The E-Sylum:  Volume 5, Number 1, January 6, 2002, Article 16


  An article published by the University of Michigan Press
  in their Journal of Electronic Publishing (Vol 7, No. 2)
  details the travails of an author trying to publish his scholarly
  monograph.  With such a small, focused audience it would
  never be a bestseller even by academic press standards.
  No publisher was interested.  But after some thought and
  legwork, the work was finally published electronically.
  But knowing that only a printed version could be counted
  on to survive for the ages, he looked at his options and
  discovered "Print on Demand", or POD.   The model may
  well turn out to be appropriate for specialty numismatic

  "So much for the here and now. I had arranged for anyone
  presently on the earth and in contact with a computer to
  get my book. But, I thought, what about the there and then?
  How were future generations of early Russian historians (if
  there are any future generations of early Russian historians)
  going to get my brilliant book?   The answer was as clear as
  day: I needed to get the book into a library, preferably a
  very big one, one that would outlive me and everybody else.
  Luckily, I work about 100 yards from one of the biggest
  libraries in the world -- Widener Memorial Library at Harvard
  University.  I marched right over to talk to the folks in charge
  about preserving my book for the ages.

  Much to my surprise, they said this would be no problem. If
  the printed book was available via POD, then they would
  simply purchase, catalogue, and put it in the stacks like any
  other book. The electronic version of the book could be
  stored as well. The kind librarians explained that research library
  consortia are investing significant resources in the development
  of standards for the storage, update, and retrieval of e-books.
  In the not too distant future, they said, libraries would have
  huge electronic stacks in which enormous numbers of e-books
  could be searched, viewed, and downloaded from anywhere
  a patron might be. In fact, Harvard's system for storing e-books
  is up and running.  All I needed to do was to send them the
  file and they would produce a universal catalog record for the
  book and store it on their servers. It is comforting to know that
  my book will be available to the reading public as long as
  Harvard University stands. Whether anybody will care to read
  is another, rather less cheerful matter.

  The Future is Now (Almost)

  Historians hate to make predictions, especially about the future.
  But you don't need to be Karnack to see the way the wind is
  blowing in monograph publishing. The old model -- big
  university press, big print run, big publicity campaign, big
  losses -- is deader than Elvis. It just isn't working for anyone.
  A new model is presently emerging, as I discovered (quite
  accidentally, I should add). It will be hybrid in character,
  combining the best of the new electronic and print media.
  Monographs are already born digital (unless you use a
  typewriter), and they will soon be delivered digitally to the
  particular audiences that need them.   The university presses
  may do this, or it may be done by scholarly societies, or even
  by individual scholars. Whatever the case, the e-monograph
  is on its way, so get ready to head to the digital library.

  Print, however, has its enduring charms and will not just go
  away.  POD technology will make it possible for those who
  love "real" books to buy them at reasonable prices.  Again,
  it isn't exactly certain who will sell POD books -- it may be
  (and for reasons of status, probably will be) the university
  presses, it may be scholarly societies, or it may be the lone
  wolf scholar. Whatever the case, in the future you will order
  monographs like hamburgers -- made to order especially
  for you. Have them your way."

  Wayne Homren, Editor

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