7.0453 Opinions: E-text, Advertising, Publishing (1/335)

Wed, 2 Feb 1994 18:17:23 EST

Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 7, No. 0453. Wednesday, 2 Feb 1994.

Date: Mon, 31 Jan 94 17:51 +08:00
From: S50786@BC750
Subject: E-texts, advertising & scholarly publishing

Dear fellow Humanists,

Three apparently divergent discussion topics have caught my attention
recently: the respectability (if any) of Edwin Mellen Press, the effect
(if any) of the rapidly increasing availability of e-texts on the future
of conventional books, and the propriety (if any) of using e-mail
discussion groups such as ours for the purpose of advertising. These
issues can all be regarded as pointing toward a fourth topic that draws
the other three together: namely, the implications of e-groups for the
prospects of "self-publishing". I apologize in advance for the length of
this message--but if you can make it to the end, there may be a payoff!

I join those who believe computers and computerized texts will never
replace the experience of cuddling up with a good book in the evening,
or dusting off the same old library copy that countless past scholars
must have handled, perhaps while standing in the same spot. Books,
surely, are here to stay, not necessarily because of their utility, but
because they generate a spiritual "space" that simply cannot be
reproduced by "e-space" (virtual reality notwithstanding). Just as
sure, however, is the fact that computers are having an irreversible
effect on conventional books. Most of us now do all our writing on
computers, with the result that many publishers ("respectable" and
otherwise) now require their authors to submit "camera-ready" copy.
Yet this is only the beginning....

With e-groups we are seeing the growth of international communities
of scholars who are _actually communicating_ in a way that is
unprecedented in the history of academia. Increasingly, business-
minded individuals are recognizing and attempting to exploit the
amazing potential of such groups for various sorts of profit-making.
And so the question of "advertising" inevitably has to be addressed.

Along these lines, I can sympathize with much of what has been said
lately about advertising, in response to Malcolm Brown's 11 Jan.
complaint about Strangelove Press. Having some interest in using e-
mail for advertising, I once requested a "free copy" of IBJ's special
issue on advertising, as offered in their Oct. 93 posting. All they sent
me was a copy of exactly the same message that had already been
posted on Humanist, consisting of _abstracts_ of the issue, not the
full articles. It looks as if Mr. Strangelove's interest in our e-group
does not extend very far beyond his wallet. (My sincerest apologies if
this is not true! Anyway, I'll be interested to see whether or not
anyone at The Internet Business Journal reads this complaint, since
this would indicate the extent to which they actually _participate_ in
our e-group.)

In _this_ sense, I agree that advertising should not appear on
Humanist. Or if it does, then by all means, it should be clearly
identified as such, using a system like that suggested by Hoke
Robinson on 21 Jan., whereby the word "Ad" would appear in the
message's subject line. Either approach has its own danger associated
with it. If advertising is banned, then there is always a chance that
the proverbial "baby" will be "thrown out with the bathwater", as
unfortunately happened to David Rand (18 Jan.). If, on the other hand,
word gets out that Humanist is allowing ads as long as they say "Ad"
in the subject heading, then messages like Mr. Rand's would be in
danger of being "drowned" in the tub of dirty bathwater that would
then collect; in other words, those of us who tend to skip "mere ads"
might end up missing such announcements from fellow Humanists,
even though we would have been interested in reading them. Even
worse would be the possibility, suggested by Chris Edwards (18 Jan.),
that the influx of advertisers would lead to the requirement that ads
be paid for. If this ever happened, then I hope members would be
exempt from paying such a fee, otherwise the fee would inhibit many
of us from sharing the products of our labor with other Humanists
who might be interested.

I looked up the word "advertise" in my dictionary and found that it is
closely related in meaning to the word "publish". The second definition
given for both words is exactly the same: "to announce publicly"! There
is nothing about "advertising" that _necessarily_ implies a profit-
motive. On the contrary, what is necessary is that the content of one's
announcement must include a claim that the product has some "worth"
in order for it to be a true advertisement. (The word "advertise"
comes from the Latin "ad-vertere", and "vertere" is etymologically
related to the word "worth".) Have you ever seen an advertisement
that said "_Don't_ buy me, I'm worthless!"? If so, there must have
been some reverse psychology intended.

