News: Academic Publishing Weekly

AUPresses marks the anniversary of 9/11, Amazon dismisses anti-trust claims, and community college libraries show the demand for digital

By Sabrina Cofer, digital media assistant, Choice
Academic Publishing Weekly: the latest curated news from around the industry. Purple background, white lettering.

Twenty Years Since 9/11

Tomorrow marks the 20-year anniversary of September 11th, bringing with it a healthy dose of reflection and remembrance. The Association of University Presses looks back at that time period, recalling the mass confusion and uncertainty within and outside the academic community. At the time, AUPresses collected and released a “Books for Understanding” list, which included titles on terrorism, airline security, and US foreign policy, among others. This collection not only grew in the years to come, but prompted other lists on reproductive rights, guns in America, climate change, and more. To commemorate tomorrow’s anniversary, AUPresses details the history of “Books for Understanding” and highlights several new university press titles related to 9/11. [Publishing Perspectives]

Philosophizing About Nooks

Joseph Esposito revisits the theory of the ebook, questioning how we interact with and use digital texts. While print books carry an immediate context to them—the reviews on the jacket cover, the author bio, cover art—ebooks morph into “simply a text, unanchored in personality or the circumstances of its production.” Due to this “disembodiment,” Esposito writes how we have begun to “re-plant” books’ roots, leading to contextualization online in the form of Twitter arguments, Goodreads reviews, and blog posts. So, is an ebook truly “containerless”? How does its format impact how we absorb its information? Can content really be separated from context? [Scholarly Kitchen]

Thus we know what an e-book is. It is pure digital spirit. It alights on one device or another and is conceived to be containerless. The container is the mortal coil, which the e-book shuffles off as circumstances require, to fly away to another device, another provisional container.

Joseph Esposito

Community College Libraries: Digital Still Reigns

Ithaka S+R published its latest research report, detailing community college libraries’ challenges, outlooks, and budgets. In February, Melissa Blankstein and Christine Wolff-Eisenberg collected responses from over 300 library directors. Topics covered institution and library alignment, campus collaboration, and, perhaps most relevant to this newsletter, budget predictions. Many of the libraries experienced budget cuts in the wake of the pandemic, which cast uncertainty on long-term disruptions or recovery. An overwhelming majority expressed the need for digital resources: “If given a 10 percent budget increase, a hypothetical scenario for assessing strategy and priorities, 51 percent would allocate additional funds towards online or digital journals or databases, and 41 percent towards streaming media services as well as e-books.” The report also found a general shift in approach to librarianship from a traditional, academic role into “supporting a more holistic set of student outcomes.” Can publishers meet this changing need? [Ithaka S+R]

Research Gets a Little More Human

Librarianship isn’t the only thing changing. A new study from Learned Publishing found that academic research articles have largely increased their use of surveys in the past 20 years. In fact, many of the areas of research examined (nursing, social sciences, humanities, and more) used more self-reports or surveys, and overall, “the proportion of journal articles mentioning questionnaires tripled between 1996 and 2019.” However, this jump in questionnaires hasn’t necessarily correlated with quality: “the citation impact—a measure of how many times an article is cited by other articles or books—of questionnaire-based research declined.” The report concluded that this rise in individual surveys connects to “greater academic concern with human issues and perspectives.” Neat! [Association of Learned and Professional Society Publishers]

Lawsuit, Amazon, Conspiracy, Etc.

This week, Amazon and the Big Five publishers moved to dismiss a price-fixing claim against them by independent booksellers. The plaintiff’s Amended Complaint “accuses Amazon and the publishers of illegal price discrimination under the Robinson-Patman Act.” The accused argue that there is no conspiracy, and that “bargaining between buyers and sellers is one of the most commonplace, precompetitive actions that can occur in any market…it would do great damage to competition and consumers alike if the [Robinson-Patman Act] were misconstrued as having outlawed competitive bargaining.” If this antitrust lawsuit against Amazon and Hachette, HarperCollins, Macmillan, Simon & Schuster, and Penguin Random House sounds eerily familiar, you’d be correct. The five publishers and global online retailer also face a price-fixing suit in the ebook market (“Update on Ebook Pricing Conspiracy Suit”). But I suppose the litigation fees are only a drop in many, many gold-plated buckets. [Publishers Weekly]