#AcBookWeek 2015: Publisher Workshop at Stationers Hall

To celebrate the recent announcement of the next Academic Book Week (23-28 January 2017), we’re revisiting some highlights from last year’s #AcBookWeek! The first post considers the gathering of academic publishers at the historic Stationers Hall to discuss some of the challenges and opportunities facing the industry. There were 25 individuals representing seven academic publishers, all of which publish books in print and/or digital format. The participants were asked to work in groups and address some of the core questions first posed at the launch of The Academic Book of the Future project. Project co-investigator Nick Canty (UCL) reflects back on this event.

The questions and issues we put to the assembled publishers spanned three main areas, as follows:

 

1. Changes in the nature of research, the research environment and the research process

What do academic books do?

We started off by asking publishers for their views of what purposes they think academic books fulfil. Answers were varied, with some participants asking how we define which books relate to research and which are for reference. This point was picked up by another participant who argued that publishers’ categories (reference or textbook) don’t matter – what matters is the prestige of where you find your content and being providing with trusted credible content. There is a glut of information today with undergraduate students and researchers drawing on a broader pool of resources than in the past (including Wikipedia), which has partly been enabled by digital technologies, although it was questioned whether the structures were in place for interdisciplinary research.

Additional purposes for the academic book were offered, for instance: for academics to achieve tenure, or to publish their PhD thesis; while another participant observed that academic books are now required as a tool for metrics to help define impact, as well as working for libraries to gauge interest through bibliographic data. A more apt starting point might be to ask what the book is doing: proving a hypothesis, making an argument, or communicating an idea – but this doesn’t answer whether textbooks, reference, and professional books should be considered academic books, too. Our seemingly simple question clearly has several possible complex and multi-faceted answers.

 

What changes have taken place in the research environment?

Moving on, we looked at how research is changing in academia. This shook out some fascinating points. As well as comments about the REF (Research Excellence Framework), several participants mentioned the pressure to produce research outputs and the ‘need for speed’, which was pushing researchers to journals and away from books (presumably because of their longer production times). The pressure to publish quickly has had big changes on the production process and there has been advances on this side of publishing. However the sales cycle with library wholesalers hasn’t moved as quickly, and advance notice to market is still at least six months. As someone else said, the rate of change is quite slow.

Alternative ways of research were picked up, including real-time feedback and peer review, crowdfunding and the Knowledge Unlatched publishing model and a question about whether Amazon’s classifications are becoming more important – presumably for discoverability.

 

New forms of books

We wanted to find how books might change because of new technologies and Open Access (OA). There was agreement that OA is having the greatest influence on journals, with books following more slowly behind. Several participants remarked that OA and new media offer more opportunity for collaboration with peer-adopted books with extra resources such as data and video. Shorter book formats, such as Palgrave’s Pivot series, are also a response to a changing environment. New media might herald new virtual collections, such as chapters and articles which are led by XML and metrics, although other participants sounded a note of caution: books are still books and they are not changing – they are still driven by market demand and the activity of publishers is still the traditional model of print with some digital offerings.

There were observations that with booksellers increasingly resistant to stock niche books and the academic book more challenged in terms of sales it was hard to find books in bookstores now and they are mostly just in libraries, although book authors still want print copies. This reflects broader concerns about the visibility of books in brick and mortar stores as the online space expands.

 

2. How are the processes through which books are commissioned, approved or accepted, edited, produced, published, marketed, distributed, made accessible, and preserved changing, and what are the implications for the following?

Publishers

Needless to say this elicited lots of responses, with publishers seen as moving from B2B operations to B2C, and more functions outsourced to attempt to lower costs. While some participants didn’t think marketing had changed much over the last decade, others saw changes to staff recruitment as new skillsets are needed as consumer marketing becomes more important. Clearly there are differences between publishers here. There was a comment that nowadays publishers have to do more direct marketing and rely less on channel marketing.

Authors were seen as becoming more ‘savvy’, more demanding, and more knowledgeable on all aspects of publishing – but particularly in marketing, where for example, they understand the importance of Amazon profiles. However there was very little change to the commissioning process, which was still based on a conversation, a campus visit, or a meeting at a conference. Academics are therefore still ‘student intermediaries’. There is a need to make books available everywhere but it is difficult to push every channel and there is therefore more pressure on authors to help with marketing via their profile in academia. The publishing industry increasingly values media skills and as a consequence there is a convergence of academic and trade publishing at this point.