Given a sufficiently broad understanding of the word "advertise", it
seems clear that advertising _as such_ should not be banned from
Humanist. Indeed, much (if not most) of the messages posted on our e-
group could be regarded as advertisements of one sort or another.
What I find distasteful about _some_ of these ads (Strangelove Press
included, as far as I can tell) is not the fact that they advertise, but
rather that they do so by announcing to the public (i.e., _us_)
something most of us find to be of little or no value, _and_ that their
apparent motive is to _make a profit_. I guess this makes me one of
those who affirms what George Lang called the "accepted platitude
among us humanists that we are not tainted by considerations of
profit or career" (16 Jan. 94)--though like him, I must confess to have
worked as a salesman before studying philosophy. Seriously, since
nothing any of us presents to the e-group is likely to be deemed
"worthwhile" by _everyone_, I suggest that the absence of a profit-
motive (rather than any judgment of intrinsic "worth") should be used
as one of the basic criteria for judging whether or not a given
"advertisement" should be allowed any e-space in our group. And for
borderline cases, the question (as hinted by Ken Laws' example of
"good net citizenship" on 15 Jan. 94) should be: Is this person a real,
participating member of Humanist? If so, then let's be a bit more
lenient and let the person give us the sales pitch!

So how does all this relate to Edwin Mellen Press? They don't
advertise on Humanist. And as far as I know they are not planning to
replace their book publishing with the production of e-texts at any
time in the foreseeable future. Moreover, I have no strong opinion
about the merits of that particular press. However, I do have some
experience with another academic press with a similar "borderline"
reputation: the most substantial book I have written to date was
published last year by the University Press of America. Although this
press, like Mellen, has the reputation in some circles for being a
"vanity" press, I can report that my book was by no means
automatically accepted. Not only was it reviewed, but the reviewer
submitted several pages of invaluable comments and criticisms--
giving rise to changes that took me a full year to implement. I had to
prepare the entire manuscript myself, and submit it in camera-ready
form. Although I was not required to pay for the printing as such, I
_was_ required to purchase (in advance) a certain number of copies of
my book. And at US$57.50 each, it doesn't take many copies to add up
to a large bill--even with a generous author's discount!

Anyway, when it was too late to change my mind, it occurred to me
that, if I had invested about 20% more money and paid a printer here
in Hong Kong to print the book, I would have received _ten times_
more copies and retained the "ownership" of my book! I calculated that
by doing so, and by limiting my own monetary gain from its sale to a
maximum 10% royalty, I could have sold the 478+ page hardback to
fellow scholars for roughly ten dollars apiece!

Since then I have started a publishing company that has published two
of my other, smaller books, and I have done a fair amount of research
into what it takes to be a "self-publisher". The main service provided
by many publishers nowadays (and by _all_ publishers in the not-too-
distant future) is, without a doubt, marketing (i.e., _advertising_ and
sales). Prior to the days of e-mail, this left writers living in
twentieth century, mass-market societies with virtually no choice
but to go through the disagreeable motions of searching for a
publisher, only to find that their work was judged according to market
concerns with little or no relation to its "academic worth".

E-mail in general, and e-groups in particular, have the potential to
change what seemed like a necessary evil only a decade or two ago.
We scholars who are not yet such a household name that our books are
sure to sell in the tens of thousands now have a free and easy way of
"announcing" the availability and merits of our work to a wide and
_interested_ "public". That is, we have this opportunity as long as
e-groups are ready and willing to allow--or better yet _encourage_--
their members to "advertise". When such marketing-by-e-mail of
self-published books becomes the _standard practise_ among
academics, then we can stop debating over whether or not the likes of
Mellen or UPA are or are not "respectable". We can stop because we
will not need to resort to such "borderline" presses--or for that
matter, to the likes of OUP and CUP, provided we gradually earn the
respect and cooperation of "the library acquisitions people", who, as
Craig Walton so keenly observed (17 Dec. 93) "can kill or sustain a
small press". Instead, by spending a little extra time announcing the
availability of our book(s) and shipping them off to interested
readers, we can offer books of high academic quality at prices that
are _affordable_, even on the modest income of an academic!

