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To help celebrate Peer Review Week 2016, we asked the 20+ organizations on the steering group to tell us how they #recognize review and what more they hope to do in future. Their responses show a clear understanding of the importance of peer review and a firm commitment to supporting more recognition for review in future.
Peter Berkery, Association of American University Presses (AAUP)
Peer review is woven deep into the fabric of AAUP. Our membership guidelines instruct that regular members must meet the editorial criteria of having both a board that certifies the quality of its scholarly publications, and a peer review process that meets a common standard.
The Association’s Admissions & Standards Committee holds applicants to a rigorous standard, reviewing editorial processes undertaken in recent publications for consistency with these standards. Membership in AAUP recognizes the importance of peer review to the scholarly record, and recognizes those nonprofit scholarly publishers who commit to this work—and the editors and reviewers who uphold our standards.
We recently articulated the common standard of peer review quality in monographic publication in Best Practices for Peer Review, which is available under a CC-BY-NC-SA license. It is the (peer-reviewed!) product of a two-year consensus-building effort by the AAUP Acquisitions Editorial Committee.
We expect that the practice of peer review may change in the future—as disciplinary norms shift, and new experiments in the format and delivery of both scholarship and scholarly peer evaluations find successful models. The reason for peer review—to help develop and validate high quality scholarship—will remain, as will its central role in AAUP and in AAUP membership.
Alison O’Connell, Aries Systems
Aries Systems advances peer review recognition by giving journals using Editorial Manager® flexibility to collect the data they need in-workflow, enabling participation in reviewer recognition initiatives downstream. Building this configurability into EM gives journals the control to experiment with emerging recognition services. Journal system administrators can configure the reviewer form to solicit permission to share review data, and can export appropriate review data in the formats required by recognition services, such as Publons.
Looking ahead, we keep abreast of developing needs through our continuous engagement with the community through user group meetings, industry conference participation, and other initiatives, so that when new tools and services emerge, the functionality is already in place to empower editors to explore.
Elizabeth Moylan BioMed Central (BMC)
A recent survey of our peer reviewers found they choose to undertake peer review based on their expertise, not on the basis of any expected rewards. However, in keeping with the theme of Peer Review Week 2016 over a third of respondents felt that stronger recognition of their work was motivating. Public acknowledgement and certificates were mentioned.
At BMC we recognize reviews in the form of citable acknowledgements. Our open peer review journals also provide recognition to peer reviewers through the publication of their named reports alongside the article. Reviewers for the BMC series of journals can also obtain a discount from the article-processing charges when submitting to the BMC series.
We have recently announced a trial partnership with Publons, so that reviewers can showcase their peer review activity. We also provide support for peer reviewers in the form of ‘how to’ article collections by experts in various types of research methodology and guidance for beginners.
In future, we want to explore ways in which reviewers in general (regardless of peer review model) can be recognized publicly. We’ll also be looking at the free text comments received in our initial survey and sharing – as well as responding to – what we learn.
Bahar Mehmani, Elsevier
Elsevier launched its Reviewer Recognition platform over two years ago, providing reviewers with a personal review profile page in which they can view their Elsevier journal review history and, in a few simple steps, create a public Reviewer Page listing all their peer review activities – including those for other publishers’ titles. Reviewer statuses are awarded based on the number of reviews they have completed for a specific journal. Since the launch of the platform, more than 450,000 reviewer individual profiles with a “status” have been created. Reviewers receive the encrypted link to their personal profile every time they complete a review for a title. They can download a variety of certificates based on the number of reviews they submit to a journal and take advantage of other perks such as discounts on Elsevier bookstore and WebShop author services. Furthermore, our journal editors can select reviewers based on the quality of their reviews, nominating them for a “Certificate of Excellence,” which complements the certificates based on frequency of review. Editors can also publish their list of nominated reviewers on their journal homepage as well. For Elsevier, this is just the beginning of an ever-expanding road toward recognizing reviewers.
Ruth Francis, F1000
At F1000Research we do post-publication peer review, which allows us to give credit to reviewers in many ways. Reviewers’ names and affiliations are published along with their full report alongside the paper which means that their contribution to the article is clear and the reports become an integral part of the article and the scientific discussion around it. Because the whole process is open and transparent, reviewers can see how the author responds to their comments and how they revise their article. In this way, referees are recognized as a part of the whole publishing process. We give a DOI to the report so it can be cited in its own right, and referees can also add their review to their ORCID profile to give visibility to their professional process.
In the future we hope to see reviews recognized as a qualitative measure of the article itself and used by readers, funders and institutes to evaluate the quality of the research. We would like to see many others adopting more open peer review and reviews used in an evaluative way.
Kristen Overstreet, International Society of Managing and Technical Editors (ISMTE)
ISMTE is all about peer review. Conversations at meetings and on the member discussion forum, and several EON articles, indicate awareness of the importance of reviewers’ contributions. But has ISMTE given enough attention to the methods of recognizing reviewers? Unfortunately, the answer is no; however, I already see change brought about by the theme of this year’s Peer Review Week.
Meghan McDevitt, the Editor of EON, has commissioned an article for the October issue on the subject of recognizing reviewers, and the Education Committee is developing an educational resource on rewarding reviewers and editorial board members that will be posted on the ISMTE website (www.ismte.org) soon. Social media posts and discussion forum conversations this week will identify more ideas for how journal editorial offices can recognize and reward the crucial contributions of our reviewers. We also hope to learn how reviewers in other areas, such as grant review, promotion and tenure, etc., are recognized. This could help us identify new methods we have not yet considered.
Peer Review Week 2016 has brought the issue of recognizing reviewers of all types to our attention, and I look forward to the new resources that ISMTE will be able to offer as a result.
Annette Flanagan, JAMA and the JAMA Network
JAMA and The JAMA Network Journals have provided peer reviewers with continuing medical education credit for many years. In addition, the journals publish annual editorials recognizing the contributions of peer reviewers, with a link to lists of the names of peer reviewers who provided peer reviews for the journal in the previous year. See JAMA’s examples here and here.
As an organizer of the International Congress on Peer Review and Scientific Publication along with the BMJ and METRICS, we are interested in seeing new research into incentives and rewards for peer reviewers. Many have been launching new programs and are experimenting with novel ways to incentivize, acknowledge, and credit peer reviewers and peer reviews. We invite those interested in conducting research evaluating the effectiveness of these programs and models for peer reviewers to submit abstracts for the next Peer Review Congress. See topics for suggested research. Abstracts are due February 15, 2017, and the Peer Review Congress will be held September 10-12, 2017, in Chicago.
Pandelis Perakakis, Open Scholar
What is peer review? What is its purpose? How would we redesign it from the ground up to best serve this purpose? From the perspective of what is best for Science, peer review should be a mechanism of validation. Once produced, a scientific work should be exposed to the eyes of the entire scientific community who would collectively decide whether it meets the scientific requirements to become part of the knowledge commons or if it needs further improvements. No assessment of the potential impact of the article is relevant to the peer review process. Peer review should be an open debate to generate consensus about the scientific validity of a given work. In this conceptual framework, reviewers are recognised because they are openly helping improve each other’s work. Reviewers act as co-authors who have an interest in increasing a work’s scientific quality because if they succeed, the work, and their names appearing next to it, will gain more visibility. Open scholar develops and promotes infrastructure that facilitates a model of open peer review, organised around institutional repositories and open archives. Our two flagship projects are the Self-Journals of Science and PeerMod—an open peer review module for open access repositories.