The publisher brand and the website are important but editors still need to actively reach out in the commissioning process. Editors need usage data to inform commissioning decisions but they aren’t getting this at the moment.

In terms of the publishing process as well as new distribution formats (XML, video) reference works can published in stages with no single publication date, raising the question: what is ‘enough’ content to launch with? Finally, there was general agreement that while there are experiments with peer review it is ‘here to stay’ and ‘still central’ to academic publishing.

 

Aggregators

Pressures and tensions were noted here. These revolve around asking how sustainable the aggregator business model is, with publishers improving discoverability and free searches from Google. There is also tension in that libraries still want aggregators and value their services and small publishers need aggregators (‘in thrall to them’), but publishers are selling complete books – not bits of content. The situation is made more complicated by centralisation and mergers in the sector.

 

Booksellers

In addition to the points about booksellers above, participants noted the disappearance of campus bookstores and the emphasis on stocking high sales books rather than niche ones, therefore questioning the value of bookstores to publishers today.

 

Libraries 

The issue of preservation came through here, in addition to comments about squeezed library budgets (although new models such as just-in-time purchasing and PDA were mentioned as solutions). There was concern about what happens when publishers merge, and features of online access are no longer available with the new company (the example cited was in relation of viewing PDFs after a merger). Further concerns were that although libraries keep digital archives, what happens when formats change? This has implications for future access and preservation.

 

How might the relationships between the different kinds of agents in the publishing supply chain develop in the future?

The last question looked at the supply chain and how publishers and other intermediaries might work together in the future. Once again, some tensions were noted. Libraries are concerned about the power of aggregators, but they choose to work with them rather than with individual publishers. This makes it hard to resolve problems, as it is unclear who is ultimately responsible for problems: the aggregator or the publisher? One group suggested we need to ask what an intermediary is in the supply chain; can we consider the library as an aggregator today? Another group defined intermediaries as ‘anyone/thing that intervenes between point of production and point of use/reading.’

Publishers increasingly want direct access to end-user data from aggregators to drive usage to their online collections to improve renewals, but this desire to drive users to their sites puts them in conflict with aggregators, who provide little information to publishers. Open Access is a possible way to sidestep aggregators, but it then needs something like Amazon or Google for users to discover the books.

 

Conclusion

The workshop was an opportunity for the publishing industry to address some key issues the project has sought to address. While there were bound to be contradictions among participants, what came through were questions about the future role of aggregators in the supply chain, changes in the research environment and perhaps as a consequence, changes in how authors work with publishers, and changes in the way publishers operate. There was agreement however that the book, whether print or digital, was here to stay.

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#AcBookWeek: Book sprints and collaborative ways of working

This guest post has been written by Dr Spencer Jordan (Assistant Professor in Creative Writing, University of Nottingham). Dr Jordan led a book sprint with ten students at the University of Nottingham during Academic Book Week (9-16 November 2015), which involved writing a book in just three days. The challenge was a huge success, and this post outlines the event itself, as well as some of the lessons learned, which have broader implications for thinking about the way we work as academics.
University of Nottingham book sprint
Could you write, edit and publish a book in three days? That was the challenge I set ten first-year School of English students at the University of Nottingham who applied to my open invitation. The challenge used the methodology of ‘book sprinting’, where a book is produced collaboratively over a very short period of time, normally between three or five days. In part the challenge was a practical examination of academic publishing, as part of Academic Book Week. But it was also a fantastic way for English students to immerse themselves in the real-life practicalities of book publishing.The event took place between the 9th and 11th November 2015. I acted as the facilitator but essentially everything was done by the students. It was decided early on that the book would be a student’s guide to starting university, a sort of rough guide to student life that would complement the existing, more official, documentation supplied by the University and UCAS. Interestingly, it was decided to include factual as well as creative responses, including poems and short stories as well as photographs taken by the students.

