Seen in the Creative Commons blog:
ETC Press has just launched as an “academic, open source, multimedia, publishing imprint.” The project is affiliated with the Entertainment Technology Center at Carnegie Mellon University and is in partnership with Lulu.com. When authors submit their work to ETC they retain ownership of it but they also must submit it under either an Attribution-NoDerivativeWorks-NonCommercial or an Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike license.
ETC press then posts the works to Lulu.com where they are available for purchase in its hardcopy form, or free download. While the project focuses specifically on writing about entertainment technology, it is easy to see ETC’s model scaling to publishers of other topics and genres.
This is interesting; we’ve been thinking and talking about the use of print-on-demand publishers like Lulu.com as a printer/distributor for a small academic press that needs its publishing venture to be relatively risk-free.
Often books that are distributed by sites such as Lulu are assumed to be vanity publications, non-refereed and therefore of a low academic standard, not accepted for review by learnèd journals, regarded with suspicion when seen on resumés by hiring committees, etc. Will this change as respectable publications start to use this service? Is it changing already? Does the assignment of an ISBN make a difference?
I think that outsourcing printing to print-on-demand companies such as Lulu.com is *the* way to go in the future for University and other academic publishers. More than anything it just makes economic sense – creating a system that (it would seem to me anyway) lacks the overhead of traditional publishing. No need to worry about unsold stock or backorders. At the University of Kentucky, for the past couple of years we have also discussed releasing materials available on our websites (the Neolatin Colloquia, for example) via Lulu, simply betting that there is an audience for the work that isn’t interested in reading the full texts from a monitor (or printing them out themselves). How nice to have a printed hardcover instead of a handful of printouts! (Note: we haven’t actually done this yet, but it’s been floating around in our heads… Are there any digital projects that have released print-on-demand?)
The issue of academic standards is important for these print-on-demand books but no more so than for projects being published via the web. I would think the same rules apply – transparent, obvious peer review, with a well-documented process behind it. (In some cases, perhaps, better than what you’ll find in traditional publishing.)
I can’t speak to the widespread implications of this for the academic community, but it will be nice to see (hopefully!) a little bit more respect for some of the less well-funded publications that seek refuge at Lulu.