Is there a problem with "non-publisher" journals?

Since the web allows anyone to produce information, then is the idea of a "publisher" out-dated?

Why not publish by oneself, rather than through a publisher?

  • 6
    The web is filled with self published material. Most of it is worse than useless. For better or worse, gatekeepers are needed to increase the signal to noise level.
    – Jon Custer
    Nov 4, 2021 at 15:43
  • 7
    What is a "non-publisher journal"?
    – henning
    Nov 4, 2021 at 15:51
  • 5
    @JonCuster, publishers are more than gatekeepers. The review process adds value and reduces the necessity for every reader to re-verify every paper. But you probably have the core of an answer.
    – Buffy
    Nov 4, 2021 at 15:53
  • 6
    @Buffy - I would suggest that the review process is central to the gatekeeping...
    – Jon Custer
    Nov 4, 2021 at 15:54
  • 3
    @Buffy Publishers don't review papers. Unpaid editors and referees do. Nov 4, 2021 at 22:49

2 Answers 2


The main issue in a coherent answer/resolution to this question is about what "publication" means, what the goals are, etc.

Yes, the notion that literal publication is only possible through traditional channels is obsolete, since, yes, it is not difficult to arrange to put things on the internet, either on one's own web site or on preprint servers. So, yes, one can indeed communicate to other people.

But, of course, if one has no prior track record, one will mostly be ignored, if only out of expediency. There's a lot of new stuff produced each day that become visible on-line.

People with long-established track records will often receive a bit more attention to preprints than others would, and with obvious reason.

The gatekeeping aspect has at least two components: factual accuracy, and "significance/status" of the results. For a long time now the factual accuracy has seemed to be subordinate to the "status"...

Yes, there is a flood of new stuff all the time, but mostly it is ignorable (if one has a bit of experience), so I don't care whether or not someone is supposedly curating it. I'd prefer to be my own judge. Not to mention the two-year-plus time lag (in math) for something to pass the gatekeepers. Further, for many years now editors have told me that ascertaining correctness (of a generally non-controversial result) is not my job as referee. More about "appropriateness for the journal". Code for lots of other things...


The publishers these days have two main functions. They raise the profile of published works through the reach of their journal and they vouch for the quality of the papers through the peer-review process associated with the journal.

Neither of these benefits are accessible if you self-publish. Believe me: some have tried. However, the hard reality is precisely because everyone can produce information, the amount of valuable information as decreased as a function of the total output. In other words, the good stuff is drowned by the bad stuff, and unless you publish in a reputable journal, your self-publish work will likely reach fewer people than the number of fingers on both of your hands.

There are influencers and snake-oil salesmen of every shade who manage to bypass traditional publishers and reach out to massive audiences, but these are rare exceptions.

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