Viable model

June 11, 2009

Steve Fuller is outraged to find that his forth-coming book, The Sociology of Intellectual Life, will be made available only in hardback and at £60 a copy ("No soft (cover) option 'outrages' author", 4 June). It appears that his publishers have decided that there is an academic-library market for the work, but not a sufficient or sustainable non-institutional (paperback) one.

He suggests archiving his uncorrected proofs (presumably electronically) to provide wider access, but his publishers appear unhappy. They may have pointed out that his contract (page one) requires him not to reproduce copies of his own work "which may reasonably be considered by the publishers to be likely to affect prejudicially the sales of the work".

However, if his publishers have decided there is no paperback market for the book, can they reasonably claim that the author's electronic-archive copy will negatively affect a private sales market they believe does not exist? Surely not.

If a book is not available in a reasonably priced paperback format, readers can often gain access to the text via The Pirate Bay website anyway, so Fuller need not be so worried that his book will not be read. As long as the publishers don't think there is a commercial market of private readers for the work, they can hardly be said to be out of pocket either.

Institutional sales and free downloads for individuals - doesn't that sound like a viable model for both the economics and the sociology of intellectual life?

Matthew David, University of Liverpool.

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