AAA has sent out another survey (all members should have received it), this one ostensibly about AAA’s relationship with Wiley-Blackwell and your satisfaction with that lovely partnership. Sadly, the survey asks no questions (well, half of one, maybe) regarding the Borg that is Wiley-Blackwell, and a number of irrelevant questions about Anthrosource and your satisfaction with the print publications that WB/AAA distribute.
SM reader Celia reminds us that Jason B. Jackson has written an excellent post about how to opt out–well worth re-visiting early and often as you rise in the ranks of the discipline.
What we really need at this point is not another survey about member satisfaction with the AAA publications program, but a survey about what members really want from the AAA, full stop. Three points:
1. We are stuck with Wiley-Blackwell, there is no use asking members how they feel about it. If you thought the sunk costs of developing Anthrosource were huge, well, they have nothing on committing ourselves to WB. WB uses its own proprietary software and business logic to organize, manage, publish and monitor the AAA’s publications, and even if the AAA membership wanted to jump ship to another publisher, the costs of converting everything from WB’s system to some other mega-publisher’s system would thoroughly bankrupt the society. Welcome to the future, we saw it coming. (And btw, dismantle Anthrosource now–it has become nothing more than a non-working, user-unfriendly, feature-poor interface to WB’s Interscience system. Give up the ghost).
2. The AAA needs to stop talking about publications as if it is a minor component of its problems: it is the rotten core of a huge problem of sustainability and governance. The AAA has run for decades on the promise of revenue from publications. It sells memberships to anthropologists by promising them copies of section journals + American Anthropologist. It’s whole business model is built around toll-access publication, which has in the past, i’ve been told, provided as much as 75% of its operating budget. Unless the AAA gets in on the ground floor of the iPad right now (like tomorrow), this is a majorly losing business plan.
3. What we really need is a survey that asks honest questions about what members expect to get from a scholarly society. Questions like: would you even bother to pay dues if you didn’t get a copy of American Anthropolgist? (yes!); would you pay dues if you knew they were being used for purposes you could monitor and respond to? (yes!); would you pay dues if AAA promised to make all AAA publications open access? (doubleplusyesyesyes!); would you pay dues if all you got for it was reduced registration fees at a yearly conference? (even so, yes!); would you pay dues for career counseling, job listings, and news from the field (yes!)… and so on until it can be made clear what exactly membership in the society means, beyond a print copy of American Anthropologist (I can already prop open my door in extremely heavy wind, thank you very much, I really don’t need any more of those).