How do we share the wealth?

Wiley has posted double digit gains in revenue this last quarter. What will all you anthropologists who have worked for Wiley-Blackwell for free (reviewing, editing and promoting W-B publications) do with this windfall? Please share your stories of how the 5% gain in total revenue affects you! What will you do with your share of the $79 Million in revenue that is pouring into WB’s higher-ed coffers?

I plan to upgrade to a double-tall cappuccino tomorrow. I might even add a scone. What about you?


Christopher M. Kelty is a professor at the University of California, Los Angeles. He has a joint appointment in the Institute for Society and Genetics, the department of Information Studies and the Department of Anthropology. His research focuses on the cultural significance of information technology, especially in science and engineering. He is the author most recently of Two Bits: The Cultural Significance of Free Software (Duke University Press, 2008), as well as numerous articles on open source and free software, including its impact on education, nanotechnology, the life sciences, and issues of peer review and research process in the sciences and in the humanities.

14 thoughts on “How do we share the wealth?

  1. I occasionally get steamed up over this sort of thing, not just for Blackwell and AAA, but for all commercial journals. John Hawks talks about this issue (free work by academics so that commercial journals can make money for their corporations) in a recent post:

    But I agree strongly with Stevan Harnad that the best route to open access is for individual scholars to self-archive their publications:

    But to get back to the AAA, it is especially galling that a non-profit professional organization of which I am a member is working against open access, and against what I consider to be the good of the profession and of scholarship in general. I’m trying to thing of clever uses for my share of the 5%, but I have to run; 200 students are waiting.

  2. Maybe academics should go the route the music industry has been going – de-emphasize the recordings (published works), re-emphasize the performance aspects of knowledge work: teaching, talks, etc. Write little, tour constantly…

  3. @Adam: You’re being flippant (I assume) but your comment lead me to wonder about the role administration has in all this. A would-be academic can’t exactly go the Ani DiFranco route and start her/his own label, right?

    But maybe I am way off base. Does anyone who actually knows the role of administration in the academic publishing world care to expand?

  4. Melissa–your thumb drive is on Wiley. Here is how. Suppose you spend $80 per year buying three Wiley book titles. As a AAA member (and thus a force for good in a powerful and synergistic publishing enterprise) you get a cool 25% discount (year round!) on ALL (and I mean ALL) Wiley book titles. That $20 should get you a cool 18 GB of USB-powered awesomeness. (Chris gets two bags of Starbucks coffee.)

    As they say at HQ “To take advantage of this offer, enter promotion code SOC05 in the promotion code field in the Wiley shopping cart and then click the “Apply Discount” button.”

    Its like the AAA book room, but YEAR ROUND! Totally excellent.

  5. If enough people left the AAA it would collapse. I suspect if you could either about a third of the membership to bolt or a substantial portion of the the various subsections to defect then the AAA would probably collapse. The Society for Economic Anthropology, Southwestern Anthropological Association, Southern Anthropological Society and Northeastern Anthropological Association are all outside the umbrella of the AAA and seem to be doing fine.

    Archaeology is an anthropology subfield in the US. Somehow the Society for American Archaeology is able to operate its own press and is not affiliated with the AAA. Most archaeologists that I know don’t even care AAA meetings and are only members of SAA. Somehow that organization is able to survive without Wiley-Blackwell or other commercial publishers.

    Of course, it has to be professors and professionals that push for the change. Us lowely grad students don’t really have any power to do anything about.

  6. I know that the Northeastern Anthropological Association has survived largely because it does NOT publish a journal, but has recently announced the launching of a publication series, made possible by inexpensive print-on-demand technology. The irony in the case of major publishers is that they have raised prices for decades on the argument that the technology gets more expensive every year, from paper and ink to the new computer-driven plate making machines, etc. Yet the same technology has allowed POD companies to produce work of identical physical quality for a fraction of the cost, and even to make money while doing it.

    I have assumed that one financially viable option, which also embraces open access, is to have all AAA periodicals available online, OA, with options for members to have physical copies printed through a linked POD service, at a relatively modest cost. This makes everything available to everyone for the cost of having a computer and internet access (so it’s not quite everyone), but also allows a professional society to maintain a paper journal for whatever prestige continues to attach to publication in paper periodicals. Work could be archived through JSTOR or a comparable more-or-less permanent online repository.

    Kelty’s basic point is important: publishers, like oil companies, cry about having to raise prices while making large profits, and to the extent that we help by providing free labor, we collude in this rip-off.

  7. BTW. To study Wiley finances up close, one can go to the Wiley website and look under the heading “About Wiley” for the “Investor Relations” link.

    The Story that Chris links to reports that “science/technical/medical/scholarly, revenue were flat at $229.4 million”. I think that this is the part of the pie that we are part of.

  8. Jason – thanks for the tip on the book buying!

    Grad Student Guy – That’s the thing, I don’t really want to see the AAA collapse. It matters to me. The AAA annual meeting matters. Its ‘umbrella’ identity matters and has mattered more at times when my specific anthro identity was in formation and flux (which I guess is to some degree always). When I see your list I see fragmentation and whole lot of different memberships to maintain and follow – or a narrowing of focus. While sometimes ill-guided, its advocacy on matters of scholarly import or communal interest matter. Its ability and weight to forge anthropological relations internationally matter. Its public outreach matters – I got a lot out of the Race exhibit and would recommend it to others, especially those less deeply versed in the issues than many anthropologists. Its publishing has mattered and I’d like to see that it continues, hence the efforts to push it towards productive change. Are these things perfect? Not by a long shot. Could they be done by others? Yes, in bits and pieces, and maybe that day will come. I’m not there yet.

  9. I was trying out my capacity for sarcasm (rather poor, I think) with the book discount business. I am ever more frustrated and disappointed in the AAA, but I strongly share Melissa appreciation for what it is and what it can be. The frustration comes from trying to engage usefully with an organization that often ends official statements on important issues with a sincere call for input, collaboration, dialogue and collective effort and then does not engage with the responses that then arise. This is not a staff thing or a fringe weblog thing, it has become an organizational culture thing and I wish that the elected leadership would acknowledge (or even strongly contest) the dynamic that I am describing.

  10. I’m an ecologist. We have a society, the Ecological Society of America, that publishes both traditional paper journals and an open access, online-only journal called Ecosphere. Check it out All revenues are plowed back into the society. We give grants to students and run an office in Washington to inform the government on matters ecological. You anthropologists should cut the cord to the for-profit publishers. Start your own on-line journal.

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