Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Not as good as Samantha's

I fear my post isn't as good as Samantha's, which quoted a passage in which Thanksgiving, eating, flying, and misbehavior are connected.

Joel Bradshaw, the head of the journals department at UH Press, wrote a conference paper some years ago, and I recently asked him for a copy of it. He said he'd posted it at UHP's blog. Here is part of it:

Cultural Evolutions

In many ways, the digital era has been very, very good for academic journals. Their authors have acquired many more readers, all across campuses and all around the globe. Their publishers have implemented more efficient means of production and dissemination, and often found very significant new streams of revenue. But there have been some difficult cultural adjustments.

Subscriber counts are becoming less important as a metric for assessing readership than actual counts of article views online. And those online readers are much less likely to be subscribers, much less likely to be able to evaluate the reputation of the journal, and much less interested in anything but the disembodied article they found via an all-purpose search engine. This has led to an identity crisis for many journals. Are they a place for scholarly dialogue, or just a warehouse of articles awaiting consumers who may or may not care about which brand they buy?

Journal articles become harder to distinguish from chapters in multiauthor books, and senior scholars in the humanities tend to contribute less and less to journals because they tend to be overcommitted to editors who have solicited their contributions to more highly valued books. As journals become more and more specialized, those with broader—and often more prestigious—coverage, tend to attract less of the cutting-edge research that makes people feel the need to subscribe as individuals.

Finally, in an era of fast food, online communities, and instant feedback, ambitious scholars have less patience with the languid cycles of journal review and publication.

That dwindling patience no doubt extends to careful editing as well.

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