Field of Science

How many for-profit publishers are repackaging CC-BY articles into books?

Note added October 7, 2017:  Apple Academic Press has fully addressed the concerns raised in my July 13 post (  Their practices now ensure that authors are appropriately consulted and credited when their open-access articles are republished. 

As I and others have recently noted, Apple Academic Press is selling what appear to be ordinary multi-author collections of specially written chapters on a scientific topic but actually consist mainly of articles repackaged from open-access journals.  Although this usually comes as an unpleasant surprise to the authors involved, it's quite legal under the CC-BY license used by most open-access journals.

Although I've been a supporter of open access publishing since 2000, when I signed the original Public Library of Science petition, I'm far from being an expert.  I'm only now reading about the Budapest and Bethesda agreements and their strong consensus for CC-BY licensing.  I don't think the authors of these statements anticipated that commercial publishers would repackage CC-BY articles into books that are superficially indistinguishable from the multi-author volumes many of us have contributed specially-written articles to.  I'll do separate posts on the problems this raises for authors (see here and here); in this post I just want to consider how big this phenomenon is or is likely to become.

The only publisher I'm aware of that's doing this is Apple Academic Press.  I discovered them through a colleague whose article they had repackaged.  Further poking around revealed that the book in question consisted entirely of republished articles (not all open access) tied together by an editors' Introduction.  I then found other posts about other volumes from the same publisher, with similar problems. 

I now want to find out how widespread this phenomenon is, but I can't think of an easy way to find out how many other Apple Academic Press books are collections of repackaged articles (some appear to be original material), nor to check books from other publishers.

Even checking the one article I originally learned about from my colleague was surprisingly difficult. Since I know the title had been altered, I searched Google Scholar for the combination of authors of the article.  There were 5 authors; the combination of names was not unique - they've published another article together, with another author.  This search found the original publication but not the new book chapter.  So I clicked on 'Related articles' and the fifth article on the list was the repackaged book chapter, probably missed by the first search because it misspells one of the author's names!  If I had started with the misspelled author list I wouldn't have found the original publication at all.  Similar searches for other articles from the same book worked better - I quickly found the source articles for authors with unusual names or combinations of names.

This one-by-one approach is OK for checking a few chapters from one suspicious publisher, but it would be very inefficient for a general survey.  Unfortunately I can't think of a search strategy to identify other publishers that repackage CC-BY articles into books, or to identify articles that have been republished into books by unspecified publishers.




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  2. This may have to fall to librarians, as a form of quality control on their purchases. Perhaps there is some clever way to glean some of this information from publicly released information about the books (as you have), but any attempt to handle this systematically will run into the problem that you need to have access to the book's material before you can tell if it's original.

    Maybe if a publisher submits abstracts to a literature database, then we could look for plagiarized abstracts. Perhaps database administrators could also contact the listed authors to verify that the indexed publication is an original publication of theirs.

  3. Have you seen the CC-BY license terms:
    You are free:

    to Share — to copy, distribute and transmit the work
    to Remix — to adapt the work
    to make commercial use of the work


    If you want to get paid for your work, you might want to consider a different license.

    Here is what the notice says for one such publication that appears in an Apple compilation:

    This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.

    Are they not properly citing these works? That is what Retchless seems to indicate. Or is it that they are not properly cited. A proper citation would include the fact that the article is a CC-BY licensed work. I have no idea whether Apple Publishing is doing this, and certainly it would make sense to have this information available to potential buyers of the book.

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  5. Another thought:

    Both Amazon and Google are in a good position to check for prior publication. Both of them scan parts of the book for previews (link below). They have the data on hand, the problem is convincing them to do anything about it. They probably don't want to aggravate any of the publishers.

    Perhaps they could include a note on their previews to alert readers that the content of these books had been previously published. FWIW, I added comments to that effect to both Amazon's and Google's page for the Epigenetics book. - See more at:


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