Apple Academic Press

I first encountered Apple Academic Press (tagline: “Publishing Quality Books and Journals in the STEM & Other Fields”) when I read about Christopher W. Schadt’s unwholesome experience. he found that, without asking permission or even notifying him, they had reprinted in one of their books a PLOS ONE paper which he was a co-author of. (It’s well worth reading his article, and the comments.)

The trail of exactly what company does what is a bit murky, but it seems that Vestal Creative Services, a division of Harding House Publishing, was hired to compile books for Apple Academic Press, and that the book (maybe all Apple books?) is then distributed by CRC Press, a member of Taylor & Francis Group. Between Vestal, Harding House, Apple, CRC and T&F, there’s plenty of space to pass around the blame for what happened in Schadt’s case.

Picture 1I decided to take a closer look at Apple Academic Press. From their front page, I picked a book at random — Environmental Health: Indoor Exposures, Assessments and Interventions. It contains ten chapters. I looked into the first three, before losing interest. Here’s what I found.

Chapter 1. Lead Exposure of U.S. Children from Residential Dust by Joanna M. Gaitens, Sherry L. Dixon, David E. Jacobs, Jyothi Nagaraja, Warren Strauss, Jonathan W. Wilson, Peter J. Ashley. Based on the Google Books preview, this turns out to be a retitled reprint of their 2009 paper Exposure of U.S. Children to Residential Dust Lead, 1999–2004: I. Housing and Demographic Factors, which is freely available from PubMed Central.

Chapter 2. Teachers Working in PCB-Contaminated Schools by Robert F. Herrick, John D. Meeker, and Larisa Altshul. This turns out to be a retitled reprint of their 2011 paper Serum PCB levels and congener profiles among teachers in PCB-containing schools: a pilot study, which is freely available from PubMed Central.

Chapter 3. Flame-Retardants’ Effect on Hormone Levels and Semen Quality by John D. Meeker and Heather M. Stapleton. This turns out to be a retitled reprint of their 2010 paper House Dust Concentrations of Organophosphate Flame Retardants in Relation to Hormone Levels and Semen Quality Parameters, which (all join in for the chorus!) is freely available from PubMed Central.

The Google Books preview for the Apple book omits the beginnings of these three chapters, but does show the beginning of Chapter 8 (Airborne Exposure from Common Cleaning Tasks by Anila Bello, Margaret M. Quinn, Melissa J. Perry, and Donald K. Milton, previously appearing in PubMed Central as Quantitative assessment of airborne exposures generated during common cleaning tasks: a pilot study), and I can tell you that the Apple reprint does not credit the original publication venue. There’s no reason to think that any of the others do, either.

In the comments to Schadt’s blog, I see that G. Kasperek went through a similar exercise with another Apple book, Prion biology – research and advances, and found much the same:

The fact that all chapters are reprints is not obvious to unsuspecting readers. Indication of the sources can be found only at the end of the book, and is hidden in a section called “Author’s notes”. Within this section, indication of sources for each article is hidden in a paragraph called “Acknowledgements”, which first and foremost comprises the acknowledgements from the original article, with the bibliographic details appended.

So it seems that the entire business model of Apple Academic Press is to harvest two-to-four-year-old open-access papers from PubMed Central, change their titles, and republish them at $100 per volume without drawing attention to the original sources — either not mentioning them at all, or hiding the citations in the bottom of a locked filing cabinet stuck in a disused lavatory with a sign on the door saying ‘Beware of the Leopard‘.

So any protestations from Apple or Vestal personnel over in the comments on Schadt’s blog, claiming that the lack of citation of their paper was an oversight, look rather hollow. Instead, this seems to be SOP for Apple books.

What bothers me most about this is that they change the titles of the articles. I like to think the best of people, but I find it hard to imagine any other motivation for this than to conceal what they’ve done.

Jeffrey Beall’s warnings about predatory publishers usually recommend authors to stay away. In the case of Apple, I can’t do that, since they don’t solicit authors — they just go right ahead and publish their work whether they like it or not (or indeed whether they even know about it). But I can recommend that no library buy any of Apple’s books — at least not without checking first whether all the contents are freely available in PubMed Central.

