The Association of American University Presses held their annual meeting this weekend in Philadelphia. A report on the conference appeared in today’s Inside Higher Ed. (The Chronicle of Higher Education report is behind the subscriber wall and Stanley Katz has commented on the meeting here).
The reports focus on survival. While the printed scholarly book is not yet dead, it does look as if e-books, small print runs, publishing on demand, and free content will be the wave of the future. But will departments accept an e-book for tenure and promotion? Katz wonders when humanities departments will “come to their senses” on this issue.
The Inside Higher Ed report mentioned a talk at the conference by Beth Jacoby, the collections librarian at York College in Pennsylvania. Jacoby confirmed what I have noticed happening among my students. They will not do their research in printed material unless it is required. Students rarely use printed reference books. Jacoby says that some of her students do not even know how to use a printed phone book. As a result, York College is investing its money in digital resources and on-line reference works instead of university press monographs.
The academic monograph’s days are numbered. Academics will continue to produce scholarship, but it will soon appear almost entirely on-line. If future scholars want to write books they are going to have to learn how to write for larger audiences and publish their work in national and regional trade presses.