A year ago, I was an unemployed ex-philosopher who had just started a publishing internship. Now, I’m an unemployed philosopher who’s the senior intern and has a blog. Next year (hopefully!) I’ll be an employed philosopher, no longer an intern, and still have this silly thing.
On the one hand, semi-employment really sucks. It’s soul crushing. On the other hand, it beats grad school.
I’m going to leave the bitter recriminations (some of them self-directed) out of this, but suffice it to say, it took reading all of the philosophy of Thomas Aquinas to realize that Thomas Aquinas wasn’t what I was really interested in studying—and that almost nobody but the late dean even bothered disagreeing with what I actually liked. Now that I’m out, it’s been Augustine (slightly questionable), Foucault (very questionable), and Lao Tzu (who?); I think I actually like them.
Not, if my boss is reading this, that it means I have anything against Thomas, or those who write about him; it just means I really don’t want to be one of those people.
So I’ve been a publishing minion for the last year. It means I finally get to talk about typography and book design with people without getting funny looks, but can still rave about how John Duns Scotus was a frikkin’ genius without getting funnier looks. Normally, people only care about one of these; at the Press, I kinda have to care about both.
And yes, there are a lot of Issues, both in the profession and day-to-day. We have problem authors and absentee reviewers; ebooks are coming, and, while we’re all nervously excited about that, it’s still pretty uncertain; Amazon is publishing’s Great Satan; the STEM publishers, especially STEM journals publishers, seem to think academics are the adversary; books on book design can be hilariously poorly designed; copyright law, especially now that we have epublishing mucking up 1970’s contracts, can be ridiculously complicated; library budgets are getting cut, and, with them, orders of our books; university budgets are being cut, and, with them, university presses; nobody in academic book publishing is hiring overqualified ex-grad student acquisitions interns (and there’s a lot of us); and, perhaps most seriously, whoever orders refreshments for the editorial committee meetings forgot to get enough of those really tasty Italian pastries, so there weren’t any left over for the interns to mooch.
Of course, there are the good things. Ebooks, when they finally arrive in academia, promise to make our distribution, warehousing, and backlist management infinitely easier, all but eliminating the problems of a book going out of print. This whole Open Access problem? Not ours. Many university presses failed to unethically gouge their customers for journals subscriptions, and, as such, aren’t quite feeling the wrath and boycotts of academia. In fact, I’d almost argue that, since we were never indebted to quite the same profit-centered business model that the commercial publishers were, OA might present an opportunity for those university presses nimble and clear-sighted enough to take advantage of it. Oh, and let’s not forget the glowing review someone sent back on time for a book I lobbied the Bossman to invite.
It might even make up for the pastry fiasco.