From: Ross Scaife <firstname.lastname@example.org> (157)
Subject: [STOA] NYT on the changing landscape
 From: Mats Dahlstr=F6m <MAD@adm.hb.se> (25)
Subject: Human IT 1/99
Date: Sat, 12 Jun 1999 12:43:28 -0300
From: Ross Scaife <email@example.com>
Subject: [STOA] NYT on the changing landscape
Lots of issues that concern the Stoa come up in this article from today's
June 12, 1999
Hoping the Web Will Rescue Young Professors' Books
By DINITIA SMITH
Gregory S. Brown, an assistant professor of history at the University of
Nevada, Las Vegas, is by almost any standard an outstanding young scholar.
His dissertation adviser at Columbia University, Isser Wolloch, called him
"certainly one of the very best students I've had." The dissertation
committee, Wolloch said, judged Brown's thesis on the status of French
writers during the Enlightenment as "extremely original, creative,
But Brown is in trouble. His pioneering monograph, based on new sources,
has been turned down for publication by several university publishers
because, they said, its focus is too narrow and it would not sell.
Brown is not alone. Caught between growing pressures on university
publishers to make money and shrinking library budgets, young professors in
fields ranging from military history to ancient Near Eastern studies can't
get their work turned into books.
Now help is on the way. Over the past five years, the New York-based Andrew
W. Mellon Foundation has spent $20 million and teamed up with university
presses, colleges and influential scholars to try to publish monographs on
the Internet as a way of disseminating research and providing a new place
for young scholars to publish that would count toward their getting tenure.
The foundation awarded $744,000 to the American Historical Association this
year to publish prize-winning history dissertations on the Web.
Columbia University Press will edit the manuscripts, set up and administer
the site and sell subscriptions to it.
The project, dubbed Gutenberg-e, is aimed at expanding the definition of
scholarly publishing. For the first time thousands of pages of source
material and archives, upon which the dissertations are based, would be
available to subscribers.
In January the history association plans to award six $20,000 fellowships
to recent Ph.D's in endangered fields, like African or South Asian history,
European history before 1800, military history outside the United States
and Colonial Latin America, so they can revise their dissertations into
books and put them on the Web.
"We are going to, I hope, create a new kind of scholarly book," said Robert
Darnton, the president of the American Historical Association and a leader
in the effort to publish books on the Web."The whole landscape is being
transformed, the landscape of scholarly life in general."
Unpublished monographs mean more than a disappointed author. The monograph
is the cultural capital of scholarship. It is by definition original
research, usually on a narrowly focused area, to make a significant
contribution and stimulate further study by other scholars. It is essential
for obtaining tenure and as a building block for future research.
Perhaps the most serious obstacle to on-line monographs is legitimacy.
Scholars need to distinguish between a book that is put on the Web by the
teen-ager next door and one that is judged worthy by a committee of
Hopeful that publishing big-name scholars on the Web will help gain
acceptance for on-line publishing, the American Council of Learned
Societies, an umbrella group that oversees scholarly works, has applied to
Mellon for $3 million to publish works by senior scholars on the Internet.
The council hopes its proposal will be approved at this month's board
meeting of the foundation.
"I think it's a good idea, almost a necessary idea," Edmund Morgan, a
professor of history at Yale University, said of the project. He is writing
an introductory essay to the papers of Benjamin Franklin, which are being
published on CD ROM. "I wouldn't have any objection to it going on line."
One well-known historian who is also thinking of publishing a work with the
council's project is Bernard Bailyn, a professor at Harvard. "I am
proposing to publish the Jefferson lecture I gave in Washington in that
form," he said. "I'd like to see what you can do with this."
Darnton said he intended to publish a book and archival material on
18th-century France on line as part of the council's project. Princeton
University, where Darnton teaches, has contributed some money to putting
his research on the Web. "What I think is crucial is for scholars to take
the initiative in setting standards and basically mastering this new medium
so that it works to the general advantage of scholarship."
Hardly anyone suggests that electronic publishing will replace academic
presses. Even Darnton plans to publish a shortened form of his work in
hardcover. But advocates say it could supplement traditionally published
books and relieve some of the pressure on scholars. Eventually, they hope
the electronically published book will carry the same weight as a
Indeed, one of the Mellon projects suggests that on-line publishing may
increase hardcover sales. The Mellon Foundation gave an additional $360,000
to Columbia University Press in 1997 to put works on international affairs
on line. Columbia International Affairs Online (ciaonet.org) has 50,000
pages of conference proceedings, papers and books on line, with 2,000 pages
of material being added monthly. The service has 170 subscriber
institutions. Columbia expects it to be self-supporting with 200
subscribers by September, said Kate Wittenberg, the editor in chief of the
press. "We have seen no decline in hard sales," Ms. Wittenberg said. "In
fact, there's been a slight increase. We think people are browsing and then
The University of Pennsylvania, in conjunction with Oxford University
Press, is also using $218,000 of Mellon money to try to create a digital
library of history books for use on the university's internal network, to
see whether digitalization affects sales of hardcover books.
