“A writer is a productive labourer not in so far as he produces ideas, but in so far as he enriches the publisher who publishes his works, or if he is a wage-labourer for a capitalist.”
Well, I had to post something on this because the debate on the accessibility of the texts is important and interesting, and the various statements in the links below are worth reading for what they say about publishing and history, both from the Lawrence and Wishart and from MIA sides.
[I'm amused that so far I've not seen anyone quote the obvious bit of Marx that applies, and which I've used above as banner quote - reader, please insert your own gender correction to the ancient pronouns (if we must get all scriptural about it - the quote is from Theories of Surplus Value - manuscripts of 1863-64, chapter 4, p303 in the Progress Press version)].
The possibility of actually turning a profit on any book nowadays, is of course also up for consideration.
Here from Hist Mat list:
As a consequence of Lawrence and Wishart’s decision to withdraw the Marx-Engels Collected Works (MECW) material under L&W copyright from the Marxist Internet Archive (MIA) website, Marxist scholars and activists all over the world have
Following a first petition and Lawrence and Wishart’s response, in 24 hours 700 people signed the following petition, including many leading scholars.
They have asked Lawrence and Wishart to allow Marx’s and Engels’s writings to remain on the MIA website and in the public domain.
“We are very grateful for the work you have done, along with International Publishers and Progress Publishers, translating into English and publishing the MECW. This is an extremely valuable contribution to the workers movement and Marxist scholarship not only in the English-speaking world, but internationally.
MIA has made these works available for free on the web to an even wider public, and they have now become an essential tool for thousands of Marxist scholars and activists around the world.
We fully appreciate the efforts and difficulties that running a small independent publishing house entails. But allowing free access to the MECW on the MIA website does not hinder sales. On the contrary, the publicity it provides increases them, and we would support any attempt to further improve this aspect.
But over and above any commercial considerations, there is a crucial matter of principle at play here. Having been available freely online for ten years, the MECW have become an essential part of the shared knowledge and resources of the international workers movement. We cannot take a step backward.
There is also the real danger that the laudable contribution that Lawrence & Wishart has made in the past would be tarnished. This decision would only damage its reputation without bringing any significant economic advantage.
That’s why we call upon you to reconsider this decision and reach an accommodation which keeps these essential resources in the public domain, where they belong.”
To support this petition, link: http://www.change.org/en-GB/petitions/lawrence-and-wishart-allow-marx-s-and-engels-s-writings-to-remain-in-the-public-domain?utm_medium=email&utm_source=notification&utm_campaign=new_petition_recruit#share
To read Lawrence and Wishart’s response to the first petition, see: http://www.lwbooks.co.uk/collected_works_statement.html
To read the statement of the Marxist Internet Archive collective, see: http://marxists.org/admin/legal/lw-response.html