By Lara Seven Phillips, Pacific Collection Librarian, University of the South Pacific*, Suva, Fiji.
This massive list of non-traditional book publishers has three main audiences:
1) authors (whether scholarly/tenure track academics or novelists) who don’t want to publish with a disreputable publisher who will not edit or market their work
2) librarians who don’t want to accidentally buy public domain reprints masquerading as new titles/editions or bogus “reference” works compiled from Wikipedia or free statistical sources
3) Bookbuyers who want to know if the appealing title they see listed on Amazon was traditionally published and edited, or was made available via “print on demand” (POD) services.
We’ll start with publishers that target authors. Traditionally, poets, fiction writers and other recreational writers are the usual targets of “Vanity Presses”, aka “Subsidy publishers”, but there’s also publishers targeting scholars looking to pad the CV for when the tenure committee meets. Authors solicited by these companies should be aware of what support and services the publisher is likely to provide versus a traditional publisher. A good discussion about the difference between self publishing and vanity press publication is here.
Traditional Vanity Presses
High-up front fees, do not necessarily use Print On Demand (POD) technology, usually target fiction writers/novelists. Source for many of these is this post (and its comments). Most of these publishers have websites that show the fees they charge for authors they publish. Libraries and bookstores generally do not carry books from vanity presses.
• America Star Books (formerly PublishAmerica)
• American Book Publishing (Salt Lake City, UT)
• Archebooks Publishing
• Famous Poets Society
• Harbor House
• Helm Publishing
• Hilliard and Harris (Boonsboro, MD)
• International Library of Poetry – aka International Society of Poets and International Poetry Hall of Fame
• Janus Press (UK)
• Mill City Press
• Oak Tree Press (Taylorville, IL)
• Park East Press (Dallas TX) (formerly Durban House, formerly Oakley Press)
• PublishAmerica (changed name to America Star Books in January 2014)
• Royal Fireworks Press/Silk Label Books (Unionville, NY)
• SBPRA/Strategic Book Publishing/Eloquent Books (Boca Raton, FL–formerly known as The Literary Agency Group and AEG Publishing Group)
• SterlingHouse Publisher Pittsburgh, PA–imprints include, among others, Pemberton Mysteries, 8th Crow Books, Cambrian House Books, Blue Imp Books, Caroline House Books, Dove House Books, and PAJA Books)
• Tate Publishing (Mustang, OK) (according to Wikipedia,there are at least three companies called Tate Publishing; the others include a reputable art publisher and a defunct software book publisher)
• Trafford (British Columbia, Canada)
• Vantage Press (NY) (founded 1949, ceased operations in 2013)
• Whitmore Publishing Company (Pittsburgh, PA)
• Xulon Press- primarily for Christian titles.
Two special cases: the academic publishers LapLambert/VDM and Nova Science
These are NOT vanity publishers in the traditional sense because they don’t charge authors for their services, but neither do they offer the level of editorial oversight that a reputable University Press would. They are problematic for both authors and librarians.
Academics are most likely to encounter the German publisher VDM via an email solicitation to “publish” their Master’s or PhD thesis from Lambert Academic Press or LAPLambert, but they also publish scores of non-peer-reviewed academic writing, including undergraduate papers. Many universities are wise to this publisher and explicitly state that publishing with LAP will not count toward your publication record.
LAP is an arm of VDM, a company doing business under dozens of other names, including many that compile wikipedia articles into instant Print-on-demand books.
A similar publisher, also based in Germany, that will publish any academic writing submitted, is Grin Verlag. My library ordered one of their “monographs” at the request of a lecturer — it turned out to be a 13 page undergraduate seminar paper riddled with formatting errors; likely the author submitted a Word document instead of a PDF, causing bizarre line breaks and font mismatches. We paid US$20 for this thing and it’s almost unreadable.
The Lambert “books” are equally expensive for what they are, as well as being visually unappealing. Libraries that haven’t already updated their collection development policies to exclude Lambert and Grin Verlag monographs, even those written by faculty, need to do so immediately.
Nova Publishers (aka Nova Science)
This publisher is in no way affiliated with long-running American public TV series “Nova” , and both their journals and books reprint material available elsewhere or use deceptive titling in “reference” books.
This article by David Bade explores Nova’s reprinting scholarly public domain material, especially book chapters, as journal articles and also mentions “of the 63 journals published by Nova, 38 have no editors or editorial board listed “ on the Nova website. According to a comment by librarian David Goodman on the above article, “apparently not a single one of their titles in any subject is included in Journal Citation Reports, either the science or the social sciences edition”.
