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Performing the Scholarly Monograph in Contemporary Digital Culture

4.2 The Scholarly Monograph and Historical Discourses of Object-Formation

1 Leave a comment on paragraph 1 0 As with the discourse on the presumed fixity of the scholarly book (which I touched on in chapter 2 and will return to in chapter 6)—is fixity an intrinsic element of printed books, for instance, as Eisenstein suggests, or has it been imposed on the printed object by historical actors in their intentions with and uses of books, as Johns has pointed out?—a similar discussion has taken place with respect to the rise of the book as an object and a commodity within larger networks of trade and scholarly publishing. Was the process of commodification and object-formation a direct effect of print technology, or of the system of material production that arose around the book, turning it into a fixed commodity that could be sold and bartered? The argument that will be made in this chapter is that it has always been both, and that the book and its environment emerged in their intra-action (Barad 2007) where the book functions as an apparatus (Foucault 1980, Deleuze 1992, Barad 2007, Stiegler 2010) in its dynamic relationship with the political-economy surrounding it.[3] The modern system of scholarly communication, as mentioned above, has always been integrally connected both to developments in publishing technology and to expansions of the book trade. Scholarly communication, and more specifically academic book publishing, has thus always been a cultural, an economic and a technological endeavour.

2 Leave a comment on paragraph 2 0 Nevertheless, a single-sided emphasis on specific (technological, economic, cultural) elements of the discursive object-formation of the book has played an important role in the various media histories that have narrated the development of the book as a scholarly and material object.[4] In this sense the way book history has been done, has played an important role in how people today perceive books, understand their history and with that the development of our academic system into the future (Gitelman 2006: 1). Book history has thus become an integral part of the power struggle surrounding the future of the book. A focus on either cultural or technological aspects of the development of the book, for instance, can be seen as neglecting the historical development of the scholarly communication system in its entangled becoming, as well as the various interests that have shaped the struggles over the book’s design and implementation. Values and practices underlying scholarship, such as authorship, peer review, openness, fixity, trust etc., were not developed separately from economic, cultural-institutional and technological concerns and needs but in tandem with them, showcasing both historical as well as current struggles about the past and future of the book, scholarship, and publishing. As I will therefore argue in depth later in this chapter, when narrating the past or future of the book it will not be constructive to emphasise either of these approaches separately or distinctively, without seeing them as integrally connected to and entangled with the system of material production of the book as a whole.

3 Leave a comment on paragraph 3 0 To provide an example, in battling the increasing commercialisation of scholarship and publishing, it will not do much good to see scholarship as solely or most of all a cultural endeavour (Leavis 1979, Arnold and Garnett 2006), in a conservative and reactive stance against market forces. And all the more so since, as Bill Readings has argued, to uphold the idea of culture and the university’s cultural value as a kind of antidote against commercialism has in many ways become useless, due to the way culture has now become de-referentialised (without a specific set of referents, i.e. things or ideas to refer to) (1996: 17–18). In this respect, Stefan Collini has pointed out that we are still defining our cultural values concerning the ideal of university education based on an a-historical context, one that was always already contingent and differential from the start (2012: 21). It will therefore likewise not be particularly useful, in this specific context, to blame commercial publishers and their profit-driven interests for the impoverishment of formal scholarly publishing,[5] while at the same time seeing scholarship and research as an endeavour that is, or should be, led solely by cultural values and motives. Making a distinction between publishing as a commercial undertaking and scholarship as a purely cultural endeavour (which John Thompson is close to doing, as we shall see later in this chapter), does not do justice to the fact that scholarly research and communication has always been a commercial enterprise too, and has been intrinsically connected with and heavily involved in trade publishing from its inception. These kind of simplified, black-and-white analyses also do not help with regard to developing a sustained critique of some of the excesses and problems underlying the current highly interconnected publishing and scholarly systems and the way they function. Building on this position, I will argue that scholarship and publishing are not separate fields (Thompson 2005), but rather that a ‘publishing function’ (or any other alternative system of material production surrounding scholarly communication), should be seen as an integral aspect of scholarship and of knowledge formation. What is more, change in scholarly communication, publishing, or even scholarly practices and the university, can only come about if we take into consideration the entangled nature of scholarship and the diverse concerns that continue to shape it.

