Wednesday, March 25, 2009

"Shock waves?" No, I wouldn't exactly say that. . .

An item in today's Publisher's Weekly claims that the University of Michigan Press's recent decision to switch to a digital format for scholarly monographs has "sent shock waves through the academic publishing field." Um, I would add "or not."

Who would be shocked by this? Anyone paying attention to discussions of scholarly publishing over the past few years would know that the monograph is a serious point of contention because by definition it has a limited audience. At the same time, almost anyone who does academic research would argue that the monograph needs to exist. It needs care, protection, support.

The University of Michigan has always been a bit digitally precocious, for good or ill, and it likes to involve itself in electronic solutions early. Some fret that tenure committees won't accept books that exist primarily in digital form, and I can't speak for tenure committees to answer that question. But this has been a long time coming in some form or another, and it will be interesting to see how it plays out in tenure bids, and also in scholars' future decisions to publish with Michigan or not. Here's the original piece:

University of Michigan Switching to Digital Format for Scholarly Monographs
-- Publishers Weekly, 3/24/2009 7:17:00 AM

The University of Michigan Press sent shock waves through the academic publishing field Monday when it announced it is switching to a primarily digital format to publish scholarly monographs. The press expects that within two years, most of the 60 monographs it publishes each year out of a total 140 new releases will be published only in digital editions. A POD option, however, will be made available for all digital books, said University of Michigan Press director Phil Pochoda. He said the press’s regional titles and its ESL list will continue to be released primarily in print editions, though select frontlist, as well as backlist, will be made available in digital formats as well as print. Print runs consequently will be more conservative, to cut down on returns. “We’re going to try to keep [initial] print runs close to orders,” Pochoda said, with more of a reliance on offset printing for smaller print runs.

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