Young scholars have been caught in a double squeeze. On one side are the
struggling university presses, which are losing their university subsidies
at the same time they're being pressured to make a profit. Originally
established solely to publish dissertations, more and more of these presses
are picking up books that have been rejected by commercial publishers, who
prefer to focus on potential blockbusters.
Indeed, many university presses have stopped publishing books on certain
subjects that aren't big sellers. "There are whole periods of European
history we don't do at all anymore," said John Ackerman, the director of
Cornell University Press. "We don't do political and diplomatic history. We
focus on women's history, psychoanalysis, intellectual history. Those still
"Across the board we try to do fewer and fewer of this kind of book, first
books, revised dissertations," Ackerman said.
On the other side are the libraries that have traditionally bought
scholarly books. A generation ago libraries might have guaranteed a sale of
1,000 copies of Brown's book. Today they would probably only ask for a few
hundred copies. Although budgets at many university libraries have stalled,
the price of scholarly journals has not. An annual subscription to the
Journal of Brain Research, which comes only with a package of other
journals about the brain, costs $15,203, for instance, up nearly 50 percent
from 1995. The Journal of Comparative Neurology cost $13,900. Fifteen years
ago the typical university library spent 50 percent of its budget on
monographs and 50 percent on journals. "Now it's about 35 percent for
monographs versus 65 percent," said Peter Givler, president of the
Association of American University Presses.
According to the Association of Research Libraries, library purchases of
monographs have declined 25 percent since 1986.
Of course, that doesn't mean younger scholars have given up trying to
attract a traditional publisher. "Most graduate students don't think about
what's sexy," said Joshua Landis, an assistant professor at the University
of Oklahoma, whose book on why Syria failed as a democracy after
independence won the Malcolm Kerr Award from the Middle Eastern Studies
Association, the top award in his field. Landis has had little difficulty
getting a contract with Oxford University Press to write a general history
of Syria. But it is his monograph that is giving him trouble.
Landis said his monograph was being considered by a press and he was making
revisions to try to broaden its scope. He said: "My publisher's immediate
reaction was how do we justify such a short time span? Can't you make it
Brown complained, "We have been playing by the rules all along, and now the
rules have changed." His book is being reviewed by a panel of experts in
the field and he's hoping for the best.
The problem is not confined to junior scholars. Carla Hesse, a pro fessor
of French history at the University of California at Berkeley, is the
author of one scholarly work, "Publishing and Cultural Politics in
Revolutionary Paris," and the editor of another, a volume of essays. She is
one of the people who heads the editorial board of the University of
"I've always had a fantasy of writing a little monograph on French
revolutionary editions of Rousseau," Ms. Hesse said, "but I know I would
never find a publisher.
"So I haven't done it."
Copyright 1999 The New York Times Company
The Stoa: A Consortium for Electronic Publication
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Date: Tue, 15 Jun 1999 13:48:31 +0100
From: Mats Dahlstr=F6m <MAD@adm.hb.se>
Subject: Human IT 1/99
[apologies for x-posting]
The WWW version of [octothorp] 1/1999 (Vol. 3, Nr 1) of the=20
Swedish quarterly journal "Human IT" is now available at:
(For previous issues, see <http://www.hb.se/bhs/ith/humanit.htm>)
Four of the nine articles are in English and might be of some=20
interest to Humanist members; the overarching theme of the issue is=20
"Agents of literature (vs the web)". From the contents:
Johan Svedjedal: "Busy Being Born or Busy Dying? : The Internet and
New Combinations of Traditional Professional Functions in the Book
Alex Soojung-Kim Pang: "Old Wine for New Bottles : Making the
Britannica CD Multimedia Timelines"
Edward Vanhoutte: "Where is the editor? : Resistance in the creation
of an electronic critical edition"
Dirk Van Hulle: "Authenticity or Hyperreality in Hypertext Editions :
Notes Towards a Searchable "Recherche"
Swedish School of Library and Information Science
University College of Boras, Sweden
Humanist Discussion Group=20
Information at <http://www.kcl.ac.uk/humanities/cch/humanist/>