E-publishing boondoggle

Via Daily Nous, I learn that Pacific Philosophical Quarterly (PPQ) has begun offering an odd choice to authors. When a paper is accepted, the author can opt either to have their paper appear post haste in an on-line only issue or to wait years for their paper to appear in a print issue. Articles in the print issue will appear on-line at the time of publication.

The publisher insists that the on-line only issues and the print+on-line issues will be of the same prestige and significance. After all, a paper is  accepted for publication before being assigned to one or the other.

Justin at Daily Nous describes this as “a good development”, but it only is relative to a policy which forces everyone to wait for a spot in a print issue.

It is already standard for papers to be on the web soon and in print later. Most journals put papers ‘on-line first’ as soon as they’re typeset. I have a paper in Synthese which was published on-line in 2015 but which is still in a holding pattern waiting for its print issue.

The new PPQ policy forces authors to choose between these two prospects. If you want your paper published on-line ek dum, you give up eventual publication in print. Conversely, if you choose to see it in print, the journal will put it under embargo until page space is available.

Since the publisher is committed to there being no difference in prestige between on-line and print+on-line, there is no real value in appearing in print.1 So it would be unreasonable to opt for print with delay.2 The choice, perversely, is between what other journals already provide (on-line soon) and an unreasonable alternative (wait).

Policies which require people to make choices where only one option is reasonable are symbolic rather than empowering. Perhaps it’s a compromise between editors who wanted to make the journal on-line only and ones who couldn’t let go of print. But then it’s a generational hiccup, a stepping stone to PPQ being on-line only, rather than an especially good development.

  1. The on-line papers will be archived somehow, and most scholars access papers on-line even if they are in print somewhere.
  2. Supposing that you’d like to share your research with others sooner rather than later.

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