As you can imagine the three days involved lots of writing. Everything was done using Google Documents, so that all copy could be instantly shared and collaboratively edited from any networked computer. This saved an enormous amount of time and meant that the students could continue working well into the night, if they wanted to (which some did). By the end of day two we had over 25,000 words, as well as a variety of photographs, poems, and stories. Day three was where the students brought all this together into the final format of the document, placing case studies, student profiles and photographs alongside each section. A front cover was completed, with a name – ‘An Insider’s Guide to Starting University’ – aimed at students going through the very experiences that they had gone through themselves just months before. Harriet Williams was one of the students involved. Her interest in publishing and a desire to understand more about the process led her to volunteer. She said: “Taking part in the Book Sprint was the one of the best opportunities I could have had in my first year here at Nottingham. It was a brilliant way to meet like-minded people in order to write something meaningful and useful.”

The legacy of the book sprint isn’t just the book. It’s also the video that Eve Wood and Simon Barnett took over the three days and then edited. I think the video shows that the book sprint really did make an important contribution to The Academic Book of the Future. The students worked collaboratively, mainly online, using cloud computing. This allowed them to work 24/7, very often in different places. The students were able to make collaborative decisions, either face to face, or virtually. This meant that they were able to maximise their time, making as much use of the three days as possible. Sometimes as academics, particularly in the Arts and Humanities, we forget about collaboration. In my own work, collaboration has been laborious and difficult. And yet the benefits of collaborative working, particularly interdisciplinary work, can add a new dimension to our research. This synthesis comes not only through a shared academic interest but also through a willingness to engage with what might be called a collaborative methodology. I think the students have shown us the way here through the three-day Book Sprint, and I personally want to thank them.

The full video of the book sprint can be viewed here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yUABtFOnx74&feature=youtu.be

The Academic Book of the Future project would like to thank Dr Jordan, all of the students who took part in the book sprint, and Neil Smyth, for organising this wonderful activity for Academic Book Week.

#AcBookWeek: The Future of the English PhD

On 12 November 2015 a dozen PhD students working in literary and creative writing areas came together at De Montfort University, Leicester, in order to consider the future of the PhD in English from as many different angles as possible. This guest post, written by Richard Vytniorgu (English PhD candidate, DMU), captures the day’s main points of discussion.

The day asked: To which tune are English PhDs dancing? And whose?

The day asked: To which tune are English PhDs dancing? And whose?

During the one-day workshop, considerations of the English PhD included:

  1. Its place within the wider scope and roles of HE more generally in twenty-first-century society.
  2. Possibilities for more creative approaches to the writing of the thesis/output(s).
  3. The demands of REF (and potentially TEF) and further authorial activity in HE contexts, and how these affect the English PhD.
  4. What academic publishers are looking for in the academic (literary) book of the future.

In order to stimulate small-group discussions later in the day around these topics, we were joined by a number of academics or stakeholders in literary studies/ creative writing at HE level, who offered thought-provoking positioning pieces from their own perspectives and experiences.

Nicholas Maxwell (UCL) tackled the first issue from the perspective of his career-long mission to adjust the aims and methods of university-level inquiry. Drawing particularly on his two books, From Knowledge to Wisdom: A Revolution for Science and the Humanities (1984, 2007) and How Universities Can Help Create a Wiser World (2014), Maxwell reiterated the need for academia to shift from a knowledge-inquiry-based paradigm of learning to one of wisdom inquiry:

‘(a) to arrive at some kind of consensus as to what our most important problems of living are, and what we need to do about them, and at the same time (b) to carry on a sustained, lively, imaginative, and critical, intellectually responsible debate about these matters’.[i]

The essential shift here is from responsibility toward problems of knowledge to problems of living, while recognising that some problems of living are also problems of knowledge.