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16 Responses to “Apple Academic Press”

  1. Thea Hark Says:

    Excuse me, but are you really as ignorant as you seem? Did you even read the entire posts to which you link? If you had, you would know that you’re the one who is coming across here as predatory. What’s your issue here? I was once employed by Vestal Creative Services, back a few years. I’ve never met a more principled CEO, so I’m pretty sure her perspective is one I can trust over yours. Hostile jerks like you are what make the Internet such a dangerous place. Sheesh. You make me embarrassed to be a human being.

    • Mike Taylor Says:

      Hi, Thea. It’s nice to know that the CEO of Vestal is a principled person. But that doesn’t change the fact that the business’s model is to charge $100 to read retitled reprints of freely available papers whose authors are not even notified that this is happening. If that is your definition of “principled” then I think we are operating on rather different assumptions.

  2. brembs Says:

    I really don’t see the problem here. The articles get selected for additional audience. Someone has to do the selecting – to me, that’s like someone picking my article from 1.5 million published each year. Wow, I certainly wouldn’t complain!

    That’s post-publication review, plus it benefits the economy. It’s precisely what CC-BY is for – as long as authors are credited. Maybe I don’t want to search for the relevant papers, I’d rather pay an editor to select the best articles for me – I’ve heard this argument in defense of GlamMagz. Now someone is doing precisely that – and after publication as I always argue – and people also complain? I completely do not get what is wrong with someone selecting what they think is the best research and asking for someone else to pay for this service.

    • Mike Taylor Says:

      You don’t understand what’s wrong with the republisher deliberately concealing the origin of the articles?

      • brembs Says:

        Hmm, read too quickly and missed that point, sorry. I think as long as the info is there (even if it is buried in the acknowledgments), it should be fine (or does CC BY specify the way in which credit is given?
        Also, the title being changed should not matter in principle (*how* it is changed might have an effect, though), unless the article was non-derivative, am I correct?

        So attribution might be fishy in terms of publication source and that should raise red flags, I agree, but as long the authors are there and the content and message of the papers remained, that would be most important to me.

        So I’ll correct my previous comment: in principle this seems to be fine to me, but the credit of the source could be improved. As an author, I’m still not sure if I cared that much about the publisher of my original article, that’s up to them to litigate.
        That being said, if the book with my article were to end up accruing ‘negative’ reputation because of questionable practices, that’s a different matter.

      • brembs Says:

        See also my comment here: http://rrresearch.fieldofscience.com/2013/07/apple-academic-press-predatory.html

        Perhaps the execution can be improved upon, I admit, but in principle, this is exactly what we want!

  3. Mike Taylor Says:

    Bjorn,

    I don’t see how the economy is benefitted if libraries are tricked into paying $100 for hardcopy volumes containing papers that they (like everyone else) already have access to in their original and more useful online form.

    I agree there is no reason why there shouldn’t be a place in the market for a print-on-demand house whose role is to provide printed-and-bound copies of PLOS and BMC papers for those readers who prefer reading offline and who don’t have printers of their own.

    However, an ethical house of this kind would (A) not actively conceal the source of the works by changing their titles, (B) inform the authors of their works’ availability in reprint volumes, and (C) charge something closer to the prices of other print-on-demand publishers — e.g. you can by a hardcover copy of my 285-page dissertation from Lulu at £12.02 (= $18.46), rather than $113.95 for the comparably hefty Epigenetics, Environment and Genes.

    So Apple Academic Press is concealing the sources of work from potential buyers, not informing authors, and charging six times what they should be charging for access to already-free work.

    Yeah. Predatory.

    • brembs Says:

      Ok, all very reasonable points. Just a few thoughts:

      (A) It’s hard to tell for sure if changing titles and putting sources in the acknowledgments is intentionally concealing (it’s suggestive, though), but intentional or not, it could have the effect you mention on potential customers.
      Put another way, it would be a clearer signal of what a potential customer is paying for if it said “collection of the best science not in GlamMagz” on the cover or some such. So no argument from me, would be good.
      How to instruct, police and enforce that? I’d imagine that’s a solvable problem for people developing licenses.