Well, that's my idea in a nutshell. I'd be very interested in any
comments from fellow Humanists on its feasibility (or lack thereof).
What e-ideals (if any!) does this vision of academic self-publishing
violate? What problems are self-publishers likely to encounter in
using e-groups to market their books? Could the use of IPPE and other
such "e-review" methods eventually supplant the existing system of
peer review used by conventional publishers (the lack of which is one
of the reasons libraries are reluctant to buy self-published books)?
Are there any other Humanists out there who have experimented in

The name of my publishing company is "Philopsychy Press" (PPP). If
other interested scholars present themselves, I would be happy to
make this press more than just a vehicle for publishing my own books,
by extending it to assist other scholars in self-publishing (perhaps
enabling them to avoid the time-consuming process of setting up a
company). PPP is a _non-profit_ company and I am an active member
of Humanist, so I believe it is appropriate to "advertise" PPP in this
way. I have no intention of "lining my pockets" with any money that
might come from the sale of PPP books, though I wouldn't mind lining
the walls of my office with something other than the stacks of ready-
to-ship books that are currently decorating it!

With that in mind, and especially in light of Elaine Brennan's message
of 20 Jan., confessing she is "more frustrated by advertising that
pretends to be substantive than by a more obviously identifiable 'buy
me! buy me!' notice", let me say here and now that I think it would be
just great if everyone who reads this message would actually _buy_
one of the two books I have "self-published" so far. One is a textbook
with a novel approach to introducing philosophy to non-majors, called
_The Tree of Philosophy_. The other is an interpretation of the
biblical vision of politics that supports something akin to the
"anarchy" (in a good sense of the word) that we see operating on
networks such as Humanist; it is entitled _Biblical Theocracy_. The
books cost US$6.25 each, including postage. Longer blurbs describing
these books are available upon request (see below).

Since this--the willingness of e-group members (perhaps even you,
Chris Edwards!) to buy each other's books--is the acid test as to
whether or not the computer can serve as the "missing link" that
makes scholarly self-publishing really feasible, I want to make it as
easy as I can for you to respond. If you are a member of Humanist,
simply post a note to my e-mail address, requesting one (or both!) of
these books, and I'll send it to you immediately (by sea), along with a
bill. If you wish, you can send me a check at the same time, on the
understanding that your money would be returned if you are not
satisfied. Otherwise, you can wait until you receive the book and have
a look at it first. If it doesn't look like a "real book" to you, or if for
any other reason it is not what you expected, then simply send it back
(but pay the return postage please).

In hopes of promoting the idea of scholarly self-publishing to the e-public
at large, I recently wrote a general announcement "advertising" the
availability of PPP. I will append a copy of that announcement to this
message. I would very much appreciate it if fellow members of Humanist
could assist me by posting that announcement to any scholars who might be
interested in self-publishing (and who are not members of Humanist, of
course), and even to other relevant e-groups if you know of any.

Responses to the general idea of self-publishing should be sent through
Humanist, while book purchases and specific comments or questions
regarding PPP should be sent as a personal message to me (at
S50786@bc750.bitnet). When the time comes, I will endeavor to post to
Humanist a summary of the salient points raised in any such private

Steve Palmquist

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
*** Please feel free to post this message to any other relevant lists --
with apologies to those who end up seeing it more than once! ***

What do the following twelve authors all have in common? William Blake,
Edgar Rice Burroughs, Stephen Crane, Washington Irving, D.H. Lawrence,
Anais Nin, Thomas Paine, Ezra Pound, Edgar Allen Poe, Upton Sinclair, Mark
Twain, and Walt Whitman. No, they did not all dream of a day when
computers would rule the world! Actually, none of them even had access
to computers. Yet they were all "self-publishers", writers who for one
reason or another decided not simply to _write_ their books, but to
_present them to the public_ as well.

With the advent of the computer, self-publishing has become a more
viable option than it has ever been before. Many commercial publishers
now require authors to submit their work in computer-readable form. And
it is only a small step from there to the stage of authors simply
publishing their own work--with far less suffering than that endured by
many of the above-mentioned "heroes" of self-publishing history.

