It’s Opposites Day at The Chronicle of Higher Education. The headline reads, “Edwin Mellen Press Drops Lawsuit Against University Librarian.”
The article reports that Edwin Mellen Press has withdrawn the suit against McMaster University and Dale Askey, BUT Edwin Mellen Press is still suing Dale Askey. Beyond the fact that the Chronicle should have let its readers know it was celebrating Opposites Day, this development raises several questions about the allegedly scholarly press known as Edwin Mellen Press.
- The news release’s internal contradictions are remarkable. Without any irony whatsoever, Edwin Mellen Press in its press release says that “EMP remains resolute that all have the right to free speech.” How is suing a librarian for $1 million an affirmation of that principle? For that matter, how did suing Lingua Franca over its characterization of Edwin Mellen Press uphold “the right to free speech”? This doesn’t make any sense. And when you follow that claim about “right to free speech” in the very next sentence with “all have the right to take steps, including legal action, to protect their good names and reputation,” you’re reminding your audience that Edwin Mellen Press launches lawsuits at its critics in order to shut them up. So, not a very effective piece of rhetoric.
- Even before Edwin Mellen Press launched this suit, it did not have a “good reputation.” As Timothy A. Lepcyzk pointed out at EduHacker, when Edwin Mellen Press launched this suit against Askey, punching the words “Edwin Mellen Press” into Google would elicit the following suggestions: “edwin mellen press quality,” “edwin mellen press review,” “edwin mellen press reputation,” “edwin mellen press vanity,” “edwin mellen press vanity press.” Edwin Mellen’s news release speaks of “EMP’s good reputation” and of the right to protect that reputation. However, it didn’t have a good reputation when it filed this suit, and its reputation has only declined since then.
- You can’t erase the internet. When you punch the publisher’s name into Google now, you get these automatic suggestions: “edwin mellen press,” “edwin mellen press reputation,” “edwin mellen press review,” and “edwin mellen press vanity.” Below that, the first hit is the press’s website, but all other hits are other websites, each of which reference the press’s litigious behavior. There are scores of articles on the Press, and they’re not flattering. Did it seek to cement its reputation as a litigious bully or further delegitimize its allegation that it’s a “scholarly press” (a claim made in its latest press release)? If so, then it has succeeded. If it had other aims, it’s failed.
- If the press cannot manage its own damage control, what does that say about its publicity department? If dropping one suit (but not the other) was an attempt to control some of the damage that Edwin Mellen Press has inflicted on itself, it has instead inspired further speculation about its incompetence. As Rick Anderson notes in his really nice close-reading of the Mellen news release, the publisher’s behavior “is simply bizarre.”
- This isn’t over yet. Sign the petition! There are currently over 3100 names on the petition. Let’s keep those numbers rising.
- Finally, the Streisand Effect should be renamed the Edwin Mellen Effect. This PR debacle that the press has chosen to inflict upon itself will, I suspect, ultimately result in its undoing. Its attempts to silence its critics have only amplified those critics’ voices.
More information on Edwin Mellen Press & Its Attempts to Silence Its Critics:
- Dale Askey, “The curious case of Edwin Mellen Press.” The original blog post (22 Sept. 2010), via Archive.org.
- Dale Askey, “Thank you for the support.” Bibliobrary, 21 Feb. 2013. List of the many organizations that are standing behind Askey (including links to statements).
- Edwin Mellen Press, original lawsuit against Askey and McMaster. 7 June 2012.
- Wayne Bivens-Tatum, “Edwin Mellen Press Suing a Librarian?” Academic Librarian, 6 Feb. 2013.
- Collen Flaherty, “Price of a bad review,” Inside Higher Ed, 8 Feb. 2013.
- Martha Reineke’s petition, on Change.org (same link as in no. 5, above).
- John DuPuis’ “Publisher hits new low: Suing librarian for criticizing their books.” Includes a nice list of links to other stories.
- “Vanity, Thy Name Is Lawsuit.” My initial response to this case, 8 Feb. 2013.
- Rick Anderson, “One Down, One to Go.” The Scholarly Kitchen, 5 Mar. 2013. Great close-reading of the most recent press release from Edwin Mellen.