LAP LAMBERT Academic Publishing AG & Co. KG and VDM Verlag Dr Mueller

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

Victoria Strauss of SFWA Writer Beware, has observes that:

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.

A Response to Chris Hedges’ “Retribution for a World Lost in Screens”

Giusiniano Infortiatum 13th CenturyBob Stein posted a link to Chris Hedges’ essay “Retribution for a World Lost in Screens” on Stein’s Facebook page. I responded, and Stein asked for clarification; this is my attempt to provide a more complete response to Hedges’ piece. I think Hedges is too easily dismissive of “screens,” and, even more importantly, the people behind those screens. I also think his is a tired rehearsal of an old argument that has already proven false. I am far more optimistic about the people of the screen.

Plato asserted that text would destroy memory and lead to the end of civilization, resulting in men who “seem to know much, while for the most part they know nothing, and as men filled, not with wisdom, but with the conceit of wisdom, they will be a burden to their fellows.” While I share Hedge’s sense of impending doom, I think that pointing at the screen as even a contributing factor is daft. I think Hedge’s own isolation and egotism and elitism is fostering his talismanic associations with the printed page. He has created his own fetishistic idol, and his own demons.

For various reasons, I have no talismanic associations with the printed page; my allegiance is to the word, in text, in pictogram, and in the human voice. A book is merely a container for words, for text, for image, and yes, for data. I am about to leave with my partner for a writer’s workshop where there will be writers using pens and notebooks, and Macbooks, and digital styli, and memory to record their impressions of each other’s words, written and spoken, and where they will be interacting with each other one-on-one, in small groups, and over Twitter and text message and email.

We are still tellers of tales; we still experience narrative lust, and joy. We meet face to face through a glass, though it is not dark. My sense of optimism is spurred by several things— first, my experience in the college English lit and comp classroom, before and after the personal computer. I still teach students to read Chaucer in Middle English out loud; they still memorize his words, and those of Donne, and Shakespeare and Frost, and Keats and Monty Python for the sheer joy of it. We still parse text, whether it is rasterized or preserved on vellum, or on a digital reproduction of a manuscript too fragile to share, but which now the world may access.

I am optimistic because I have met life-long friends via the ‘net, and we gather together with familiarity and comfort in the flesh, though we meet for the first time in the analog realm. I am optimistic because one of the online communities I belong to has come together return a member of our community home after she was trapped by Katrina, shepherding her and her cat from one to another, passing her off to her next host and driver, until she and her cat arrived at their home. We have bought roofs, found adoptive parents, critiqued poems and plays and novels, cheered with each acceptance and commiserated with each rejection from a publisher, and mourned as a whole for the loss of a member.

I am optimistic because we are managing to share scholarship with scholars who are all over the world, affiliated and not, to engage in scholarly community via blogs and online communities. In that first community I mentioned, we have a vibrant politics forum where we require citations and analysis of argument for political discussions, and we have a single cardinal rule, respect for a fellow writer, and a single corollary; don’t be a jerk.

Hedges alludes to the ideal of the padeia, ekstasis, as a thing withering on the digital stalk; I submit that he is missing what blooms around him. Yes, we have have the idols of the tribe, the cave, the marketplace, and of theater; but Bacon’s Four Idols are hardly new. The fault lies not in our screens, but in our thought processes. We have generations who have not been taught to engage with content, to engage with text and image, but the organic ability, nay, the desire and even the compulsion to engage and parse and understand is still there; I submit it is our responsibility to future generations to demonstrate that rhetoric and conversation, whether on the screen or on vellum, still ties us one to another, and that we still have a greater community of shared ideas and ideals; we act like chickens with opposable thumbs, but we can be better.

The emphasis should not be on text in any specific container, but on words and on the ability to understand and communicate and share. The emphasis on the printed page is so misplaced that it should be laughable to any humanist; just as Plato denounced the arrival of text, so to did opponents of the incunabula decry the evolution of the printing press in that it made the luxury of the book affordable. This outcry too is being repeated, with objections to the liquidity of the digital text and the “death of the book.” The assertions about the authority of the codex book disappear for anyone who has ever seen what the early book was like; no word spacing, for one, and no, it was absolutely not linear. Even the early printed book bore with it the assumption of glossing as inherent, of text as conversation, much as the return to hypertext and the networked screen are doing for us now. The book has always been a container; whether the container was made of baked clay, or curling papyrus, or scraped animal hide, or fiber or silicon, the book is just the container; the screen is just a window.

Two Graphic Explanations of why DRM doesn’t work

DRM really doesn’t work; it doesn’t even slow down pirates, but it frustrates honest users, and programmers. Here are two clear explanations of why it doesn’t work to protect artists, creators and publishers.

First, from Brad Colbow “Why DRM Doesn’t Work or How to Download an Audio Book From the Cleaveland Public Library.”

Second, from Geeklogie  a PowerPoint that compares what happens when a honest, legal, paying customer, puts a DVD in a drive, compared to what happens when a pirate puts the same DVD in a drive:

 

See also Matt Neuberg of TidBits on his attempts to download an audio book form his public library.

O’Reilly DRMless High Quality Technical Ebooks

O’Reilly is one of my very favorite technical book publishers, right up there with Peach Pit and Take Control Ebooks. O’Reilly earned a reputation almost immediately for reliable, useful high quality books about operating systems, development processes and procedures, programming and scripting languages, and quality books about creating for the Web. They’re the publisher with the nifty animal covers. They also realized very quickly the importance of the Web, and of community, and that it was both possible and worth taking the time to produce digital versions of their printed books. I beta tested Safari Books Online, the O’Reilly digital subscription service way back when, and am still impressed with their policies and the quality and utility of the content and the user experience.

I note, by the way, that O’Reilly Ebooks have all the quality of their print books, and no DRM. Here’s the official O’Reilly statement:

When you buy an ebooks thru oreilly.com you get lifetime access to the book, and whenever possible we provide it to you in four, DRM-free file formats — PDF, .epub, Kindle-compatible .mobi, and Android .apk ebook — that you can use on the devices of your choice. Our ebook files are fully searchable, and you can cut-and-paste and print them. We also alert you when we’ve updated the files with corrections and additions.

Initally the books were all only available in high quality easily navigable .PDFs; now O’Reilly is releasing books in “bundles” with multiple DRMless file formats:

When you purchase an ebook bundle (currently available on a select set of titles as part of a pilot project), you’ll get access to all three of the formats we’re currently supporting. Since we began selling PDF versions of many of our titles, we’ve offered free updates to reflect published changes in the books; the same will apply to the Ebook bundle, which will replace the PDF option on those titles in the pilot program.

You can find a complete list of O’Reilly titles with sample chapters here. The books available as ebooks are clearly marked.

Take Control of Syncing Data in Leopard

Michael Cohen’s new edition of Take Control of Syncing Data in Leopard is out. You can buy and download the .pdf book from the Take Control site here. These are absolutely the best designed .pdfs of any sort I’ve every seen, and this particular book is a lucid easy to follow step by step guide to controling the way your synchable data moves between your Macs and other devices—including iPhones, iPods, PDAs and cell phones. This is a completely revised edition, from the ground up. You can buy the book for $10.00

You can read all about it here, and download a sample here.