Alice Meadows, ORCID
ORCID’s vision is for all who participate in research, scholarship, and innovation to be uniquely identified and connected with their contributions and affiliations across disciplines, borders, and time. Our peer review functionality, introduced last year, enables organizations to recognize all types of peer review activities – of publications, conference abstracts, grants, promotion and tenure applications, and more. It allows organizations to connect review information to a researcher’s ORCID record (with her/his permission), from where it can also be shared with other organizations if wished.
Several of our publisher members were early adopters of this functionality (American Geophysical Union, eJournal Press, F1000, and Publons), and we are now encouraging more members – from publishing and beyond – to implement it. We believe that adding validated information about peer review activities to ORCID records will help enable more recognition for this important work across all sectors.
Tom Culley, Publons
A Publons profile recognizes your review activities, and demonstrates your commitment and contributions to sound research in your field. Over 80,000 researchers already use our free service to effortlessly track, verify and showcase their reviewing and editorial contributions, in real-time, across all of the world’s journals. Publons provides:
- unique statistics and insights to compare your reviewing behaviour with others
- verified proof of previously hidden contributions to include in promotion and funding applications
- premier reviewer discovery, screening and analysis tools.
Over 1,000 journals from Wiley, Sage, Springer Nature, Cambridge University Press, The Royal Society and many more will be fully integrated in 2016.
This year, we are launching the Sentinels of Science Awards – the ‘Nobel Prizes’ for peer review – with support from industry heavyweights. We’re excited to be announcing the inaugural recipients at the end of Peer Review Week 2016.
In coming months, Publons is focusing on facilitating training and feedback to reviewers, to elevate the quality of peer review and research. Publons users are also directly contributing research and analysis into peer review that was previously not possible. Our unique, cross-publisher peer review information will be used to assess how peer review is performing globally and the impact it has on research.
Phil Hurst, The Royal Society
The Royal Society recognizes peer review in two main ways. Since its launch two years ago, our ‘objective peer review’ journal, Royal Society Open Science has provided the option to publish peer review information. Two thirds of published authors have opted for this and many reviewers have ‘signed’ their reports.
For the past year, we have integrated our biggest journal, Proceedings B, with Publons. This integration makes it easy for reviewers to opt into including recognition of their work in their Publons profile. A substantial number of reviews have been claimed, the majority through the integration. An added bonus is they can easily add this information to their ORCID profile via Publons. Researchers indicate that peer review is not regarded as an important research output by their institutions at present. However, they are building their profiles of peer review work for when it is recognized.
In the future we want more recognition for reviewers. We intend to extend the opportunities provided by open peer review and our Publons integration to more of our titles and more reviewers. There are potentially many more ways to recognize peer review – we are keen to identify and explore these. We think transparency is important in peer review and believe that reviewers should be recognized for this vital research output.
Tessa Picknett, Executive Director, STM , SAGE Publishing
Peer review is the lynchpin of the scholarly publishing process, relying heavily on the expertise of reviewers around the world. To recognize the vital role that peer reviewers play, SAGE has developed a range of initiatives, including rewarding peer reviewers by enabling free and seamless access to all 960+ journals on the SAGE journals platform for 60 days following submission of a review. In addition, we have established a partnership with Publons to further enable recognition of individual reviewer’s contributions and to improve the peer review process for all stakeholders. We are also delighted to be supporting Publons’ inaugural peer review recognition awards being launched this week.
Peer review – like everything in publishing – is constantly evolving, with increasingly innovative developments in online submission systems and open peer review. However, the fundamental role of evaluation, improvement, and selection – by reviewers and editors – continues to be widely endorsed as an essential component of the scholarly communication system. Whilst we continue to focus on mechanisms to make this as transparent, ethical and straightforward as possible, we recognize a need for support and guidance, especially for early careers researchers, and we are driving forward initiatives, and collaborating with others to provide expert support across the globe.
Stephanie Dawson, ScienceOpen
Open and public, post-publication peer review has been a cornerstone of ScienceOpen since our beginning. We believe that full recognition of peer reviewers’ efforts requires transparency. Therefore, any ScienceOpen member with the required level of expertise can evaluate and review any of 25 million articles with their name and research history available via ORCID. ScienceOpen peer review reports receive a CrossRef DOI to make them citable and trackable for altmetrics. Researchers can add them to their CV, ORCID profile, and website. Making well-written and insightful reviews citable, is an important step towards giving reviewers real credit for their work, and by making reviews open, we can also prevent valuable information from being lost. The context of a researcher’s evaluation – his/her experience, specialties, publications – is important for the reader in assessing a peer review and adds to the context of the research itself. As the volume of publications worldwide continues to grow, new strategies will be needed to support researchers in this evaluation process – both pre- and post-publication. As a major aggregator of information, ScienceOpen will continue to explore ways to open up and understand the context of scholarly research, with peer evaluation of research in all its forms remaining central to that mission.
Amy Bourke-Waite, Springer Nature
At Springer Nature we’re constantly looking to improve our peer review systems, and find new and better ways of recognizing peer reviewers for their hard work. Existing methods of recognition include monetary reward (monographs), and free subscriptions or discounts on Article Processing Charges (articles). But most researchers simply want their name to be acknowledged.
Seventy BioMed Central journals offer open peer review, encouraging transparency and providing a valuable educational resource for future peer reviewers. In the last year, BioMed Central have published over 40,000 open peer review reports, recognizing 24,000 peer reviewers.
Nature Editor in Chief Philip Campbell writes and thanks anyone who reviews three or more papers for the Nature Research portfolio. In 2016 we piloted initiatives including optional publication of peer-reviewer reports in Nature Communications; optional publication of peer-reviewer identities in Nature; optional transfer of peer-reviewer reports and identities from Nature Communications to other selected Springer Nature journals.
This month we’ve started a Publons pilot across 13 of our journals., and we’ll soon be announcing another pilot, experimenting with a new type of recognition. Finally, to all our reviewers everywhere: in case we haven’t said it recently, thank you from the team at Springer Nature.
Verity Warne, Wiley
At Wiley we recognize the integral role that reviewers play in scholarly communications. Researchers spent a huge amount of time reviewing (at least 22 million hours for the top 12 publishers alone in 2013), and we continue to introduce new ways to reward and recognize their invaluable contribution.
Journals across our program show their appreciation for reviewers by offering certificates, book discounts, APC discounts, CME for reviewers, and acknowledgement lists.
This week we are proud to announce that more than 750 Wiley journals are being newly integrated with Publons, allowing reviewers to track, verify, and showcase every review they undertake for participating journals. Reviewers can then use their verified peer review and editorial records in funding and promotion applications.
In our study of reviewer motivations, training and recognition needs last year, we found that researchers strongly believe that reviewing is inadequately acknowledged at present and should carry more weight in their institutions’ evaluation process. Some work has been undertaken in this area (the 2012 Sense About Science’s open letter to HEFCE, and the open letter to the Australian Research Council to name a couple) but we believe more could be done to facilitate debate on this issue with all stakeholders, including funders and research assessment bodies.
