Today’s guest blog post considers the academic book from a Chilean perspective. The author Manuel Loyola is academic and scientific editor at the Universidad de Santiago de Chile and director of Ariadna Editions (open access) http://ariadnaediciones.cl/, as well as editor of the peer-reviewed journal Izquierdas: http://www.izquierdas.cl/.
According to ISBN records, the academic book in Chile has had little relevance during the last decade with regard to titles published every year. In fact, the books published by all the universities of the country (of which there are 57 in total) represent 11% of the roughly 5500 books published here each year. In addition to university publications, there are also many small and medium publishing houses focused on academic content, which may increase the figure for academic books from 11% to around 20%.
Behind these numbers, the Chilean academic book is subject to different and usually problematic realities. For example, we are not talking about a relatively homogeneous production in terms of national geography: the capital, Santiago, is responsible for more than 60% of the output. Additionally, within this geographical area there are just a few higher education institutions that concentrate most of the production, especially the University of Chile, Pontifical Catholic University, and the University of Santiago – all in Santiago.
The distribution and use of academic books also presents some interesting considerations. They have a low circulation – usually they do not have their own distribution channels because there is not a proper business model defined according to formative and educational goals. Often academic books depend on the mechanisms and strategies of private firms that are usually not interested in these kinds of books. These issues hinder the already precarious life of academic publishing, combining with a lack of collaboration and common strategies.
Why is the Chilean academic book (published by universities in particular) in this situation? I believe that the answer is in the lack of effective and coherent publishing policies. The university authorities as well as those from other scientific entities of the country know little or nothing about publishing activity. Maybe this would not be a problem if these authorities promoted the development and growth of this area. But unfortunately this is not the case. Academic publishing work is in the hands of people with good intentions, but who may be inexperienced. This causes frustrations.
However, the goal of this post is not to suggest a dramatic and pessimistic forecast. Despite what I have previously stated, our field offers many possibilities to improve and develop a better performance of the local academic book. In the short run, we must take advantage of the importance of the state in the provision of human and financial resources focused on academic production. Related to that is the increasing support for open access publishing, providing easier access to research. Additionally, there have been advancements in scientific publishing and enhanced discussions for those working in this field, establishing relationships with foreign academic and publishing organisations, and with the scientific community. Finally, the continued development of academic journals offers hope for a favourable change with books too, showing the potential for improvement.
Manuel Loyola, PhD
Universidad de Santiago de Chile