On quality

The quest for knowledge is an endless one and there are always other avenues to pursue. So it is that I have lately found myself winding down alleyways and side streets, coming upon writers and thinkers that stand far outside the academic world and its frequently prepackaged answers but that still have much to say and pursue their research with the same ardor and precision that we take to be marks of professional researchers. One must always take such people with a grain of salt, but then one must always take anything one comes across with a grain of salt. A truly objective perspective is impossible, hence too a truly objective analysis, and to pretend otherwise is to lock the mind in a closet. We recognize this, do the best we can, and carry on holding things lightly. This is commonly known and I don’t see the need to argue for it.

What is perhaps less commonly known, however, is the degree to which self-publishing has penetrated the world of research. Everything is now done for profit and to professionally present research one must jump through the hoops of journals, which then go on to sell the piece for amounts that can be quite surprising. The author of the article receives nothing more than a slot on their CV for their efforts, but such slots are required and the key to advancement so in a roundabout way – if promoted – they do get some monetary reward. One other reason, the “real” reason I suppose, for this process is to ensure the quality of the research by having it be reviewed by others in the field prior to acceptance or rejection. From submission to publication (if the work gets there) can take anywhere from nearly a year to over two years. Few people see the need to play this game unless they have to, and that of course goes double for those outside of institutional academic strictures. Many of these people choose instead to self-publish in one manner or another, and even those pursuing the traditional journal path will sometimes self-publish as well.

I recently came across two writers who fall into this between-the-cracks area of research, being non-academics (in the professional sense) but researching and writing in the world of nonfiction, thought and speculation, the abstract. Checking for each on amazon I admit that I was a little surprised to see CreateSpace Independent Publishing listed in the book details sections. I shouldn’t have been surprised, but there you have it. We still have the hangover that the trad-pubbers have all the best writers and highest quality books. Even writing here numerous times on the very opposite of that the idea lurks somewhere in the recesses of my mind. It’s high time we root out and banish that idea. Quality is a matter of dedicated pursuit and has little to do with paid editors sitting in an office. Such people can of course be a tremendous help but they are simply not necessary. If one is determined enough one can find others of the same or even a higher caliber willing to work with authors on editing and refining their texts. Three such people work as soda jerks here. Ahem. The bottom line is this: a book’s (or article’s, essay’s, what have you) quality has nothing to do with trad-pub or self-pub and has everything to do with the effort and pursuit involved. If curious crack the thing open and see for yourself, that is the only way to find out.

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