Tuesday, August 20, 2019

The Futures of Scholarly Publishing :: Education Library Reading Essays

Traditionally, university libraries, flush with funds, have been the mainstay of scholarly publishing. They bought all the latest, most important books and maintained subscriptions to all the important journals. But in today’s environment of budget cuts and rising tuitions, many libraries (especially those at public universities) are being forced to cut back. Retailers, meanwhile, are increasingly corporate. In an age in which book-selling is dominated by chains like Borders and Barnes and Noble, it is increasingly difficult for scholarly books to reach their market. Unsure of being able to recoup their losses, publishers are less and less willing to take on academic books—especially those which do not have immediate appeal to a broad audience or are unlikely to be used as textbooks. Meanwhile, university faculty in the humanities whose tenure prospects depend on being able to cite book credits are scrambling to be published—and are finding fewer and fewer publishers willing to accept their work. These are just a few of the factors behind the current crisis in academic publishing. In a meeting of the American Council of Learned Societies last year, panelists Carlos J. Alonso, Cathy N. Davidson, John M. Unsworth, and Lynne Withey discussed these and other important issues in-depth, and their remarks were published in an ACLS occasional paper entitled Crises and Opportunities: The Futures of Scholarly Publishing. The panelists were a diverse group, representing several different perspectives on the publishing crisis. Carlos Alonso is a Professor of Romance Languages and Chair of the Department of Romance Languages at the University of Pennsylvania; Cathy Davidson is Vice-Provost for Interdisciplinary Studies and Director of the John Hope Franklin Humanities Institute at Duke University; John Unsworth, at the time of last year’s ACLS meeting, was Director of the Institute for Advanced Technology in the Humanities at the University of Virginia; and Lynne Withey is Director of the University of California Press. This paper addresses each of their remarks in turn, closing by relating those remarks to the experience of the Clemson University Digital Press. In his remarks to the ACLS, Carlos Alonso addresses two main issues in scholarly publishing: the relationship between publication and tenure, and the difficult issue of funding scholarly publication at a time when most public universities are facing significant budget cuts.

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