4 Leave a comment on paragraph 4 0 For this reason I will focus in this chapter on the genealogy of the material production of the book as a struggled over disciplining regime, involving both knowledge and bodies of knowledge across a plurality of frontiers of object formation, including technological, economical, and cultural-institutional aspects, and taking into consideration both the book as object and discourse. Hence I will argue that processes of book materialisation should be viewed as material-discursive practices, as entanglements (Barad 2007).

5 Leave a comment on paragraph 5 0 However, this does not mean that specific, targeted and localised forms of critique, focused on reforming the copyright system, creating alternative economic models, or engaging in experiments to rethink our scholarly practices—such as my project is attempting to do—are not on their own important steps towards change. In their efforts to tip the balance of power, and enable alternative visions of the book and scholarship, different from those based predominantly on the market, these endeavours should be encouraged. But what is needed first and foremost is an acknowledgment that embarking on these kinds of projects comes with a need to take responsibility for the fact that these localised interventions are capable of having consequences for the system as a whole, and therefore of also influencing and targeting the entire system. A progressive, affirmative strategy that takes into account the genealogy of the book and our scholarly material-discursive practices, and that criticises aspects of the book as part of their wider entanglement with the scholarly system, is thus needed.[6] As Fitzpatrick has emphasised with respect to authorship, for instance: ‘Academic authorship as we understand it today has evolved in conjunction with our publishing and employment practices, and changing one aspect of the way we work of necessity implies change across its entirety’ (2011: 53). This does not mean we have to rethink everything all the time. Rather, we need to make specific decisions about what will be the most appropriate, responsible, effective or strategic parts of the system to rethink at any particular time and in each specific historical or cultural situation. However, as part of this specificity it remains important to focus on the entangled nature of these developments and on the consequences the cuts we make have for the entire system. As will be explored in more depth in chapter 5, this involves a plea for forms of radical open access that go beyond mere provision of access and that argue for a continued rethinking of the whole system of scholarly communication, starting with the scholarly monograph.

6 Leave a comment on paragraph 6 0 This complicated entanglement of factors, agencies, technologies and discourses that has accompanied the development of the scholarly book object, might also partly explain why its system of material production, with most of its key players derived from a print situation, has still not really been questioned with the coming of digital technologies. Until now the equilibrium of the forces of print power seems to be reinforced—for the most part uncritically—in digital publishing, with some of the initial experiments with open access publishing, new publishing models, and new forms of peer review, despite their critical character, at risk of becoming usurped within this larger model again. Critique of the scholarly book object, of peer review and of economic models therefore needs to be a continuous process, one that calls for an assessment that is integrally connected to an examination of institutional and technological models of innovation.

7 Leave a comment on paragraph 7 0 In the remainder of this chapter I will explore first the development of our modern system of scholarly communication and the initial stages of book objectification as narrated within the discourse on book history. From there I will examine the rise of the university press as an institution that epitomizes the entanglement of university extension work and the forces of the publishing economy. As part of doing so, I will analyse how the mission of the press has been narrated within the discourse on book history, before concluding by showing how a reframing of this discourse can be beneficial with regards to battling the ongoing commodification of the book.

4.2.1 Discursive Reflections on the Development of the Modern System of

         Scholarly Communication

4.2.1.1. Print Technology

8 Leave a comment on paragraph 8 0 As is made clear above, a lot of emphasis has been placed within the discourse on book history upon the influence print technology has had on the rise of both the modern scholarly communication system, and of the book as a scholarly object and a mass commodity. But was it print that started this development? Ong states that it was the objectifying movement of writing more than print that turned words into signs and time into fragments (1982: 31). Nonetheless, Ong argues at the same time that it was print that truly objectified words as things, to an extent that words were now made out of pre-existing mechanical units (types). Print ‘embedded the word itself deeply in the manufacturing process and made it into a kind of commodity’ (Ong 1982: 116). It was with print that we entered what McLuhan called the ‘first great consumer age’ (1962: 138), while Febvre and Martin declared the introduction of printing ‘a stage on the road to our present society of mass consumption and of standardisation’ (1997: 260). Eisenstein also emphasises that it was the advent of print that enabled the mechanical reproduction of books and transformed the conditions under which texts were produced, disseminated and consumed. Initially, it was not the product that changed (in the age of incunabula); it was that this product was reproduced in larger quantities than was ever possible before (Eisenstein 1979: 168). The organisation of printed book production also introduced new roles and functions, and with that the whole system around book production took on a different scale. By the same token, one could argue that the medieval production of manuscripts by scribes in scriptoria was already a highly commercial business. The market value of hand-copied books also remained high for a long time after the invention of the printing press (Eisenstein 1979: 50). Nonetheless, where manuscript production was producer-oriented, print was highly consumer-oriented (Ong 1982: 120). The use of abbreviations in manuscripts, for instance, was designed to help the producer of the work, not to improve the ease of reading. Texts were also often bound in one book cover in the Middle Ages, making it hard to ascertain the number of texts included in one manuscript. It was print that influenced the coming of the book as an object containing a single work (Eisenstein 1979: 43).

