SOAS publication plans

This month the eighth volume of Language Documentation and Description (LDD8) hit the streets (you can order it at a 25% discount, and also get 25% off any of our other volumes ordered before 31 December 2010). It’s a special issue on documentation of endangered oral literatures and is guest edited by Imogen Gunn and Mark Turin of the World Oral Literature Project (WOLP) at Cambridge. This is the first time we have had a guest edited issue, but it won’t be the last.
Planning for the next three issues of LDD is already under way: LDD 9 is scheduled for mid-2011 and will be edited by Julia Sallabank. It will contain papers on endangered languages and sustainability, arising out of a workshop she and Friederike Luepke organised earlier this year, together with other papers and book reviews. LDD 10, scheduled for December 2011, will be a special issue on documentation of endangered languages and musics and will be guest edited by Jan-Olof Svantesson and colleagues of Lund University. LDD 11, scheduled for mid-2012, will be edited by Oliver Bond and Stuart McGill and will contain papers on issues in applied documentation for African languages.
Back in October 2002 when I first started work at SOAS and was planning what became the Endangered Languages Academic Programme (ELAP) I had a vision that we could start a publication series for the newly emerging field of language documentation (this was just one year after DoBeS began its main phase, and the same year that ELDP was launched). ELDP was holding the first grants meeting of its International Panel in February 2002 so I hatched the audacious plan to ask the panel members if they would stay in London for an extra day and present talks on language documentation in a workshop format. They all kindly agreed and then when Colette Grinevald (from Lyon), Dan Everett (who was at University of Manchester at the time), Eva Csato (Uppsala) and Nick Ostler (Foundation for Endangered Languages) heard about the workshop they offered to come and give talks too. I then asked David Crystal (author of the book Language Death who I had met in Australia in 2000) if he would present a public lecture to kick off the Hans Rausing Endangered Languages Project, which he did on 28th February 2003. In retrospect this was all a bit crazy — we had no staff other than myself and Zara Pybus, the then newly-appointed Administrator of ELAP, and we were also trying to write and get approved a new MA programme with all its constituent modules, plus appoint staff, recruit students, and so on. To add to the craziness, all the workshop presenters agreed to write up their papers for publication and did so within six months. SOAS colleagues Lutz Marten and Justin Watkins refereed them all, and Zara designed and formatted the whole lot so that in December 2003 we published Volume 1 of LDD.
Over the past eight years we have sold almost 2,000 copies of LDD (Volume 1 is still our best seller at 480 copies so far, with a respectable 50 copies per year still going out the door) and we normally sell around 500 copies in total annually. I think this is pretty respectable for what is effectively a “spare time” operation, as we have no dedicated publication staff and each volume is edited and published on top of our other usual obligations.
LDD is a small, though useful, source of income for us and helps support MA and PhD students through offering them paid part-time editorial work on production of the volumes that are edited at SOAS. On several occasions I have been asked why we charge for LDD rather than making it freely available, like the online journal Language Documentation and Conservation. The simple response is that we do keep the price of LDD as low as possible (try finding another similar linguistics publication of 250-300 pages that sells for GBP 10.00!) and that income from sales is the only way we can pay for editorial support and first class design and layout (by Tom Castle who does publication work on top of his usual day job as Digital Technician). This is particularly the case now that support for ELAP from Arcadia Fund finished this year (Arcadia will continue to support ELDP and the Endangered Languages Archive until 2016).
We are currently planning for the introduction of an online store for LDD in 2011 and are also looking at developing a new series of e-publications that will include articles published in the journal, as well as other new materials. Stay tuned for more details early next year.

1 thought on “SOAS publication plans”

  1. Congratulations on your eighth volume! I will go through the process of ordering online and waiting for the mail to deliver the volume, but I would like to be able to download the content, even if I had to pay for it, so I look forward to your online store. I really hope you can move to an Open Access model for this content in the future.

    You note that the income from sales covers design and layout, but, at 2,000 copies over 8 years your income averages £2,500 pa, surely easily found from other sources? And, while 2,000 copies is a good outcome, imagine what the impact of the same content would have been if it was freely downloadable.

    You referred to the Language Documentation & Conservation journal of which I am the Technology Editor. LD&C is free, online and peer-reviewed, and is rated an A-category journal in Australia. Being online means we can count the downloads (6,623 articles in 2009 and 6,064 so far in 2010) and see where they originate from (see below for a partial list). While there is always a cost to pay for administering, editing, proof-reading, organising peer-review and so on, there is also a cost to not getting the information out to the target audience who cannot afford to buy the content, a cost that is created by using traditional publication models.

    With a commitment to the Open Access (OA) model, LD&C sought and obtained funding from the US National Foreign Language Resource Center as well as the Department of Linguistics at the University of Hawai’i. This covers the cost of Graduate Assistants who do page-design and coordinate the team of (mostly volunteer) editors and copy-editors.

    Some selected examples of the number of downloads over the past 2 years are given below, by country, to show the kind of reach that Open Access provides.
    Malaysia 585
    United Kingdom 560
    Germany 467
    Indonesia 462
    China 447
    Canada 407
    India 209
    Iran, Islamic Republic of 208
    Korea, Republic of 159
    Mexico 154
    Netherlands 146
    Japan 128
    Thailand 127
    France 117
    Singapore 96
    Philippines 95
    Ireland 94
    Ethiopia 91
    Taiwan 87
    Spain 86
    Brazil 84
    New Zealand 83
    Switzerland 63
    Sweden 61
    Hong Kong 60
    Vietnam 59
    Algeria 58
    Belgium 56
    Poland 55
    Finland 55
    Tanzania, United Republic of 51
    Chile 50
    Turkey 49
    Egypt 48
    Italy 48
    Nigeria 44
    South Africa 43
    Greece 43
    Denmark 42
    Cameroon 42
    Russian Federation 39
    Colombia 38
    Austria 36
    Kenya 34
    Czech Republic 34
    Argentina 30
    Israel 28
    Hungary 26
    Norway 26
    Bangladesh 23
    Satellite Provider 20
    Morocco 18
    Portugal 18
    Nepal 18
    Romania 16
    Brunei Darussalam 16

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