In the latest episode of our Digital Campus podcast, Tom, Dan, and I discuss what print on demand and public access publishing means for the future of academic publishing. Prior to our recording session, Dan interviewed Yakov Shafranovich, the creator of PublicDomainReprints.org a website that allows users to create printed versions of books scanned in Google Books with the click of a mouse.
Projects like Yakov’s and others, like a print on demand academic press that I am involved with, raise important questions about the future of academic publishing. For me, the most pressing question for scholars is how we can circulate the knowledge we create to the widest possible audience in the most accessible manner. That is, after all, the purpose of academic investigation, no? We are supposed to be creating a public good (especially those of us employed by state university systems or receiving federal funding for our research) and so the more accessible we can make the results of our research, the better.
Plus, at least in the tribe of historians, we complain all the time about the shrinking audience for academic history. What better way to expand that audience than to make our work more accessible, rather than less? As long as the same scholarly apparatus is in place–double blind review by qualified scholars prior to publication–then I’m unclear as to why print on demand is somehow worse than having one’s book published by a university press that probably only prints 1,000 copies (or fewer).
This issue is not a new drum for me to be beating on, as long time readers of this blog will know. But now the big boys and girls have gotten involved. The vote by the Harvard faculty in favor of open access to their research is a very positive step in the right direction.
So, when you have a chance, check out the latest edition of Digital Campus and then go back to the website and leave us a comment or two.