Thursday, July 28, 2011
a new reformation: the rort that is academic (biblical) publishing
I just got notice from an academic (Biblical) publishing house. A new book. Price $90.
What a rort.
What happened to the Reformation? Remember the people who died for the belief that the Bible belonged not to an exclusive elite, but to the whole people of God, who insisted that translation be in the vernacular, who fought for lay interpretation.
500 years later, we still have an elite, sustained by the academic publishing market, fused with the research academic. Here’s how it works.
Academics do research. They need to publish their research, so they write. What they write is quite elite, so only a few people read it. So not many books sell. So the price is expensive.
Yet other’s in the academic guild have to read what their peers write. So academic libraries still have to buy these books no matter how expensive. Which means a guaranteed market. And ensures little competitive pressure to make a book more accessible.
I know this happens in all academic disciplines. I know that “pure” research (cf applied research) is important. I know that there is an academic speak which is is an important shorthand (see my post – Can I swap your pliers for my Economic Trinity?)
But when books are priced at $90, the world of biblical scholarship has priced itself as an elitist occupation, affordable to a few, inaccessible to the many. Anyone for a new reformation?