Top-marks theses get a chance to be bestsellers

October 11, 1996

Two enterprising German undergraduates who founded their own publishing company in order to publish their theses, believe they have stumbled on a lucrative gap in the market.

Within nine months of founding their company, the Economic and Scientific Information Service (W.WISS), Jochen Kirchhoff and Kerstin Kahl have now published 90 other student dissertations and other studies. Key to the fledgling company's success is that authors do not have to pay to see their work in print, said Mr Kirchhoff, an economics student at the University of Wuppertal in North Rhine-Westphalia. Established publishers would normally demand a pre-publishing fee.

The company takes students' work on any subject, with the only proviso that it must have been awarded a fairly high mark by the author's university lecturer. This way the company hopes to maintain a high standard.

The work is printed and bound cheaply, and the authors receive 25 per cent of the price of each copy sold. The company sends catalogues in print and via electronic mail to interested companies, research institutions and individuals. The books cost around Pounds 20 each.

So far their bestseller has sold only 30 copies. But they provide a platform for work which would otherwise just gather dust on the authors' shelves. Most of their authors are students at universities in the industrial Ruhr district.

Mr Kirchhoff came up with the idea during his own thesis work on the state in the former Soviet Union: "It was only three years after the wall came down and we just couldn't find much literature on it," said Kirchhoff. "So the authors were especially keen that their work did not lie unread in a lecturer's filing cabinet."

But the company has attracted so much interest that the pair are now planning to make a career of it.

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