9 Leave a comment on paragraph 9 0 Eisenstein points out that the printing press was incremental in promoting one of the main values of science: that of making knowledge public (1979: 478). Print enabled feedback and it secured old and new records. Once research observations could be duplicated in printed books, they became available to readers who could check them and feed back corrections with new observations that could then be incorporated into new editions again (1979: 487–488). Print, Eisenstein states, was a publicising machine, where it stimulated the circulation of what was previously private information as a public good, promoting the move away from a system of guild secrecy and toward one of publication, which in turn lead to more cooperative science. Print thus served both the motives of altruism and self-advancement that came to be so important in modern science (Eisenstein 1979: 560).

4.2.1.2 The Commercial Book Trade

10 Leave a comment on paragraph 10 0 In addition to paying attention to the role played by technology and the materiality of the printed book, the book historical discourse focuses specifically on the influence the commercial book trade had on the development of our modern system of scholarly communication. As Eisenstein emphasises, one of the effects of the modernisation and rationalisation of the new commercial book trade was that it influenced the rise of an ‘ésprit de systeme’ in academia (1979: 88). The newly established international book trade promoted an ethos that became associated with the community of men of letters: ‘tolerant yet not secular, pious yet not fanatic’ (Eisenstein 1979: 140). Besides being commercial enterprises print shops were also cultural centres as well as serving as the focal point of scientific development. Eisenstein thus argues that the rise of the republic of letters must be seen to have gone hand-in-hand with the development of the printed book trade (1979: 76). Febvre and Martin similarly point out that from its earliest days printing existed as an industry, where the scholarly book was a piece of merchandise from which to make a profit and earn a living, even for scholars (1997: 108). For example, as part of the growing market economy around books, printers used new publicising techniques such as blurbs to sell their books. Individual achievement was heightened in these processes, based on a market mechanism that followed the practical need to advertise products and bring trade to shops. Likewise it can be argued that it was ‘the industry which encouraged publishers to advertise authors and authors to advertise themselves’ (Eisenstein 1979: 229). The rise of scholarly authorship and the growing prestige of the inventor are also connected to new forms of intellectual property rights that were introduced in the book trade to prevent piracy.

11 Leave a comment on paragraph 11 0 The system of material production set up around print and scholarship played an important role in shaping the emerging scientific communication system. Johns, building on Steven Shapin’s identification of trust as a key element in the making of knowledge, focuses specifically on how this system of material production established notions of credentiality and trust (1998: 19). He argues that it was not fixity as brought about by print technology, but trust in a textual work, that was able to turn a book into both a commercial trade and scholarly object. This included constructing trust in the book’s integrity, quality and authority. Johns is mainly interested in how the system of book production, distribution and consumption was constructed and how it functioned, as well as in the shifting roles that were played by printers/publishers (Stationers), booksellers, scholars, and the government or monarch, together with the various institutions that grew out of these groups, such as the Stationers’ Company and the Royal Society in England. Chartier similarly emphasises the importance of studying material practices with respect to book production and consumption, but unlike Johns he directly connects this back to the book as a specific technological affordance. A text here is seen as being integrally connected to its physical support, where meaning gets constructed through the form in which a text reaches its readers. Publishing decisions as well as the constraints of print production are constituted within this form (Chartier 1994: 9). Chartier is thus interested in the controls that were exercised over printed matter as part of its production process, from exterior moral or religious censorship or forms of patronage, to constraining interior mechanisms within the book itself. Print established a market, which came with certain rules and conventions for those players that made a monetary gain from this new commercial system (Chartier 1994: 21). What kind of struggles over the construction of the scholarly book and its history took place between these various constituencies? What was the influence of these discursive struggles on the establishment of trust and the creation of the modern system of scholarly communication?