This post has been shared across organizers blogs, and at the Peer Review Week site.
The following letter was delivered as a keynote speech at the Association of American University Presses annual meeting in Denver, Colorado, June 2015.
A Letter to Pratt in Praise of Books
I am writing in the evening light; the river birds have begun the last of their singing, sweet whistles, and rapid staccatos that are their language. I imagine they are asking one another for the very same things we might ask for, a lasting grace that is more than just their flight.
Antonito blooms in the cradle of three rivers, all of which give their names and their water to the Rio Grande west of town. A gorge of andesite rock, scored with petroglyphs, directs the river south through a rift that split the llano in two at the earth’s forming. The petroglyphs mark the passing of ancient civilizations; their crude renderings on the black stone are a lasting proof, a carved longing etched for us to interpret. Thermals rise from the gorge, and the river noise and the raptors make upon them a calligraphy of sound and flight that is like words at their genesis.
Further to the west, there is a storm tethered to the San Juans; the bruised sky does not descend east into the canyon cut by the Conejos and lined with cottonwoods. Today, for the first time in weeks, the river has green at her watery edges, the peak of runoff fading. The river is my home; it is what I return to, always my north and brightest star. It is the river that keeps my memories, each bend its own story. For all I know, it is this river of water and stone that is my soul. My friend Cristobal once fished here. This river does not belong to him, he of the fierce face, so angry or so afraid or so brave. This is the river where I saw him last, before the .22 slug to his right temple. The river has made it so that the final memories of many things and many ghosts can be washed clean, wet as water on stone, touched by every current; the river becomes this mirror that is both truth and the shimmer of the half remembered; slow, flat water, which heals and forgives. The river is what I try to save. I believe the river is better than all of us; it knows how we love, and it urges the broken parts of us healed, and that is why I am writing this letter; I believe books, language, and the perfect word hold that same power.
Sometimes it is easy to lose sight of what we are meant to do, what we are meant to change in the world. Are we meant to find the good stories, the most perfect word, to find the music of a line or sentence? We are seekers, and that is what we were made to do, to follow the rivers of our youth; linger at the deep pools of joy, pain, and regret; cast our hope to the answers beneath the water’s mirror, that reversal of aspect that allows us to see inside ourselves. We broker in what we see on a daily basis and also that which we imagine. We fuse the two constantly, alchemists that work at new meaning, new vision, new understanding. We must see differently; it is, perhaps, the only requirement of the job. Eliot called it prelogical thinking, and he claimed it was only available to and through poets. Shelley called the poet the hierophant of sacred mysteries, and Stevens, when speaking of the great blue and purple tabulae, said it “spoke the feeling for them, which is what they had lacked.” We must see reflected, there in the word, that which everyone else sees as human and tangible and then imagine it as sacrosanct and beautiful, no matter how ordinary, ugly, or foreign it may seem.
Do you believe, as I do, that we are here to save language and therefore the power of the written word? Yehuda Amichai described our modern voice as a “weary language, . . . a language that once described miracles and God.” That is why the books you publish are so important, so necessary—good books, long labors of words and thoughts that seek the sacred peace of a well-written line. It was books that saved me.
I come from a place where leaving has always been equated with success. Leaving is difficult at times; the ways out are marked with the glowing road signs of those that tried and failed. The fields at the edge of town are rigged with the land mines of doubt, failure, and fear. Leaving has never been easy. My only stated goal when I was young was to leave Antonito and never return. I would negotiate the land mines, ignore the roadside crosses and the scattered bones of the fallen.
I was never a horrible kid in school, though I think there are a few teachers that might disagree with my self-assessment; I do, however, remember being bored, tired of filling in blanks, tired of books that did not reflect me or my place. School was an oppressive force. Were it not for football and friendships I cannot say where my early path would have led. I remember the psychologist the district brought in, her battery of tests on me; the intended goal, I learned later, was to expel me. There were these mentions of reform school or military school. In short, I hated school, and then my freshman English teacher, literally, gave me a key one day. At the back of the room there was a locked cabinet whose contents were off-limits. She would constantly tell me, “Those books are for the seniors.” I am many things, but chief among them, I am persistent, to a fault. Finally, in what seemed like a moment of desperation, she told me, “Go ahead pick a book from back there if you promise to quit disrupting my class.” I was only too happy to oblige; if I never have to conjugate another sentence, I will be a happy man.
She handed over the small key, and I walked to the back of the room. I chose Capote’s In Cold Blood, and a new world was opened. Emily Dickinson says that every poem has its trapdoor that the reader must fall through. I fell into that book and knew, at that moment, that I would love books and their saving power for the rest of my life. I cannot remember my first kiss, but I remember Kenyon Clutter and the fact that he ate apples to keep his teeth clean and that he carried a sheep on his fifteen-year-old shoulders through a Kansas blizzard. He was not an important character in the book, but I was in awe of Capote, of those minor details and how much weight they carried. I knew then that books, and the conjuring they possessed, were the first true-feathered bird.
Perhaps we are all here to trace and collect words, to sow meaning; we collect that thing which people discard as ordinary and bring it to a page of life where it can flourish and be the map of human struggle and therefore an instruction as to how we can all survive.
I worry sometimes that my students are losing their ability to love or appreciate the inexhaustible strength of words and their power. I think they betray that which you and I would never betray, that thing which we give ourselves to like prayer. We call upon language to protect us, give us light, and there is a grace in what we chose to do, the books we give ourselves to, the hard-earned pages that lift us toward being whole. I think that there are others like us, a race of people who still love the eloquent transcendence of the exact word, the beautiful and sensuous hip of a perfectly rendered comma that can send any of us on a river journey toward interminable love.
We search the geologic layers of the human condition and we bring it to the page because that is our job, to record that which matters, the memory worth saving, the history worth telling, the woven words that form a music that has always been meant to save us. Sometimes we are called to save our fallen home and its forgotten places. Sometimes we are called upon to save the window in each of us, the portal mirror that allows us to interpret the sacred mysteries. What is language to you? How, perhaps, has it saved you? Is it, perhaps, like Li-Young Lee said about poetry, each poem is a “descendant of God.”
Language is my wife’s love of living and remembered things, language is my mother’s hands or my father’s tired back, language is my daughter’s smile, the medicine of it after I believed that parts of me were broken forever. Language is water that carries me simultaneously forward and into the past.
I am writing to you from the banks of the river; the storm never made it off the mountains; the birds are silent and there are so many stars out beyond the dark, swaying bodies of the cottonwoods. I strain for the notes of some sound against canyon walls, but there is only the steady thrum of river. Thank you for the work you do, for your dedication to good and important books, their magic and message, their language of liberation and hope. This letter is in praise of books, their limitless potential and their sacredness. I suppose, by association, this letter is also about friendship and about what is lost or can be lost. I hope to someday show you the Conejos, the river that is my home water. I will show you where I caught my first fish, point out the bend where I last saw my friend Cristobal and his stringer of fish. I will show you my hometown, how much it needs hope, how much it needs books like the ones you publish. We all need to see ourselves in words; each of us needs our history to be told and understood, and for your contribution to this end, I sincerely thank you.
