HAU Ouroboros_Black_HAUAn editorial for HAU: The Journal of Ethnographic Theory shares a publishing model that’ll interest academic publishers, scholarly librarians, and researchers in all disciplines. And it aims to set out the publishing structure for its entire field.

“The American Anthropological Association (AAA) has recently announced that it will soon issue a Request for Proposals (RFP) to invite potential publishers to bid for the business of managing the association’s publishing program,” states the editorial. “Because the AAA is the world’s largest publisher of anthropology titles (twenty-one journals and Anthropology News), this new publishing contract will shape the discipline’s public image and scholarly communications for years to come. At this critical juncture we must ask: Will AAA publications spend yet another decade locked within a publisher website where only research libraries can afford to purchase them?” Instead, drawing on input from the Scholarly Publishing and Academic Resources Coalition (SPARC) and the Public Knowledge Project (PKP), the editors propose “a concrete, practical, and financially sustainable way that the AAA can make their publishing program open access: a cooperative model of scholarly publishing. This tailor-made design will cost the AAA nothing.”

Partly this model is inspired by technology. “In our digital age, archiving, citation tracking, and social media promotion are also part of the process of scholarly communication,” the editorial continues. “Because a new digital publishing medium has taken hold, the AAA has new opportunities to promote access and share content, as well as new technologies to keep track of how content circulates, how it is read and cited, how it contributes to on-going conversations and public discussions. Our cooperative model for scholarly publishing is designed for this new world.”

As to how it would work, “the AAA would explore a multi-stakeholder cooperative association with library consortia, and possibly associated funding bodies, as well as Libraria, that was dedicated to publishing its journals on an open access basis. The cooperative will be viable financially because it will be able to attract enough partners that it would be able to produce the same or better levels of professional publishing.”

The editorial argues dramatic cost savings under the new structure. “Libraries are currently paying EUR 3,800 ($4,290 USD) per anthropological research article,” it notes. With 400 academic libraries worldwide contributing $7,000 per annum each to the cooperative, this cost would fall to $5.80 per article.

The AAA may or may not take up the proposal. But it looks as though defenders of for-profit academic publishing have an even harder job than usual to explain why scholarly libraries and the public at large should continue to pay through the nose for the results of publicly-funded research.


  1. Certainly, the cost of scholarly publishing could approach zero. Authors and peer reviewers want only credit toward promotion and tenure so the major obstacle is that coterie of intermediaries who cling to their privilege and revenue.
    Thus, this news is somewhat encouraging.

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