The Future of The Monograph in the Digital Era: A Report to the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation

Over the course of six months during the 2014-15 academic year, a working group of faculty and administrators at Emory University met regularly to explore and understand the development of a new model for supporting and disseminating book-length publication in the humanities. The challenges facing traditional university press publication of humanities monographs have been reported widely. A May 2014 article in The Nation quotes Peter Berkery, the executive director of the Association of American University Presses (AAUP), as saying: “University presses are experiencing acute and, in some ways, existential pressures, largely from changes occurring in the academy and the technology juggernaut. Random House can see the technology threat and they can throw some substantial resources at it. The press at a small land-grant university doesn’t have the same ability to respond.” As the article explains, declining library sales threaten the viability of monograph publication in some fields, and university presses are concerned by the shift in reading and publishing toward digital publication. The article continues by summarizing the position of the AAUP: “a digital transition is necessary and inevitable; the university press sector is doing it as fast and efficiently as it can; but the presses lack the economic resources to innovate and shouldn’t risk smashing the fine china by pushing ahead recklessly.” As university presses struggle with these pressures, humanities faculty have expressed concerns about their ability to find outlets for publications in specialized fields of knowledge, particularly in those fields involving foreign or classical languages, literatures, and histories; any field requiring the reproduction of special scripts or musical scores; and fields that involve intensive work with images that are costly to reproduce.