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Is digital print the answer for U of M press?

March 23, 2009
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University of Michigan is talking about going to a completely digital press, a sure sign that they are missing a large part of their own boat in which they plan to sail away, especially as evidenced by this statement from the director of the U of M press:

Significantly, they said, the press would no longer have to reject books deemed worthy from a scholarly perspective, but viewed as unable to sell.

That’s a sign to me that the press is no longer a press but turning into a digital discussion group.  There should be no reason that something should be published if no one will read it.  Why talk about putting out things no one will read, just because they can?  This is further evidenced by the article comment Pochoda made.  Just listen to this visionary:

“We will certainly be able to publish books that would not have survived economic tests,” said Pochoda. “And we’ll be able to give all of our books much broader distribution.”

Why is it that any of these discussions about publishing center around any and all, with no middle ground? How is simply putting things on a webpage going to increase publishing? That’s an old and faulty concept: putting something on the web is somehow a publishing feat. It is not. It’s not the same thing to put out a paper model as it is a digital model. The chains of information are not the same for print as for digital, and it really doesn’t translate easily. I have tons of websites to comb through every day–what would make me look at this one? I don’t read for information on-line because I don’t have a multi-paneled monitor. I still have to print out most things in order to write from them. Perhaps there is a middle ground here, because otherwise this project is a good 10 years in the past starting today.

Some guy named Thatcher also has doubts about the University of Michigan plan for online publishing:

Thatcher is skeptical of the site license approach for university press books. “How many libraries are going to license a small number of books,” and do so in arrangements with many presses? he asked.

Nonetheless, he applauded Michigan for adopting a new model from which others may learn. “We all need experiments,” he said.

Experiment done, but I think it’s too late.  Who wants to purchase rights to things no one will read?  Strange idea Pochoda and U of M.

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