I am writing to you from the banks of the Conejos River, and I am wishing you a good night. Perhaps you will dream of words and their origins, and in your dream they will begin to fly and work the dusk light of your memory, collecting in their beaks and in their winged flight the parts of your being that were you long ago, and the words will circle in the alpenglow to form the stories and poems that rise toward the growing night, toward stars, toward the timeless space between their origin and your dreaming them back to the page, forever and forever without cease.
Be well, my friend, and keep bringing us toward a place where the music of words is rendered with grace.
Reproduced courtesy of Aaron A. Abeyta and
University Press of Colorado.
Aaron A. Abeyta is a Colorado native and professor of English at Adams State University. He is the author of four collections of poetry and one novel. For his book Colcha, Abeyta received the American Book Award and the Colorado Book Award. In addition, his novel Rise, Do Not Be Afraid was a finalist for the 2007 Colorado Book Award and Premio Aztlan. Abeyta also was awarded a Colorado Council on the Arts fellowship for poetry, and he was recently named the Poet Laureate of Colorado’s Western Slope by the Karen Chamberlain Poetry Festival.
Abeyta’s work has appeared in various publications, including An Introduction to Poetry, 10th edition; Literature: An Introduction to Fiction, Poetry, and Drama, 8th edition; and Conversations in American Literature: Language, Rhetoric, Culture; Colorado Central Magazine; and High Country News.
Abeyta received his MFA from Colorado State University. He lives in Antonito, Colorado, where he remains close to his family and culture, both of which greatly influence his work.
Tony Sanfilippo talks acquiring, marketing, digital publishing
by Juliet Barney, AAUP Marketing and Social Media Intern
As part of my series of interviews as AAUP intern, learning about scholarly publishing from my layman’s perspective, I recently talked to Tony Sanfilippo, Assistant Press Director and Marketing and Sales Director at Penn State University Press. Knowing his expertise and experience in digital publishing, especially in regard to acquisitions and marketing, I hoped he would be able to help me better understand each area.
From previous interviews, I had picked up some basics about acquisitions and marketing: I knew that acquisitions editors work to find manuscripts that fit the needs of their press, not necessarily their personal needs; that marketing for these titles, whether they are print or digital, is modeled by the particulars of each specific project. I was curious what Sanfilippo had to add to what I have already encountered—and interestingly, he did have a new perspective: he explained that you don’t always stick to acquiring texts within your usual editorial focus, and that you can also revive out-of-print books you still believe are valuable.
From Sanfilippo, I learned that acquisitions aren’t just about finding the right manuscript, but also building up a worthwhile project and making it accessible to a wide range of people. Sanfilippo also revisited his college bookstore idea that has the potential to positively impact college students like myself.
(The full interview has been edited for publication.)
What is your experience with patron-driven acquisitions? Is it an effective model?
This is something I’m actually very concerned about. The major question surrounding PDA—which is also referred to as demand-driven acquisitions—is, “Are the current usage triggers sustainable?” A lot of publishers and vendors are having a big conversation on the model. What we’re seeing is that libraries are no longer purchasing books, but instead, are opting to do this short-term rental more often than they’re purchasing. So, not only are they changing the nature of the library’s collection to something that’s more of a popularity driven selection, it’s also significantly cutting publishers’ revenue. For example, I know University of Mississippi Press noted that they’ve seen a significant cut in print sales and the DDA model is only making up a fraction of that lost revenue.
I think if the model is going to be sustainable, two things need to happen. (1) We need to change the model so that some sort of compensation is given to the publishers to make up for the lost revenue. If we don’t, university presses won’t be able to continue publishing the amount of books they’ve published in the past. Also, we will probably begin to publish only popular scholarship as opposed to good scholarship, which are extremely different things. (2) We also need to think about alternatives to the rentals. For example, if there’s an opportunity for the individual to purchase a copy for himself or herself rather than only offering the library the opportunity to purchase a copy: that sort of revenue could make up for the loss.
Otherwise, PDA/DDA won’t be something publishers can continue to participate in on a long-term basis.
In your article “Rethinking the College Bookstore,” you bring up the idea of borrowing textbooks or new scholarship, both for students and faculty, but wouldn’t that affect the publishers marketing those texts?
What’s different about the model I recommend and what’s currently going on is that there isn’t that opportunity now for a purchase to occur by the individual in a library. Libraries have a mission of sharing. They get a certain amount of resources that they can use totry to purchase materials with, and they try to decide what’s the best way to share those materials. But promoting book ownership—that’s not the part of the library mission. What I propose actually adds that element. Patrons often also have their own personal libraries, but with the loss of bookstores, they have few opportunities for discovery for those personal libraries. Instead that’s been happening for readers more and more often at lending libraries. Publishers can afford to rent more books and allow more borrowing of books if they are also given the opportunity to sell a book in the same space, and to the same audience.
There’s an interesting statistic that I encountered recently, here, at Penn State. We got an email from the help desk at the university library: the #1 most-asked question was, “Where is the bathroom?” #2 question: “Where can I find my textbooks?” Students weren’t going to the university bookstore and asking that question, they were going to the library. There is an expectation from students that if the learning materials aren’t a part of a content management system, they should be on reserve in the library. I think there is some resistance from librarians on this topic. But, if it’s what the students need, maybe we should consider it.
There’s one popular theory that people will pay for the use of material on a borrowed basis. Sort of like a Netflix model. You don’t actually own films or TV shows; you borrow them. If you look at libraries using the Demand Driven and Short Term Loan models, combined they’re sort of like a Netflix for books mixed with the physicality of a Blockbuster. If you borrow a book and spend too much time on it, rather than just paying the late fee, you have to buy the book. It’s like renting a movie and never returning it.
When looking for new manuscripts, what do you consider?
The acquisitions I do are very different from the scholarly acquisitions that Penn State Press typically does. In our mission statement, we talk about how the majority of what we do is for serving the scholarly community, but we also have a line in there about serving the people of Pennsylvania. As a state school, we feel a responsibility to give back to the commonwealth, so we also try to publish books of interest to them.
For me, what makes a good book is going to be different than the standards of those acquiring our scholarship. Our scholarly acquisitions staff are looking at whether the manuscript uses the language of the discipline and whether or not it’s engaging with a current argument in that field. In contrast, the questions I ask myself are, “Is it useful to the people of the commonwealth, and if so, what’s the market? Would we serve a good portion of the regional market or is it too narrow a focus?” So whereas marketing is a minor part of scholarly acquisitions, it plays a major role for me and regional acquisitions. I’m also looking at the writing. If you’re not a great academic writer, that’s not always important. And if you’re really engaging with the language of your discipline, the book will have trouble with a wider audience; jargon is not accessible to the average reader. I’m looking for really great writers who can engage their readers, and who are going to appeal to a much broader audience. It’s not only what they’re saying, but also how they’re saying it.
I’m also generally thinking about publicity, because our regional books have a better opportunity to benefit from publicity. There are so many local radio stations where I can book an author because they’re talking about deer hunting. Our Continental philosophers? Not so much.
When acquiring a text, do you take into consideration whether it will be in print or digital?
