I just found that PDFs of chapters of my book (Semitic Noun Patterns, Harvard Semitic Studies 52, 2003) are being sold for $30 each by Brill, a giant academic publisher, who did not publish the book.

The whole thing can be bought on paper for $32 (e.g. at Amazon), or, blessedly, downloaded for free from Library Genesis.

What is going on? The Eisenbrauns family business that originally published the book was bought out by Penn State University Press -- not Brill -- while the President and Fellows of Harvard University own the copyright -- so how can Brill pull off this scam?

If you know about the presumed deal allowing Brill to do this, I would appreciate learning about it.

  • Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat. – eykanal Dec 24 '19 at 15:23

Brill Announces Collaboration with the Harvard Semitic Museum on Three Book Series (September 29, 2017).

This is most likely a press release from Brill, so I wouldn't give it 100% credibility just because it looks official. That said, I don't see why your priors are so much against it either. Recently, the Mathematical Association of America handed its journals (including its de-facto flagship, the American Mathematical Monthly) over to Taylor&Francis. If nothing else, it likely has taken a load off their backs, since they now no longer have to keep track of subscriptions and access.

EDIT: See the "Buy now at Brill" link at the HSS website? That should confirm it.

EDIT2: None of this should be read as a defense of giants swallowing academic (university- or society-based) micropublishers. It's just something that works in the current environment, for reasons that themselves would probably make a good question. I wouldn't be surprised if money is moving around under the table here, but at the same time I expect at least some of it being due to the increasing difficulties of handling subscriptions, payments and access controls when writing for a worldwide audience (GDPR and US export controls are but two things that come to my mind). I think we're going to end up with a bipolar publishing scene, with commercial giants on one side and OA on the other.

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    Thank you, that's it! My priors were in fact in favor of the hypothesis that Brill had made some sort of deal. I consider it a borderline scam to charge $30 for these chapters which have no value on their own, but one can justify it on free market "willing buyer" principles. In any case, no one is making any money off this: Not me, not Harvard, and not Brill. And hopefully, the few individuals who want this have the sense to find it on Library Genesis. – Joshua Fox Dec 22 '19 at 15:20
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    My guess is the Harvard people in charge of these series just wanted someone to take on the burden of distribution, and make a few bucks -- say, $1000-5000 a year for the whole series -- without thinking about how trivial the money would be, how absurd this looks, or the benefits to academia of just distributing PDFs for free. – Joshua Fox Dec 23 '19 at 8:11
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    "no one is making any money off this...not Brill" unfortunately the probability that someone accidentally buys this (perhaps because they mistake it for a standalone paper, or they think it's the whole book) is non-zero (and non-zero enough that Brill bothers to do this). – Max Dec 23 '19 at 17:44

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