Academia Dot

The marketplace for ideas is just that. A place of commodity and exchange. We pay our professors good money (and our administrators even better) so that we can be given “goods.” The same is true of the publishing industry. Those of us who write books primarily (I think) think we are expressing ideas we have that we suppose are worthy of discussion. The book comes out. We await reviews. Citations. Exchange of ideas. Oh yes, and royalties. Only the naive think academic publishing will lead to much of the latter in the greater scheme of things. And so many of us turn to for-profit sites like Academia.edu to pedal our wares for free. After all, Academia is offering us a free service, isn’t it? (At least if you can ignore the constant sell-ups to find out who’s been reading your stuff.) But Academia isn’t non-profit. There’s money to be made here among gullible academics.

Oh, I have a page on Academia just like everybody else. Several of my papers, long out of the payout stage for their journals or parent books, are there for free. Academia frequently asks me if I’m sure I don’t want to upgrade—increase my visibility. Make them a bit of lucre on the side. So the other day I was flattered when I received an email about my dissertation from another vendor. I didn’t recognize the sender, but the content of the email made it clear they didn’t recognize me either. It was an offer to publish my original research done at the University of Edinburgh. Problem is, it’s already been published. Twice. Both editions beyond the purchasing power of mere mortals, but still, it’s out there. Academics, I expect, are some of the favorite targets of the entrepreneurial. We, after all, don’t speak that language. We trade in the currency of ideas. We’re easy marks.

I think Academia.edu is a great idea. Often it’s possible for those of us who are unaffiliated to find papers that journals insist on selling for fifteen bucks a pop—considering I can buy an entire book for that much, no thank you—for free. There may be hidden costs involved, but some days I do miss Robin Hood. No matter how many years I’ve been an editor, I can’t stop thinking like an academic. It comes with the territory. You can’t simply forget all that graduate school taught you. One thing most academics haven’t learned, however, is how to interpret the web. Long before our government allowed the freedom of the web to end, not all sites were free.

2 responses to “Academia Dot

  1. Could you maybe put your articles on your WordPress and link to them from, perhaps, you Bio page, instead of the very seedy Academia.edu? I know longevity on the web is a big problem, but free WordPress has shown amazing longevity, and there are other potentially long-lived web hosts like GitHub Pages.

    In fact—here’s a startup idea that the pair of us could work on:

    1. approach academics,
    2. offer to convert their papers (in whatever format—print, WordPerfect, Word, PDF, PostScript, whatever) into text, including equations, tables, photos, Unicode-encoded Ugaritic, the lot,
    3. upload them to servers they control (WordPress, GitHub Pages, the lot), and finally
    4. enrolling them in Archive.org’s WayBack Machine, which should archive the texty portions For Ever.
    5. ???
    6. Profit!!!

    Like

    • Thanks, Ahmed. I am currently working on upgrading the website, so this is a real possibility. Like it or not, academics have fallen in love with Academia.edu, and most of them have no idea it’s a for profit website. I’ll need to check into copyright implications, but making them available on the upgraded website isn’t a bad idea. I’ll suggest it to the web designer who’s helping me.

      Like

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