Robert Darnton on my publisher

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I’m working on a textbook on the history of international relations. I have a contract with Open Book Publishers in the UK. The latest issue of the New York Review of Books has an article by the historian Robert Darnton where he mentions my publisher:

Operating from Cambridge, England, Open Book Publishers also charges for PDFs, which can be used with print-on-demand technology to produce physical books, and it applies the income to subsidies for free copies online. It recruits academic authors who are willing to provide manuscripts without payment in order to reach the largest possible audience and to further the cause of open access.

The famous quip of Samuel Johnson, “No man but a blockhead ever wrote, except for money,” no longer has the force of a self-evident truth in the age of the Internet. By tapping the goodwill of unpaid authors, Open Book Publishers has produced forty-one books in the humanities and social sciences, all rigorously peer-reviewed, since its foundation in 2008. “We envisage a world in which all research is freely available to all readers,” it proclaims on its website.

I think regular textbooks are immoral. How can you charge money for imparting knowledge that belongs to us all? How can you insist that you should be paid for a book that teaches someone that 2 plus 2 is 4?  Damn all you McGraw-Hill, Prentice-Hall, Houghton Mifflins of this world! And to add injury to insult, regular textbooks are far too heavy to carry around. It’s a health risk for students!

And as for you, Samuel Johnson, in the age of the internet the name of the game is exposure. The blockhead is you!

By far the best thing about Open Book is that it’s run by fellow academics without commercial middle-men. They read, they care, they are responsive and cheerful. When has it ever been possible to say that about a regular publisher? I strongly recommend them.

My book isn’t finished yet, but it has a web page. Check it out!

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