It’s been a year since Belle and I self-published the latest edition of Reason and Persuasion [amazon], after the original publisher reverted the rights to us. The self-publishing model for our book works ok. We give away the PDF. But you can buy the paper and get a free Kindle version to go with; or just get the Kindle for $1.99. Such a bargain! Or get it from iBooks. All major ebook formats available. We’ve sold a couple hundred copies this year; given away thousands more as free downloads. (I hope you remembered to buy a copy for the person on your list who had everything … except a copy of our book!) I keep hoping it will catch on as a standard textbook in virtue of its obvious economic advantages – and it’s good philosophically, too. But if we just keep bobbing between the 100,000 and 1,000,000 sales ranks on Amazon, I can live with that. But if YOU have a friend looking for a Plato text for some intro course, kindly give them our card.
Several years ago I was more involved in e-publishing stuff generally. It seemed to me so obvious that academic writing – a reputation economy – wants to be almost free. Certainly it is perverse to have a significant segment of the academic publishing industry hitched to a distribution system in which exorbitantly overpriced paper products are sold in tiny runs to a select few university libraries. My minor intellectual interventions into all that took place before the ebook revolution. Remember when people read blogs? Yeah: then!
What has happened since? Everyone reads ebooks now. I haven’t really kept my finger on the pulse of academic publishing economics and informatics and so forth. My sense is that academic publishing is generally 3-steps forward, 1-step back. Things get better but sometimes advances make room for new stupidities that, even in the recent past, we couldn’t have managed to pull off. As an academic with login privileges at my university library, I can get way more stuff than just a few years ago. It’s nice to live in a house in which new doors just magically appear, from time to time. But a lot of people don’t have access to that goodness – even though the web itself, of course, always contains more and more. What do you think is the good news and bad news about academic e-publishing, in 2017? Tell me tales, in case I want to sound knowledgable about it some time soon.
One sign: I feel that ‘e-publishing’ – the term – is on the verge of going the way of ‘electric guitar’. We still use it, but soon we are going to need a term that, once upon a time, would have been pleonastic: acoustic guitar. Paper publishing. The balance has shifted.