Elsevier Spams Journal Contributors With Offer Of Language Revision

A few months ago I registered on Elsevier’s clunky old on-line manuscript submissions site and submitted a paper to Journal of Archaeological Science. It got turned down because the two peer reviewers disagreed on whether it should be accepted or not. No biggie: I resubmitted elsewhere. Today Elsevier Science & Technology Journals spammed the address I submitted from with an offer of language revision!

Need help getting published? Elsevier Language services can help you

Dear Dr. Martin Rundkvist,

Could expert language editing improve your chances of getting published?

• Language Editing
• Language Editing Plus

Our language editing team will make sure your manuscript is written in the highest standard of English.

We will correct spelling, grammatical and punctuation errors. We will also check for problems in parallelisms, tense and conjugations and eliminate improper language and poor word choice.

No, Elsevier, I do not need help getting published. I have a rather comfortable body of work in the scholarly literature, thank you. Nor do I need your help with language revision. You see, I’m the editor and main language revisor of an international journal. Do you have any idea how unprofessional it is to a) spam contributors to your journals, b) suggest in said spam that they may need some help to get into print? Shouldn’t you employ marketing people who know a little something about academics and academic publishing?

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I Was Wrong About Book-On-Demand

Here’s a fun case of me not anticipating an imminent technological development, not thinking that last centimetre of far enough. In July of 2007, six years ago, I wrote:

Lately I have come to think of books as computer devices, combining the functions of screen and backup medium. All texts these days are written and type-set on computers, so the paper thingy has long been a secondary manifestation of the text. People like publisher Jason Epstein and book blogger the Grumpy Old Bookman have predicted that we will soon have our books made on demand at any store that may today have a machine for making photographic prints. The texts will reside on the net, on our USB memory sticks or on our handheld computers/cell phones. The paper output/backup-storage device we call “a book” will be produced swiftly in the store by a dedicated machine.

A bit less than six months later, Amazon released the first Kindle e-book reader, making sure (in the words of The Guardian’s tech editor Charles Arthur), that a few years later “Amazon has millions of stores right on peoples’ desks, smartphones and tablets through its website and Kindle app”. Book-on-demand printing will never become big as I thought in 2007, because the texts don’t just reside on our phones as I noted – we read them on our phones now. I’ve never seen the point of a dedicated e-reader, just as I quit using my iPod as soon as I got a smartphone with enough storage for my music files. All devices dealing with information are converging on smartphones. And so, while use of the free Kindle smartphone app is booming, sales of the physical Kindle device are dropping off, reports The Guardian. And brick-and-mortar book stores are going the way of the record and video rental stores.

Strange though how poorly we (well, myself in this case) interconnect the various contents of our heads – an inability which H.P. Lovecraft calls the most merciful thing in the world in the opening paragraph of “The Call of Cthulhu”. When I wrote enthusiastically about book-on-demand printing, I had actually already begun reading books on my phone more than a year previously, in April of 2006, and I was already aware of e-reader hardware at the time. Only in 2010 however do I find myself entertaining the possibility of the paperback book becoming obsolete. This oversight probably had to do with e-book availability. In early 2006 few new books were available in digital format. The first one I read was a novel put on-line for free by its author, Michael “Grumpy Old Bookman” Allen. And reading PDFs on a smartphone still is no fun today, let alone on my tiny 2006 Qtek smartphone. Little did I know what Amazon was planning.

The Grumpy Old Bookman has returned to blogging! Check out his site if you like reading and/or writing and/or publishing!

Hindawi: Another Dodgy OA Publisher

Hot on the heels of the hapless Science Publishing Group, I have received solicitation spam from another dodgy OA publisher, Hindawi Publishing in Cairo, with another odd on-line archaeology journal.

The Journal of Archaeology has 71 academics on its editorial board. And a strangely generic name. What it doesn’t have is any published papers yet, after months on-line, or an editor-in-chief. So I wrote to some board members at European universities, and they replied that they thought the journal was probably legit, though they weren’t exactly sure. “The lack of published papers and low manuscript turnover has concerned me, yet they appear very professional in approach”, says one scholar, and “I personally know a good handful of the other Editors including a senior member of staff in my department. They are very well respected and knowledgeable so I would be surprised if we have all fallen for a scam, but I will look into it further”, says another.

Anyway, Dear Reader, if out of the blue you get an offer to do something with an on-line scientific journal you aren’t absolutely sure about, here’s some advice.

1. If they immediately offer you to not only contribute papers, but to also become a member of the editorial board and a peer reviewer, then it’s a scam.

2. Search the Wikipedia article about the publishers for the word “predatory”.

3. Look the publishers up on the Scholarly Open Access web site.

4. Does the journal have a named editor-in-chief? If not, then it’s a scam. If there is a named editor, google that person. If the person seems legit, email them at their departmental address and ask them to confirm that they stand by the journal.

Note that when I say “scam” here, I mean that the journals in question have no academic standing, no impact factor and no readership. They will almost certainly publish any piece you give them once you’ve paid their fee. But equally certainly, nobody will ever read or cite that piece.