John Schad (Lancaster) went on to offer a précis of contemporary work on ‘creative criticism’ – a genre similar to creative nonfiction, but nevertheless distinctive as pertaining to literary study specifically. Schad admitted that it was difficult at present to adopt more creative instincts, approaches, and methods to the genre of literary criticism and scholarship. But by reading some of his own work, such as Someone Called Derrida: An Oxford Mystery (2007), he was able to demonstrate to an audience partly composed of creative writers who were also writing critical PhDs, how one could architect and execute that subjective presence so often felt in ‘creative criticism’.[ii]

After lunch the day moved in a more pragmatic direction by turning our attention to issues of REF and publishing. Ben Johnson (HEFCE) was unable to make it on the day, so we were very grateful to Deborah Cartmell (DMU), who stepped in to provide a concise summary of the REF and the general expectations for early career researchers, using her own experience at DMU to give some useful anecdotal reflections. Deborah was followed by Ben Doyle from Palgrave, who offered tips on publishing and turning the English PhD into a book. From Ben Johnson’s advice given in advance of the day and also from Ben Doyle’s talk, it was clear that those outside the academy are looking for more creative and innovative work that is somewhat loosened from the intense specificity and remoteness of some topics chosen for monographs.

The rest of the day was given over to small-group discussions, following a worksheet I devised in order to steer conversation around the four topic areas the day was devoted to. I collected the sheets at the close of day and I hope to publish a commentary on these proposals for action and areas of concern in the near future. This will be refracted through my own research into the wisdom quest and aesthetic experiences with literature, as a theory and ‘metaphorisation’ of literary study at HE level.

For the moment, the following were identified as issues worthy of further attention by students and academic staff alike:

  1. The necessity in practice to ‘re-write’ the PhD in order to publish it in book form.
  2. The lack of clarity surrounding creative writing and REF.
  3. The dearth of discussion on ‘English Education’ at PhD level: its qualities, aims, methods, outputs etc.
  4. The difficulties inherent in intense specialisation.

We are grateful to The Academic Book of the Future for supporting our discussions and for enabling us to invite speakers to assist these. The workshop-seminar was a refreshing departure from those glass-half-empty forecasts for the future of literary studies at HE level: the difficulties of proceeding in this line of work, etc. If I came away with one new conviction, it was probably confidence in the need to continually assess the status quo. As young academics it can be tempting to assent to the way things are simply because we assume we have no power to change things. But as one of my PhD subjects, the educator and theorist Louise Rosenblatt, continually asserted, this is the highroad to authoritarian regimes. Democracy invites us to collaborate when we lay aside our competitive natures; to be honest about our lived (rather than imagined) situations; to reject what seems to be anachronistic or harmful, to keep what nourishes and affirms, and to put forward proposals for change based on principles of mutual aid. We hope that in the future more PhD students in English will feel emboldened to question, and, eventually, to work for change from the starting point of their own lived situations.

 

The participants in the day were:

Hollie Johnson (University of Nottingham)

Jerome S. Wynter (University of Birmingham)

Becky Cullen (Nottingham Trent University)

Jo Dixon (Nottingham Trent University)

Lynda Clark (Nottingham Trent University)

Sean Donnelly (University of Birmingham)

Katie Hamilton (University of Nottingham)

Richard Vytniorgu (De Montfort University)

Emily Heathcote (University of Nottingham)

Richard Bromhall (Nottingham Trent University)

Hannah Murray (Nottingham University)

Martin Kratz (Manchester Metropolitan University)


 

[i] Nicholas Maxwell, How Universities Can Help Create a Wiser World: The Urgent Need for an Academic Revolution (Exeter: Imprint Academic, 2014), p. 17.

[ii] See Stephen Benson and Clare Connors (eds), Creative Criticism: An Anthology and Guide (Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 2014) for more discussion on this genre of writing.

#AcBookWeek: The Guadalajara International Book Fair (28 Nov-6 Dec 2015)

Simon_Mahony_2

Today’s guest post is by Simon Mahony (Department of Information Studies, UCL), who spoke about The Academic Book of the Future at the 2015 Guadalajara International Book Fair. This post is a brief summary of his talk.

I was very pleased to be invited by the British Council to take part in one of their Mexico in the UK and the UK in Mexico events and to speak in an academic panel at the Guadalajara International Book Fair (FIL) at the start of December. This is apparently the largest literary festival and most important publishing gathering in Latin America with the reputation of being the largest book fair in the world after Frankfurt. The title of the panel organised by the Department of Educational Studies at the University of Guadalajara was ‘The Challenges of Knowledge Production in Modern Societies’ and as part of the FIL there was plenty of excuse to showcase some of our publications.

