I was contacted today by a representative of Lambert Academic Publishing requesting that I change the title of my blog post "Academic Spam", in which I criticize their marketing tactics as consisting of sending poorly written spam enticing vanity publishing. That's right: Lambert Academic Publishing and VDM Verlag send poorly written academic spam. Parse that and put it on the search results, Google.
In their latest message, Michael Davis, a Customer Service Executive, insists they are not a vanity publishing house. The two central premises of his argument are that they don't charge the authors, and the publications are available on Amazon.com and in physical bookstores. Anyone can post products on Amazon.com, and removing the pay aspect doesn't make it less vain to essentially self-publish. Oh, and they offer a dedicated "Acquisition Editor" -- someone who apparently can't even write an email without English errors.
As I understand vanity publishing, it basically means you get a publisher to print up your thesis and sell it without proper editing or peer review. This seems to be exactly Lambert's model but they don't charge you (in cash). Instead, they charge you in terms of removing your rights to your own work (you can re-publish only up to 80% of your work). In response to my original post, several people have argued that no harm is done in publishing with them -- it gives you something nice for your bookshelf and CV. I suggest these authors find a local print shop and bindery and do it themselves. Having a self-published on-demand book from LAP is likely to be a negative, not a positive, on an academic CV. Experienced researchers will see right through this in a second. It doesn't bring with it any weight in terms of peer review, it just shows your own vanity and your inability to make your thesis available freely online.
LAP is essentially an on-demand publishing house. I would like to know how many of the submitted theses actually go into the physical bookstores? I would wager that the vast majority exist only as cover shots in Amazon.com listings and in print form on the bookshelf of the author and his or her proud parents. They spam all of us in the hopes that someday someone with a gem of a thesis will fall for it and actually make them some money.
The letter I received today was obviously carefully written -- if they had taken similar care in their initial message, it may not have raised my suspicions.
Well, I decline to change the title of my post, and instead I will link to several others who also consider LAP's emails to be academic spam. Steer clear of this company.
[Edit 2015 - my original post mentioned "Nigerian 419 scam" emails. While phishing emails and email-based fraud is real, the association with Nigeria was racist and I sincerely apologize to all I offended.]