Some European doctoral programmes require publication of the thesis as part of the academic progression to the degree. This is a noble attempt to make research part available to the public. It is also a ritual of sorts that replaces the public disputation or defence, that usually followed the private defence, in post-medieval Universities. This also meant that there was a steady stream of dissertations desperate for publication and several larger academic houses set up special monograph imprints to handle just this type of text. They didn’t really make money on these titles, and they appeared if spectacularly small print runs. It’s possible that the students had to cover some of the set-up costs out of pocket but this was all understood as part of the doctoral process. No-one was getting screwed in this system. However, less scrupulous publishers have found that with new technologies in digital publishing, online sales and marketing, and print-on-demand facilities they can actually turn a profit by stocking a title list with dissertations from around the world with an overhead so low that the sale of 4 or 5 copies likely brings in a %100 profit. This is, in a nutshell, the business model of LAP LAMBERT Academic Publishing. LAP is probably one of the most recognized publishers amongst graduate students. Not because they produce work we all use but because at some point, every graduate student will get an unsolicited e-mail from them, offering to publish their work. I got mine today, and it’s worth taking the time to explain why this is a problem.
Keep in mind, LAP is not exactly a scam publisher (they do, more or less, what they claim to do with your work, and they don’t charge editorial or handling fees). But that does not mean they are entirely forthcoming about the relative value of their service. LAP is one step removed from a vanity press. That step is the fees authors normally pay to have a text published. They do not send your manuscript for peer-review. There is little or no editorial guidance or support for the author. Authors are given a style guide for their submission and they are responsible for making any changes to the text that LAP requires. These are all services that any academic press would provide at some basic level. What is more, no responsible academic search committee would consider a text published by LAP as anything more than a vanity publication, without the author investment. For that audience, it is worthless. Considering that this market model targets early career academics and new students who are still new to the whole scholarly publishing ‘thing’, LAP strikes me as predatory in its approach to potential authors.
For those who don’t worry too much about an academic career, but see this as an easy way to make a few currencies on a bit of school work they would otherwise happily forget, it’s worth knowing what chances you have of selling that monograph. LAP does virtually no promotion or marketing for its back-list. Your work is available only through online distributors at a print-on-demand basis and while authors are entitled to royalties these are based on a percentage of sales only once a certain number of copies have been sold. Those first copies pay you nothing. Considering the market for scholarly monographs, you many never see royalties at all depending on what LAP sets as the minimum number of before-royalty sales.
I know this, and anyone who operates Google knows this. This business model may not be illegal it is, in my opinion, morally repugnant.
What is less subjectively wrong is that LAP was, and apparently continues, to misrepresent itself through acquisitions editors that may not actually exist.
My e-mail came from Holly Russell, who appears to be the same Holly K Russell that appears on the LAP facebook page and who has her own facebook page, devoted primarily to her work at LAP. Her profile says that she is originally from Sydney Australia, that she attended Heriot-Watt University and that she currently works for LAP in Saarbrücken (although her e-mail came from Bayern, based on the IP address). Ms Russell is also known in the stock photo industry as “Beautiful Woman Standing Against a Wall.”
Either LAP employs the same HR firm that finds models for stock photography, or they are fabricating staff members in their acquisitions department.
I have not replied to Ms Russell, yet. I have forwarded this little research to Beall’s predatory journal database for his interest and amusement. I’ll wait until he documents this particular case of LAP’s less than subtle tactics before I ask Ms Russell if she has left modelling for publishing.