Simon_Mahony_3

My talk ‘Reflections on knowledge production within the framework of UK academic institutions’ finished up with some slides about The Academic Book of the Future generously given to me by my colleague Samantha Rayner. This allowed me to go full circle in my talk about knowledge production and the academy as well as traditional versus new modes of production.

My talk started with the first Free Universities in the European Enlightenment period, with scholarship built on previous scholarship, and open discourse through the publication model – this being the cornerstone of Humanities scholarship. Moving through knowledge representation, I argued strongly for the Open Access movement with the modern university as a driver for this, particularly with the mandate for open publication of research output.

Simon_Mahony_4

I finished up with a showcase of some open UCL output including UCL Press and followed by The Academic Book of the Future project, more specifically the Palgrave Pivot publication of the same name, edited by Rebecca Lyons and Samantha Rayner. What is a Book Fair without some promotion and product placement?

Images of me, the panel, and the books (including this volume prominently placed on the desk!) were captured in video and stills and circulated by the University of Guadalajara, as well as on Twitter and other social media platforms.

I offered the two volumes generously donated by the authors to the University of Guadalajara library so the physical medium (and reputation of the authors and editors!) would have an immediate international and trans-continental impact factor. The FIL itself was definitely impressive and certainly lived up to its reputation as the biggest book fair in the world after Frankfurt: so many books and so many publishers.

 

#AcBookWeek: The Future of the Academic Book in the USA

On 16th November 2015 Brown University hosted a panel discussion as part of Academic Book Week. This post outlines the key issues raised during the debate.

Note: The video recording of the full discussion is available to watch here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Vl7O7DUB__8&list=PL2PwShbFBf4Bk6AaDM2mGixpS_7TYasyT

Brown_AcBookWeek_event 

The discussion was moderated by Sheila Bonde, Brown University Professor and Chair of History of Art and Architecture and Professor of Archaeology and the Ancient World. The publishers and editors that participated in the panel discussion were 

  • Amy Brand, Director of the MIT Press
  • Anne Brackenbury, Executive Editor, Higher Education Division, University of Toronto Press
  • Robert Harington, Associate Executive Director for Publishing, American Mathematical Society
  • Sarah Lippincott, Program Director, Educopia Institute

Sheila Bonde introduced the questions up for discussion:

  • What is an academic book?
  • What is a digital book?
  • Who reads them?
  • How do we train scholars to write these “books of the future”?

The first respondent was Amy Brand, MIT Press. Brand stated that MIT Press has been at the forefront of digital publishing (mostly PDF and open access). The digital book, Brand argued, is more than an innovation of the print book, but rather adds to/builds on the foundation of the book – it does not supplant it

How do we juggle both print and digital? Brand suggested that a uniform model is being replaced by a multiplicity of models: publishers need to remain nimble and responsive to the needs of researchers and readers. We have an opportunity now to open up books to be seen in new ways – ‘permeable’, ‘altered’, ‘sculpted’. In terms of innovation, the University of Minnesota Press’ iterative publishing offers another form of ‘permeability’, with various new opportunities for readers to annotate texts.

Brand acknowledged that print books are still objects of desire – perhaps even more so now that there are other options. MIT does print and digital simultaneously, including open versions in response to author desires. So far, Brand stated, this seems to have helped sales. Online versions offer additional/supplementary and updatable materials.

Brand drew attention to other practical issues around the academic book in current contexts. For instance, the average publication cost of a digital monograph is around $30K. These costs are significant. The question of discoverability is also an important one: how do publishers make digital books more visible/accessible to readers? Linking chapters? Indexing? And how do we effectively evaluate scholarly online publications? Bookmetrix can track citations, downloads, readers, and mentions – is this a legitimizing tool? Amazon’s line-by-line payment to authors provides an opportunity for authors to see into reading behavior – should this count as we evaluate digital publications? There is a difference, however, between short-term and long-term uses of the book. Evaluations such as Bookmetrix are useful, but don’t pick up value that accrues after several years. Same for Amazon – they both measure what is being read now, but not what is being bought and read later. There are potentially unforeseen uses of knowledge that we can’t yet tap in to.

Brand finished with a closing question: how do we make sure content remains accessible?

The second panelist was Ann Brackenbury, University of Toronto (Higher Ed division). Brackenbury highlighted that much digital content is still static (such as PDFs). She asked: Why are we trying to change, despite the resilience of the book (as an object)?

