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Wow, someone wants to publish me!

June 11, 2009

Update: if you’ve found this old post and are interested in learning more about VDM, please see my translation of Nina May’s interview of Wolfgang Müller.

Does that sound sarcastic? It should.

The noxious German vanity publisher VDM Verlag Dr. Mueller has apparently cooked up a script (I speculate) to troll various institutional repositories and spam the authors of items found therein with offers to publish their theses. Here’s the text of the second such overture from VDM to me, which, amazingly (yes, more sarcasm), reads exactly as a “personal” message from Melissa Corlett, VDM’s Acquisitions Editor, sent to a colleague of mine in the US the other day. All errors, poor formatting, and missing punctuation are hers/the script’s.

I am writing on behalf of the German Publishing House, VDM Verlag Dr. Mueller
In the course of a research in Kansas State University, I came across a reference to your thesis on “We love open source software. No, you can’t have our code” and your email address.
We are German-based publisher whose aim is to make academic research available to a wider audience, so that’s why I am contacting you today.
VDM Verlag would be especially interested in publishing your dissertation in the form of a printed book. Your reply including an e-mail address to  which I can send an e-mail with further information in an attachment will be greatly appreciated.
I am looking forward to hearing back from you soon.

For one, the piece she mentions is an article in the open access Code4Lib Journal. It would make a mighty thin book. Beyond that, there’s the sheer inanity of asking–in an email message–for an email address from me so they can send me more spam. More galling, the works they are using to generate these spam messages are mostly coming from IRs, which are, of course, nearly always open access repositories. So what this message really says is

“hey, author, are you so vain that you will jump at a chance to publish your book, even with a crappy German vanity press? If so, we have a deal for you. After we publish it, we will make it look like serious scholarship [which it may or may not be, but will not be carefully edited by professional editors at the very least] and sell it for egregious sums of money, largely to libraries too lazy to identify and banish vanity presses from their purchases”

Incidentally, any library on that list should be ashamed of themselves.

This needs to stop. Authors do not get rich off of these schemes. Publishers do, by taking advantage of the collective naivete of authors, readers, and libraries. There are better, and friendlier, ways to get readership for your work, such as the aforementioned institutional repository and any number of open access publishers.

If you’re not convinced of the worthlessness and perniciousness of presses such as VDM, ask yourself why a publisher would spam the globe trolling for manuscripts. Is it really about scholary communication?

If you do agree, mark any and all such messages as spam in the mail service of your choice. Let’s call some spades spades.

PS – The funniest part? This quote from Ms. Corlett’s email signature:

“To write what is worth publishing, to find honest people to publish it, and get sensible people to read it, are three great difficulties in being an author” Charles Caleb Colton

Apparently she is irony-proof.

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10 Comments
  1. Stadtkatze permalink
    June 12, 2009 15:28

    Thanks for this sharp and sad to say true article.
    As a librarian in a small UAS library, I also think of VDM as a real pain in the a***, beg your pardon. (And there are more alike publishers, e. g., Grin, Igel since 2007, …?) It is a simple fact that their ‘opera’ have mostly quite attractive titles which allure our naive students. It is also a fact that there are lecturers who won’t see that it might be a mistake to spend money (nowadays, students’ money, of course) on these unscholarly titles which are inspite their high prices only cheap PoDs. Have you ever tried to read those low-resolution graphics found in many of those?
    On the other hand I did for a start achieve that some profs don’t accept citing of that publisher’s books in students’ papers or theses any more; to convince these students of the poor quality provided by VDM and alike seems to be a much more difficult thing to deal with…

  2. Grace permalink
    August 20, 2010 19:31

    Thank you for this article. I was contacted by VDM and very suspicious about them so I asked my thesis chair. She forwarded your article to me. I am glad that this article gives a warning about this inappropriate act from VDM. Frankly speaking, I did not know what was appropriate to respond when I received their email. The reason they gave of how they got to know my thesis was not very convincing. It was also funny that my thesis can be seen online if you properly google it. They did not know it, but requested me to send it to them by attaching it with an email. So I’ve delayed to respond to them until I read your article. Now I know what is appropriate to do…rejecting them.
    Grace

  3. Dale permalink*
    August 20, 2010 19:34

    Glad that my post here helped you figure out how to deal with VDM. Those emails are machine-generated phishing, plain and simple, so no response is the best response. Better yet, flag them as spam in gmail, hotmail, yahoo, or whichever mail service you use.

  4. marco permalink
    September 27, 2010 11:11

    I’ve published a book in the SVH imprint of VDM (www.svh-verlag.de). As an author, I didn’t had to pay subsidies. The book was distributed PoD and after one year about 25 copies were sold. For me as an author, I found the publishing agreement OK, since I didn’t had to pay anything and my dissertation was published online OpenAccess within my university repository in advance (and is still available of course!). Especially, for the libraries overseas that like to have a printed copy, I found this appealing. Well, 25 copies is not much, but since it was not my intention to make money out of it, I’m fine with it. Finally,

    Another point is that my university library stopped the PoD service for online dissertations, and hence this was a simple opportunity to provide printed copies of my dissertation for those who are keen on it. Obivously not too many ;-)

    Fortunately, nobody has to publish with VDM and its imprints and nobody has to buy their books. Hence, I find it a little bit unreasonable to damn this kind of publishing. The usual competition argument should be applicable here: When nobody buys their books , the imprint will be stopped.

    More annoying were the requests like the one I’ve received from an open access publisher (www.intechweb.org) that was not able to answer my questions regarding peer-reviewing, but asked for ca. 500 EUR as a publishing fee. I found this more unserious and ethically problematic than the business modell of SVH.

    Please note that my comment is about the SVH imprint, and not about the ‘main’ VDM publishing house.

  5. January 19, 2012 18:25

    the worst, is that I just discovered that they have made a book about me somehow, without my permission, that claims to be made of wikipedia articles (again, this would be a VERY thin book) but it claims to be 88 pages and sells for 66 USD. Ugh. If someone actually bought this it would not help my reputation. However, I probably cannot do anything as it is not by me, but the amazing author “Pollux variste Kjeld” whose other works include the seminal “Corpus Christi College Boat Club” and the ever-popular “Rosalia Railroad Bridge”. Which you can see below, has a nice cover than the book about me and is 112 pages!

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