University presses still looking for a new model

Scott Sherman writes in the Nation (“University presses under fire“) that university presses are scorned by librarians enamored of Open Access. He also hints at a cultural difference, with presses following the hallowed craft of attracting authors, nurturing them through editing, negotiating with an editorial board, designing the book, marketing, getting new titles reviewed; whereas libraries are more concerned with currency and access than physical books (despite the sentimentality of many librarians).

Sherman calls on foundations to give presses money to keep presses alive. He cites the Ithaka report (2007) calling for a new collaboration for a shared vision of scholarly communication (whatever it may be). Instead of simple infusions of cash to keep presses afloat, he suggests renewed support for modernization (digitization). Perhaps a return to first principles is called for. Newspapers are struggling with their old business model, but they are critical as news-gathering organizations. Book publishers, and their cousins the booksellers, are still a potent force for disseminating creative work and giving points of view a voice (think of feminist and minority publishers and newspapers, and the book stores being gathering places for thought communities.) Digitization will result in consolidation (as is happening with newspapers), but is flexible enough to offer immediacy, access, and individuation as rewards for taking the plunge into the future.

SPARC opens campus publishing resource center, i.e., information only

SPARC‘s Campus-Based Publishing Resource Center is intended for “libraries, presses, and other academic units interested in launching and maintaining campus-based publishing partnerships.”  It has a bibliography (naturally–they’re librarians) and some PDFs listing issues to consider.  One presumes it will grow, but it does have a specific focus and is not trying to cover much beyond its scope.  It’s not a toolkit like bepress.

University press and university library: Collaboration successful, increasing OA journal output

This presentation by James Mullins, dean of Purdue University Libraries, describes an integration of the university press with the library, resulting in infrastructure savings, but also reflecting what may well have been librarians’ leadership, as the number of Open Access journals published by the press doubled after the libraries assumed leadership of the press.  It also describes other benefits to the press, but the libraries progress in achieving a vision of information sharing.  The diminishing importance of physical production in the current electronic age means that libraries and publishers really converge in terms of function.  The major difference would be that publishers, even university presses, look for commercial opportunities and economic efficiencies, and that may conflict with libraries’ mission.  (It wouldn’t hurt libraries to become more efficient, though, assuming it wouldn’t compromise their ideals unduly.)