12 Leave a comment on paragraph 12 0 Johns, as I made clear previously, points out that it was firstly and foremost the Stationers or publishers, and to a lesser extent booksellers, who were responsible for constructing a trustworthy realm of knowledge, by articulating conventions related to propriety (1998: 34). Through the publishers’ agency, following their interests and practices, printed materials and the knowledge embodied within them came into being (Johns 1998: 60). The social character of the printing house hereby influenced its products: who had access to the printing house, what were they allowed to do and under what conditions. What kinds of books were printed and who got to decide what got printed? Not unlike the present situation of academic book publishing, these decisions were often based on economics, where the priorities of the book trade came first, a state of affairs that did not always benefit academic authors nor the emerging system of scientific scholarship. Many scholarly works were expensive to produce (often requiring special typefaces in the cases of mathematics and astronomy, for instance, as well as elaborate graphs and images) and they suffered from a small market plagued by piracy (Johns 1998: 447). This made learned titles unsustainable to produce in situations where Stationers were reluctant to publish them unless they could be guaranteed to sell. Capital was needed to print a title and only those books that satisfied a demand were actually produced at a competitive price (Febvre and Martin 1997: 108). As Febvre and Martin argue, powerful patronage from public authorities such as bishops or the state was often needed in these situations as well as capital injections through loans, to provide just one example. One could argue that in the early days of the press the main factor in its rapid development was the interest influential men and institutions had in making texts accessible (Febvre and Martin 1997: 170). Nevertheless, marketable products came first. Work on scholarly books was often delayed while printers concentrated on more immediately profitable material, such as pamphlets and ephemera, which were produced in the same space as folio volumes. These were what printers relied on for their economic sustenance, meaning that ‘profitable pamphlets came before scientific books’ (Johns 1998: 454).

13 Leave a comment on paragraph 13 0 Printers were seen to personally vouch for the propriety of their products through their character, which was determined among other things by their respect of copy (meaning no piracy) (Johns 1998: 125). Attempts to regulate the book trade against piracy and impropriety thus stressed the model of a stable, domestic household (Johns 1998: 156). This household image of propriety, comparable with today’s emphasis on branding, played an important role in reading strategies too. According to Johns, a reader judged a book based on practices and pragmatics, which included looking at the name of the Stationer or publisher on a book’s title page to determine reliable content (Johns 1998: 147). The craft community (including booksellers) worked to sustain good character for the book trade as a whole (Johns 1998: 187). In this process politics, propriety and print were integrally connected: trust could become possible because of a print-disciplining regime. In England the Stationers’ Company established a propriety culture, as Johns calls it, which was essential in the establishment of the book as trade and scholarly object. The connection between the market and the emerging scholarly communication system becomes even clearer if we take into account that property and propriety used to mean the same. As Johns states: ‘offenses against the property enshrined by convention in the register were seen simultaneously as offenses against proper conduct’ (1998: 109). The Stationers’ Company established a registry system for published books to counter piracy and to strengthen the representation of their business as a respectable and moral art (Johns 1998: 222). In reality this meant they had a monopoly over the publishing industry for setting and enforcing regulations. Where concerns of the state mattered heavily when it came to the book trade, in the representation of the Stationer, licensing and propriety were both seen as integral not only to the concerns of the Stationers, but to those of the state. In this sense the Company ‘constituted the conditions of existence for printed knowledge itself’ (Johns 1998: 190).

