20 September 2011
How low can quality go?
Publishers used to pride themselves on the quality of their products. But for many, real quality is just another obstacle on the road to greater profits. And in recent years they have been taking an axe to the integrated editorial processes that lie at the core of quality publishing.
In many parts of the industry, the idea of commissioning, editing and designing books, journals and magazines in one place has gone. Instead, some publishers are opting to have work done wherever it appears to be cheapest and there is an ample supply of graduates with English language skills.
Copy editing has been outsourced on a huge scale. Much design has been outsourced (or is done by computers), so that the bland becomes the norm. We have seen the results: streams of errors, constant re-editing, and lengthening backlogs.
Meanwhile, the dwindling workforces here are left to cope with authors' and readers' complaints and communication across time zones. The work of the production editor is submerged in crisis management and long hours, struggling to fill issues or meet deadlines.
The NUJ will not stand by and see our industry deskilled, our quality compromised and the working lives of remaining staff reduced to misery. We want to create a space for a public debate about the consequences of the profit-driven atomisation of publishing.
The Guardian: Academic publishers make Murdoch look like a socialist - article by George Monbiot. The NUJ response: Academic research and the profit motive.
The NUJ is keen to broaden the debate about safeguarding academic excellence to include safeguarding quality in academic publishing.