University Press 2.0 – Michigan Press
Here’s a view on what the future of digital publishing might mean for university presses:
The Google-initiated prospect of a universal library, available to everyone anywhere; the ability to locate, search, and connect virtually every book ever printed […] is fast approaching the stuff of reality.
Realizing the full potential of these digital opportunities, many only barely sensed at present, will require a press – let’s call it University Press 2.0 – that is transformed both internally and in its external relations and collaborations with other university units, with other university presses, and with an expanding range of academic authors, readers, and disciplines.
Almost all university presses receive a significant subvention from their parent university and those universities themselves have a significant stake in the digital transition
While commercial presses can make decisions about investment in digital processes according to strictly business principles, university presses must accommodate, and often themselves share, strong university principles about the value of digitized scholarly communication that do not derive from considerations of cost or revenue — in particular, the fundamental conviction that faculty research results should always be made available as widely and freely as possible.
their authors and their readers are interchangeable and share a professional community, a community that has strong opinions about the print/digital transition
Faced with the collapse of their traditional business model, the decline of university subventions, the increasing unwillingness and inability of universities to tolerate press debt, the problem for many university presses is not just how to manage the digital transition, but how to survive it
Particularly for academics in the humanities and the social sciences who constitute the largest segment of the authors and readers of university press monographs, books have been an axiomatic part of the physical environment
Academics, particularly humanists, are at existential and ontological levels, people of the book, specifically, the printed book. […] the medium of the printed book conveys many explicit and implicit messages, some of which can easily be provided by digital books, and some in far superior fashion, but others will get short-changed and some lost in the shuffle.
Only gradually, over the course of centuries […] did the printed book and the printed page discover their emergent qualities and fully exploit the transformed and enhanced opportunities for design, content and distribution unavailable to hand-written manuscripts. And the same kind of punctuated evolution, will likely characterize the development of the ebooks of the future.
the reasons that libraries still buy $100 million of microfiche materials per year is that they don’t trust any current digital platform to remain readable in the course of decades, much less centuries
And the most interesting argument about the rising prominence:
With the control of other media, including almost all the large trade book publishers, passing to international media conglomerates that ruthlessly put requirements for profit far above the social value of content, coupled with the rise of web-based social networking sites draining advertising revenue from newspapers and magazines, university presses have become, almost by default, the primary source of robust information and sustained analysis on domestic issues such as poverty, education, public health, gun control, immigration, incarceration, civil liberties and political democracy, as well as on the international issues, including ideological and religious struggles, human rights, torture, and economic development, that are so roiling the planet.