[Date Prev][Date Next][Thread Prev][Thread Next][Date Index][Thread Index]

RE: Ithaka S+R Faculty Survey 2009

At 12:20 AM -0400 5/15/10, Jim Jordan wrote:

>I agree with most of it but would quibble a bit on the trends. 
>Presses have been publishing a more diverse group of books than 
>cloth monographs intended for academic libraries for many years 
>..I would say almost from the inception of university press 
>publishing.  And rightly so.  The selection, development, and 
>marketing of important ideas that come from the university for 
>diverse audiences is the task Presses have been uniquely 
>empowered to perform.  My own press began publishing the 
>Columbia Encyclopedia for instance in the 1930s and that book 
>has had a major impact on generations of literate people outside 
>the academy.  Its editorial boards have always included a large 
>number of Columbia scholars and the support for the idea of that 
>kind of publishing continues to be very strong among many 
>faculty and university administrators.  To tie the rise and fall 
>of presses to the continued success of one type of publication 
>has and always will be an overly narrow conception of what 
>academic publishing can and should be.

Yes, but the original concept of university press publishing as 
embodied in the earliest presses like Johns Hopkins was squarely 
focused on the dissemination of advanced scholarship. Hopkins 
began by publishing journals in chemistry and mathematics. (One 
should not miss the irony here that the origin of university 
press publishing was in STM journals, which universities allowed 
commercial publishers to take over after WW II.) Presses were 
tied closely to the missions of graduate education. There are 
examples of publishing projects with wider public impacts, such 
as the Columbia Encyclopedia, and one should also note that 
regional publishing at state universities began in the 1930s.

I certainly don't deny that there is a role for certain kinds of 
publishing that reach audiences beyond the academy. My concern 
was that the trend went way too far after the STM journals crisis 
led libraries to cut back on monograph purchases. Ken Arnold's 
boast about cutting out monograph publishing almost entirely was 
of course an extreme manifestation of this crisis-motivated 
enthusiasm for a wider cultural role for presses, but it shows 
how far that trend had gone by the early 1990s.  I would argue 
that presses at universities with strong creative writing 
programs, like Iowa, have good reason to publish fiction and 
poetry because that does keep their role in alignment with their 
universities. But I fear that presses like SMU came to be so 
dependent on a type of publishing that did not reflect any real 
strength at the parent university put themselves in danger of not 
having a good argument against claims that they no longer serve 
the interests of their universities.

>Similarly, while the motivations behind open access publishing 
>are heavily driven by STM journal costs and their impact on 
>library budgets, the reaction against the pricing of some 
>journals is more broadly shared.  The conception and growth of 
>Bepress's alternative publishing models for instance would seem 
>to be a more independent expression of the frustrations of some 
>faculty -economists in this case-and their belief that academic 
>journals pricing decisions (like textbook pricing 
>decisions)-where the consumers of content are removed from the 
>cost of usage -describe a malfunctioning market that needs to 
>change. Like you I worry that the open access solution to that 
>problem may be more costly than the problem itself.

Granted, the STM crisis has spawned more than the OA movement, 
but I was interested in underlying the irony that the cure 
proposed by many librarians could ultimately undercut the 
rationale for their own functions and hence endanger their jobs. 
It is the theme of unintended consequences that I wanted to focus 

>Presses need to continue to be instrumental in the lives of 
>their universities.  That means continuing to find creative ways 
>to publish scholarship, as they always have.  Thanks for sharing 
>your thoughts.

And the authors of the 2007 Ithaka report had some good 
suggestions along these lines, such as presses taking advantage 
of their proximity to university research to become publishers of 
scholarship in emerging areas that have not become widely known 
to the general publishing community yet.

>James D. Jordan
>President and Director
>Columbia University Press
>61 West 62nd Street
>New York, NY 10025
>212-459-0600  ext 7118