Nurturing exploitation (1 of 2)

October 27, 2011

As a recently retired editor of an academic journal, I would like to take issue with Graham Taylor's defence of the role of publishers in the scholarly communication process ("A footnote? Far from it, publishers are key in advancing scholarship", 13 October).

He states: "Crucially, we nurture the professional editorial skills that select, craft, refine and organise the quality material that you want to read."

"Nurture"? That sounds like a weasel verb for the publisher appropriating the skills of editors who do indeed "select, craft, refine and organise" these functions. The editors are neither employed by academic publishers nor "nurtured", and are often paid only a small honorarium for their labour.

According to Taylor, scholarly authors apparently "earn royalties". They certainly don't for academic articles, which is where the main criticism aimed at publishers is directed. In fact, any authors who want their writing not to be hidden behind a paywall must pay many hundreds of pounds for the privilege.

Lastly, Taylor defends the industry against the accusation of being "monopolists". This is disingenuous: large commercial publishers such as Elsevier and Wiley have spent years building subject-based monopolies by buying up "must-have" journals; how else could they charge the outrageous sums that they do - often many thousands of pounds a year for just one title?

Mike McGrath, Leeds

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