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against the unsustainable tradition of the printed monograph. I have always thought the most convincing argument against digital monographs is that it shuts out scholars—and readers in general—in developing countries. But I suspect in most cases from now development, when it happens, will skip industrialism and the tonnage of physical libraries altogether. Moreover, supporting print-on-demand as Michigan will do enables readers from all over the world to acquire the text at leisure.



my sense is that a digitized archive is possible more democratic than a brick and mortar one… if only because most libraries in the world are not open access and most librarians in the world (laura excluded) are surly drunks who hate their jobs and would rather make the lives of scholars a living hell rather than help them find information (i paint with broad strokes, of course)

uh-oh. let’s hope laura’s too busy kicking noisy little kids in the head to see that slur on her people… :)

it´s more a comment about european and latin american librarians who take their jobs as gatekeepers of knowledge much too seriously… as in, they are the pit-bulls whose job is to keep all, even the scholars, out of the inner sanctum.

though, i must say the librarians at the reading room in the british library were all very friendly the one time i was there, so they, at least escape my general disdain.

I don’t necessarily disagree with your points, but I do think it’s important to remember that even when physical libraries are removed from the equation there will still need to be someone behind the scenes at each institution paying for these materials. I hardly doubt as tuition rises and faculty salaries remain flat that individuals will want to shoulder this load, so something called a library will still be left holding the bag to support the financial infrastructure of scholarly communication. So diss libraries and librarians all you want (seriously – I don’t mind!), but don’t cut their budgets.

FWIW, Michigan isn’t the trendsetter here. Berkeley Electronic Press is, and its CEO is a real visionary (in full disclosure, Gordon is a friend). But even BEPress, with all its energy and inertia towards open access, still charges money, and guess who pays BEPress its bills?


Of course, I think this strengthens my case.

FWIW, Michigan isn’t the trendsetter here. Berkeley Electronic Press is

BEP is no slough, but I don’t see how you can compare the two. The University of California Press is still making bricks out of dead trees, not pixels. UM’s announcement is significant because it is forgoing the book altogether, not because it is announcing another ePublishing arm.

UCP and BEP are warring cousins (and very different organizationally), though BEP is getting all the love from the UCOP office these days. I still think open access is a more fundamentally groundbreaking initiative than is digital publishing, and Michigan isn’t going anywhere near that front as far as I can tell. Of course Michigan press does books, and BEPress does primarily journals (for now), but when BEPress gets into the game more with its Digital Commons the university press could potentially be made obsolete anyway.

Of course Michigan press does books

That’s why Michigan’s move is significant. Because it is redefining the monograph, it also is making the first real push to shove disciplines such as the humanities out of the seventeenth century.

…which of course brings up the trends of content disaggregation, and why humanities are the last of the disciplines to privilege monograph publications over serials publication…

Exactly right. It’s the humanities who are the big holdouts here, and they are the ones who need to be dragged, kicking and screaming, into the light.

Ooh. I want to try BEP’s EdiKit.

I just reviewed an article on a system like EdiKit today, and it was super easy and smooth. I suspsect systems like that decrease turnaround time for reviews, and I know they make submitting papers way easier, too. It also cuts down on the crazy waste of paper and postage that journal submissions/reviews used to require. Amazing how all that has changed in fewer then 4-5 years.

I read that “Unread Monographs” article next to the article on UMP as companion pieces in a way, each pointing to different problems with a too heavy reliance on the monograph as a form of knowledge dissemination and as a tool for evaluating scholarly output.

That the humanities is the last to jettison this reliance shouldn’t be terribly surprising. We are almost always the most resistant to the changes promised by technology, but (and I think this is more important) we are so damned worried that we’re going to be replaced and that we won’t be able to continue justifying ourselves, especially in the context of the research university. The move to digital publication appears to threaten both our public and our internal (intra-academic) justifications for existence.

Shaun –

Hooray for those humanities scholars who work for serial publications, right?

If only they weren’t so committed to killing trees. . .

Oh, and now I have to go learn more about EdiKit. It looks super cool.

Get BEPress to publish your journal electronically. Tell Gordon T. that James W. sent you.

I see JAW is holding up the librarian end of things quite well. I will just echo: open access is more important than digital publishing—or should be. I’ve been trying to do my bit.