Robert B. Townsend: Is There an E-book in Your Future? A Report from the University Presses

Historians in the News

[Robert B. Townsend is Assistant Director, Research and Publications of the American Historical Association.]

A sense of optimism pervaded the annual meeting of Association of American University Presses (AAUP) this past weekend, even as the staff at those presses grappled with budget cuts and rapid changes in the way scholarship is disseminated.

As in years past, history was described as a vital part of the work and catalogs of most university presses. A number of the editors and staff members there observed that they seemed to be publishing an unprecedented number of history titles, and expressed confidence that very few historians will lack for a publisher in the near future.

But it appeared that there are no guarantees that the resulting monographs will appear in print. A strong theme in the discussions at the meeting was the waning market for traditional print publications and ongoing experiments with digital forms. Sessions on library acquisitions made the point clearly—as library directors and specialists offered substantial evidence that books published in print receive scarce and diminishing use, while online publications generate significantly more attention. In a context where university libraries are suffering from sharp cuts to their book-buying budgets, they described a strong imperative to shift their buying to e-books—especially for books by first-time authors and on narrow or obscure topics. As a core market for monographs, this would place significant pressure on the presses....
Read entire article at Robert Townsend at the AHA Blog

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