The Lure of Lambert Academic Publishing
For graduate students hoping to enter the world of professional academia, publishing is huge. Having your work published in a respectable journal can be the deciding factor when applying for jobs, grants, or other programs. It’s a competitive process, especially in today’s crowded job market, and one of the major stressors of the field. On a more personal level, though, publishing can give a feeling of validation to those involved in scholarly work. Research and writing is typically lonely and often frustrating work. Having your contribution deemed worthy of sharing – or even valuable to your field – can make the struggle feel less arbitrary and the process more gratifying. Imagine, then, the elation that comes with being sought out and approached by a potential publisher – one who offers to print and sell your academic work alongside others in the same vein. It seems too easy, too simple to be true – and, unfortunately, it is.
In January of 2012, I completed a master’s degree at The New School, in New York. The capstone of my work there was a thesis project – a long-format paper examining the work of Japanese animation director Hayao Miyazaki. More than a year after completing my degree, I received an email from an “Acquisitions Editor” at Lambert Academic Publishing.
As stated by the Media Studies The New School’s electronic repository, you authored the work entitled “Goddesses of Water and Sky: Feminist Ideologies in the Worlds of Hayao Miyazaki ” in the framework of your postgraduate degree.
Due to the fact that we are currently planning publications in this subject field, we would be pleased to know whether you would be interested in publishing the above mentioned work with us.
LAP LAMBERT Academic Publishing is a member of an international publishing group, which has almost 10 years of experience in the publication of high-quality research works from well-known institutions across the globe.
Besides producing printed scientific books, we also market them actively through more than 80,000 booksellers.
Kindly confirm your interest in receiving more detailed information in this respect.
My first instinct – as with most tempting offers on the internet – was to do some research. The most cursory of web searches was enough to deflate my expectations for LAP Lambert. The top results on a Google search included articles titled “Lambert Academic Publishing: A Must to Avoid,” “Why You Shouldn’t Publish with Lap Lambert,” and my personal favorite, “Lambert Academic Publishing (or How Not to Publish Your Thesis).” However, the first result, LAP’s official site, is well-designed and professional-looking, albeit with an curiously dead-linked “Catalogue” section. They also maintain a frequently-updated Facebook page. LAP is obviouslty controversial, but it keeps up a good appearance – it’s nothing as clearly fraudulent as a “Nigerian prince” email scam. After following the rabbit hole for a while, I came away with the following information:
1. LAP Lambert is a subsidiary of VDM Publishing, a German company whose practices have been criticized as deceptive.
2. LAP actively approaches the authors of academic works for publication, but does not charge authors – at least not outright – for publishing their work.
3. LAP gains the intellectual property rights for the works they publish.
4. There is no academic peer review process for works published by LAP.
5. VDM’s publishing process is strictly print-on-demand and books are not “actively marketed” in any meaningful sense.
Paperback copies of LAP-published works seem to sell for between $60 and $80 USD. When a copy is sold, a royalty is paid to the author. I was unable to determine what this amount is, but none of the authors I read about online reported making any money with LAP. A paperback copy of the work is also provided to the author free-of-charge.
Now, it is very possible that LAP Lambert (and VDM) have a legion of satisfied customers who have profited from this arrangement. Some blog posters have suggested that LAP’s process is really designed to complement specific academic requirements in German doctoral programs. However, virtually every article I came across warned strongly against getting involved with LAP Lambert. There are a few very compelling reasons why.
First, and most significantly, LAP gains the intellectual property rights to your work. This means that the work would need to be drastically altered in order to be published by another company, or even self-published. If publishing with LAP gave your work scholastic credibility – or even marketability – this would be a fair trade. However, since LAP has no peer-review process, publishing through them could actually make your work less academically credible. I actually found a few university websites that specifically warned students against publishing with VDM or LAP. Publishing through LAP could be perceived as a red flag by an informed reader of your CV. Since LAP-published works are printed on-demand and do not appear to be actively marketed, their authors are essentially trading their intellectual property for a single paperback copy or their own work and the (unlikely) possibility of future royalties.
This is a bad bargain, especially since there are so many legitimately exciting options for publishing today. The internet has allowed niche areas of research to flourish on a larger scale and there are more academically respectable web-based journals and magazines than ever before. E-books and print-on-demand technology have also made self-publishing easier than ever. Since self-publishing is not peer-reviewed, it carries some of the same potential scholastic pitfalls as publishing with a company like LAP, but it allows the author to remain in control of his or her own work.
In fact, long before I was contacted by LAP Lambert, I made my own thesis available as a self-published digital e-book on Amazon and Barnes & Noble. I chose to do this for a few reasons. First, I wanted to make my work available to as many people possible and my university does not currently maintain an online archive of thesis projects. Second, in its current form, the work is not particularly well-suited for traditional publication. At around 120 pages, it is short for a full-fledged book, but long for a journal article. Scholarly publication would involve either fleshing out the entire paper or significantly editing an individual chapter, either of which would essentially constitute a new work. I did, however, publish the abstract (with a link to the full paper) in the online journal Film-Philosophy. Finally, I like the idea of being in complete control of my own work. Should the need ever arise, I can easily remove the e-book from online marketplaces or update the text file. I also control the retail price – I would much rather have my work available at a low cost to a large number of potential readers than force a dedicated few to pay $60 or more for a paperback copy. Since becoming available online a year ago, my thesis has been downloaded as an e-book around 150 times and earned a few favorable reviews, which I find far more meaningful than an overpriced hard copy.
Of course, the choice of whether or not to publish with a company like LAP, self-publish, or try for the best with a respected scholastic press is entirely up to you. My own experience with self-publishing has been positive, but there are many in the academic community that would warn against it. (The website PhD2Published has an informative four-part series that discusses the potential pros and cons of self-publishing academic work online.) I would, above all, encourage potential authors to be informed in their decision-making process. As a business practice, I don’t really see anything wrong with LAP taking works and printing them on-demand. What bothers me is that they seem to profit from the frustration, confusion, and desire for validation that so many young scholars have in abundance. Be cautious and protect your work – and if something on the internet seems to good to be true, remember that it probably is.