ithaka university publishing report in commentpress 08.22.2007, 4:55 PM
posted by ben vershbow
The Scholarly Publishing Office of the University of Michigan Library has just released an interactive, CommentPress-powered edition of "University Publishing In A Digital Age," the Ithaka report that in recent weeks has sent ripples through the scholarly publishing community. Please spread the word and take part in the discussion that hopefully will unfold there:
Incidentally, this site uses the just-released version 1.3 of CommentPress, which I'll talk more about tomorrow. Here's the intro from the good folks at Michigan (thanks especially to Maria Bonn and Shana Kimball for taking the initiative on this):
On July 26, 2007, Ithaka released "University Publishing In A Digital Age." The report has been met with great interest by the academic community and has already engendered a great deal of lively discussion.
Coincidentally, that same week, the Institute For the Future of the Book released CommentPress, an online textual annotation tool with great promise for promoting scholarly discussion and collaboration.
At the Scholarly Publishing Office of the University of Michigan Library we have watched both of these developments with keen interest. Our work as online scholarly publishers, our role as publisher of the Journal of Electronic Publishing and our close affiliation with the University of Michigan Press through our joint initiative, digitalculturebooks, directs us to paying close attention to both the conditions and tools of scholarly publishing.
The happy simultaneity of the release of the Ithaka Report and CommentPress prompted us to view the report as ideal material with which to experiment with CommentPress. With the gracious cooperation of the authors of the report, we have created a version of "University Publishing In A Digital Age" which invites public commentary and which we hope will serve as a basis for further discussions in our community.
In the words of the authors, "this paper argues that a renewed commitment to publishing in its broadest sense can enable universities to more fully realize the potential global impact of their academic programs, enhance the reputations of their institutions, maintain a strong voice in determining what constitutes important scholarship, and in some cases reduce costs." We welcome you to engage in that argument in this space.
Jim Reische on August 23, 2007 2:18 PM:
Speaking from outside the scholarly publishing community (albeit as a former insider and interested observer), it's hard not to notice the tepid reception that the Ithaka report has received. Everyone seems quite happy that the report confirms the conventional wisdom about the nature of the problem: presses are undercaptialized, and lack access to the kinds of resources for innovation that they would need in order to survive. But despite scholarly publishers' best efforts to whip up a controversy, there is in fact precious little disagreement about the need for presses to move into the digital domain. I can't think of three essays I've read in the last five years--even counting John Updike's embarassing attack on Kevin Kelly--which argue that publishers should stay out of digital media.
The real question is how they should pay for the move. And that's when the room suddenly gets uncomfortably quiet. Laura Brown and company offer some very well-intentioned suggestions for cross-institutional collaboration, but the contortions they have to go through to imagine this solution tell you something about the economic realities that they were up against. The fact is that the money is just not there, and that until someone can come up with not only a creative, but also a realistic and stable source of venture capital for university presses, our little insiders' discussion will rev on and on in neutral without ever moving an inch.
This may indeed not be a problem for individual institutions to solve, as the Ithaka team reminds us. In fact, it may not even be one that the higher education community can solve on its own. Instead--and please forgive me the heresy--we may need to see a significant investment of public funds (via the NSF, NEH, etc.) before anything changes. This would be the best kind of public investment: a large but limited, one-time infusion of support, a sort of academic New Deal that would enable us as a society to do something that we know will benefit the common good, but which we also know will never happen without external subsidy. Revisionism aside, the New Deal wasn't entirely a bad thing. If we can give the country rural electrification, then I think we can also help our nation's universities produce and publish the best ideas, in whatever technological medium is best suited to their dissemination.
So: thanks and congratulations to the Scholarly Publishing Office for posting the report, and to IFB for their timely release of CommentPress. I hope people will mark this document up and generate enough ideas and momentum to move the discussion out of park.
bowerbird on August 29, 2007 12:29 PM:
> The fact is that the money is just not there
it's evaporating in the desert sand of iraq.
> we may need to see a significant investment
> of public funds (via the NSF, NEH, etc.)
> before anything changes.
yep. and again back to that desert in iraq.