      Still, as an author, I wouldn’t be upset, while as a member of a university with a library that might potentially buy the thing on false grounds, I’d be upset.

      (B) Well, I find letting people know is good practice and not doing it just falls back on the publisher. Personally, I wouldn’t be *upset*, as long as it’s obvious that I’m the author and that my work (title!) isn’t being distorted to say a different thing from the original.
      In fact, the more people try to publicize my work without causing me additional work, the better 🙂 It used to be that you had to pay PR people to promote you…
      Clearly, I’d put inclusion of my articles in such a book in my CV and for that reason alone it would be desirable to be informed – but there are a lot of things researchers desire and publishers couldn’t care less about

      (C) I think it’s dirt cheap! Imagine, they have this really awesome, prophetic editor who knows exactly what is going to be the absolute top scientific discovery out of millions and millions of publications and he/she carefully, deliberately hand-selects (you know, the wheat from chaff thing) a very exquisite few publications for inclusion in this very exclusive book. I think we both know publishers who do this on a scale of several tens of thousands per article (not per issue!) with only people like you and me complaining about the practice. So from the perspective of the status quo, this is not only cheaper, but also better for authors: the articles that didn’t make it into this selection, still got published. The 92% rejected authors of the aforementioned ‘traditional’ publishers do not share this privilege. 🙂

      So while I agree there clearly is plenty of room for improvement, I still think the principle is desirable and that this instantiation of it is at least already better than what we have now.

  4. brembs Says:

    See also here: http://okfnpad.org/z4LJFQM6ha

  5. bjoern.brembs.blog » Publisher selects the best open access science – authors complain Says:

    […] some authors and colleagues are upset about, is that a new publisher, Apple Academic Press, is selling […]

  6. Ren Says:

    I’m surprised that the real “Apple” hasn’t already forced closure or a change of name.

    • Mike Taylor Says:

      Well, since the “real” Apple doesn’t operate in academic publishing, its trademark is inapplicable there — just as the Beatles’ vanity label Apple Records wasn’t able to force Apple Computer to change their name. (Though IIRC, they did try to do that when iTunes launched, arguing that it made Apple Computer a music publisher.) Tradmarks apply only within fairly narrow fields.

  7. Marc Couture Says:

    A few comments on this important issue.

    (1) I’m surprised with researchers being so much concerned by others trying to make money with their works. In the traditional (still dominant) model, the publisher owns the rights to the articles and may make money on top of subscription revenues by selling these rights to third parties (for instance, for a collective work, like in this case), and nobody seemed to care that much.

    (2) In my opinion, the only honest way to make money out CC-BY works is to offer the advantage of the print format, which many people may prefer (instead of printing hundreds of pages from PDF’s). So people (or libraries) would pay for something they value. Some people have mentioned the value of selecting relevant articles among “millions” (?), but this seems to me highly questionable.

    (3) As it seems that some third parties circumvent – or at least play hide-and-seek with – CC license conditions, adding restrictions / conditions to the licence (SA, ND and/or NC) wouldn’t have much effect, as these could well be ignored. Suing is certainly not a practical solution. Exposing the offenders in the social media might be a better road. Now many of us know something important about Apple Academic Press which, in response to the public outrage, seems to have decided to change its practices, according to one of the discussions cited here. Maybe we would need a list like Jeffrey Beall’s list “predatory” OA journals. In fact, one the blog post cited was titled “Apple Academic Press: Predatory publisher of scholarly books”, and it seems that Mike Taylor is following Beall’s example in his blog Scholarly Closed Access.

    • Mike Taylor Says:

      I’d agree with pretty much all of that, Marc. I don’t mind other people making money out of my CC By work so long as they are not doing it by deception. A service that prints and binds relevant collections of OA articles in a format that people find useful is creating real value, and there’s no reason people shouldn’t pay for that if they want to. The problem with Apple is the trickery.

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