That nobody much likes reading academic books isn’t exactly a shock. Study after study after really good summary has shown that about 40% of books acquired by academic libraries will never be checked out within ten years. Most people only need to read a chapter or two, and, as someone who regularly tries to read academic books as if they were books, a chapter or two is about as much of an academic book as you actually want to read. Even those that involve people getting married at crossbowpoint or seduced and abandoned by double-dealing barons can turn into poorly written and dreary forced marches.
Monographs are long. They’re expensive. They’re on on obscure topics. They’re badly written. They take forever to publish. They take in too many topics, as opposed to the one you need. They force you to spend 300 pages on something that would be better served by 100. They’re like my blog posts, but somehow worse.
I’m not the only one who has noticed this, of course. I’m not even the only one who would really like there to be a solution. A possible answer (or, more likely, part of the answer), and one that really excites me, is the short-form monograph, or “minigraph.” Continue reading
Sometimes, the blogfodder arrives all at once—and if you’re lucky, it arrives during the Press’s slow summer season. Wouldn’t you know it, but I’ve been very lucky indeed.
University presses everywhere, I’ve been told, are in crisis. Revenues are declining, nobody is reading our books, libraries are spending more of their shrinking budgets on science/technology/engineering/medical (STEM) journals than humanities/social science (HSS) books, print is dead, the tenure track is dead, and the university’s catering services didn’t provide enough coffee to your last editorial committee meeting. And the fact of the matter is, almost all of those are true (except for the last one—we order extra!), or, in the case of the death of print, are at least “common knowledge.”
Not everyone buys this crisis—or, at the very least, buys that it necessarily means the death of the university press. Continue reading
There’s no good way to write this. I’m going to hack off someone, just because this is a horribly charged issue—even saying I read the Finch Report on open access is going to lose me Twitter followers. All I can do is refer you all to my disclaimer and hope nobody with the power to hire, fire, or ask for revisions ever reads and takes issue with anything here.
Furthermore, anything negative I accidentally happen to imply about STEM* journal publishing should in no way be construed as reflecting on any publishing or editorial enterprise I’ve ever been a part of—humanities journals are, by and large, run pretty ethically by any reasonable standard. Humanities scholars have no idea what a “page fee” is, for instance, and tend not to believe you when you tell them what (and how much) they are—simply put, we don’t pay ’em. They try to have you committed when you tell them how much science journals charge for subscriptions—even those that charge page fees and run ads. It drives our STEM cousins nuts when they hear about life on our side of the divide.
Alright, enough ass-covering, it’s time for diplomacy. If the State Department’s hiring, I hope they’re reading this. Continue reading