Their books also recycle material available elsewhere; Nova reuses book chapters across multiple titles without making it clear that a title contains previously published material.
For example, of the 9 chapters in Development Economics Research Trends (2008, cost: US$225), 4 of them can be found in other books, also published by Nova:
• Chapter 6 “Growth and Development in the Pacific Islands: An Overview of Issues” also appears in “Governance and Development in Developing Countries” (2007, US$175.50) and 2007’s Development Problems and Prospects in Pacific Islands States (US$175.50)
• Chapter 7 – “The Differential Impact of the Economic Crisis on Thailand, Indonesia and South Korea” previously appeared in 2002’s Crisis and Conflict in Asia Local, Regional and International Responses , 2007’s Economics and Geopolitics of Indonesia and 2009’s Thailand: Economic, Political and Social Issues
• Chapter 8 “Equity Markets and Economic Development: What Do We Know“ also appears in Economics of Emerging Markets (2008, US$202.50)
• Chapter 9 – Governance and Development in Developing Countries: An Overview of Issues; also appears in 2007’s Governance and Development in Developing Countries
Note that chapter 7 has now been re-published in FOUR different monographs over a seven year period. I have found many other instances of this practice at Nova, but I think one example will suffice, as reputable publishers should not do this. The fact that these books are priced around US$200 adds insult to injury.
Then there’s Nova’s “reference” titles.
Nova has many titles like Encyclopedia of Computer Sciences (2 volumes, 2012, US$325) that are deceptively packaged to look like subject encyclopedias. These are actually compilations of what the description calls “current research in the field,” but they look suspiciously like journal articles to me.
Libraries expect something titled “Encyclopedia” to have encyclopedic entries like “Algorithms” or “Object-oriented Programming”, not sections called “A Strategy for Analyzing Digital Epistemic Games“ or “Efficient Watermark Retrieval through Hopfield Neural Network“. The contents are clearly marked at the publisher’s web site, but someone scanning Amazon for a recent reference title will probably look at the price and think they’re getting something like a Gale or Facts on File title. At least 30 libraries are listed in WorldCat as holding this title, so clearly the strategy is working.
A library I worked for held at least 2 Nova “Encyclopedias,” a “Handbook” and a bibliography (which was not even an annotated bibliography – it was merely a compilation of catalog records pulled from online library catalogs), and all were useless as reference books. I would strongly urge libraries not to buy reference titles from this publisher unless you are certain what you are getting under the guise of a “handbook.”
So Nova titles are problematic for libraries- but are they good enough to publish with, as far as adding some chapters (or books) to your CV? Will they publish “anything” like LAP Lambert, or is there some degree of peer-review or editorial oversight involved with the titles they publish?
I do not have definitive evidence either way, but this invitation/ book proposal form that a person solicited by Nova was kind enough to share should tell you what you need to know, specifically this section:
Peer review to be arranged by author…………….
Review at Nova………………
While I have no idea if Nova will actually send your book chapter to a reviewer if you check this option, no reputable publisher allows an academic author to arrange their own peer-review (“Hey, my mom thought it was great!”). In further evidence that Nova has flexible standards as to what they accept, there’s some titles in their catalog that aren’t by scholars at all, like “The Ultimate Dilemma: Creationism vs. Science” and “Sorority of Survival: Memoirs of a Multiple.” Does that sound like the backlist of an academic publisher you’d be proud to be associated with?
Wikipedia/packagers of freely available web content/ “data dump” publishers
The scourge of print-on-demand technology. Most of these companies sell their ”books” via amazon, Barnes and Noble or ABEbooks ; despite resoundingly negative feedback from buyers duped by these titles, online booksellers don’t seem motivated to remove these insta-book titles from your search results.
Some of these publishers admit in the book description that their books are Wikipedia articles, some do not; caveat emptor. Here’s the major players:
• AlphaScript (VDM) – reprints Wikipedia articles
• Betascript (VDM) – reprints Wikipedia articles
• Books LLC (aka Books Group) – reprints Wikipedia articles
• Doyen Verlag (VDM) – reprints Wikipedia articles
• Emereo Publishing- repackager of online content and wikipedia entries. Seems to specialize in study uides for professional certifications and celebrity biography. Often have “what you need to know” or “20 most asked questions about” in the title. Over 3000 titles by this publisher are listed via amazon.
• Fastbook Publishing (VDM) – reprints Wikipedia articles
• Hephaestus Books – reprints Wikipedia articles, often on popular fiction writers. Titles often appear to seem as though you’re getting an anthology of a writer’s works (“Plays by Caryl Churchill, Including: Thyestes, Top Girls, a Number, Cloud Nine …“) rather than Wikipedia articles about those works, but the page count is a tip-off.
