9.702 e-publishing

Humanist (mccarty@phoenix.Princeton.EDU)
Sat, 6 Apr 1996 12:30:49 -0500 (EST)

Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 9, No. 702.
Center for Electronic Texts in the Humanities (Princeton/Rutgers)
Information at http://www.princeton.edu/~mccarty/humanist/

[1] From: owner-bmr-l@brynmawr.edu (62)
Subject: BMCR/BMR: Bernal/Lefkowitz

[2] From: Willard McCarty <mccarty@phoenix.princeton.edu> (60)
Subject: Cyberjournals

Date: Sat, 6 Apr 1996 11:22:39 -0500
From: owner-bmr-l@brynmawr.edu
Subject: BMCR/BMR: Bernal/Lefkowitz

[The following, from the editors of the Bryn Mawr Reviews, marks an
important event in the young life of electronic publishing, so I forward
it to Humanists with many thanks to BMR. BMR itself is highly
significant, not just for the quality of its reviews (in classics and
medieval studies) but also for its demonstration of how to use the medium
effectively. Consider the conventional alternatives. --WM]

We published last night Martin Bernal's 10,000 word review of Mary
Lefkowitz's *Not Out of Africa*. Preliminary returns suggest that a few
of you have accounts set to reject messages that long. If you need to
get to this review again, bear in mind the URL:


We are also happy to direct your attention to what will be a continuing
debate over the issues raised by Lefkowitz's book. The URL for that
on-line resource (including a continuing discussion over the next six
weeks or so) is:



For the first time in an electronic forum, Mary Lefkowitz, author of NOT
OUT OF AFRICA: How Afrocentrism Became An Excuse To Teach Myth As History
and Martin Bernal, author of BLACK ATHENA, will debate modern ideas of the
origins of Western Civilization, the fate of academic standards and the
threat to academic freedom.

This debate will run from April 22nd through the month of May. We invite
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This discussion is being sponsored and supported by HarperCollins and
Basic Books: questions or problems should be directed to:


Mary Lefkowitz

Mary Lefkowitz is the Andrew W. Mellon Professor in the Humanities at
Wellesley College. She is the author of NOT OUT OF AFRICA, and many books
on ancient Greece and Rome, including LIVES OF THE GREEK POETS and WOMEN
IN GREEK MYTHS, as well as articles for the Wall Street Journal and the
New Republic. She is the co-editor of Women's Life in Greece and Rome and
of the forthcoming BLACK ATHENA REVISITED.

Martin Bernal

Martin Bernal was born in London in 1937. He was educated at King's
College Cambridge, Peking University, The University of California at
Berkeley and Harvard. He took a Ph.D in Chinese Studies at Cambridge.
Between 1964 and 1972 he was a Fellow of King's College before becoming a
professor of Government at Cornell. He was appointed Adjunct Professor in
Near Eastern Studies in 1986. His chief publications since then, have been
BLACK ATHENA: The Afroasiatic Roots of Classical Civilization vols. I and
II, 1987 and 1991 (Rutgers University Press) and CADMEAN LETTERS
Eisenbrauns 1990. These works have stimulated much interest and criticism
and two films have been made about the academic and political
controversies around his work.

Date: Sat, 6 Apr 1996 12:13:43 -0500
From: Willard McCarty <mccarty@phoenix.princeton.edu>
Subject: Cyberjournals

Allow me to draw your attention to an article in today's Globe and Mail (a
Canadian daily newspaper): Stephen Strauss, "Cyberjournals offer faster,
cheaper and fuller research news". The article dwells on scientific
publishing on the Web, specifically as illustrated by the well-known
preprint service for physics, mathematics, and related fields, at the Los
Alamos National Laboratory (LANL, http://xxx.lanl.gov/).

For fields in which the speed of publication is crucial and the focus is on
"results" rather than verbal argumentation -- in Strauss' words, "Science
produces a blunt literature" -- the case seems clear enough. As Strauss
points out, scientific journals are horrendously expensive; he cites Nuclear
Physics B, at $9,909 CAN for 75 issues/year, and goes on to cite rather
amazing figures about the profit-margin for scientific publishing.
Publication in print is also painfully slow, especially in the highly
competitive fields of the sciences, where a delay of 6 months to a year is
commonly known as the "molasses effect".

Strauss quotes Paul Ginsparg, the theoretical physicist at LANL whom he
credits with setting up the preprint service. Dr. Ginsparg, Strauss writes,
"describes his electronic repository as the death blow to an exploitative
system in which publishers interpose themselves between the best interests
of their contributors and their readers. 'They [the publishers] get
high-quality content for free and then sell it at a high price back to those
who supply it,' he says." Of course the publishers who read this will think
somewhat differently, and I would encourage them to speak out. As one
publisher I know remarked last Summer, everyone thinks the middleman can be
eliminated, but everyone has a different idea about who that middleman is.
(Some literary theoreticians have managed to eliminate the author of primary
literature; perhaps the same can be done with authors of secondary
literature.... Many authors have figured out how to eliminate the reader.)

Clearly publishers play a valuable role. In the humanities at least they
serve, for example, as a certification or filtering mechanism, and the good
ones are crucial to scholarship for the highly specialized skills in
editing, design, and collaboration that can at times approach co-authorship.
We cannot know the number of academic reputations that have been saved or
made by editors, whose names are lost among the acknowledgements, if even
mentioned. I'm sure that some of us have witnessed such saving grace at
close range. In the world of electronic publishing, which for us seems
regularly to be done entirely by the editor(s) alone, how much of this skill
is available, how much time to devote to the routine tasks?

The question for us is, of course, the extent to which the benefits obvious
for the sciences apply to the humanities. Our culturally-driven p-envy of
the sciences is always threatening to put us into the mental straitjacket of
imitation, such as the overemphasis on "results". In humanities computing we
sometimes publish RESULTS as such but sometimes not. My reference book on
Ovid, for example, will be the RESULT of several years' work in humanities
computing, but I certainly would never describe the contents as RESULTS.
Nothing is proved by them; rather, I hope readers will agree, the basis for
a new area of research is established. If the book consisted of a long
argument in prose, the term RESULTS would be even less appropriate. To a
certain extent in our fields, the clock is ticking -- wait long enough and
someone will, I suppose, "scoop" you -- but the danger of not being the
first to announce some RESULT is hardly as great in most of our fields. I've
always assumed that no one would be crazy enough to attempt what I am doing,
but colleagues occasionally tell me that competition is real in various
areas of research in the humanities.

In other words, the relevance of electronic publishing has everything to do
with how we construct our scholarly way of life. Faster/cheaper may be the
proximate cause of leaping from print into the cyberjournal, but having lept
one discovers richer complexities. Let us have commentary on these here.