8.0306 University Presses and Cyberspace (1/40)

Thu, 17 Nov 1994 00:42:57 EST

Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 8, No. 0306. Thursday, 17 Nov 1994.

Date: Wed, 2 Nov 94 22:36:06 -0500
From: mccarty@epas.utoronto.ca (Willard McCarty)
Subject: university presses

The New York Times Book Review for 30 Oct. 94 contains an interesting
article on university presses and electronic publishing, "At Cyberspace
University Press, Paperless Publishing Looks Good", by Leigh Hafrey (pp.
32-4). Several things in it are worth mentioning, but allow me to point to
just a few:

-- Gregory Crane's ambition, briefly cited, to use the technology to narrow
the gulf between the discourse of academics and ordinary people, and his
distinction between mere access to information, for which the professor is
increasingly less needed, and the skills required to manage and understand
the data, which can and must be taught.

-- the "developed-nation myopia" in our enthusiasm for digital information.

-- the effects of electronic media on the kinds of books we write: "As
scholars begin to write for the computer, they find the electronic media
change the whole concept of what their books will be".

-- (at last!) the realisation that "we are not replacing technologies but
adding on to what we already have", so that there should be no more talk
about "the end of the book", and other such silliness.

"The best-case scenario," Hafrey concludes, "is that coping with a little
more stress now by investing in the new technologies will indeed guarantee
[for the university presses] economic survival later on. Even the optimists
in the profession seem inclined to pause before acting on that assumption,
but, in the best tradition of the scholarly community, they remain
enthralled with the development of digital publishing for its intellectual
importance; and that, more than anything else, is the most likely guarantee
of the presses' survival."


Willard McCarty
Centre for Computing in the Humanities
University of Toronto