Digital Platforms and the Future of Books : A UF Digital Assembly Symposium (January 20, 2012) By Laurie N. Taylor First, thank you to David Blakesley for a wonderful presentation, and for sharing about his work with Parlor Press and t also like to thank all of the conference organizers for setting up such a wonderful conference and especially for having this recorded. Many of the librarians are attending the American Li brary A ssociation Conference and they wanted me to express their regrets at not being able to be here. They are extremely interested in the topics and discussions of this conference and in the conversation ove rall, especially as they relate to changes in scholarl y communications and scholarly publication as a whole. Blakesley began the humanities. Where David spoke of the front end of publishing (authoring, developing, creating new interfaces), my response is in regards to the back end of institutional supports for creating traditional and new forms of the book and in regards to credit and what counts for schol arly publication. by noting that my own experience i s an alternative academic. I was trained as a traditional academic, and I chose a nontraditional academic career as a librarian I did so because I felt there was a strong n eed for traditional academics in other roles to help face the challenges to academia as a whole, and especially to cope with the challenges facing the humanities. One of the largest challenges stems from what counts. What counts in terms of having broad impact as public scholarship, what counts for promotion and tenure, what counts with administrators in program evaluations, what counts with the legislature in determining funding allocations, and what and how is research, teaching, and service counted in the humanities and across different fields? In thinking about what counts, my other concerns are how are these things counted ? A nd how is umanities scholars are oft en, or humanities scholars. As such, this conference on the future of books directly relates to core challenges in the humanities. And, the future of the book for scholars in the ctive into the future of the book
The emphasis or even primacy of the book for humanities scholar s is a problem because the supports for producing books, which never seemed to be ideal, conti nue to weaken and erode. Writing in 2009, David explained some of the reasons for establishing Parlor Press, noting that for academic books : In the late 1990s, you could count on 500 to 750 or more copies sold to libraries right out of the gate. That aver age dropped to 100 or so almost overnight, due in part to the rise of the journal conglomerates, ridiculous price gouging, and the attendant strain on library budgets. ( New Realities for Academic Presses in Trying Economic Times ) The fi nancial situation for libraries grows much worse each year, even since 2009. For instance, the UF Libraries will experience a 12.7% or $1.5 million cut if there is a flat budget (page 37, http://ufdc.ufl .edu/IR00000719/00002 ). To emphasize, this is with a flat budget. Ongoing increases in cost and continuing and cumulative lost purchasing power are the reason for this and severely impact the ability of academic libraries to purchase materials. Libraries are also faced with ongoing costs to store and maintain physical holdings. The Council on Library and Information Resources released The Idea of Order: Transforming Research Collections for 21st Century Scholarship in 2010. In one of the chapter s, 1 the au thors explain that the average cost to support a print book by a library can be expected to exceed the purchase cost of the book by over 50% (page 85). Thus, libraries are faced with 100% of the purchase price and an additional 150% for maintaining the pri nt book. When considering that libraries already pay a higher cost per book 2 the cost of purchasing and maintaining physical books is extremely problematic Of course, sustaining access to information and supporting the scholarly communication landscape are core components of the mission of academic libraries. For maintaining access to information, libraries continue to develop new ways to collaborate, to share print collections, and to acquire digital resources instead of and in addition to print. In do ing so, academic libraries are able to continue to meet their core mission and support the book In discussing costs for library collection s I want to be clear that these are not determining factors of what should be. The book should and will be support ed. How that support is provided, though, is changing as the form of the book and other forms of scholarship continue to change. Currently, too much scholarship has been determined and over determined by the form of the book. A month ago I had a convers 1 Nielsen (81 105, http://www.clir.org/pubs/reports/pub147/pub147.pdf). 2 sent along with the books to av oid the costs of copy cataloging and processing the purchased book)
with on a digital archive and scholarship project devoted to a particular author. The scholar said: published. I know the book is nee ded, but scholarly books on single and currently paraphrase) For this scholar, she feels the co rrect form for the desired contribution is a scholarly monograph. However, the scholarly monograph is already too overly determined by market and not scholarly needs to support her project T hus, t o allow for the work needed for the field, she is creating a digital humanities project. This may or may not be a better form for her scholarly contribution. Sophia Accord from the Center for the Humanities and the Public Sphere, and others with the UF Digital Humanities Working Group to mak e sure that digital scholarship project s like this count at the current moment that the proj ect will count as much as a book, at least not at first. Support for the book and the future of the book in ac ademia has traditionally come from libraries in purchasing and preserving physical books. Those supports are evolving to include supports for new forms of the book as well. The libraries and other i nstitutional supports are critical for the future of the b ook. At UF, w enough institution that new digital scholarship project s have support from the institution. Developing, promoting, and constantly enhancing the institutional supports are nee ded at the institutional level with institutionally supported people in the libraries IT administration and the Center for the Humanities and the Public Sphere for future forms of the book to supported and counted The challenges and changes for the book are also informing the dissertat ion, which is often a sort of proto book. At the recent MLA 2012 conference in Seattle, one panel presentation was on the future of the dissertation in the humanities. The panel explained how the dissertation is currently framed as a proto book even thoug h research on scholarly communications shows that the proto book does not always best serve the needs of graduate students in terms of orientation to the field, professionalization, and entry into the scholarly conversation. The presentation had several re commendations for alternate forms that would better match the needs of many graduate students Clearly, some are best served by the dissertation as a proto book and dissertations often do become books. However, the dissertation as proto book need s to expan d to better serve the needs of scholars and scholarly discourse and this change is underway and changes for the future of the book in scholarly communications from the perspective of institutional supports a nd credit like to conclude by emphasizing that these pro blems and changes can be productive for the future of the book in scholarly communications While we are in a time of declining library university press and university budgets and a time when s cholarly publishing is these changes can have real impact for
the humanities, academia, and society because the humanities has the opportunity to more thoroughly communicate with the public engage the pub lic in scholarly concerns, and conduct s cholarship in the public sphere. This is an exciting time for the future of the book in academia especially as it relates to the future for academia itself. Thank you.