4.2.1.3 The Academies and the Journal System

14 Leave a comment on paragraph 14 0 What role did the emerging scholarly societies play in this development? How can they be connected to the systems of material production that were set up around scholarly books? In the 16th and 17th centuries new ideas were initially communicated by means of written correspondences (Kronick 1991: 57). Gradually, with the aid of official scientific academies, the increase in correspondences led to their standardisation in journals or periodicals which, as Kronick points out, enabled these conversations to take place in a more open setting. At the same time the increase in the amount of scholarly books being published led to the development of book reviews. These developments were, as Kronick argues, the start of the development of the first journals such as Philosophical Transactions, which dealt with new ideas, and the Journal des Sçavans, which primarily served as a medium for book-reviewing (1991: 59–60).[7]

15 Leave a comment on paragraph 15 0 In England, as Johns has extensively recounted, it was the Royal Society, chartered in 1662 as a learned society of scholars, that tried to set up an order for the communication of scholarly research that was tailored more to the needs of academia. They did this by, among other things, aggressive intervention in the realm of print (Johns 1998: 44). The Society has become famous for its publishing enterprises, among which is, as I mentioned above, the first scientific journal, the Philosophical Transactions, and Newton’s Philosophiae Naturalis Principia Mathematica. As Johns points out, however, these are the outcome of long processes of establishing conventions based on experiments within the Society. As with the Stationers, new concepts of authorship, publication, and reading were enacted in conditions of civil trust, ensuring that productions would not be reprinted, translated, or pirated without consent (Shapin 1994: 182–183, Johns 1998: 54–55). The Royal Society thus ‘attempted to contain, and even redefine, the powers of print’ in direct opposition to the order set up by the Stationers’ Company, as we will see. Experimental natural philosophers, in cooperation with the Society, created new forms of sociability and new genres of writing such as the experimental paper, the journal, the book review, the editor, and the experimental author. Within these confines an openness and readiness to communicate was essential to promote the common good (Johns 1998: 472). Virtual forms of witnessing were developed through detailed forms of scientific reporting. This civil domain of print was based on the Society’s own system of internal registration (or licensing) and external publication (Johns 1998: 480). Together, the protocols established around these systems came to constitute the emerging communication system in the experimental community.

16 Leave a comment on paragraph 16 0 Henry Oldenburg, secretary of the Royal Society, first developed an extensive system of external publication by setting up a network of correspondents across Europe, connecting the society to the broader world of learned men. It was this network that formed the basis of the Philosophical Transactions (Guédon 2001, Johns 1998: 497). The latter extended the Society’s register into the ‘public’ realm of print, as a new strategy to secure authorship within the scholarly community of natural philosophers, creating forms of international propriety (Johns 1998: 499). Additionally, Johns narrates how licensers Atkyns and Streater proposed a radical solution to the problem of discredit, making it an expressly political problem by suggesting direct royal intervention in the civility of printing: the Stationers’ Company, together with the ‘print-disciplining regime’ it had set up, should be replaced by a system of crown-appointed patentees, where printers would be employed as servants to the Society and the crown. The Stationers Company regulated property via their register which, seen as a threat to the power of the king, was ultimately challenged by this new royal patenting system that promised to replace the Stationers power with that of the monarch. In this new system property and the right to copy came to be embedded in law. In this way powerful intertwined representations of printing and politics (and power and knowledge) were constructed, representing, as Johns emphasises, a revolutionary reconstruction of the cultural politics of print (1998: 322).

17 Leave a comment on paragraph 17 0 This reconstruction also had a historiographical element where, in order to determine what the future of print should be (i.e. should it be based on a registration or on a patenting system?) a battle was fought over the historical origins of print, via a reconstruction of the historical origins of the press itself. The licensers from the Royal Society argued that print should return to its pure status as an ‘Art’ that it had enjoyed before being incorporated, owned and regulated by the mercenary interests of the Stationers as a ‘Mechanick Trade’ (Johns 1998: 307). They claimed that the printing craft was the personal property of the monarch, where the Stationers pointed out that it had always been a ‘common’ trade. Through this anecdote Johns shows how the essential properties of print were disputed and how participants in the debate actually created print itself. As Johns states, ‘practitioners of the press (…) made creative use of their own histories to delineate cultural proprieties for themselves and their craft’ (1998: 325).

