Build It and…Will They Come?: Innovation & University Publishing, Part 4

The university thinks we’ve got a good thing going, and is going to let us go ahead with this new project? Now it’s time for the hard part.

Finding authors willing to produce new and innovative books is going to be tricky, as I mentioned before. Given the enormous role that the traditional monograph plays in HSS tenure and promotion decisions, it’s unlikely that junior or mid-career faculty are going to want to risk their future employment prospects on an unproven medium. If they aren’t sure that publishing minigraphs counts in some significant way to their next step on the career ladder, they’re not going to make an effort that could jeopardize their future. Continue reading

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Serving (at least!) Two Masters: Innovation & University Publishing, Part 1

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

Reviewing Reviewers

I’m going to grab my fiddle while people are setting fires and ignore the whole Finch Report Open Access bomb that’s blowing up right now.*  Suffice it to say, I need to finish reading all of it (I don’t do journals right now, so only about thirty pages are of more than academic interest to bookies like me) before I act like I have something intelligent and novel to say about it—but, worry not, I will talk about it.**

Instead, let’s talk about something that’s tangential to the whole Finch Report/Open Access debate: the institution of peer review.  Yes, a lot of people aren’t too keen on it (“why are we paying for this, again?”), but for those of us who publish things, it’s important.  Sure, it’s the gold standard, sure, it’s an assurance of quality—but for us, if it doesn’t pass peer review, we don’t have to waste good money publishing it. Continue reading