“Despite the steadfast nature of this trust dynamic in publishing, scholarly-book publishing has been in a self-professed state of crisis for at least the past quarter century, even as the number of scholarly books published increases each year. This crisis is rooted in the desire of — and necessity for — scholars to publish monographs at a time when sales of such books continue to dwindle. These conflicting pressures are exacerbated by other changes, such as the growth of digital publishing and open access….
So what do we need to do to get this digital transition right?
Acknowledge that scholarly engagement with monographs varies from discipline to discipline and that this might warrant changes in some areas that aren’t appropriate for others.
Don’t focus on print sales but on usage and on what that usage enables. This applies to authors, tenure committees, and publishers alike.
Get all backlist titles online, and not just as e-books but in as many forms as possible.
Beware the fetishizing of print. We know, we know, that this is a grim imperative to the book-lover’s ear. We love books too (we’re publishers after all). But a monograph’s jacket and price often say more about the funding of a publisher than about the quality of or audience for a given book.
Devote more resources to digital: tagging, metadata, indexing, citation, etc. We need to establish new standards to improve discoverability and track usage.
Embrace new ways of promoting scholarship, such as organic (e.g., nonpaid) search-engine optimization.
Support — via participation and sponsorship — innovative experiments, such as:
- The University of North Carolina Press’s Sustainable History Monograph Pilot, working to establish acceptance of a new publishing model for specialized scholarship.
- The University of Michigan Press’s Fulcrum and the University of Minnesota Press’s Manifold, open-source platforms, which offer authors the opportunity to create interactive monographs.
- MIT Press’s PubPub, a hosting platform for the multimedia-enhanced publishing needs of journals, books, labs, and conferences.
- The University of British Columbia Press’s and the University of Washington Press’s RavenSpace, a collaborative site for indigenous-studies publishing.
For scholarship that adds value primarily to the more esoteric realms of the academic corpus and that increasingly may not be seen as a reliable investment for publishers (even university presses), we need new models, including “pay to publish.” …”