I'm finally a real academic
No, the title of this post doesn’t refer to the fact that I finally displayed a poster at this year’s ASOR Annual Meeting, although that would be a good guess. Rather, it’s about an e-mail I received last night from an Acquisition Editor at VDM Publishing House Ltd. offering to publish my M.A. thesis. And no, I am not thrilled at the prospect of publishing my thesis with them – in fact, I sent a short but (in my opinion) polite e-mail declining the offer. I’m quite pleased, though, that I’ve now made enough of a dent in the academic world that at least those people who spend a lot of time trawling through recently submitted theses can find my work.
I had, of course, heard of VDM before last night, thanks mostly to this entry on Michael E. Smith’s blog and this one on Writer Beware, which he links to. If I hadn’t, though, I’d like to think a quick Googling would have made me a bit suspicious, as the first three auto-completions Google suggests for “vdm publishing” are “vdm publishing house,” “vdm publishing house ltd” and “vdm publishing house ltd scam.” That doesn’t really inspire much confidence. I’m not sure what exactly to call their methods, as they object to people calling them a “vanity press” or referring to their “cold-call” e-mails as “spam” (“No sir. Our model is the trapezoid!”), but it doesn’t much matter, and the previously-linked blogs discuss these points in a lot more detail than I’d like to.
I’m still a bit confused by one line of defense offered by commenters on some of those blog posts, though. What everyone seems to agree on is that if you can publish your work somewhere else, you should. In terms of my thesis, rather than publish those 70 pages as they are, it made more sense to distill them down and work on turning the most interesting parts into a better-written and better-edited paper, which is what I chose to do. The defense goes, though, that it’s better to publish with a press like this than to simply leave your thesis or dissertation unpublished, and I don’t think I buy that. Leaving other issues – for example, the merit of having two CV/resume entries for exactly the same work – aside, it doesn’t seem to me that this is actually very different from not publishing your thesis, since people who have published with them almost universally comment on the fact that their work was accepted as-is with no further editing. So, for American theses/dissertations, at least, what’s the difference? Skimming through the VDM publications on Amazon, it looks like their prices are roughly $65-$75 for about 70-100 pages of book. ProQuest/UMI, on the other hand, tells me that I can get a paper copy of my thesis for between $45 and $75, depending on whether and how I want it bound. Or, if anyone really wanted to read it, they could just e-mail me and ask for a PDF (or, in this specific case, wait for us to publish the paper). The only real difference is that VDM books are listed on Amazon. I guess that’s a selling point?