• ICON Group International- Creates “data dump” books from wikipedia and other internet sources on a keyword like “boot” or “Solomon”. It doesn’t even attempt to distinguish between alternate senses of a word like “Sampler”. Most titles have “Webster’s Timeline History” in the title. There are over 170,000 titles in the :Webster’s Timeline History” series listed in Amazon.
• International Business Publications (Washington DC) – Publishes expensive reference books compiled from Wikipedia, CIA world factbook and other freely accessible online sources
• Pedia Press – partners with Wikipedia to allow “book” printing of wiki articles direct from the wikipedia site.
• Tebbo – Reprints wikipedia articles on computer networking and security topics, often authored by a “Kevin Roebuck”.
• Webster’s Digital Services – Reprints Wikipedia articles
• WikiFocus Books International- Reprints Wikipedia articles
Note: some of these publishers may ALSO reprint titles in the public domain as well. Avoid all works by these publishers.
Bogus Reference Book Publishers
• American Biographical Institute : a paid-inclusion vanity biographical reference directory publisher
• International Business Publications (Washington DC): Publishes expensive reference books compiled from Wikipedia, CIA World Factbook and other freely accessible online sources
• International Biographical Centre: publisher owned by Melrose Press Ltd. Publishes “who’s who” type works of little or no merit
Publishers that reprint public domain works out of copyright
Once a book is no longer protected by copyright, it is said to go into the public domain. Public domain works can be legally shared as e-books at sites like Project Gutenberg or Google Books, and anyone may reprint or republish public domain works without permission. Because of Print-on-demand technology, it has become very easy for anyone to download a public domain book from Google, throw a picture on the cover and sell it on Amazon.
The problem is that most of these companies don’t bother to clean up or edit the OCR scanned text before printing, and what looks okay on screen turns into a mess on the printed page. Since they only print a copy when you order it, there is no incentive to make sure it’s legible. For every quality Penguin Classics edition, there are dozens of OCR reprinters with a slapped-together version of Treasure Island or Lorna Doone.
The other scam is this: since Amazon will usually show the “publication” date that this “edition” was created, you think you’re getting a 2011 non-fiction title on swimming and lifeguarding, but the content of the material is some public domain title from 1915. A quick Google books search of the author will usually clear up the provenance of the material, since you can’t depend on the Amazon description.
While there are many POD companies serving a need by reprinting out of print titles desired by scholars and libraries, many produce shoddy or incomplete works. If a Penguin or Dover (another traditional publisher known for decent reprints) edition isn’t available and you need a print copy, you are usually better off buying a used copy of an old traditionally printed edition than a sight-unseen POD version.
In many cases, I have seen physical samples of these particular publishers’ work. My comments on the quality are noted after the publisher’s name.
• BiblioBazaar / BiblioLife – “Published” over 250,000 titles in 2009. Ugly covers, but text is reproduction of the original, rather than an OCR conversion, and the illustrations were included in the title I looked at.
• Classic Books International –reprinter of “required reading” literature titles like the Scarlet Letter
• Cosimo Classics- seems to focus on philosophy and history titles. Over 3,000 titles in Amazon, so I assume these are OCR/POD editions, but I haven’t seen one in person.
• Createspace – Self-publishing arm of Amazon, but may also be used by some small-presses who publish traditionally edited works. Is also used to reprint some public domain classics like Booth Tarkington’s “Alice Adams”.
• Digireads – over 3000 titles in amazon
• Dodo Press – an imprint of the Book Depository, an online bookseller in the UK. According to Wikipedia, “reissues up to 200 classic titles every week.”
• Ecco Print Editions – from database publisher Gale, these are print reproductions of titles from the subscription Eighteenth Century Collections Online database. These might be okay, as Gale is a reputable company, but given that there are over 150,000 Ecco Print titles in Amazon, I’m assuming quality may vary.
• Forgotten Books (forgottenbooks.org)– reprinter, but you can read their titles free online at their site. No idea how the print editions look.
• General Books LLC (aka General Books Club, Genbooks.net, Rare Books Club, Million-books.com ) – OCR scans of out-of-print books, formatting not cleaned up before printing; the example I have has chapter headings like TEADE for TRADE and LAROUE for LABOUR, and statistical charts were mangled. Avoid.
