,” from educational institutions and other non-profit institutions (e.g., the Smithsonian) available free online? Sell the print version, but why charge for the electronic version?
An addendum: I should have explicitly recognized the efforts of you and your colleagues in the establishment of your own open access journal with MAR.
While your post was the jumping off point, my remarks were directed at this widely-discussed issue and argument, not at the writer and his own laudable achievements.
Thanks Lee for your comments and especially your addendum. The post was quick and obviously intended to be evocative. The message I intended was basically this. Whether your publisher is a university press, a library, a small boutique for-profit publisher, or a large multinational, you should know something about their business model and its implications for your work today and down the road.
Here is an example that has little to do with OA or profits/revenues per se. I am using a textbook next semester that was published by a mainstream commercial publisher of scholarly books in the 1980s. At the time that book was published, it was made available through a conventional channel at a reasonable price. Since the time of its publication, the then-large publisher that published it has been merged and merged again and again leaving behind a tangled corporate history. From a corporate entity that is hardly recognizable as a publisher at all, the book is still available at a very high price. (Thankfully there are many copies on the used book market at present.) I sought to get a desk copy for the title and I virtually needed a doctorate in corporate history and a JD to track down the publisher and it was like I was asking for a cup of milk from Lockheed Martin. Had that same book been published by a university press, it would have gone out of print and then been reprinted by Waveland, the small for-profit firm that specializes in inexpensive reprint editions of teaching ethnographies. The same once- famous publisher has left behind a massive list of crucial titles in my fields. They are all trapped in a Kafkaesque IP limbo. Unavailable for reprinting let alone remixing in a contemporary way.
I mention this example to suggest just one of the ways that we are regularly not served by the continual consolidation of scholarly publishing firms. I use Apple computers, drive a Subaru car, and have been caught drinking a popular brand of soda. My point is not an unworkable blanket condemnation of large scale capitalist enterprises. Even more, I am not suggesting that people should not be paid fairly for their work when they work on my behalf. Its a more modest one addressed to scholarly colleagues. As authors, peer-reviewers, editorial board members, etc. we are a key part of the scholarly communications system and some choices are available to us. When allocating my scarce attention and unpaid labor, I choose to support non-commercial university presses and open access publishing efforts whenever possible. I make this choice on the basis of what I have learned about the present-state of, and future prospects for, the scholarly communications system on which I and my students (and my indigenous community collaborators) rely.
Unlike many publishers, I believe that the serials crisis is a label that refers to an actual phenomena. I see its effects every day at the library upon which I rely and in the lives of the debt crushed students whom I teach. Such concerns motivate my work.
Thanks again for your engaged reply.