ERIC Number: EJ847218
Record Type: Journal
Publication Date: 2009-Jun-12
Reference Count: 0
A Manifesto for Scholarly Publishing
Dougherty, Peter J.
Chronicle of Higher Education, v55 n39 pB10 Jun 2009
While university presses grapple with the economic and technological challenges now affecting how books are published--the subject of a thousand and one AAUP conference sessions, e-mail-list debates, and news articles--discussion of "what" is published seems to have taken a back seat. And understandably so. Why obsess about content if books are about to become obsolete in favor of some yet-to-evolve form? Has creative destruction spelled the end of books? The author believes quite the opposite. Books--specifically scholarly titles published by university presses and other professional publishers--retain two distinct comparative advantages over other forms of communication in the idea bazaar: (1) Books remain the most effective technology for organizing and presenting sustained arguments at a relatively general level of discourse and in familiar rhetorical forms--narrative, thematic, philosophical, and polemical--thereby helping to enrich and unify otherwise disparate intellectual conversations; and (2) University presses specialize in publishing books containing hard ideas. Hard ideas--whether cliometrics, hermeneutics, deconstruction, or symbolic interactionism--when they are also good ideas, carry powerful residual value in their originality and authority. Hard ideas define a culture--that of serious reading, an institution vital to democracy itself. The challenge for university presses is to better turn people's penchant for hard ideas to greater purpose. University presses need to foment a content revival astride the delivery revolution, one that stimulates connection to new intellectual trends, encompasses a broader conception of scholarship, and renews commitment to the scholarly mission of the university. In effect, books remain valuable precisely because they are distinct from the other, more transitory, forms of scholarly communication. But university presses have to grasp the stinging nettle, jump-start a serious discussion about content, get strategic, invent projects. If university presses attempt to be more creative by introducing new subjects into the existing lists, the resultant hybrid vigor will put them on a stronger course and renew the place of books in the world of ideas. In this article, the author suggests some goals for a stronger and more vital university press.
Descriptors: University Presses, Layout (Publications), Printed Materials, Textbook Content, Scholarship
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Publication Type: Journal Articles; Reports - Descriptive
Education Level: Higher Education
Authoring Institution: N/A