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But honestly, even if the Rice University Press were to achieve sustainability, its success gains us—collectively, higher education—very little. A digital press eking its way through the labyrinth of the next decade with its ever-increasing distributive computing power, grids, clouds, and gargantuan pipes approaches the nonsensical. The most compelling business model is one of far-reaching collaboration: dozens, eventually hundreds, of now stand-alone presses need to adopt a digital platform, or a set of interoperable platforms, and work together. The names and the intellectual focus of the presses can remain intact, their institutional status retained. Many of their current procedures will become automated; their costs significantly reduced; time to publication accelerated; and most importantly, the number of titles of new scholarship accordingly increased. A rule of thumb, at some of the more prominent presses, is that about 65 to 70 percent of manuscripts are rejected each year in the humanities. Of those rejected, about 60 percent meet the criteria for publication of these presses, but the costs of publishing them are prohibitive. Combined with the over-reliance on established authors and the increase in requests for younger faculty to subsidize their book publication, it is reasonable to state that one of the major constraints to new knowledge is the chief method of its expression.


Adopting a digital platform for academic publishing will automate many of the current processes within a university press, thus eliminating jobs, in some instances 50 percent or more. If a press moves onto Connexions or a similarly designed environment, most of the editorial staff, most of the design staff, and staff involved with production, accounting, shipping, receiving, marketing, and sales could be let go. The staff remaining would include core editorial work, the publisher, a designer and a content specialist (the last two could be part time or outsourced efficiently). If such a migration were done concertedly, however, shared resources could be even more efficiently deployed. This represents a major shift in human resources, and I would encourage universities and funding agencies to think about ways this staff redirection could be managed, funded, and instantiated with minimum disruption.

The failure of higher education

Among the recommendations in the 2008 report No Brief Candle: Reconceiving Research Libraries for the 21 st Century , libraries were exhorted to take greater risks; to move away from the longstanding sense of ownership of their content; to become more engaged in new scholarly methods and interdisciplinary interests; and to reconceptualize the library as a multi-institutional entity, stating that the library as a stand-alone service provider to the university was obsolescent. These recommendations hold true for the silos of presses, whether analog or digital; as noted above, broad-scale adoption of digital publishing models should not erode the identity and cultured idiosyncrasy of a press, but it would allow for a flourishing of new knowledge. One of the more disheartening failures of higher education in the last twenty years is an avoidance to programmatically wrestle with the implications of digital technology and its effects: on services, disciplinary organization, and the structure itself of the university. Like a standalone library, or a standalone press, a standalone university may have less and less credence over time.

In this respect, provosts should not give additional funding to a press, but insist on a more collaborative working model that is trans-institutional and polycentric. There is little precedent for this approach, and exceptional leadership will be required to make this work. Consider the economics of higher education via the flow and costs of research: universities support research across the disciplines at great expense, paying for salaries, facilities (whether a laboratory or library), and infrastructure, then buy back this very research from publishers—including the university presses—at an increasingly higher price. A collective strategic turn could begin to essentially take back and control the multi-faceted knowledge that the community generates, and not reflexively outsource for repurchase.

A coordinated and coherent response to academic publishing will move us more into the realm of the digital commons, an environment in which research can be ever more reconstituted, reshaped, and repurposed. As Nancy Kranich notes, “…self governance of these newly emerging commons will require definition of boundaries (which tend to be ‘fuzzy’), design and enforcement of rules, extension of reciprocity, building of trust and social capital, and delineation of communication channels. With research resources diffused throughout the campus and beyond, their broad scope requires stewardship well beyond the boundaries of the edifices or structures that defined them in the past” (Hess, 106). Perhaps the pursuit of trust can itself anneal the inherited cultural issues, technologies, traditions, and vocabularies toward a new, more productive and adaptive intellectual place—not so much a solution that is cast in the prevailing terms and conditions of scholarly communication, but a letting go.


Hess, Charlotte and Elinor Ostrom. Understanding Knowledge as a Commons. From Theory to Practice . Cambridge and London: The MIT Press, 2007.

Rewald, John. The History of Impressionism . New York: Museum of Modern Art, 1973.

Smith, Abby, Stephen Nichols, et al. No Brief Candle: Reconceiving Research Libraries for the 21 st Century . CLIR Publication, August 2008.

Thomson, Belinda. Impressionism: Origins, Practice, Reception . New York: Thames and Hudson, 2000.

Toulmin, Stephen. Human Understanding: The Collective Use and Evolution of Concepts . Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1972.

Waters, Lindsay. “Rescue Tenure from the Tyranny of the Monograph.” The Chronicle of Higher Education . 20 April 2001, B7.

Questions & Answers

what does nano mean?
Anassong Reply
nano basically means 10^(-9). nanometer is a unit to measure length.
do you think it's worthwhile in the long term to study the effects and possibilities of nanotechnology on viral treatment?
Damian Reply
absolutely yes
how to know photocatalytic properties of tio2 nanoparticles...what to do now
Akash Reply
it is a goid question and i want to know the answer as well
characteristics of micro business
for teaching engĺish at school how nano technology help us
Do somebody tell me a best nano engineering book for beginners?
s. Reply
what is fullerene does it is used to make bukky balls
Devang Reply
are you nano engineer ?
fullerene is a bucky ball aka Carbon 60 molecule. It was name by the architect Fuller. He design the geodesic dome. it resembles a soccer ball.
what is the actual application of fullerenes nowadays?
That is a great question Damian. best way to answer that question is to Google it. there are hundreds of applications for buck minister fullerenes, from medical to aerospace. you can also find plenty of research papers that will give you great detail on the potential applications of fullerenes.
what is the Synthesis, properties,and applications of carbon nano chemistry
Abhijith Reply
Mostly, they use nano carbon for electronics and for materials to be strengthened.
is Bucky paper clear?
so some one know about replacing silicon atom with phosphorous in semiconductors device?
s. Reply
Yeah, it is a pain to say the least. You basically have to heat the substarte up to around 1000 degrees celcius then pass phosphene gas over top of it, which is explosive and toxic by the way, under very low pressure.
Do you know which machine is used to that process?
how to fabricate graphene ink ?
for screen printed electrodes ?
What is lattice structure?
s. Reply
of graphene you mean?
or in general
in general
Graphene has a hexagonal structure
On having this app for quite a bit time, Haven't realised there's a chat room in it.
what is biological synthesis of nanoparticles
Sanket Reply
what's the easiest and fastest way to the synthesize AgNP?
Damian Reply
types of nano material
abeetha Reply
I start with an easy one. carbon nanotubes woven into a long filament like a string
many many of nanotubes
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what is the function of carbon nanotubes?
I'm interested in nanotube
what is nanomaterials​ and their applications of sensors.
Ramkumar Reply
what is nano technology
Sravani Reply
what is system testing?
preparation of nanomaterial
Victor Reply
how did you get the value of 2000N.What calculations are needed to arrive at it
Smarajit Reply
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Source:  OpenStax, Online humanities scholarship: the shape of things to come. OpenStax CNX. May 08, 2010 Download for free at http://cnx.org/content/col11199/1.1
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