This Fortnight in Publishing (6 March 2017)

Hello and welcome to This Fortnight in Publishing

This has been a fortnight of reversals. After videos surfaced showing Milo Yiannopoulos condoning sexual relationships between adults and teens, Simon & Schuster finally decided to cancel their book deal with the author. The author is known to have previously called any number of individuals/groups any number of degrading names that will not be listed here. The deal had been announced in December 2016 and has attracted considerable controversy since. While some have defended it as freedom of speech, others have labeled it a cynical money-making scheme. Boycotts by authors and reviewers were proposed. It is unclear what repercussions the book deal would have for the credibility of Threshold, the right-wing Simon & Schuster imprint. Now that they have dropped the book, will the boycotts go away?

In another interesting reversal, the CBSE board has decided that perhaps expecting all CBSE schools to switch to NCERT books in the next three months may not be such a great idea. Instead, they have proposed that they will now "review" the books of private publishers. Kerala CBSE schools have decided to just go ahead and ignore the notice since the words "compulsory" or "mandatory" had not been included. Over 1,400 schools have ordered 32 lakh NCERT books following the notice.

In other news, the Obamas have closed a book deal for $65 million with Penguin Random House. The move reflects the industry's faith that Obama's book may not just be a bestseller, but may become an American classic that will continue to sell for decades to come. For comparison, Bill Clinton's memoir, My Life, won a $15 million advance in 2004.

The ferment within the academic publishing market continues. The open access movement, which was started to combat the prohibitive pricing of journals under the subscription model, hasn't quite taken off. Peer-reviewed open access journals charge authors for peer reviewing, editing, and publication services, but this system is getting high-jacked by predatory journals who mislead authors into paying large amounts for minimal if not absent peer-reviewing and editing. However, an interesting article in Scholarly Kitchen points out that perhaps authors aren't being "mislead" by predatory journals, but are willingly publishing in them to advance their careers with lesser effort. Perhaps the problem is with academic incentives - with the number of papers published translating into career advancement - than with academic publishing. And if so, perhaps we need another term than "predatory publishing" that suggests that authors are being ripped off. These publishers are fulfilling a need in the market created by the pressure of academic incentives - a need to publish quickly and cheaply. Lulu, one of the biggest self-publishing giants in the US, aims to cater to this need with Glass Tree, a book self-publishing service for academics.

Here's a little bit of trivia to wind up this edition: Tom Hanks is coming out a short story collection, where each story revolves around a different typewriter.

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Have a good week everyone!


Chitralekha Manohar