About six months after I filed and defended my dissertation at UCLA, I received the following email from LAP Lambert:
Dear Lisa Luise Spangenberg ,
While researching publishable academic papers at the Library of University of California, Los Angeles University, I came across a reference to a work entitled “The games fairies play: Otherworld intruders in medieval literary narratives”.
LAP Lambert Academic Publishing AG & Co. KG specializes in the publication of theses and dissertations.
I am therefore wondering if you would be interested in cooperating with us towards a worldwide marketed publication of your work.
Your reply including an e-mail address to which I could send an e-mail with further information in an attachment would be greatly appreciated.
Looking forward to hearing back from you.
The sig area of the email included a link to their web site: www.lap-publishing.com and the information that their Board of Directors included: Dr. Wolfgang Müller (CEO), Christoph Schulligen, Jürgen Gerber, Esther von Krosigk Supervisory Board: Prof. Dr. Johannes G. Bischoff (Chairman), RA Thomas Bischoff, RA André Gottschalk
Then last May, I got another email from them:
I am writing on behalf of an international publishing house, Lambert Academic Publishing.
In the course of a research on the University of California, I came across a reference to your thesis on “The Games Fairies Play: Otherworld Intruders in Medieval English and Celtic Literary Narrative”. We are an international publisher whose aim is to make academic research available to a wider audience. LAP would be especially interested in publishing your dissertation in the form of a printed book.
Your reply including an e-mail address to which I can send an e-mail with further information in an attachment will be greatly appreciated.
The LAP website notes:
LAP publishes academic research worldwide—at no cost to our authors.
We are one of the leading publishing houses of academic research. We specialize in publishing theses, dissertations, and research projects.
What they are is an academic author mill; they exist to exploit the work of naive scholars who think they’re a legitimate academic/scholarly publisher, the kind that counts for tenure and hiring committees. There are several similar companies who offer to print your dissertation or thesis. LAP has a number of other branches; one of them is their German alter-ego VDM Verlag Dr Mueller
VDM uses digital technology (which it dubs “print-to-order [PTO], a further development of the print-on-demand [POD] procedure”) to make its books and monographs “available” (which just means they can be special-ordered) through online and physical booksellers. There’s no cost to authors, who receive a “fee” plus “up to” 20 free copies of their book. There’s also no editing or proofreading: what you turn in is what’s printed, and the process for doing so, in which authors essentially create their own books and covers, is very similar to uploading content to a self-publishing service. Retail prices are absurdly inflated, even for a digitally-based publisher. As for marketing, “data is optimized by the publishing house and entered in all relevant catalogs worldwide. The book is offered to the leading international book distributors.” Put another way: there isn’t any.
VDM, in other words, is an academic author mill.
They aren’t really publishing your dissertation, they aren’t making it available for other scholars, and they most certainly aren’t going to help you pay off your student loans. Do go read all of Victoria Strauss’ post; she knows what she’s talking about. By the way; it’s not terribly bright to waive all your rights to your dissertation—it puts paid, among other things, to you revising and publishing your work as a scholarly monograph from a publisher who will help you up the tenure-track ladder, and quite possibly, put money in your pocket. Victoria Strauss and I are not alone in being less than delighted at the practices of LAP et al.
Nothing in the Ph.D. process prepares us for this kind of thing. When I was filling out all the paperwork for filing at UCLA, not even the library seemed terribly clued in to copyright. For instance, as part of the filing process, UCLA students are asked to grant permission to ProQuest to microfilm the dissertation. Page 26 of the UCLA Graduate Division Policies and Procedures for Thesis and Dissertation Preparation and Filing states:
Students are required to complete and sign the ProQuest Agreement form regardless of whether they do or do not copyright the dissertation. Signing the form does not affect control of the manuscript; it simply allows ProQuest to microfilm the manuscript for UCLA.
I did not waive my copyright; despite having the library return the form to me, with the instruction to waive my copyright, I refused. I also did not give ProQuest/UMI permission to sell my dissertation.
So imagine my surprise when in June of 2009 I received a letter from ProQuest that included the following:
We see that you didn’t order pre-publication with our previous discount, but you can still order at a special price. The standard hardbound edition, which is normally $74, is just $46 now, a 40% savings! And if you order multiple copies, you can save even more. Consider who else might want to have a quality-bound copy of your work: your advisor, your committee, the graduate school, mentors, or even colleagues or family.
Remember, I explicitly indicated that I did not want my dissertation offered for sale; the reason I didn’t want it offered for sale is that ProQuest/UMI charges too much, even for unbound copies. Graduate students, the people most likely to be purchasing dissertations for research, don’t really have spare cash.
I wrote ProQuest; I got back a form letter basically saying, yes, in fact, there were “two restrictions” on my dissertation and they would remove it from their catalog. As far as I know they have, and I’m gratified, but I also less than happy that UCLA provided ProQuest/UMI with my contact information; UCLA did not have my consent.
By the way; while I’m not OK with someone else profiting from selling my dissertation, I’m quite willing to give it away. If you want a bound copy, why not take a look at lulu.com or Amazon.com’s Create Space?
ETA: Victoria Strauss of Writer Beware notes that LAP Lambert et al have a new tentacle aimed at Christian writers: Blessed Hope Publishing.