The two documents linked below were recently released. They are the final two outputs of the Academic Book of the Future Project.
This project began in January 2014 when the Arts and Humanities Research Council (UK) partnered with The British Library.
Direct to Final Outputs
Academic Book of the Future Report
by Marilyn Deegan
105 pages; PDF.
From the Executive Summary
At the end of this project, we have found that the academic book/monograph is still greatly valued in the academy for many reasons: the ability to produce a sustained argument within a more capacious framework than that permitted by the article format; the engagement of the reader at a deep level with such arguments; its central place in career progression in the arts and humanities; its reach beyond the academy (for some titles) into bookshops and into the hands of a wider public. It seems that the future is likely to be a mixed economy of print, e-versions of print, and networked enhanced monographs of greater or lesser complexity.
One of the most significant achievements of the Project that our community has reiterated many times has been the collaboration and communication across the different sectors of activity. This looks likely to continue with a number of initiatives already in planning: Academic Book Week, BOOC, and the university presses conferences, for instance. Having established a new framework for cooperation, it is essential that the communities continue the cross-boundary activities.
We have also identified a number of challenges during the course of the Project:
- The pressure of ever-increasing teaching loads and time consuming assessment regimes has reduced the capacity of many academics for the sustained research and thinking needed to produce the very best monographs. This is added to by the timing of REF [Research Excellence Framework] cycles and the fact that a book only equates to two articles, despite needing much more input and time. However, we have been informed that many REF panels are more likely to award higher grades to books than to articles. The policy makers and institutions perhaps need to address these issues in time for the next REF.
- The REF panels are enjoined to be format and publisher neutral, but institutions and departments still insist that scholars publish with the more established and reputable academic and university presses. Academics themselves generally seek out publication in such venues, and the REF2014 data showed that 46% of all books submitted were from only ten publishers, the three clear leaders being Oxford University Press, Palgrave Macmillan, and Cambridge University Press. The prestige that these presses bring is still valued, despite the instructions to REF panels.
- While there is a general acceptance among academics about the many benefits of open access, we found much confusion and anxiety about the open access agenda and the policy that open access for books with be mandated for the REF from the mid 2020s. Jubb (2017) details the summary many benefits and challenges, and we (in accord with Jubb) wish to endorse Crossick and the 2016 OAPEN Report when they suggest that open access should proceed cautiously. It also seems that the publishing world is far from ready to move into Gold open access for monographs in time for the mid-2020s, and that Green open access, while possible, will only be able to offer accepted manuscripts for access, not published versions, and that discoverability is likely to be a problem.
- As we show in Section 8 here, there are many forms and formats of experimental enhanced books and monographs being developed. This is to be welcomed. However, there is no certainty about which formats might become general standards (if indeed any should) which poses challenges for library access, delivery, discovery, and long-term preservation.
Academic Books and their Futures
by Michael Jubb
208 pages; PDF.
From the Executive Summary
The aim in this report is to provide an account of perspectives from three key stakeholder groups—publishers, libraries, and intermediaries in the supply chain for academic books—and to highlight some key issues that arise from those different perspectives. A central set of perspectives is of course missing here, that of the members of the academic community who constitute the overwhelming majority of authors and readers of academic books.
The Academic Book of the Future Project Video (Released January 2017)
This short film, put together for the Project team by Lincoln University’s co_LAB, explains what the Project was about and what it achieved.