Alex Soojung-Kim Pang, Ph.D.

I study people, technology, and the worlds they make

Scholarly publishing really is just a form of vanity publishing

Okay, all publishing involves at least a little bit of vanity, but… I recently published an article in an Elsevier journal, and today they sent me a message about their “article services.”

Think all you can get are reprints? Think again! I could get an “eye-catching, full-color, poster of your article on the cover of the journal,” or “an attractive color poster” of my article, “Perfect for your lab or office,” or a “Certificate of Publication… in a high-quality frame, dark brown wood with gold trim.”

Just in time for the holidays! Except probably not.

I wonder in which countries, or which disciplines, these things sell? Academic life has lots of well-worn rules about display and status, and the book-lined office, piles of paper on the desk (and floor and extra chair), and harried yet abstracted expression are all signifiers of The Life and how well you play it. (Few things mark the boundary between tenured faculty and adjuncts more powerfully than their control of space: the bare office shared with two other people fairly screams, “I’m just here temporarily, pay no attention to me.”)

But having a poster advertising an article… that seems over the top, at least in the places I taught. But maybe in places that are very status- and publication-conscious, it’s actually useful to have such in-your-face markers of accomplishment?

[To the tune of Keith Jarrett Trio, “You Took Advantage Of Me [Live],” from the album Yesterdays [Live] (a 2-star song, imo).]

1 Comment

  1. I bet the posters go over big in corporate settings. Maybe in the halls or something. Having your researcher’s name on the cover of some of those is a big deal there (at least judging from the reprints business we get).

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