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Self-Publishing for Academics

Inside Higher EdAn interesting exposé (that takes some digs at self-publishing) covers the new crop of academics going the self-publishing route for many of the same reasons as other authors.

Many scholars – particularly supporters of the open-access movement, which argues that scholarly research should be available for free online — have grown increasingly frustrated with academic publishers in recent years, Weller said.

“Mostly publishers are making an economic decision (will this book sell?) rather than an academic one (does it add to the field?),” the educational technologist said in an email.

While fiction writers want to eschew the gatekeeping process and go it alone, academics want to do the same thing by bypassing the cumbersome peer review process. However, gatekeeping via the peer review process is more necessary in academia.

Roger Whitson, an assistant professor of English at Washington State University, said he thought self-publishing books was, on the whole, an activity that only already-tenured professors could afford to undertake.

“Part of the reason why academics publish pre-tenure is that they want to receive credit for becoming a specialist in the field, and one of the main ways they see that happening is through peer review,” Whitson said. “For pre-tenure people who haven’t established a name in the field, academic publishing is really important.”

After receiving tenure, more academics are in a position “to experiment and demand more from different publishing models,” he said.

So far, self-published titles are not being factored in as “legitimate publications” that can lead to tenure, even if they’re successful.

From The Academic’s Guide to Self-Publishing:

“There is a form of self-publishing that is standard in some academic fields,” Rojas continues. “It is normal in physical sciences, and some social sciences, to deposit a paper in arXiv or Social Science Research Network.”

Self-publishing saves schools and individuals money by allowing them to ‘cherry-pick which resources they want. While time is a major concern in the traditional academic publishing process, money is the primary issue. More independent routes might provide a comfortable middle ground where consumers pay less, but researchers still earn some compensation for their work.

It shows how much self-publishing has evolved that it’s even being considered in academia.