Vanity Press or Monopoly Busters?

A few months ago, I got an email from “iConcept Press” inviting me to write a book chapter in their IR journal based on my AAAI paper. I ignored it, like I ignored another email in a similar vein from another “publishing house”, and found at least one blogger who was just as suspicious at this seemingly mass solicitation.

You see, in the academy we are conditioned to believe that the lower chances of acceptance, the better the venue for publishing, so if you’re willing to accept me to your club right from the start – huh, forget it!

A couple of weeks ago I got another mail from them. This time, the happy bunch invited me to be a reviewer on one of their books. Now, that was really amusing – if not a writer, then I’d be a reviewer? pathetic, I thought. But is the picture really this simple?

It was interesting, first, to see that they do actually use a peer-review system, even if perhaps not a super-duper double-blind system. And then I started wondering, is that conditioning for favoring low-acceptance publications really still relevant in the self-publishing era?

I remember when I published my first paper on AAAI, I was quite outraged at the idea that you have to pay, then to give away all copyrights, and then be used as a money bait for readers, as the publication meant I could not give free access to my own readers, unless I pay again. In a time when publishing your words on the web is such a common privilege, that seems plain wrong.

Back in the times when publishing was a costly process, high selection rate guaranteed that subscribers won’t waste their money sponsoring the print of low-quality papers. Furthermore, anything not printed had a very low chance of getting read by other researchers, not to mention cited, and so readers relied on editors to indeed include only the best. Nowadays, papers are read mostly online, and if your paper is accessible to search engines, that suffices – whoever finds your research useful will read and cite it. This Wikipedia entry has the whole story in a nutshell.

So as for myself – I still did not publish or review in iConcept press, but I am now less dismissive of this somewhat disruptive industry; not because it will win over the established venues, but because it will accelerate the move towards decentralized and online publishing, better fit for our era.

15 responses to “Vanity Press or Monopoly Busters?

  1. iConcept Press is now listed on Beall’s List of predatory publishers:

    • Thanks for visiting, and for the reference, Robert. “Predatory publishers” is an interesting term… 🙂 My point still stands on the flaws with the established publishers, though, and Open Access can and should be done right…

  2. I checked website that Robert refers and didn’t see iConcept Press on the list. My question is about the difference between books and journal articles. Journals publish original papers while nobody submits his/her original papers as book chapters. I’m not concerned by the originality for books and more interested in learning the how the book publishers not to be predatory.

    • Mark, thanks for stopping by! I believe at the time of the comment posting, I did see iConcept listed there. However, you’re right in this distinction. The point, though, is what is the value of publishing in an unknown venue with an unknown review quality, work that is not original, and being required to pay for it while still keeping it as open access? in that case, why shall I not simply publish my work on my blog and save all the hassle? what is the added value of iConcept and others similar to it?… please explain if I am missing anything.

  3. Dear all, I am an editor in iConcept. Just to clarify, the reason we have been removed from Beall’s List is because we have proved that we have quality peer-review system and in fact we rejected quite a few papers in the last 4 years.

    Best regards

    • Hey Jimmy, thanks for the clarification.
      Being associated with iConcept I’m curious to hear what’s your take on the question I posed above, of what exactly is the value added by iConcept over self-publishing, in an era when anyone can publish or access content on the web?

  4. Dear Ofer, you might be find the information via our website to answer some parts of your questions:

    In addition, open access do not mean the quality is not good, many famous journals e.g. BMC, they are also open access with high impact factors. If authors like you publish sth on the internet somewhere without recognised peer-review, I do not think your work can give confidence to readers. For example, how do you prove your work are great?

    Just my 2 cents

    • Thanks. I actually did read it earlier and didn’t find an answer there. What you write merely goes back to the standard publishing system, and then it’s just a competition for which source is “more credible” and has a higher rejection rate, and there iConcept will not win over the traditional large players. Personally, when I cited sources for my papers, I was more interested in their own citation rate than in which journal or conference they were published in, so I didn’t care much if the version I cited was just on someone’s own website, as long as it was cited heavily (for which Google Scholar gives a good picture).

  5. Sorry, I got some typo above, sent from iPhone is hard 🙂

  6. But if the paper just published in a personal homepage, how it can get high citation rate, e.g. H-index? It might be possible in some cases, e.g. very famous people’ homepage, but certainly not common.

    • As I mentioned, papers get searched and found today on aggregators such as Google Scholar. It doesn’t matter if nobody visits my homepage as long as the paper is indexed by Google.
      Open access collections such as are another form of self-publishing, which also gets its fair amount of citations. These also clearly have no business motivations behind the publishing decisions.
      I’m not dismissing iConept, I just find it a peculiar hybrid between traditional peer-review dinosaurs and self-publishing, and I was struggling to see the value for it.

  7. You are talking about two different things here. One is the visibility, which you are right as people can easily search a paper via Google scholar. However, it does not mean people will cite the paper as the quality of the paper has not been proved, e.g. peer-review. Traditional journals have peer-review but usually very slow (I have a paper submitted to a journal 8 months ago but still have not heard anything…..) I think most of open access publishers can somehow get the balance if they have a qualified review system.

    You raised an interesting point, please let me know if you have some papers that have not been published anywhere but with high citation rate. We will do some research on these papers.

    • Jimmy, peer review does not warrant quality. That’s exactly the paradox that iConcept faces. Most researchers trust established venues because they are just that – established, and you are trying to get into that same game. Good luck with that, but it will take a long time.
      Authors, at least those I got to work with, cite a paper because they read it and found it novel, interesting, worthwhile, not because it was peer-reviewed. I myself cited also papers that were published as simple technical reports, that didn’t matter to me nor to my co-authors, what matters is the value and novelty in that paper.
      In my opinion, peer-review serves mainly to filter papers when you just want to “keep up” in general, but if you are after what’s new in your area of expertise or to find prior art for your own research, the last thing you’ll do today is to rely on publishers.
      One of the most famous example for a groundbreaking paper not published by traditional publishers is Perelman’s proof of the Poincare conjecture (“The entropy formula for the Ricci flow and its geometric applications”, G. Perelman, 2002). Perelman simply uploaded it to without bothering to publish anywhere else, and anyone who read it immediately recognized its value. According to Google Scholar, it has no less than 1090(!) citations.

    • can u really provide some strong evidence that iconcept press is not a ‘vanity press” and publishing a chapter in their book can really give you added advantage for e.g. in your CV?

  8. Ofer, peer review does warrant quality if the reviewers are experts in the area and they really take time to review and give useful comments which are our reviewers are doing. In addition, when users do a search for example, they certainly will choice a journal with peer-review first rather than a journal without peer-review, then read the paper deeply as time is limited.

    Anyway, we are talking why open access is useful here, even for the paper you mentioned, after 11 years only got 1090 citations. There are a lot of other papers published in a similar period have much more citations. For example, for a paper published in ACM SIGMOD 2000, “Mining frequent patterns without candidate generation”, only 13 years, got 4606 citations according to google Scholar. Another paper called “Mining frequent patterns without candidate generation: A frequent-pattern tree approach”, published in DMKD(a tier-2 journal in database area), 2004, got 1166 citations.

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