My work as an independent scholar, supporting myself through academic editing and researching modern intellectual history, has caused me to question current academic publishing conventions.
- As an independent scholar, working outside established institutions, I am frequently bumping up against paywalls that prevent me from accessing an article (even one of my own!)
- As an academic editor I get to see the pressure to publish placed upon academics within universities, with quality routinely sacrificed to quantity.
- My work as an editor has also taught me that the jargon and specialized terminology that create barriers to entry in the different fields of the humanities are not merely artificial but also a sign of bad writing.
- As an intellectual historian I know how recent are the conditions of today’s scholarly production. In 1870 there were no specialist journals and major contributions to knowledge were published in periodicals with a wide public readership. Even in 1930 most scholarly writing was still accessible to the general public.
The situation today is abhorrent to anyone who cares about learning and believes knowledge and ideas are a crucial component of a healthy civil society.
Paywalls, which have excited the ire of the open access movement, are only one facet of the problem. Most of the articles they lock away are inaccessible also in terms of content. In the humanities, at least, this is a product of over-specialization, jargon, and the premature publication of potentially interesting research. The result is an ever-growing mountain of second rate articles and books that are read by ever fewer people.
Meanwhile, outside of the academy, a publishing revolution is unfolding, initiated by the advent of cheap e-readers and the relative ease with which electronic books can be crafted and sold online.
Putting two and two together, I have joined with my friend Drew Holgate to establish Rounded Globe, an electronic publishing venture that produces high quality scholarly ebooks.
We aim to cover our production costs by a crowd-funding campaign. This allows us to undertake our production work – which includes editing, coding, cover design, and social media marketing – for free. We offer our services to any author of accessible, high quality scholarship who agrees to publish under a creative commons license that allows the work to be shared for free.