Via Ars Technica
The Harvard University Press announced recently that it will publish approximately 1000 academic books digitally through Scribd, the world’s largest “social publishing company.” Academic works are often published with ludicrously small printing runs because the main goal is becoming peer-reviewed, rather than read by the larger public.While putting scholarly work online certainly won’t make it more readable, it may advance the attitude of the academic community to accept the merits of online sources. Most online material is frowned on by the archaic peer-review process, but hopefully if a large (and reputable) publishing house like the Harvard University Press takes the plunge, others will soon follow.
Image Source: Darren Hester
It's very hard to make money on such small print runs, which result in books with sky-high cover prices and limited availability. All of this has made it harder for scholars to publish and harder for non-specialists to justify the effort and expense of obtaining good, scholarly work. In sum, the present situation benefits nobody—scholars, the public, or the financially strapped publishing houses.But, as HUP's tiny little 1,000-book foray into the world of digital possibly indicates, academic publishers may be forced into the arms of digital by the same rapidly changing circumstances that are pushing regular book publishers toward outlets like Scribd.