The mission of the Higher Ed division at the University of Toronto is to bring scholarship and teaching together in a more productive relationship by, for example:

  • Creating websites
  • Publishing mostly small, case-study books
  • Creative non-fiction strategies

Brackenbury spoke about their new series/initiative: EthnoGRAPHIC, which is ethnography in a graphic illustrated novel form. The hybrid of linear text-based culture and visual culture in this series keys into the ways students take in information today. This hybridity, Brackenbury argued, requires complex decoding skills, but it also offers a theoretical and disciplinary challenge, too. It allows author/scholars to build rich worlds, characters, and locations. The value added is the creation of the narrative or story, and the ability to rewrite scholarly content for different audiences.

Brackenbury suggested that graphic novels, or comics, build communities around them. They are also useful for ‘showing’ (rather than just ‘telling’) a story, and mean that audiences can be extended through transmedia: telling a variety of stories across different channels. Importantly, she argued, combining traditional and new media approaches means building new connections, and she suggested that the academic book of the future is connected in a broader sphere via multimedia presentation formats and multiple incarnations.

The third speaker was Sarah Lippincott from the Library Publishing Coalition. Lippincott started with an explanation that the publishing landscape is diverse, including print and digital, and that the production of research is outstripping the capacity for publishing it. She also suggested that new forms of inquiry and understanding by authors and readers may change the way we engage with books, and that the most important element of the academic book of the future will be openness, meaning it is free to use, free to read, and free to remix. This openness, according to Lippincott, is both attainable and sustainable, and involves a re-imagining of the monograph as tied into—not separate from—the academy. This model, she argued, can work for the humanities; subsidizing monograph publishing up-front through the university.

Lippincott went on to further define what she means by the term ‘openness’:

  • It is diverse: reliance on the market forces certain choices that diminish access to certain types of scholarship, and open access eliminates this issue.
  • It is dynamic: openness enables new forms of inquiry and understanding – low barriers to entry open up the field.
  • It is impactful: researchers turn frequently to the web rather than the library catalogue. Open books are searchable, and possibly more broadly read.
  • It is accessible and preservable: open digital books are easily adapted for various needs, and can be preserved in ways that proprietary ebooks cannot.
  • It is aligned with the mission of the university: advocating open publishing promotes knowledge.

The final speaker was Robert Harrington of the American Mathematical Society (AMS). The AMS commits to keeping its books in print in perpetuity – in math disciplines older books are still studied, and Harrington argued, print is here to stay. However, regardless of form, we need to create relevant, high quality content.

Harrington broke down the academic monograph into several factors:

  • Culture: Books are as much of a process of exploration and discovery for authors as they are for readers
  • Form and Function
  • Delivery
  • Business Models

He also offered an argument against open access: if you publish on the basis of merit vs. market, then you have to define merit. Perhaps instead, he suggested, we need mixed economic/business models – and, he asked, isn’t applicability to the highest number of readers (market) one way to do that?

In addition to continuing with conventional monographic publishing, even in electronic form (PDF), AMS is experimenting with innovative digital features for readers and for authors, including:

  • Annotation
  • Working more with LaTeX and TeX as markup
  • Experimenting with Hypothes.is and Manifold Scholarship

 

The official debate ended there. The Academic Book of the Future Project would like to thank Brown for organizing and hosting this event, and would like the extend the debate to you: what do you think of the issues raised here? Let us know!

#AcBookWeek: Interdisciplinary Research and Publishing: Challenges and Opportunities

In today’s guest post, independent academic publisher Rowman & Littlefield International  reflects on the highlights that the publishing industry celebrated in 2015, and especially #AcBookWeek. 

Rowman and LittlefieldWhen the first Academic Book Week was first announced earlier this year, we were thrilled to be given the opportunity to raise awareness what we do every day: publishing interdisciplinary academic books in the Humanities and Social Sciences. Academic publishing is traditionally divided up into strict segments according to what disciplines are taught by universities. As an interdisciplinary publisher, our aim is to bridge gaps between the disciplines and offer new insights based on a more inclusive, innovative approach, and Academic Book Week offered us the ideal opportunity to share these principles with the wider academic community. Our event ‘Interdisciplinary Research and Publishing: Challenges and Opportunities’ was initiated!

