Mouton "discounts" for ALT members

Frans Plank frans.plank at UNI-KONSTANZ.DE
Fri Nov 11 17:15:02 UTC 2011


Dear all,

since Bill continues on this list to specifically blame De Gruyter  
Mouton of depriving the typological community of something desirable  
(and I couldn't agree more that a higher discount on grammars and  
other typological titles for ALT members ARE desirable -- from any  
publishers, but especially from such publishers where editors vouch  
for quality with their good names), here's a few thoughts on his point.

I have no inside knowledge of De Gruyter Mouton's profit margins, but  
I would be genuinely surprised if they made a lot of money with MGL,  
or for that matter also with LT.  (Uri could give you particulars, I  
assume;  the editors of MGL could fill you in on MGL sales, without  
and with discounts.  For comparison, for the profit margin of a  
publisher not publishing anything like MGL, Elsevier, see the link  
provided by Sebastian earlier in this thread, http://svpow.wordpress.com/2011/10/22/economics-of-open-source-publishing/.) 
   It would seem more probable to me that such ventures as MGL are  
actually losing DeGM money, and on economic grounds they should go  
Elsevier's way.

Now, what I'd urge Bill to do, before continuing to bash DeGM, is to  
compare their grammar production with those of CUP, OUP, Routledge and  
others, forgetting about Elsevier for the moment:  these publishers do  
make a lot of money from grammars and dictionaries and other learning/ 
teaching materials of English and a very few other "major" languages  
(and from long lists of linguistics textbooks, again often with a  
strong English focus), and they do not seem to channel much if any of  
their profits back into producing grammars and dictionaries of "minor"  
languages.

"English Language" in particular is a huge industry in the UK (one of  
the biggest -- if not THE biggest, along with hedgefond management and  
other frauds such as sports & betting (sorry, Martin, I don't want to  
rob you of your obvious fascination with the Champions League)), and  
academic publishers are part of it.  Regrettably, "other" languages  
are benefitting next to nothing from it, not even academically, with  
"other" languages playing only a very minor and apparently shrinking  
role in UK linguistics.

In short, I find it rather misguided and unfair of typologists, of all  
linguists, to specifically attack DeGM, of all academic publishers.   
There would seem to be more obvious and more deserving targets for  
complaint.

This was only speaking to Bill's particular point.  There are lots of  
valuable things being said in this thread on questions of quality  
publishing with commercial publishers and otherwise.



Frans



On Nov 11, 2011, at 4:27 PM, Bill Croft wrote:

> I see that my initial message has prompted a number of responses on  
> various topics that were connected to that message, but not directly  
> addressing the issue that I originally raised. That issue was that  
> Mouton is no longer offering a discount to INDIVIDUALS that put  
> their grammars in reach, at least for employed academics at  
> universities in developed countries. My point remains that Mouton's  
> new policy is putting their books out of reach of individuals, and  
> that Mouton will actually lose more money (by not selling those  
> volumes at all) than it would lose if it kept the 50% discount (in  
> which case they would at least earn money from individual ALT/SSILA  
> members who bought the books - the numbers of which are so small  
> it's not like they would have to do a money-losing print run to sell  
> copies to individuals).
>
> I also raised the issue that the high list price of Mouton grammars  
> means that many universities cannot afford to buy them either. For a  
> small, poor regional university like the University of New Mexico,  
> it is difficult to justify spending a large part of the linguistics  
> library budget on a grammar of a Papuan or an African language. So I  
> am willing to buy such a grammar for myself - if I can afford to.  
> But I no longer can, from Mouton at any rate.
>
> This is not to deny that the issues subsequently raised - how for- 
> profit publishers function as the gatekeepers for the dissemination  
> of scholarly knowledge, accessibility of scholarly research in  
> poorer countries and to the native speaker communities, print vs  
> electronic resources, and so on - are important ones. Mouton's  
> former policy for ALT/SSILA members made a small contribution in  
> addressing some of these problems, and was quite laudable. Their new  
> policy is a step backwards that is deplorable in my opinion.
>
> Best wishes,
> Bill

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