In February 2012, I discovered that ProQuest was marketing my dissertation online through Amazon. At the time, I made little note of it, aside from a few passing grumbles. I didn’t suspect my dissertation was going to see wild sales, nor did I have particular qualms about it being made available.
In fact, in 2010, when my university required me to submit my dissertation to ProQuest, I had even authorized the company to publish and sell my dissertation through its website. At the time, I did not expect that ProQuest would market my work for sale at the biggest book store in the world, but I was not all that surprised to see that happen. I attribute my lack of reaction to the bystander effect. I figured someone else would be on the case — that ProQuest had snuck something through in the fine print of our contracts and would be called out by someone more important than me.
I barely gave it another thought until two years later, in 2014, when I came across a discussion about the same thing on Facebook among a group of recent graduate students. I was ultimately less concerned about my own dissertation and more concerned about colleagues who felt they’d had their work published on Amazon against their express wishes. Almost immediately, I tweeted: “Dear @ProQuest, what would a person need to do to get their dissertation removed from @amazon? Also, who’s collecting profits on those?” The ensuing conversation lasted several days and spanned Twitter, Facebook, email, and the comment threads of news stories about the problem. <Read more.>