The University of Sunshine Coast's website gives the difference as:

Vanity publishers are publishers that will charge the author a fee for publishing a book ...

While similar to vanity publishing, predatory Open Access publishers seek to take advantage of the Gold Open Access model, whereby the author pays to have an article available as Open Access on the journal website.

This sounds pretty trivial: vanity presses are presumably willing to publish anything, including journal articles, if paid.

If there is a difference, what is it? If there is no difference, why did Jeffrey Beall create a new term?

  • 2
    I wouldn't describe vanity publishers as disreputable. They provide a valuable service for people who want a small edition of a book for personal/family use. A family cook-book for example, or a personal family history. Normally sales are only to the author.
    – Buffy
    Apr 29, 2019 at 0:03
  • 2
    There is also a third option: self-publishing, which can be used to publish materials when the author doesn't want to use a publisher who wants more control than the author wants to yield. Amazon, for example, has a self publishing arm through which books can be sold to the public. Some textbooks are published this way.
    – Buffy
    Apr 29, 2019 at 0:05

2 Answers 2


I've always seen the terms as somewhat distinct.

A predatory journal seeks to deceive and create the impression of publishing a peer-reviewed article. I take the predatory journals to always be engaged in a conspiracy to defraud the academic process (where authors can range from stooges to willing co-conspirators). Here, the reason why authors pay can be imitation of Gold-standard open-access or it can be pay-to-play to defraud their employers.

In contrast, vanity presses are sometimes just really low-tier publishers without malice. I don't think they always are trying to create the impression that what they produce is high quality academic work. The failing from an academic perspective of a vanity press is that they don't have robust (or any?) standards for what they will publish in book form and they don't engage in academically sufficient (or any?) editing practices of what they publish. The product on offer is you can say "I published a book". I think the business model here is that vanity publications don't make publishers money, so they instead charge the authors to break even (or make a profit?).

Regarding your point about a vanity presses willingness to publish an article, sure they can print it up for you -- as a book, but I severely doubt they are going to make it seem like it's volume 4 of the international journal of basketweaving and wickerwork.

I'm sure it varies by field, but in my field as I understand it, journal articles in top-tier journals tell us far more about the quality of someone's work than even books in top-tier presses, because presses publish things of sufficient quality that make them money. As you go down the scale on each side, incentives and motives shift, but the article vs. book distinction remains meaningful.

  • So the differences are: journal vs book publishers, and honest low-tier vs impostor? Apr 29, 2019 at 9:29
  • That's at least how i interpret the distinction.
    – virmaior
    Apr 29, 2019 at 10:11

In principle they are both going in the same direction but the aim is slightly different:

  • Vanity publishers are publishing (nearly) everything and the authors usually have the aim of getting something out (in an academically looking style) that they would otherwise not get out. e.g. homeopathy or personal views that are not supported by data and or contradict current knowledge. They serve the personal "vanity" of the authors. Sometimes the money might not be the primary focus of such a publisher (but often it is) but getting a certain view across is more important. In a department where I worked before one old (and close to forced retirement) professor used such a publisher to get out a (quite weird) book about how to integrate the existance of god with evolution. But yes, as statet in the comments below they can also be used for publishing harmless books/papers for family use e.g. a familiy tree.
  • Predatory publishers aim to make as much money as possible form academics by accepting everything and charging open access fees. This might contain legitimate science but a lot of it will not have the necessary standards. Instead of the author's vanity the money is the primary focus here.

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