Let me give an example—not of a book that I acquired, but a recommendation that I made. We did an atlas on the breeding birds in Pennsylvania. It comes out of work that the Pennsylvania DCNR (Department of Conservation and Natural Resources) does here. Folks go out and count the number of breeding birds they find in the wild: pairs, and nests. The volunteers are out there every weekend documenting these numbers on paper. They did this for 10 years and came up with this amazing data set of the distribution of birds and their breeding habits, including where and when they could be found. We published all that data into a book. My first thought on that was, “Wow, wouldn’t that make a wonderful app?” Not only for species identification, but also to continue monitoring the distribution of the breeding species.
Once we started looking into the cost of a project like that and it became more daunting. We weren’t able to proceed, but it’s the kind of thing I thought about in the terms of, “Does this project make more sense in print or digital?” There’s an argument to be made for both. But as a project, if it were to be ongoing and continuously recording data, it seems that as an app, you can create an opportunity, not only for the user to look up a particular bird, but also to report that sighting back to the database.
It depends upon the project. When considering whether to publish in print or digital, I’m not only thinking about the audience, I’m also thinking more about the actual project. That said, there are very few projects where we’re forced to choose between only one or the other.
What’s the most interesting project you’re currently working on?
There was a book we published a long time ago called Angels and Wild Things: The Archetypal Poetics of Maurice Sendak, by John Cech. I think the world of Sendak; I think he was an American treasure. There was so little written about him that was really scholarly in nature, and here was this book that we published that had unfortunately gone out of print. So I tried really hard to bring that book back into print. The folks who actually controlled most of Sendak’s illustrations were generally HarperCollins (they were his publisher through most of his career). We would have to negotiate another deal with them to use the illustrations again, and our initial attempts were pretty discouraging. They wanted quite a bit of money for the necessary permissions required for a reprint.
But then serendipitously, one of our acquisitions editors found herself talking to a friend of Sendak. When she realized the connection, our editor started talking about the book, and the friend offered to “see what he could do.” So a few weeks after that party, we got a call from HarperCollins’ rights department saying that Sendak asked them to give us unrestricted print rights to his images for use in our book, and to do it gratis. (For print only, though; they weren’t so generous with the digital rights.) So in the end, we were able to bring the book back into print after more than a decade, primarily because Sendak himself intervened. I’m extremely proud to been able to bring that book back into print.
Katie Keeran shares her experience building a higher education list
by Juliet Barney, AAUP Marketing and Social Media Intern
This week, AAUP published the newest Books for Understanding list: Books for Understanding: Higher Education. To accompany the list, I interviewed one of the AAUP’s key higher education acquisitions editors, Katie Keeran at Rutgers University Press. I was very excited and willing to speak with Keeran, to further understand her role as an acquisitions editor as well as her experience with developing a higher education list.
Keeran received her BA in history from Rutgers and her MA in English from Montclair State University, where she taught writing before moving onto a career in publishing. She started at Rutgers University Press as an editorial assistant, began acquiring books part-time, and eventually was promoted to working full time as an acquisitions editor at the press. Since then, Keeran has acquired a number of manuscripts for titles on higher education including Why Public Higher Education Should be Free, Doing Diversity in Higher Education, and many more. Many of Rutger’s titles are included in the new Books for Understanding list.
What is your favorite part of working as an acquisitions editor at Rutgers?
The best part about working as an acquisitions editor is having stimulating conversations with authors about their work and of course reading and helping to shape that work. It is very rewarding to see a project through from the early stages to a final book. In this profession we are lucky enough to always be engaged in the thrill and challenge of intellectual activity. I loved being a student, and as an editor you never stop learning.
As an acquisitions editor, who do you work closely with and how does everyone work together in the publishing process at Rutgers?
We have under 20 people on staff at Rutgers University Press, and we all work very closely together. I often speak with my fellow editors and my director about projects that I have underway and lists that I am building, and the acquisitions department works closely with the pre-press and marketing departments as we move manuscripts through production and begin selling books. We also have a wonderful cohort of dedicated student interns who we love working with and value greatly. Everyone’s door is open and we have a great, familial dynamic on staff.
How do you find and decide on higher ed titles? What do you look for?
I seek out authors whose research and writing focus on recent developments and public policy issues in higher education in the United States, and am particularly drawn to books that examine key concerns faced by our colleges and universities, families and students, and the faculty and staff who work at these institutions, and ideally suggest possible solutions to these problems. Books that speak to a wide audience are especially appealing.
What areas of higher ed do you focus on for the Rutgers list?
We welcome classroom books as well as books for practitioners, administrators, and policy-makers. I am especially keen on manuscripts that explore current trends such as rising tuition and student debt, the expansion of administrative posts and salaries, the crisis in the humanities and the arts, controversy in sports programs, corporate universities and for-profit colleges, and online education. I am also interested in ongoing discussions around tenure and academic freedom, affirmative action, campus labor, and issues concerning gender, racial, ethnic, and class dynamics in higher education, as well as books that examine the position of other minority groups in institutions of higher learning.
We have a vibrant list in the social sciences and humanities, and projects come out of diverse disciplines. For instance, we have a book called Sex and the University that that examines student journalism and sex columns in particular, but we also publish sociological books, such as When Diversity Drops: Race, Religion, and Affirmative Action in Higher Education, which examines how the affirmative action policy in California affected the demographics and dynamics of a student organization.
Once you’ve chosen them, how do you market the titles? Do the marketing strategies vary for each title or is there a form you follow?
We often promote like books together. So our recent higher ed books would be grouped together in, say, a Chronicle ad or a direct mail piece but each book would receive individualized publicity, sales, merchandising placement, social media, and e-marketing attention. We also vary efforts based on whether the book is written for a trade audience, the academic community, practitioners, in this instance, educators, policy-makers, or a mix of multiple audiences.
What are some of the most interesting projects you have lined up? What are you the most excited about?
Two new books that I am especially excited about are Why Public Higher Education Should be Free: How to Decrease Cost and Increase Quality at American Universities by Robert Samuels and Checklist for Change: Making American Higher Education a Sustainable Enterprise by Robert Zemsky. These are both innovative and forward-thinking books that are sparking some important conversations and ultimately could lead to changes in educational policies. Do Babies Matter? Gender and Family in the Ivory Tower is another book of ours that is making a big splash and generating a good deal of discussion about the family-friendly policies of the university and the implications for women’s careers in academia.
I have an incoming proposal for a book on disability in higher education, which I am hoping will be great.
What areas of research do you currently find the most interesting, and why?
I am drawn to all kinds of books–from those that tell a compelling story about how communities, individuals, and institutions are impacted by certain policies, to explorations of cultural movements, to books that examine a more global picture of higher education at a national level. I suppose one kind of project that I find especially compelling are those that challenge the status quo in bold ways and make normative claims for how we as a society can rethink our priorities and effect change.
Stories along the Road to Innovation from the Johns Hopkins University Press
by Becky Brasington Clark and Claire McCabe Tamberino
Our consumer health editor, Jackie Wehmueller, had turned up a promising opportunity. She had contacted a prominent dermatologist about writing a book on chronic itch, a condition that affects millions of individuals. The market potential for the book was enormous and the dermatologist was renowned. He liked the idea and agreed to write the book with one key condition: it had to be a fully interactive e-book with patient videos and three-dimensional graphics, and it had to be published as a multi-touch iBook.