Martina O’Sullivan, our Senior Commissioning Editor in Cultural Studies, secured a fabulous panel of speakers who are published experts in the field of interdisciplinary research and publishing. They were joined by our Editorial Director, Sarah Campbell, to offer a broad range of perspectives on the topic. Our panel covered everything from some tips on how to get interdisciplinary work published, to alternative modes of research and publishing, right through to very practical advice for early career researchers.

The speakers were:

  • Sarah Campbell, Editorial Director, Rowman & Littlefield International
  • Gary Hall, Professor of Media and Performing Arts, Coventry University
  • Laurence Hemming, Professor, Politics, Philosophy and Religion, Lancaster University
  • Danielle Sands, Lecturer in Comparative Literature and Culture, Royal Holloway
  • David Chandler, Professor of International Relations, University of Westminster

All we needed was an event location, and thanks to Peter Garner, Library Liaison Manager, and the excellent team at the Maughan Library, King’s College, we had the opportunity to secure the prestigious Weston Room, a magnificent Grade II listed edifice which is part of King’s College.

Although our event was free, we asked attendees to register their interest via the AcBookWeek website. We were sold out of tickets the day before the event and so a crowd of interested current and future academic researchers and authors entered the gates of the Maughan Library on Tuesday, 10 November. After a brief introduction from Martina O’Sullivan, Sarah Campbell opened the panel session with her talk on getting interdisciplinary work published.

See the video recording of Sarah Campbell: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GRY0deRkdHE


 

“What is required is an opening towards non-knowledge”―Gary Hall, Professor of Media and Performing Arts

Gary Hall, presenting on Alternative Modes of Academic Research and Publishing, focused his talk on the three keywords audience, book and interdisciplinarity, maintaining that the task of every writer should be to challenge pre-existing definitions in academic disciplines.

See the video recording of Gary Hall:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=P_Y551Es1Lk


 

“What is Interdisciplinary Research?”―Laurence Hemming

Laurence Hemming followed by asking: ‘What is Interdisciplinary Research?’ and pointed out that many publishers nowadays publish books in increasingly more narrow categories, likening the current situation of interdisciplinary research to a house without a heating system, thereby also stressing the importance of letting traditional phenomena speak for themselves, based on traditional knowledge of a discipline.

See the video recording of Laurence Hemming: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BY7szuOGhYU


 

“Tips for Early Career Researchers”―Danielle Sands

But how to go about it and where to start as an early career researcher? Danielle Sands’ engaging and useful lecture contained tips and advice for interdisciplinary researchers, including how to navigate one’s way through academic conferences and job adverts as an academic with an interdisciplinary approach.

See the video recording of Danielle Sands: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6wqJ5G_FChg


 

“The problems of the world call for interdisciplinarity”―David Chandler, Professor of International Relations

David Chandler rounded up the session with his lively panel about how interdisciplinary projects are perceived, and how they act in today’s academic world.

See the video recording of David Chandler: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-O89z-cn4x4


 

In the Q&A session that followed, our panellists answered a range of detailed questions from the audience, and the lively discussion continued until late into the evening with drinks and canapés. For us, it was a brilliant event which not only provided us with a chance to meet upcoming interdisciplinary scholars, but also an opportunity to listen to first-hand experiences of top academics who do interdisciplinary work; inspiring us to bring the ever-evolving academic book publishing process into its next age. A round-up of the event can be viewed alongside all other videos here.

We from Rowman & Littlefield International are sure that Academic Book Week will prove to be another highlight for us in 2016, and indeed become a regular highlight in the diary of every academic. For now, I would very much like to thank the organisers of Academic Book Week for providing us with a platform to create an event like this; our panellists and the Maughan Library again for making this stimulating event happen; and everyone who contributed with their attendance and questions. I hope to see you again next year!

 

 

#AcBookWeek: Ecologies of Publishing Futures

On the 23rd November 2015 The Royal College of Art hosted a symposium to discuss the Ecologies of Publishing Futures. The symposium asked ‘How do designers engage in new ecologies and what is the future of publishing?’ Academics, designers, storytellers, publishers, and students spoke about this from international perspectives and debated over the book and its lifecycle, as well as the role of writing, designing, and the processes of mediating, distributing, and reading.

