I imagine the academic publishing industry is either hurting from or worried about digital theft, just like all other publishers. But some of the pressure is coming from other quarters.
As I’ve discussed on this blog before, academic publishing is a strange industry. Researchers need to publicize their research. Publishers need research to publish. So researchers give their work for free to publishers on the understanding the publishers will publicize the work. The publishers print and distribute the work and retain all the money.
Fundamentally, publishers need researchers since there is no other source of research. Researchers, on the other hand, don’t need publishers, they need distribution. And with the advent of the Internet, it’s no longer so clear that expensive printed journals are the best method.
I’m thinking about this as I listen to a task by Kenneth Crews called “Protecting your scholarship: copyrights, publication agreements, and open access.” He is currently suggesting that we negotiate our publication agreements with journals. For instance, he argued that academic authors should not be transferring their copyrights to publishers, but rather license the copyright to the publishers. This way, the authors retain ownership of the work, which would eliminate strange transactions where authors have to get permission from the publisher to quote from their own work in a future book.
This would seem to suggest that we have some bargaining power. And, as open-access options become more prevalent, it seems that we should. Has anyone reading actually negotiated a publication agreement?