As a result of frustrations in dealing with various commercial and
university publishers over the past decade, I decided last year to "self-
publish" two of my own books. To do this, I set up a company called
"Philopsychy Press" (abbreviated "PPP"). ("Philopsychy" means "love of the
soul".) It's still too early to tell whether this experiment will be a
smashing success, a dismal failure, or (as is likely) something in
between. But the initial signs are good. And in any case, I have learned a
lot about how to be, and what it _means_ to be, a self-publisher.

I would be happy to share what I have learned so far with anyone else who
is, or might be, interested in publishing their own book(s). Indeed, one of
the main reasons I set up PPP as an actual _non-profit company_ is
because I hope its primary function will eventually be to assist other
self-publishers in publishing their own books, with the publication of my
books becoming only a secondary emphasis. My idea is that, for a minimal
fee (to cover PPP's costs), such authors would use the PPP imprint and
have their books printed inexpensively in Hong Kong. I would share useful
information such as computerized address lists of potential buyers in
return for PPP authors agreeing to share such information with PPP
whenever they come across it.

Although PPP is still in its infancy, it has the potential, I believe, to lead
the way into a new era in academic publishing. This is especially true
because of the far-reaching implications of the opportunity we now have
to "spread the word" about such things by means of electronic discussion
groups. If you are interested in knowing more about how PPP operates--
especially if the prospects of self-publishing interest you-- please let
me know and I will gladly send you (either by e-mail or by conventional
post, as you wish) a copy of the brochure, "Introducing Philopsychy Press".

The two books I've published so far are entitled: _The Tree of Philosophy_
(subtitled: "A course of introductory lectures for beginning students of
philosophy") and _Biblical Theocracy_ (subtitled "A vision of the biblical
foundations for a Christian political philosophy"). A third book, called
_Four Neglected Essays by Immanuel Kant_, will soon go to press and
should be ready in March or April. PPP is also distributing a limited
number of copies of my book, _Kant's System of Perspectives_, as
previously published by University Press of America. Please let me know
if you would like to receive a copy of the PPP leaflet describing these
four books. Or if you prefer, I can post the description(s) of one or more
book(s) directly to your e-mail address.

All PPP books are professionally printed and bound using high quality
materials. The price of the first two books (published in paperback) is
just US$4.50 each, while the prepublication price for the third book
(hardcover) is US$10. Postage in all three cases is an additional US$1.75
for sea mail or $5.25 for air mail. _Kant's System of Perspectives_
(hardcover) is _not_ a self-published book, so it costs US$35 (which,
believe it or not, is 40% off the list price!), plus an additional $2.75 for
sea mail postage or $8.25 for air mail. Checks can be sent in any major
currency. For currencies other than US$ and HK$, simply use the current
exchange rate; but please add 5% to the total in order to cover the cost of
transferring the funds.

If you are willing to write a review of any of these books for an
appropriate scholarly publication, I will gladly send you a copy of the book
free of charge. However, please do not request a free copy unless you
genuinely intend to write a review. If you later decide not to write a
review, you may either pay for the book or return it in saleable condition.

Any comments or responses to the general idea of self-publishing, or to
the idea of PPP in particular, are welcome. Please send these, as well as
orders and requests for further information, directly to me, either at my
e-mail address (S50786@bc750.bitnet), or via Philopsychy Press (P.O. Box
1224, Shatin Central, N.T., Hong Kong). Thank you.

Steve Palmquist

P.S. The documents listed below are all available (in either electronic or
printed form) from Philopsychy Press:

- Introducing Philopsychy Press
- 12 Initial Questions for Prospective Self-Publishers
- Some Classic Self-Published Authors and Books
- Helpful Reference Books for Self-Publishers
- Sample PPP Pricing Scenarios
- PPP Address Lists Currently Available
- A Sample PPP Copyright (Title Verso) Page
- Brief Descriptions of:
- _The Tree of Philosophy_
- _Biblical Theocracy_
- _Four Neglected Essays by Immanuel Kant_
- _Kant's System of Perspectives_