• Kessinger Publishing – Reprints out of print titles and works scanned by Google Books in editions with bright yellow unappealing covers. Also notable for attempting to remove online access to public domain works they’ve reprinted and reprinting out-of-print works that are NOT in the public domain. The copies my library owns are reproductions of the original edition, but omits illustrations that were included in a 1968 reprint we also own.
• Martino Publishing – claims NOT to use OCR technology. Their edition of Maslow’s “Toward A Psychology of Being” on Amazon actually has a “look inside this book” feature so you can see what you’d be getting.
• Million-books.com – see General Books LLC
• Nabu Press-reprints out of print/ pre-1920’s material, sold through Amazon. Books often have stock photos on their covers that do not match the content at all (for example, a photo of a wheat field and railroad track for a book on Samoan history)
• Obscure Press – seems to focus on occult and mythology titles like Frazer’s Golden Bough.
• Pierides –Reprints that include illustrations; keeps the formatting/font of original text (similar to Dover books). The book we ordered looks attractive enough, but has NO bibliographic info to assist catalogers; the only way to know who published this volume was looking at the order record, as “Pierides” appears nowhere on the cover, title page, etc.
• Quill Pen Classics- over 900 public domain titles at Amazon
• Rare Books Club – see General Books LLC
• Richardson- UK-based reprinter of public domain out of print history and religion titles
• Simon and Brown –reprinter hoping you’ll confuse it with legitimate companies Simon and Schuster or Little, Brown & Co., I guess. Also appears to take on some new non-reprint titles, mostly self-help topics.
• Ulan Press- reprints OOP/pre-1920’s material, sold through Amazon
• Wiki Editions (public domain material)
POD and/or self-publishing companies
Print-on-demand (POD) is a publishing term for making a physical copy of a book only when ordered by a customer (usually through an online vendor like Amazon). POD technology allows authors to release self-published works without paying high up-front costs, so that family histories, wedding photo albums, cookbooks, etc. can be printed for a small group of buyers. A self-published POD book is not necessarily terrible, but again, the buyer should be aware of exactly what they are getting. Many of these companies also provide Kindle editions of self-published titles.
A good (though older) article on the difference between Vanity Presses and POD publishers is here.
• Akasha Publishing (aka Akasha Classics) – also reprints public domain fiction.
• AuthorHouse – formerly known as 1stBooks
• Aventine Press – POD/self-publishing company
• BecomeShakespeare.com – no comment
• Bellissima Publishing – POD small publisher run by an attorney who takes umbrage at being called a self publisher. (edited 19 December 2014)
• Books on Demand GmbH – Based in Germany. Reprints E-books from Grin.com and probably other e-publishers.
• Blurb – self -published titles, especially (but not limited to) photo books.
• BookSurge – is now Createspace
• CreateSpace – Self-publishing arm of Amazon, may also be used by some small-presses who publish traditionally edited works. Also appears to be reprinting some out-of-print public domain classics like Booth Tarkington’s “Alice Adams”.
• First Choice Books – Canadian company
• iUniverse- Books are also available through mainstream book wholesalers Ingram and Baker and Taylor
• Greyden Press – based in Ohio
• Lightning Source – POD for Ingram publishers. Appears to be reprints of out-of-print traditionally published titles from established mainstream publishers, but be aware that the more recent copyright date listed may not mean an updated edition.
• Lulu- self-published titles, especially (but not limited to) photo books.
• Luminare Press LLC – POD/self-publishing company
• Notion Press – based in India
• Peecho -POD printer of books, magazines, etc based in Amsterdam, Netherlands
• QooP – closed in 2012
• Replica Books- the POD arm of book wholesaler Baker & Taylor.
• Unlimited Publishing LLC- POD/self-publishing company
• Wordclay – POD/self-publishing company
• Xlibris- One of the larger companies. Books are also available through mainstream book wholesalers Ingram and Baker and Taylor
Also, keep in mind that authors using POD services (like Amazon’s CreateSpace platform) are often able to create a company name for the publisher of their work. The publisher may read “Blatherstein, Wittisfield, Grumann and Sons” instead of “CreateSpace”, but it only exists as the “publisher” of that one author.
This list will always be incomplete, as new POD publishers appear very week. Being on this list is NOT necessarily an indication that the information in the book (or the book itself) will be of poor quality; it is simply to inform book purchasers about the origins of the book they are considering.
This list used other sources to identify publishers, including librarian Dawn Loomis’s (now defunct) LibGuide on recognizing POD publishers and this Wikipedia list of self-publishing companies,
*Disclaimer: This guide reflects the research and views only of its author. These views may not be shared by her library or her University or by Jeffrey Beall or the University of Colorado Denver.