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Re: Post Brussels : the economics of editors

Not self-evident for the reason Phil gives. And I would urge everyone to read the initial part of John Thompson's "Books in the Digital Age" (Polity Press, 2005) where he masterfully analyzes the respective roles of human capital, intellectual capital, economic capital, and symbolic capital (the latter is what Phil calls "prestige") in scholarly publishing. Symbolic capital, as Phil suggests and Thompson argues, is often the most important type of capital for scholars themselves (and typically leads to increases in economic capital through professional advancement).

Although I can't claim to know how munificent the payments to journal editors get, I suspect they ultimately pale in comparison to the symbolic capital associated with editing prestigious journals. Yes, there is some competition among journal publishers on this score, especially where societies are outsourcing their journal publication and want to maximize their economic return so as to be able better to subsidize their other valued activities. On the other hand, this competition is ineffective when a press like ours actually owns the journals; if one of our editors is lured by an offer from another publisher, the editor does NOT have the option of taking the journal away. The most the editor can do is to launch a competing journal, which of course entails sometimes steep startup costs that the raiding publisher may be reluctant to absorb. If one of our editors is approached by another publisher, we simply say that the journal is not for sale-end of story! If the editor is unhappy, we say goodbye to the editor and get another. But in fact we have never had an editor lodge such a complaint, and our journals are doing just fine, thank you!

I don't see how gathering data at the aggregate level is going to increase competition; the survey will not reveal the titles of which journals are funded in which ways and which are not. But the aggregate data will be helpful in illuminating the overall landscape of university press journal publishing. As AAUP president (beginning in June) I will be recommending that the AAUP start gathering data on AAUP press journal operations systematically again, as it once used to do some years ago.

At 6:40 PM -0500 3/5/07, Joseph J. Esposito wrote:
Is it not self-evident that such a survey will increase the cost of
scholarly communications? I am not opposed to such a survey, or to
any survey, but one should ponder what it means to make information
more efficient. The editor of the Journal of Oz gets nothing, but
then sees that the editor of the Journal of Atlantis gets ten grand.
Demands will rise (and who can argue that as a matter of fairness
that Oz is not worth as much as Atlantis?), pushing expenses up,
putting pressure on pricing, taxing library budgets further. Other
journal publishers will study the data and say, "Hmmm. We could pay
more than that and still make money." So editors and journals will
become the object of a bidding war. (This war has been running for
years, but the more efficient the information, the bigger the guns.)
As the bids rise, so will the prices to libraries.

Of course, I would love to see such a survey. But then I am not a librarian.

Joe Esposito

----- Original Message -----
From: "Sandy Thatcher" <sgt3@psu.edu>
To: <liblicense-l@lists.yale.edu>
Sent: Sunday, March 04, 2007 6:28 PM
Subject: Re: Post Brussels : Elsevier and Australian STM debate 'sprouts'

Nope, Penn State Press pays no support for editorial offices or
stipends for editors. All that we provide is, for a few journals,
copyediting and for all letterhead stationary if they desire it.

I'm not sure what you mean by "course releases." If you mean
release time for faculty from teaching courses so that they can
dedicate the time to journal editing, that is not within the
Press's power to effect. Journal editors need to negotiate release
time with their own department heads. The Press plays no role in
these negotiations, direct or indirect.

Since clearly university presses differ in these respects, I
suggest that you put together a short survey for journal managers
to fill out on the AAUP listserv for journal managers. Then we'll
have data that can serve as the basis for making statements.

Imperfect information allows for market inefficiencies, but in this
case, Joe is forgetting that editors derive as much (or more) from
their relationships with publishers than the often mediocre
honoraria they receive in return.  Editors are mostly paid in an
abstract commodity called "prestige", which can be translated into
worldly goods within the academy (advancement, grants and awards,
people) and let us not forget the powerful position of being a
gatekeeper of what is published.  We cannot simply consider editors
to be employees of a publishing house. Such a narrow view only
focuses on monetary transaction between the two actors and ignores
the more valuable transfer of prestige.

--Phil Davis