The author was coming to Baltimore in a few weeks. Did we want to meet with him and learn more?
The answer was an enthusiastic yes. As a longstanding publisher of titles in consumer health—including the bestselling Thirty-Six Hour Day—the Johns Hopkins University Press was the natural home for this path-breaking project.
There was a small twinge of anxiety over the fact that we had never before used iBooks Author—the multi-touch platform that seamlessly incorporates video, audio, 3-D graphics, and other interactive features directly into the e-book file—but that kind of anxiety is familiar in an industry where change is the only constant. “We’ll figure it out,” we said, and quickly got to work.
Figuring it out is the charge of the Online Books Division (OBD)—a big name for a three-person operation within JHUP’s Books Marketing Department. We seek commercially promising opportunities for digital innovation and figure out how to integrate them into the Book Division’s workflow. Since 2010, we’ve developed and posted supplemental material on CD and online for dozens of titles, we’ve incorporated 3,000 new pages to our online reference, The Early Republic, and we published the 2nd edition of the Johns Hopkins Atlas of Digital EEG (a proprietary software product accompanied by a print book). We’ve also digitized our course adoption campaigns, expanded and refined our list-serv, and segmented 20,000 e-mail subscribers by subject area preference—all while adding new vendors and territories to our e-book program.
We’ve learned a few things along the way, perhaps nothing as important as this: innovation requires not only a willingness to learn, but a stomach for frustration and occasional failure. It requires us to engage fully with that which we do not know, and to begin anew the long journey of mastery. It requires us to add new challenges to already heavy workloads, disrupt routines, and make new kinds of mistakes. And sometimes it requires that we say “yes” to a project before we are 100% certain that we know exactly how to get it done.
Learning iBooks Author
A couple of weeks in advance of the author meeting, two members of the OBD staff—Claire McCabe Tamberino and Michael Carroll—enrolled in a two-day training course on iBooks Author. They came back full of enthusiasm for the platform and confident that we could master it quickly.
We all agreed that we needed a beta project that would allow us to become proficient with iBooks Author in advance of using it for our first commercial endeavor. The search for a practice project came in the midst of a press-wide strategic communications discussion, in which we had identified the need for multi-media collateral material for JHU Press. That’s when it hit us: why not use iBooks Author to develop a multi-touch iBook about the Press?
Turning the Camera on Ourselves
With that, Meet the Johns Hopkins University Press was born. The vision was simple enough: repurpose descriptive copy about the Press and its four divisions—Books, Journals, HFS, and Project MUSE—and enhance it with multimedia.
Inspired by the video UNC Press had recently released to highlight the appointment of director John Sherer, we decided to conduct video interviews with Press leaders. That’s where things got a little tricky. We didn’t have a resident videographer on staff, and we couldn’t afford the steep rates charged by the university. So we decided to do it ourselves.
With another small investment in software and training (iMovie), we were ready to start shooting video using the Press’s newest iPad. We wrote scripts, scheduled video shoots, and called “action.”
The shooting went smoothly enough, but we quickly discovered two unanticipated problems. First, the interviews were far too long. Second, the video quality was compromised by the lack of professional lighting. Reshooting all of the interviews simply wasn’t an option. We were already on a tight schedule and the budget was even tighter.
They say necessity is the mother of invention. In this case, it led to creative thinking and innovation. We decided to shorten the video interviews considerably, and since the audio quality was better than the video quality, we decided to use small snippets of video, then continue the audio with still shots and animated B-roll.
Nearly a dozen people came together to finish the project. We published Meet the Johns Hopkins University Press in April and made it available free of charge in the iTunes store. We’ve been using it to introduce the Press to university stakeholders, prospective clients, funders, and authors, and the reaction to it has been overwhelmingly positive.
Meet the Johns Hopkins University Press helped us achieve our primary goal: becoming proficient in iBooks Author in advance of our first commercial project, Living with Itch, which will be published in August (more on that project in a future column). But the beta project bestowed some additional benefits that we found instructive.
First, we gained confidence in our ability to master new ways of publishing. When faced with a challenge like publishing in iBooks Author, it can be easy to assume that we aren’t big enough to handle it, that such opportunity is better left to trade houses and large commercial publishers. That simply isn’t the case. University presses are staffed by smart, adaptable professionals who master new challenges every day. Why worry that we can’t when we demonstrate day after day that we can?
Second, the project forced us to share information across divisions, a process that has been encouraged via our Press-wide strategic messaging efforts. Not only is it interesting to learn more about the work of our colleagues, but this kind of information sharing helps us leverage our collective strength and identify new responses to industry and market challenges.
Third, we were reminded of the value of professional services. Sure, we can shoot and edit video on the iPad, but it isn’t going to be of the same quality as work from professional videographers. For future book-length projects requiring video, we’ll ask the author to deliver high-quality video or we’ll hire a pro.
See for Yourself
Meet the Johns Hopkins University Press incorporates the multi-touch functionality of iBooks Author, with text, three-dimensional graphics, interactive maps, video, audio, and a self-grading quiz. If you’d like to see it for yourself, go to the iTunes store and download a free copy. We’d love to get your feedback. Feel free to email Claire McCabe Tamberino with your comments and questions at firstname.lastname@example.org. And watch this space for a future column on Living with Itch: A Patient’s Guide and an update on how we’ve used Meet the Press in our strategic communications.
Excerpted from Peter Givler’s Farewell Address
Peter Givler retired in June 2013, after 15 years as Executive Director of the Association of American University Presses. His farewell address was the keynote of our 2013 Annual Meeting, one that touched the deep personal, intellectual, and humane commitments that tie our individual selves to our “accidental profession.” Read the whole thing.
Back in 1970, in the Dark Ages before the internet, when I got my first publishing job, people spoke of publishing as “the accidental profession.” They meant they believed it was a profession, just not one people were trained for, like dentistry, or veterinary medicine. Publishing was something you just fell into, somehow, and then, if it really was for you, it became a vocation.
Publishing as the accidental profession had another, and contradictory, implication as well. That most of us had just fallen into it also meant that that the only was to learn it was to do it. The only credential needed for an entry-level job in publishing was a bachelor’s degree. It wasn’t supposed to matter what the degree was in, but in fact a high percentage of us had been English or History majors. In other words we had read a lot and were reasonably literate. Our bosses, who had read even more and were, for the most part, even more literate, assumed that we had all the basic equipment they could ask for, and that, presumably, we could learn everything else we needed to know the same way they did: by just doing it.
I’m oversimplifying here, but only a little. Manuscript editing, then as now, was a technical skill unique to publishing, a body of principles and conventions that could be learned, and therefore taught, more or less systematically, from texts like The Elements of Style and The Chicago Manual. In New York, NYU ran a Publishing Institute whose evening courses trained generations of editors in the basics of their profession.
People whose interests were broader than editing could also take courses in management accounting, or copyright, or contract law. But the purpose of these courses wasn’t to train us as lawyers, or accountants; it was to give us enough basic knowledge to know when it was a good idea to consult our accountants and lawyers, and what questions to ask them.