Amongst the speakers was Andrew Prescott, Professor of Digital Humanities at the University of Glasgow and an AHRC Digital Transformation theme Leadership Fellow. He spoke from the perspective of a medievalist who has spent great deal of time studying manuscripts and records (writing his PhD thesis on the record of the Peasant’s Revolt 1381). Throughout his research, Prescott stated he was struck by the need to understand the wealth of information as physical artefacts, as well as just reading them as manuscripts. This work inspired him to continue on as a curator at the British Library, where he was part of a digitisation project which used special lighting techniques to discover the hidden letters underneath the repaired manuscript of Beowulf – burnt in a fire in 1731 and repaired in the nineteenth century. (Note: The Beowulf manuscript has been in The British Library’s possession since 1973 and a digitised version is now available to browse on their website, along with some additional information, here:http://www.bl.uk/collection-items/beowulf)

Prescott spoke about how this work and his time at the British Library made him conscious of the hugely varied material forms of textuality. Historical documents can range from clay tablets to sound files and moving images, and, he argued, digital technology can help convey the wide-ranging nature of historical textuality. Digital technology also allows closer contact between libraries, archives, and museums. According to Prescott the important thing to take away from this is that dialogue with artists and designers is essential in articulating fresh perspectives on engagement with historical material. An example he cited was an art project by Fabio Antinori called Data Flags, which was exhibited at the V&A last year. He used conductive ink, which is often thought of as an analogue art form but can turn paper into circuits. Through other examples Prescott suggested that the textuality of art is always changing and shifting with the times and proved that the boundary between primary object, publication and interpretation is starting to be fundamentally restated. Prescott summed up his talk by ending on a somewhat cynical note: while all the possibilities he mentioned are there, people are bit taking advantage of them. His view is that the scholarly environment for an undergraduate today is less media-rich than it was forty years ago. Textbooks during his time as an undergraduate explored the potential of new printing methods, none of which have been followed through on.

Dan Franklin, Digital Publisher at Penguin Random House, had been given a brief to provide a provocation for the event on the state of digital publishing, so what he provided was a ‘where-we-are-now’ overview to provoke discussion and invite debate. He acknowledged the changes digital publishing is making to the publishing industry and talked about it from the perspective of someone who is in the midst of the shifting landscape.

Using an analogy of William Golding’s The Inheritors Franklin compared the plot of that novel, the collision of Neanderthal men and women with Homo sapiens, the people who would inherit the earth from them with the current state of the publishing industry. The analogy here being the moment of transition between print and digital, a short and historical moment of co-existence. And Franklin suggests that they can thrive with each other instead of being viewed as competitors. He recognises the urgency and potentially demoralising nature of change, but adds that it can also be exciting, depending on your viewpoint. As a digital publisher at Penguin Random House he motivates his team to explore the bleeding edges of this publishing transformation.

During this year Franklin stated he has seen some interesting and willful misinterpretations of what is happening in publishing. The fact of the matter is that 25%+ of publishers’ revenues are coming in via digital and that is not going to reverse. The “takeover” however, has not happened as quickly as people thought it would and Franklin states this is a testament to the formidable power of the printed book. Franklin is adamant that the word processor has not stopped writers continuing and developing the novel form so why should the innovation stop there? Franklin urges publishers to continue to be innovative with change and see what can come from it.

Professor Teal Triggs of the RCA stated that by talking about “ecologies” of the publishing industry, we can strive to understand the process of the lifecycle better and whether proposed models are going to be relevant. It’s important to look at the entire lifecycle, not just the editorial or author aspects but the design and distribution as well. Creative people think differently and their design thinking process can be a catalyst for forwar- thinking throughout the whole industry.

 

See Dan’s talk write-up here: https://medium.com/@PRHDigital/an-earthquake-in-the-petrified-forest-86f6ffa5c85d#.jpyxy6pmq

See Andrews’s talk write-up here: https://medium.com/digital-riffs/are-we-doomed-to-a-word-of-pdfs-11f57edaf926#.9r1w3lyh2

See twitter hashtag #bookfutures for more information about the symposium and other related events.