There has been much jitteriness among publishers and academic authors of late as both parties grapple with the consequences of digital and cultural change.
Speaking at the Modern Language Association of America’s annual convention in Los Angeles earlier this year, Leslie Mitchner, of Rutgers University Press, pointed out that new technologies are giving scholars ever more opportunities for research. A project to digitise the entire contents of the Vatican Library, for example, will make reams of new material available to academics around the world. But, as Mitchner said in a session on “The brave new world of scholarly books”, this is no panacea. While such projects open the door to new research, paradoxically, there are fewer opportunities to get published, get a position and get tenure.
According to a recent report by the Association of American University Presses, technological and cultural shifts seen in the past decade have challenged publishers’ business models and “may even threaten many of the intellectual characteristics most valued by the scholarly enterprise itself”. It is of the essence of this enterprise to be “in it for the long haul” rather than “the next viral hit”. Yet, the report warns, traditional monographs risk becoming “largely static objects … instead of vibrant hubs for discussion and engagement”.
Check out ‘Open Book Publishers‘ for an interesting model for scholarly publication in a digital age.