I won’t publish work that I can’t read

Following on from last year’s refusal to advertise unread books for payment-in-kind, now I’m going to refuse to publish work that I can’t read. (Maybe this will become a disappointing annual series!)


Recently, I was invited to submit a chapter to be considered for publication in a book on cultural heritage in conflict. It’s a respected series (with a commitment to knowledge exchange); I respect the editors’ work; and common friends like the editors as people and professionals; so I was reluctant to make this decision.

Nonetheless, when I asked about the online archiving of any published chapter, I was warned that the publisher would have ‘very strict terms and conditions’, that I would even have to pay for a paper copy of my own work, and that two institutions (the publisher and their professional associate) would have to agree to online access.

That would put me in the absurd position of publishing an article that I myself couldn’t afford to access. So, I’ve taken the reckless logical decision not to publish anything that I can’t read.


Obviously, this unconsidered principled position raises the awkward problem that it is theoretically (and I stress theoretically) possible that I could get a job (when I could afford more expensive publications, but people who had not escaped this position could not, which seems less than solidaristic).

If nothing else, it’s awkward because I’m already enthusiastically committed to eventually publishing an academic(ish) book on property destruction in the Cyprus Conflict. However, that will be for a primarily professional audience and [other excuses].

This stand could also undermine any expectation of payment for my labour (such as for a trade book), which would leave me unable to afford to do any more labour (though a trade book would be affordable, so I wouldn’t feel guilty about that). Hopefully some reasonable idea will emerge. Where there’s a web, there’s a way!

2 Responses to “I won’t publish work that I can’t read”

  1. Personally, I would not cooperate with them on it regardless. When I am out cruising around on the net, I frequently run into these services that show you a journal article or book chapter and say, “You can read this article for $29.95 or buy a copy for $63.00. The hell you say!!! For a Roosevelt dime, I might condider looking at it, Otherwise, get out of my life and stay out. This is like saying, You can send an e-mail message from my computer for only $6,000.” You can make a call on my telephone for $8,000.” I will give you a potato chip out of my lunch bag if you will give me $700 for it. I need a Tums for my aching belly, and you can get it for $10,000. “Want a nice cone of chocolate ice-cream—only $436 if you act now.”

    I have no idea what is driving this nonsense. However, if I had to guess, it is academics who publish in a journal like American Antiquity but get no financial compensation for doing so—and they see this as a pathway to get paid for the the research and writing that all of their academic forebears had to do for free. As my Uncle Malcolm used to say: “I wouldn’t give them a blade of grass if they were a goat grazing on a concrete pasture.”

    Just sayin’.



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