12.0485 Robt. Darnton, "The New Age of the Book"

Humanist Discussion Group (humanist@kcl.ac.uk)
Sat, 6 Mar 1999 16:28:50 +0000 (BST)

Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 12, No. 485.
Centre for Computing in the Humanities, King's College London

Date: Sat, 06 Mar 1999 16:25:56 +0000
From: NINCH-ANNOUNCE <david@ninch.org>
Subject: Robt. Darnton's Essay "The New Age of the Book"

March 4, 1999

Robert Darnton Essay: "The New Age of the Book"
in this week's New York Review of Books

An excellent review of the issues confronting scholarly publishing,
especially the promises and shortfalls of scholarly electronic monographs
is contained in the March 18 issue of "the New York Review of Books." This
is a 10-page article (delivered page-by-page on the website) that sites the
potential of the electronic monograph in the context of the changing
publishing programs both of publishing in general and of university
presses in particular, the turmoil of university tenure decisions and the
pricing of journals (that many libraries are refusing to pay).

Robert Darnton's own vision of a scholarly electronic book is particularly

"Instead of bloating the electronic book, I think it
possible to structure it in layers arranged like a pyramid.
The top layer could be a concise account of the subject,
available perhaps in paperback. The next layer could contain
expanded versions of different aspects of the argument, not
arranged sequentially as in a narrative, but rather as
self-contained units that feed into the topmost story. The
third layer could be composed of documentation, possibly of
different kinds, each set off by interpretative essays. A
fourth layer might be theoretical or historiographical, with
selections from previous scholarship and discussions of
them. A fifth layer could be pedagogic, consisting of
suggestions for classroom discussion and a model syllabus.
And a sixth layer could contain readers' reports, exchanges
between the author and the editor, and letters from readers,
who could provide a growing corpus of commentary as the
book made its way through different groups of readers."

David Green

>From: daily@chronicle.com
>Date: Thu, 4 Mar 1999 08:00:00 EST
>To: daily@chronicle.com
>>Academe Today's DAILY REPORT
>for subscribers of The Chronicle of Higher Education

>A glance at the March 18 issue of "The New York Review of
>Books": The potential of electronic publishing
>The technology that once seemed to threaten the existence of
>publishing might now be the only thing that can save some of its
>forms, writes Robert Darnton, a professor of history at
>Princeton University and the president of the American
>Historical Association. Time and inflation have not been kind to
>the printed academic journal or to scholarly monographs, which
>he says are quickly becoming extinct, as libraries cut them from
>their budgets to compensate for skyrocketing periodical prices.
>These developments, Mr. Darnton writes, have added to the
>pressure on academics starting their careers. "Any assistant
>professor knows the categorical imperative: publish or perish,
>which translates into something more immediate: no monograph, no
>tenure," he says. The solution, writes Mr. Darnton, lies in the
>electronic medium, with its relatively cheap costs. He envisions
>a regulated and standardized "electronic monograph" that adheres
>to the same rigorous editing that defines scholarly work today,
>while also offering the luxuries of the World-Wide Web's easy
>accessibility. Such a system, he says, could "meet the needs of
>the scholarly community at the points where its problems
>converge." The magazine's World-Wide Web address is
>You may visit Academe Today as follows:
> * via the World-Wide Web, at http://chronicle.com
> * via telnet at chronicle.com
>For information, send a message to help-today@chronicle.com
>Copyright (c) 1999 The Chronicle of Higher Education, Inc.

David L. Green
Executive Director
21 Dupont Circle, NW
Washington DC 20036
202/296-5346 202/872-0886 fax

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