Thursday, August 20, 2009

The Future of Academic Publishing

This is somewhat old news, but it's never too late to note that John Holbo is a legend:
The book is published by Pearson Asia (that’s a story in itself) and will be available in paperback by mid-August. They’ve been bringing out nice, inexpensive draft versions for my students in Singapore (that’s why I have an Asian publisher.) For this first general release I insisted on extending the deal I had insisted on for my own classroom use: I reserve the e-rights and so have a free hand to try manner of cool free e-stuff. I’m hoping one reward for my virtuous ways will be that some folks will want to adopt the book for classroom use. (Free e-availability is a big pedagogic bonus, I think.) And will then see to it that copies of the book are in school bookstores, so Pearson (and I) get paid a little. That seems fair.

You can check out the free online version here. I hope more philosophers start to do this sort of thing -- or, better yet, write unrestrictedly open-access textbooks.

For a striking contrast, I just noticed that Springer is trying to charge $100 for the Kindle version of a 'Time and Ethics' anthology. I wonder who they're thinking will pay that? (At least they have university libraries as a captive market for the $150 print edition.) Am I missing something? It'd seem far more sensible to lower the e-book price and maybe actually sell a couple of copies.

For the rest of us, it'd be even more sensible to just share our papers online (you do want to be read, right?), and do away with commercial anthologies altogether.


  1. Springer may charge $100 for the Kindle version of Time and Ethics, but you can get the most interesting passage in the anthology for free, courtesy of yours truly:

    "Most of the time, we live in an illusion of meaningfulness and only some times, when we are philosophically reflective, are we aware of reality and the meaninglessness of our lives. It seems obvious that this has a genetic basis, due to Darwinian laws of evolution. In order to survive and reproduce, it must seem to us most of the time that our actions are not futile, that people have rights. The rare occasions in which we know the truth about life are genetically prevented from overriding living our daily lives with the illusion that they are meaningful. As I progress through this paper, I have the illusion that my efforts are not utterly futile, but right now, as I stop and reflect, I realise that any further effort put into this paper is a futile expenditure of my energy."

    That's from Quentin Smith's contribution, ‘Moral Realism and Infinite Spacetime Imply Moral Nihilism’.

  2. > ‘Moral Realism and Infinite Spacetime Imply Moral Nihilism’

    That I would like to read.

  3. There are different types of infinity, and thus our actions are meaningful.

    If we were to isolate our quadrant of spacetime, it would be finite, and we could have a measurable impact upon the total utility present. No amount of suffering outside the quadrant can marginalize the concrete utility in that finite space, and the same goes for all the other finite spaces.

    Here is the perfect example of why we can't base any ethical decisions upon the premise of an infinite universe.


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