Wednesday, October 6, 2010

A vanity press by any other name is still a vanity press

Have you heard of VDM Verlag? If you're like me, you've received an email "inviting" you to publish your dissertation with them. It sounds pretty gratifying, because hey, isn't Verlag a subsidiary Springer, the really well-respected publisher of lots and lots anthropology and primatology titles? Um, no. This is a different Verlag altogether, and one that carries with it real risks to your scholarly reputation. Thanks to Stacey Tecot for sharing with me the warning the University of Arizona is circulating to its faculty:

Beware "Vanity" Publishing Houses
We have recently become aware of a situation where some of our junior academics are publishing "books" with VDM Verlag, a German publishing house known for publishing the theses of PhD students in that country where it is sometimes necessary to complete the degree.

VDM solicits theses from academics and publishes them in a very poor quality format to keep costs low, and returns minor royalties if at all to the author.

Interestingly, VDM encourages the academic to purchase copies of their own text, much like the three Belbo, Diotallevi and Casaubon in Umberto Eco's Foucault's Pendulum encouraging authors to buy their own books of occult nonsense their vanity publishing house have printed. Just as with that story, VDM appears to cover its costs from the author's purchases.

The problem?

Other than simply ripping off the author (the royalties are abysmal and the terms are worse), the near scam is becoming very well known amongst researchers, reducing the perceived quality of VDM Verlag:

Writer Beware Blogs
Chronicle Forums
PhD Comics

Further, the books published by VDM Verlag are NOT independently peer reviewed or even proofread or copy-edited!! ...

and should not therefore appear as such in the ERAMIS system.

Unfortunately, we have several researchers who have fallen into the trap, written VDM-published books, and are now citing these books in promotion applications, apparently with the genuine belief VDM Verlag is a respected publisher, not the vanity press it appears to be. This jeopardises the quality of our institution through association with such a press; our academics risk looking like fools in citing these books as significant publications.

1 comment:

  1. A note to BANDIT readers: I just deleted a response from an alleged representative of VDM, not because I don't want to hear their rationale for their business model, but because it was so clearly spam that I didn't want to sacrifice valuable advertising space without getting a lucrative cut of the action.