The future of academic publishing is an important and complicated issue that concerns us all and I know that we’re all deeply interested in the ways that scholarly publishers are responding to the economic pressures they face. For most presses, digitality seems to be an attractive cost-saving measure. The University of Michigan Press, for instance, announced last year that they would be switching their list primarily to digital formats (with a print on demand option) in future. Other presses seem to be experimenting with e-book text access in order to figure out business models that work: indeed, various presses, like the University of Chicago Press, are providing access to specific e-books on their list at no charge.
Victorian Studies scholars will be interested in Ohio University Press’s current promotion: readers can download four of the press’s Victorian Studies titles at no charge. The books available are Lisa Surridge’s Bleak Houses: Marital Violence in Victorian Fiction, Peter Sinnema’s The Wake of Wellington: Englishness in 1852, Brent Shannon’s The Cut of His Coat: Men, Dress, and Consumer Culture, 1860- 1914, and Barry J. Faulk’s Music Hall and Modernity: The Late-Victorian Discovery of Popular Culture.
The press hopes “that as a result of reading the books in a downloadable format, readers will be inspired to buy the paper editions of the books, our real goal in providing these e-books to you is to increase your access to our books.” The press also asks readers to respond to this free e-book offer and promises that, “if this experiment in new platforms is successful and is used as a way to promote the ideas and arguments of our authors and to stimulate more debate and research on the topics they have investigated, we will strive to continue our commitment to this new reach into the scholarly dialogue.”
Readers, what do you think? Will access to a digital edition spur you to purchase a paper edition? Are you more likely to read and engage with the ideas of monographs if they are available online at no cost? And what would you think about having your book offered free of charge online by your publisher?