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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