Because it was assumed that publishers were entrepreneurs: talent-spotters, risk-takers, enterprise managers; people with broad interests who weren’t themselves necessarily expert in anything, but who had a certain talent for seeing a new opportunity in an author or manuscript, and for harnessing the expertise of others to realize it. This, I cheerfully admit, is a romantic conception of what it is to be a publisher. It also contradicts the idea of publishing as a profession, whether accidental or deliberate. It’s the publisher as anti-professional, the publisher as amateur, the person who does it for love.
You describe what you do as mission-based publishing, which it is, but for me, that formulation is too abstract. You are the beating heart of that mission. It only exists to the extent that you believe in it, and that your actions are guided by it.
Gettysburg College 2012 by Tomwsulcer
There was a lot of chatter in the book community a couple of weeks ago over an announcement that Len Riggio, Chairman of Barnes & Noble, made about his interest in buying back his company. Riggio has done this more than once since he first purchased the company back in 1971. But what I’ve found most interesting about the announcement is a detail I haven’t seen anyone else mention. It’s what Mr. Riggio doesn’t want to include in the deal. In what he doesn’t want, everyone seems focused on his exclusion of the nook platform, but what’s of much greater interest to me is the other thing he doesn’t want, the college bookstore division.
Now in thinking about this, let’s review specifically just what we’re talking about. Barnes and Noble currently has about 689 “regular” bookstores, but it also runs 674 college bookstores. Note that it doesn’t own 674 college stores, it manages them and in most cases the building the store is located in is part of the college or university, usually right on campus. Typically, Barnes and Noble won the concession in a bidding process from the home institutions, like Pepsi did at the stadium, and now it has exclusive rights to sell textbooks and t-shirts on the campuses of those institutions. If you’re talking about a large institution with a successful and popular sports program, like the one I work for here at Penn State, then the t-shirt piece of that can be as lucrative as the bookstore/textbook piece of it, probably more so, and it is very unlikely that we’re going to see that change anytime soon.
But there’s one thing Len Riggio correctly identified a couple of years ago which is that the textbook market is changing rapidly. Last year, at the George Washington Conference on Ethics and Publishing, Dr. Al Greco, Professor of Marketing at Fordham who specializes in the book market, predicted that the market for print textbooks would go from a $4 Billion market in 2012 to $173 million by 2017, about a 95% drop in the next five years. That trend toward digital learning materials combined with the end of what was once a captive customer base forced by geography and proprietary adoption lists to purchase their textbooks from the campus store, has led to an amazing decline in the profitability of college bookstores. This is why, understandably, Len wants out. He saw the coming boom in campus stores back in the Seventies when he bought the chain, and I think he now sees what Al Greco sees.
So what does this mean for those of us at an institution with a B&N managed campus store? Well, probably nothing right away, but eventually those concession contracts will come up for renewal, and if what’s left of B&N after Riggio buys back the brick and mortar bookstores is nook and B&N College, well I can’t possibly imagine the nook division wanting anything to do with selling team hoodies, art supplies, and Blue Books. So when those agreements come up for renewal, what should happen? Well, if you’ll indulge me for a minute, I actually have an idea about this.
If we could start from scratch with a campus bookstore, what would we want it to do? Well, who are the affected constituents? It would seem students, faculty, and authors. If you’re a student, your answer might include doing something about textbook prices. If you’re a scholar it would probably include access, typically to the most recent scholarship. If you’re a writer, and not surprisingly colleges and universities are filled with those, both in the guise of publishing faculty and paper-writing students, you might want tools and expertise. But above all, I don’t think any of these constituencies wants to see the books go away. Instead, perhaps it’s high time something else left the building, the t-shirts.
If we are to reimagine the campus bookstore let’s first talk about what it doesn’t need to be. It doesn’t need to be a clothing outlet. Take the shirts and such out of the store and find a new home for it. It shouldn’t be difficult, there are probably already seven or fifteen or thirty other places on and near campus that can handle the distribution of officially licensed goods. Instead, let’s radically recommend that the bookstore handle what it says it does right in the name, books.
Next, let’s think about where else on campus books are a focus. Hmmmm. Wait, what’s that across the street? Is that the library? Might it be useful for the library to partner here? Are there efficiencies to be had? They both receive large quantities of books on a daily basis, process those arrivals, and then shelve them for browsing. They both collect course texts for students and distribute them at the request of faculty. They both purchase brand new material for their faculty and graduate students, so that they might have access to the latest scholarship being published. Well, yes, on the surface it does look like there are efficiencies to be had. But could this new kind of campus book place do more than just a bookstore or a library by combining some of what they each do? I think it probably could.
So let’s say for a moment that over the weekend I destroyed a giant, evil, purple, crystal Gorgon that had been tormenting a peaceable valley kingdom, and that as a reward for saving them, the people of the kingdom gave me this really cool golden magical wishing sword. (Yeah, I don’t know why they didn’t just use it themselves against the Gorgon, but whatever) So what would I do with it? Well, first I would ask for a million more wishes. It would then, of course, be pointed out to me that’s against magic wishing sword rules. I only get three wishes, and, oh yeah, they can only be used for good.
Okay, three wishes, and only for good. Hmm. What good could I do… Wait, how about those students and those high textbook prices? Can I use my magic sword to make things better for them? Well, now that I think about it, yeah, that would be kind of easy. And I might not even need to waste a wish on it. Under the current textbook paradigm, most textbooks are created and sold primarily by those with strong motivations to get the highest possible margin out of the sale those materials. What if we flipped that? What if we brought the librarian ethos to the textbook problem? Should libraries lend textbooks? In some cases that makes excellent sense, but ultimately why couldn’t students be offered both options, purchase or borrow? And if we take the profit incentive out of the retail sale of textbooks, and put librarians in charge of distributing these materials, might librarians have more incentive than B&N to help faculty find lower cost (or free) alternatives to higher priced learning materials? Might they even be willing to help faculty create those materials? Wait, libraries publishing? Who ever heard of such a silly thing?
So what else might I wish for that could help people on campus… How about the faculty, how can we help them? What if we offered them all of the latest books in their field at this bookstore? Imagine walking into a campus bookstore and actually finding books there, relevant books. That’s how I’d spend my second wish. Wouldn’t it make more sense for the university for new scholarship to be offered to faculty for browsing before either they or the library purchased it? As a bookstore, this could occur. The practice of returns in the book industry is a problematic one, though one that ebooks and POD are addressing, but in this instance, the ability to return an unwanted book makes a lot of sense. If publisher X University Press (XUP for short) publishes a book about say reliquaries, wouldn’t it make sense for XUP to send a copy to every campus with faculty who would be interested in that topic? If no one on campus needed the book, it could be returned, but if a faculty member wanted to read it, they might really like having the option to either borrow the book, or to purchase it. Either way, the campus bookstore would purchase the book from XUP, and if the faculty member wanted to borrow it, the library would own it after it was returned, and if the faculty member wanted to keep it, the faculty member could pay the bookstore/library for that copy. At which point the bookstore/library could decide if they’d like another copy, or not.
