Saturday, 9 September 2017

Self-publishing a book with Glasstree

Three years and three major revisions after it first appeared on Arxiv and GitHub (why GitHub? see this blog post), my review article on two-dimensional conformal field theory may be mature enough for appearing in book form. But with which publisher?
To answer this question, I should first say why I would want to have a book in the first place, since the text is already on Arxiv.
My main motivation is simply to have it in a nicely bound form. At 127 A4 pages, the text is indeed too long to be cleanly stapled. Other motivations for publishing books, that play little or no role in my case, are:
  • To make money. But should publicly paid researchers make money from their professional writings?
  • To get constructive feedback from publisher-mandated reviewers. This could alternatively be obtained by publishing the text as a review article. But after three years on Arxiv I have already received a fair amount of spontaneous feedback.
  • To get the text formatted nicely. But nowadays publishers tend to do less and less work on this front, and to ask more and more work from the authors. And this tedious work is arguably of little use. Moreover, when publishers do perform some work, they often introduce errors.
  • To get the text advertised by the publisher, and bought by libraries. But is this still really relevant nowadays?
Therefore, what I need is more a printer than a publisher: someone who interferes neither with my text and formatting, nor with my copyright arrangements (public domain in my case), and who prints a good quality book as cheaply as possible.

Glasstree online academic self-publishing is the name of the publisher I found after some research and an unfortunate trial with the Éditions Universitaires Européennes. The main advantage is the price of 6.95 dollars for my 127 colored A4 pages. (This would have been even cheaper in black and white.) At such a price, shipping costs not much less than the book itself. I had the option of adding royalties to this price, which I did not do.
So the book can now be bought on Glasstree for 6.95 dollars. The quality of the copy that I have received is good: it is thinner than a printout on standard paper, it does not look like it will fall apart any time soon, and the colors are beautiful.
Glasstree’s website is OK but some improvements are possible: I would have liked to be able to add comments, including a link to Arxiv. A Paypal account is needed even if I do not include royalties in my price. And it is not clear what happens if and when I want to replace the book with an improved version, in particular I am not sure that the book’s web address on Glasstree will stay the same.
To conclude, it is much easier to publish with Glasstree than with traditional book publishers, and the prices of the resulting books can be much, much lower.