18 Leave a comment on paragraph 18 0 In the end printing would become part of court service, and would rest on the civility of this system (Johns 1998: 624). The register mechanism became the defining symbol of experimental propriety in the Society itself, and the Philosophical Transactions its emblem abroad (Johns 1998: 541). It is important to emphasise, however, as both Johns and Jean-Claude Guédon have done, that the emergence of this scholarly journal system had little to do with democratic scholarly ideas (in the tradition of Merton—something that is also visible in Kronick, for instance) and the public good, but with issues of copyright, with priority claims and with royal hierarchies. As Guédon remarks: ‘The design of a scientific periodical, far from primarily aiming at disseminating knowledge, really seeks to reinforce property rights over ideas; intellectual property and authors were not legal concepts designed to protect writers—they were invented for the printers’ or Stationers’ benefits’ (2001: 10). The limitation of the Stationers’ property rights in favour of the Royal Society as a scholarly institution should thus not be seen as a form of promoting the public good and scholarship in opposition against economic interests. It was most of all a political conflict between the crown and the Stationers, where the crown wanted to reassert its authority via the institution of the Royal Society and the law. In this respect, developments such as copyright should be seen, as Guédon has argued, as specific historical constructions that arise out of a moment of equilibrium between conflicting interests and parties. And just like the system of scholarly communication, this equilibrium is not stable or solid, but keeps on evolving.

19 Leave a comment on paragraph 19 0 To provide another example, the peer review system did not initially appear as an integral part of science and scholarship. As Mario Biagioli has emphasised, peer review was a specifically 17th century development tied to the emergence of the new institutions of the academies. These state-sponsored institutions were granted the privilege to publish their own works. Up until then censorship systems had been controlled by religious authorities and licensing by the printers/Stationers. The genealogy of peer review thus suggests that it developed within the logic of royal censorship, not as something protecting the interests of the broader scholarly community. It was about establishing unacceptable claims (censorship), not about establishing good claims (quality), Biagioli points out (2002: 17). As he puts it: ‘So while peer review is now cast as a sign of the hard-won independence of science from socio-political interests, it actually developed as the result of royal privileges attributed to very few academies to become part and parcel of the book licensing and censorship systems’ (Biagioli 2002: 14). The academies needed to control print in order to sustain themselves and their protection by the royal patron. There were also strong economic interests involved. In addition to controlling publications the academies needed to promote them in order to build their prestige and recognition to foster continued state support. This was the beginning of a cultural market: ‘Publications, then, became a credit-carrying object, and these “academic banknotes” needed to be printed, not only censored’ (Biagioli 2002: 20). So although it started as an early modern disciplinary technique akin to book censorship, as Biagioli shows, peer review developed in the 18th century into an in-house disciplinary technique, and then began to function as a producer of academic value. In the end it no longer depended on a centre of authority but was internalised, where it went from external disciplining (state censors) to internal review (academic reviewers). It thus functioned as a Foucauldian disciplining technique, repressing and producing knowledge at the same time (Biagioli 2002: 11–12).

20 Leave a comment on paragraph 20 0 Seeing the academies as promoting and enabling cultural and scholarly values and the public good in opposition to the economic and political interests of the state and the Stationers can thus be considered a misrepresentation. For this view ignores the priority struggles the academies, the state and the Stationers were involved in as part of the entanglement of political, economical and technological factors, and which enabled the rise of the modern system of scholarly communication. As Guédon rightly claims: ‘In short, a good deal of irony presides over the emergence of scholarly publishing: all the democratic justifications that generally accompany our contemporary discussions of copyright seem to have been the result of reasons best forgotten, almost unmentionable. The history of scientific publishing either displays Hegel’s cunning of history at its best, or it reveals how good institutions are at covering their own tracks with lofty pronouncements!’ (2001: 10).

4.2.1.4 University Press Publishing

21 Leave a comment on paragraph 21 0 In addition to the development of the academies, universities increasingly started to set up presses of their own to communicate their scholarly findings. To find any kind of overview of the early history of the university press, however, one has to go all the way back to 1967, to Gene Hawes’ handbook on university press publishing, and even then this is only a narrative that focuses mainly on the United States. Hawes provides a thorough history of the development of the university press in the States, including the rapid growth of the sector until the end of the 60s (especially after WWII) (1967b: 11). The next paragraphs, based on Hawes, will thus mostly concentrate on developments in these regions.

