Saturday, 28 May 2016

Was it such a good idea to put this review article in the public domain?

Two years ago, when posting a review article on Arxiv, I did the experiment of putting it in the public domain. The idea was to allow anyone to distribute and even to modify it, in the hope of increasing the circulation and usefulness of the article, as I explained in this blog post.
Putting the text in the public domain also has potential drawbacks:
  • losing revenue,
  • losing control.
The potential loss of revenue is not a problem for me, as I am already employed and paid to do research by the French research agency CNRS. In fact I am not sure whether scientists should earn money from their professional writings or patents. Anyway, in the case of such a specialized text, the potential revenue would be small.
The potential loss of control is a priori more worrisome. Could my reputation be damaged if someone did something bad with my text? In order to find out, I had to wait until people actually did something with my text.

 

Enters Amazon

My review article is now available for sale on Amazon, in the Kindle format, at the price of about $9. I had nothing to do with that edition, I guess it was done by an Amazon robot.

The problem is not that Amazon could make money from an otherwise freely available text. After all, having it on Amazon might be useful to people who would not think of looking it up on Arxiv. The problem is the formatting: judging from the preview, the Kindle formatting is disastrous, and in particular the formulas have become almost unreadable.

 

Menace or opportunity?

So is this Kindle edition a danger to my academic reputation? A lost opportunity? Or free advertisement for my review article? I hope it is mostly the latter, and in order to improve the advertising value of the Amazon edition, I have posted a one-star review that directs readers to the Arxiv version.
Still, I am disappointed that there is not yet a clean printed version of the text for sale – I might have bought it myself. But the experiment is not over, and I am still hoping that more people will “steal” my text.