Electronic Academic Publishing Inevitable (or I told ya so….)

On various occasions in this blog and elsewhere, I’ve argued that it seems increasingly obvious to me that almost all publishing for fields like English studies and composition and rhetoric will be done electronically. This is perhaps most likely with journals– heck, even the less than techno-savvy CCCC now is available electronically before the paper copy arrives– but I also think it’s going to happen with books too.

Anyway, not that I’m the only one who has had this crazy notion before, but you’ve heard it here before. Now, according to the July 14 issue of Inside Higher Ed and the article “New Model for Scholarly Publishing,” it turns out I’m right. Maybe.

It’s a good piece, one you should read for yourself and one that would probably make good reading in my graduate course on computers and writing (which reminds me: I need to start doing some of the set-up work for that….). A few highlights:

  • “Rice University on Thursday announced a plan to shake up those interconnected problems. Rice University Press, which was killed in 1996, will be revived. But unlike every other university press, it will publish all of its books online only. People will be able to read the books for no charge and to download them for a modest fee. Editors will solicit manuscripts and peer review panels will vet submissions — all in ways that are similar to the systems in traditional publishing.” They go on to say that since the editing and vetting process for these books will be the same as for traditional, “on paper” books, the folks at the reborn Rice UP believe they should “count” the same as traditional books.
  • “And Rice also announced plans Thursday to take on the textbook industry, offering print-on-demand textbook versions of scholarly resources it has been assembling — generally for less than $25.” Hmmm…. perhaps they’d be interested in a little textbook project I’m slowly working to publish electronically….
  • “The home for Rice’s new publishing ventures will be Connexions, the university’s open source site that has been gaining more and more users with its compilation of course and scholarly materials, prepared by professors from all over the world and provided for anyone to use.” What’s interesting to me about Connexions is, at first glance at least, it’s just a Plone-driven CMS with a lot of content.
  • “The Rice press plans also arrive at a time that some scholarly associations are pushing for more recognition for digital scholarship. The Modern Language Association has a special committee working on a proposal to change the tenure process in many ways, one of which is to provide more recognition for work online. English professors have been particularly concerned about the decline of monograph publishing, which has made it especially difficult for them to earn tenure.

    “Sean Latham, associate professor of English and director of the Modernist Journals Project at the University of Tulsa, is a member of the MLA tenure reform committee, and he said Thursday that he was very encouraged by the Rice announcement. ‘This sounds like a fascinating model,’ he said.” So perhaps even the MLA is on board with this one? See, I am right!

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