22 Leave a comment on paragraph 22 0 In Europe it all began with Oxford University Press (1478) and Cambridge University Press (1521), both founded shortly after the coming of print. Their early development was anything but stable, however, as it was only in the 16th century that some form of continuous publishing production was established for both presses. They were integral parts of their universities but also depended on commercial activities, such as bible publishing, to survive. This monopoly on bible publishing, which was disputed in its early days by the Stationers’ Company, supplied sufficient funding to support publishing in other, less profitable areas. American university presses were established in the late 1800s, as part of the rise of the American university itself, modelled on the German research universities. With the rise of the first universities, the need for a university press to accompany the university mission was strongly felt. In the case of Johns Hopkins Press (1878), for instance, it was the university president who strongly believed in the need for a press. As Thompson has noted: ‘the American university presses were set up with the aim of advancing and disseminating knowledge by publishing high quality scholarly work; they were generally seen as an integral part of the function of the university’ (2005: 108). After Hopkins, 1891 saw the coming of Chicago and 1869 of Cornell University Press, followed by the presses of the University of California and Columbia in 1893 (Hawes 1967b: 30–31). The University of California’s press grew out of the interest of the institution’s librarian in creating series of scholarly monographs to exchange with similar series issuing from other universities. These presses arrived at a time when higher education in the States was still in its early stages, operating on a very small scale. From the rise of the university presses onwards, this gradually started to change, in a steadily faster pace.[8] In the States, commercial publishing was already well developed by the time university presses came about. The main mission of the presses was to publish the kind of research that could not find a commercial outlet: specialised scholarly research. Again, Hawes states the importance here of university support: ‘the American presses have depended essentially on funds from university appropriations and from varieties of benefactors, rather than from religious publishing, to help support the dissemination of scholarly research’. This includes their tax-exempt status in the US (Hawes 1967b: 33). It took the first presses some time to establish themselves (in a process that comprised a lot of failing and reviving) before a new wave arrived in 1905, with the formation of Princeton University Press. Alumni also played an important role in this movement by providing monetary funds in support of the presses (Hawes 1967b: 34). Eleven more universities founded presses by the end of the 1920s, and another twelve did so in the 1930s (Hawes 1967b: 38). Hawes emphasises the individual, organic development of these presses, as related to the specific university and people that ran the press. Eventually, in 1946 the Association of American University Presses was founded—a trade organisation for scholarly publishers—stipulating membership qualifications in 1949 (Hawes 1967b: 65).

23 Leave a comment on paragraph 23 0 What is clear from this short overview, focussing especially on the US, is how the publishing function was seen as directly related to the university’s mission, which resulted in a relationship in which university funding to support the press was essential to the functioning of the institution. As Hawes has argued: ‘Just as relatively high costs and narrow markets typify the publishing economics of scholarly books, subsidy support plays a fundamental role in the publishing economics of a university press’ (1967b: 127).

4.2.1.5 The Monograph Crisis

24 Leave a comment on paragraph 24 0 As Hawes and others have pointed out, the ability to publish specialised, experimental work is not a sustainable enterprise. University presses were brought into life exactly for this reason, as non-profit institutions to publish the kinds of works that are not commercially viable. The objective of university press publishing could therefore be seen as a form of university extension work (Brown 1970: 134, Waters 2004: 5, Adema 2010). This means they depend on forms of outside support and subsidies that lend them an advantage over commercial publishers, enabling university presses to support books which by their nature are not viable because they have a small potential market (Brown 1970: 134). Nevertheless, after the gradual if moderate development of academic publishing in the United States up to the first half of the 20th century, the 1950s and 1960s saw an extended growth as a direct result of the expansion of universities worldwide following the second world war. Other factors involved in this expansion were the baby boom, the GI bill, the influx of women in academia, economic advancement, and educational investments as part of the Cold War. This rise in student numbers and universities led to increased funds and investments in libraries, which in turn created a demand for more content. By 1967 there were sixty university presses affiliated to universities in the US and Canada, and by 1970 there were thirty smaller presses active outside the AAUP. In the UK there were seven university presses in 1970: Cambridge, Oxford, Liverpool, Manchester, Edinburgh, Leicester, and Athlone Press of the University of London (Brown 1970: 135, Thompson 2005: 108).