I suppose what I’m proposing is a little like the Patron-Driven Acquisitions model that a lot of ebook aggregators and wholesalers are experimenting with, but this would be done with physical books. And like the Lookstore model I wrote about last year, this one might make more sense on a consignment basis, with the onus put on the publishers to find which campuses, or more specifically which departments would be most interested in a new book in a particular field, and then sending the campus stores serving those departments a copy of the relevant book, on consignment for 9 months, after which it is either paid for and shelved, or returned to XUP.
Now, I’ve got one more wish left, and the last constituency on campus worth considering when rethinking the campus bookstore is writers—both students and faculty. So how might I use that last wish to help them. Well perhaps the most important thing we can do is keep the store open. Most writers seem to recognize that the recent disappearance of bookstores on the American landscape isn’t really a good development for them. Not only does it reduce the number of outlets where their work can be found, it diminishes book culture and reduces the overall number of commons devoted to books. Beyond just having books available though, I think a better use for some of the space might be for a writing and publishing center. Not only could it offer expertise for students, maybe it could also offer services to faculty. In fact, if libraries are serious about publishing and about Open Access, having a place on campus dedicated to offering publishing services specifically to their own faculty might be a way to ensure faculty are aware of alternatives to commercial publishing, are negotiating the best terms for the content, and using Institutional Depositories.
I realize that little if any of this is actually going to happen. I guess it’s the risk one takes when one’s call for reform is entirely dependent on a magical wishing sword. Nonetheless, Gorgon excluded, it probably should happen. I don’t know how many of those almost 700 campuses are going to find themselves without a campus bookstore next year, but I’m finding it hard to imagine a scenario where, like the independents before them, they aren’t going to start to close. When talking about what we’re going to do with those empty book buildings on our campuses, I hope administrators will at least be thinking beyond the concession contract and seriously consider the role that books play in the life and work of their community. Perhaps there’s nothing wrong with textbook prices, perhaps all faculty already see all the new scholarship in their respective fields at conferences, and maybe writing and publishing centers aren’t something campus communities need. Maybe. But it seems much more likely that what most folks on campuses don’t need is another opportunity to purchase a t-shirt.
First posted at Content Storage Unit. I would like to point out that before 9pm EDT on May 2nd, this post linked to a service that B&N offered call PubIt, which was a self-publishing platform aimed at both faculty and students for general self-publishing and customized textbooks using B&N distribution. Since I first posted that B&N has redirected that link to their general self-publishing platform and I assume will end the PubIt program. For that reason I removed the original reference to that service in the 2nd to last paragraph.
Writing in the Sunday New York Times, Jennifer Schuessler (“In History Departments, It’s Up With Capitalism”) examines the focus on the history of capitalism by a new generation of scholars. The support of university presses has been key to the new discipline’s development, as editors see innovative scholarship and exciting new topics in recent dissertations. (This is no surprise to AAUP: the work of university press editors has often been foundational to emerging disciplines, such as African-American studies, postmodernism, queer studies…the list goes on.)
Schuessler features a number of UP books and series, including:
- Columbia University Press’s new series “Columbia Studies in the History of U.S. Capitalism.” Their first title is a look at the modern consumer credit bureau, The Good Consumer, by Josh Lauer, and based on Lauer’s dissertation research.
- Freaks of Fortune: The Emerging World of Capitalism and Risk in America by Jonathan Levy from Harvard University Press.
- To Serve God and Wal-mart:The Making of Christian Free Enterprise by Bethany Moreton, from Harvard. (A book for which Moreton has assigned her royalties and subsidiary earnings to Interfaith Worker Justice and its Athens, GA, affiliate the Economic Justice Coalition.)
- Debtor Nation: The History of America in Red Ink by Louis Hyman, a 2011 Choice Outstanding Academic Title, from Princeton University Press.
- A Nation of Counterfeiters: Capitalists, Con Men, and the Making of the United States by Stephen Mihm, also from Harvard University Press.
- Forthcoming from the University of Chicago Press, World More Concrete: Real Estate and the Remaking of Jim Crow South Florida by Nathan Connolly.
- [UPDATED] Forthcoming from the University of North Carolina Press, Nan Enstad’s The Jim Crow Cigarette: Following Tobacco Road from North Carolina to China and Back.
And there are, of course, more such titles from these and other university presses that are helping to shape the new history of capitalism.
- The collected essays of Capitalism Takes Command: The Social Transformation of Nineteenth-Century America, edited by Michael Zakim and Gary J. Kornblith (University of Chicago Press, 2011), were called “essential reading for anyone interested in the future of the field.” by Mihm.
- When Wall Street Met Main Street: The Quest for an Investors’ Democracy by Julia C. Ott (Harvard UP, 2011), possibly the first scholar hired specifically as a historian of capitalism.
- Please add more new and forthcoming titles in the comments!
The study of the history of capitalism is deeply intertwined with other topics in historical scholarship, and readers will find much that is relevant in several AAUP Books for Understanding resources, including book lists on Financial Crises, Economic Inequality and Justice, Slavery and Jim Crow, and the social safety net.
November 11-17 marks University Press Week 2012! All week long, presses around the Web will be hosting special posts as part of a UP Week Blog Tour. The Digital Digest will be following the tour with a daily round up.
New York University Press: “Celebrating the regional pride of University Presses”
Author and New York Times editor Connie Rosenblum talks about writing and publishing local with a university press to reach a broad audience: her own book on the Bronx, essays on the city, and neighborhood real estate profiles have all been published with NYU Press.
Columbia University Press: “Sheldon Pollock on the Importance of University Presses and the Role of Universities” and “Jennifer Crewe on University Presses: Who Are We? What Do We Do? And Why Is It Important?”
Sheldon Pollock, professor of South Asian Studies at Columbia, underlines how publishing is critical to the university’s purpose as a transmitter of knowledge, and how the collaborative “South Asia Across the Disciplines” series serves as a model for the university-press relationship. In a separate post Editorial and Associate Director Jennifer Crewe discusses how university presses fill the economic gaps in publishing: publishing first-time authors, serious nonfiction, books for upper-level courses—even establishing new fields of scholarship.
University of North Carolina Press: “John Sherer on returning to university press after years in NY trade publishing”
Press Director John Sherer explains the logic behind his return to UNC Press after two years in trade: while “the metrics of advances and print runs” aren’t the same, there’s still just as much, if not more, room for risks and rewards and editorial freedoms at the smaller scale.
University of Alabama Press: “Why University Presses Matter”
Author Lila Quintero Weaver voices her gratitude toward UA Press for their focus on a variety of content, from memoirs like hers to vital scholarly writing. And Jennifer Horne, former UA Press Managing Editor and the co-editor of two books on Southern culture, praises the experience, quality, and continuity of the university press publishing process to create “that wonderful package we call a book.”
University of Virginia Press: “Open for Business”
Author Catherine Allgor tells the story of her three volumes of early America scholarship: the first, published with UVA Press; the second, by a major publishing house; and the latest—back again with UVA, where “the integrity of the ideas and the commitment to making the best book we could drove every decision.”
Oregon State University Press: “University Presses: Through the Eyes of an Intern”
OSU Press intern Jessica Kibler explains how mixing words with music inspired her excitement over the digital experimentation taking place at university presses like OSU, and her relief as a lover of well-made books that digital and physical publishing “don’t have to cancel each other out,” but can build on each other in myriad ways.