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Hot Topics:

The Endangered Monograph

Confluence of changes | Capturing our print past | Forays into a new future | Resources

Forays into a New Future

"Two different and distinct things are happening to the book as it moves into the digital medium. It is being translated rather literally into a digital representation, and it is undergoing a transformative evolution in new genres of digitally-based discourse."
Clifford Lynch, AAUP Statement on Open Access (PDF)

The MLA urges a renewed look at the best way to facilitate scholarly communication in fields that traditionally rely on the monograph:

"Our analysis of respondents' assessments of how activities count in their institutions' processes of evaluation for tenure points to the need for a more capacious notion of scholarship." (MLA Task Force on Evaluating Scholarship for Tenure and Promotion report, PDF)

They recommend broad discussion on the appropriate use of and credit for different forms of scholarship, e.g., translations, textbooks, bibliographic scholarship, scholarly editions, and editing a scholarly journal. "This last item seems highly undervalued when we consider that editors disseminate new scholarship and further the arts, stimulate and direct inquiry in their fields of study, help produce new knowledge, and create communities for discussion and debate within and among disciplines."

The report goes on to say, "Digital scholarship is becoming pervasive in the humanities and must be recognized as a legitimate scholarly endeavor to which appropriate standards, practices, and modes of evaluation are already being applied. The rapid expansions of digital technology has been fundamentally transforming the production and distribution of humanities scholarship, generating not only new forms of publication and dissemination - ranging from Web sites and e-journals to print-on-demand books - but also significant new modes of scholarship, including digital archives and humanities databases."

New thinking and experiments continue to emerge from authors, publishers, software developers, think tanks and providers of source material, building on this comment by Clifford Lynch in 2001,

"We are also seeing the development of new genres of material that are highly adapted to the online reading environment…. These new genres are designed to exploit the strengths of the digital medium. A scholarly Web site, for example, links and organizes many small chunks of text with multimedia content and provides the ability to search and navigate among them. It may also include interactive software components such as simulations, and use the communications capabilities of the Internet to build an interactive community around the work and its subject matter…."

In the same article, Lynch goes on to describe how web content can, in many instances, be richer than a print counterpart: "One key idea is that while the definitive and comprehensive version of the work will be digital, there will also be a sensible (though impoverished) 'view' of the work that can be reduced to printed form as a traditional monograph."

Here are some other examples of agents re-conceptualizing their role in creating books:

Confluence of changes | Capturing our print past | Forays into a new future | Resources
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