Juan Cole: Academic Publishing Model “On the Verge of Collapse”

Juan Cole on how blogging is changing academic scholarship

there’s something wrong with our model.  And this is producing a crisis which we’re all aware of but which nobody addresses.  Which is that we give tenure on the basis of the revision of a dissertation into a published monograph.  The economics of that used to be that the libraries—it was a socialist system—would buy 800 copies of the monograph that was published by the university press.  Well that’s over….So university presses are increasingly being told by their administrators, We’re not subsidizing you anymore.  You make money for us somehow.  So this whole model of our writing very, very specialized dissertations and then having their publication subsidized … that’s on the verge of complete collapse. 

I think that the Internet is going to change all of that radically.  I think that the dissemination of academic study and knowledge through blogging is one of the ways that it’s going to change, and that ultimately it will be recognized as a valuable and central activity in our academic lives, and certainly it has the prospect of breaking out of the ivory tower and making the very valuable labors that are done in academia available to a wider audience.

3 thoughts on “Juan Cole: Academic Publishing Model “On the Verge of Collapse”

  1. Ah, but Juan Cole has been one of the VERY VERY few people to have his blog be in any way relevant to the dissemination of his work, particularly due to being well-positioned vis-a-vis a national war. There’s a couple of places that’ll work, but there aren’t enough wars and such to support all of academia.

    Remember, if you’re not on the (local, topic) A-list YOU DON’T GET HEARD!

  2. depends on who does the hearing (i.e. internet niche audiences are at least as big as one’s expert peers in an esoteric field). and it’s not as if fewer are going to read the blog than the obscure monograph. i think cole is right, and not just for well positioned academics.

  3. Ah, but that’s moving the goalposts. The argument goes like this:

    Assertion: ” it has the prospect of breaking out of the ivory tower and making the very valuable labors that are done in academia available to a wider audience”

    False. If you’re not on the (local, topic) A-list YOU DON’T GET HEARD!. That’s just a fact:

    Quick! Move those goalposts:

    “internet niche audiences are at least as big as one’s expert peers in an esoteric field”

    The assertion wasn’t that you got a tiny little niche audience. It was, quote ” breaking out of the ivory tower” and “academia available to a wider audience”. Now ,a common the trick here is then to assert that “wider audience” really in fact meant tiny little niche audience. But why the hoopla in that case? Why is that worthy of replacing the previous system – indeed, it seems really self-indulgent, to argue that the current academic system should be replaced by blathering to a few fans.

    The problem is that the few big winners are the ones going around hyping this, and you never heard from the peolpe who say “I tried it, it was shouting to the wind, it didn’t do any good, and it was all a big waste of time”.

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