25 Leave a comment on paragraph 25 0 This growth-boom ended rather abruptly at the beginning of the 1970s, followed by the economic recession of the 1980s, which marked the beginning of what we now know as the serials and monograph crisis (Thompson 2005: 98). Greco has analysed a large collection of sources, based mainly on research papers from the 60s until the 90s from the Journal of Scholarly Publishing, that first talk about a crisis in scholarly communication at the beginning of the 70s, extending into the present. He narrates how the rise of commercial scholarly publishing at that time was luring commercially interesting scholars away from university presses, making it even harder for the latter to sustain themselves (Greco et al. 2006: 58). In their description of the start of the crisis, Harvey et al. note that universities were facing severe budget cuts at these times, which mostly meant their presses were the first areas of their activity to be cut, in the form of declining university subsidies. Library budgets were also cut, while publishing (warehousing, distribution etc.) costs went up (Harvey et al. 1972: 196). This lead to a situation in which presses were—and still are—forced to change the books they publish, to the detriment of specialised scholarly monographs in the humanities (Harvey et al. 1972: 198).

26 Leave a comment on paragraph 26 0 The serials and monograph crisis only became more pronounced in the 1980s and 1990s. Increasingly, the focus of the debate on the crisis in academic publishing became the impact it was having on the tenure review process, and on the future of early-career scholars. This period also saw the growing penetration of commercial market forces into university press practices. Academic publishing was forced to start to adhere to a business ideology more and more (Greco et al. 2006: 62). According to Thompson, a ‘new climate of financial accountability’ arose for university presses around this time, which strengthened their uncertainty towards the nature and purpose of a university press (2005: 109). To a growing degree they were expected to break-even and to reduce their dependence on their institutions (Thompson 2005: 88–89). In a sense the perceived mission of the university press was breached in this situation. One of the results of this development was a greater throughput model, where publishers had to publish more and more titles in order to attain the same level of revenue. The growth in titles over the years did not necessarily mean the presses were doing well, however: they may have been publishing more titles but they were making less profit per title (Thompson 2005: 125). Besides, as Hall has argued, the increase in titles didn’t necessarily mean more new research was being published, as many scholarly books were ‘merely repeating and repackaging old ideas and material’, with publishers focusing on more marketable overview publications, such as readers and introductions targeted at students (2008: 6).

27 Leave a comment on paragraph 27 0 As already remarked above, this decline of university press publishing was at the same time affected by the immense growth of commercial scholarly publishing. Since the 1970s the book publishing industry as a whole has been the focus of intensive merger and acquisitions activity leading to a situation in which international conglomerates now rule the business (Thompson, 2005:2). Thompson saw these developments coming about most clearly in: the growth of title output (also in book publishing where as part of the commodification of the sector both paperbacks and hardbacks were increasingly published); the concentration of corporate power; the transformation of the retail sectors; the globalisation of markets and publishing firms; and the influence of new technologies (2005). This progressively corporate concentration of scholarly publishing can, as Willinsky notes, be illustrated by the journal holdings (in 2003) of three of the major players: ‘Reed Elsevier with 1,800 journals, Taylor and Francis with over 1,000 titles, and Springer with more than 500 titles’ (2005: 19). Together, these control 60 per cent of the publications that are indexed in the ISI Web of Science, Willinsky states. These mergers with smaller publishers have also led to growth in subscription prices (Willinsky 2005: 19). The excessive use of commercial branding, developed as a technique to cope with information overload, created a form of core science (citation index hierarchy), and with that of core journals and reputable publishers. This creation of hierarchy out of branding has again made it easier to make a profit out of publishing, by creating an inelastic market; it has also made it easier to distinguish excellent from mediocre scholars and researchers (Guédon 2009).

28 Leave a comment on paragraph 28 0 Journal publishing thus turned into a very lucrative business, affecting the system of scholarly communication directly. As Thompson points out: ‘The rise of powerful corporate players in the fields of STM publishing and journal publishing has squeezed the budgets of university libraries with dire consequences for academic publishers’ (2005: 62–63). Furthermore, university presses have increasingly been forced into commercial trade and textbook publishing to survive, while they are faced with strong competition from the conglomerates. This development, Thompson argues, led to the development of new publishing strategies for university presses including more paperbacks, more textbooks, and a bigger focus on disciplines and subjects that sell: strategies that were seen as being inevitable if they wanted to survive.

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