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Academic publishing: New media, new approaches

Coming up against decreasing budgets and a general neglect of the humanities, what options are available to journals that might be feeling the pinch even more than the institutions that host them?  Since we’ve been speculating about the possibilities of online publishing as a more flexible and easily accessible format to facilitate research and distribute it, it’s probably time to walk the walk and provide some examples of journals that have gone digital.  Some of our colleagues and friends have passed along tips about online-only journals that are trying to match quantity and quality, while using digital media to do things that might not be possible in print.

The three journals we’re looking at offer new approaches to the way research is done and promoted, as well as tapping formal innovations only supported by digital media.

Philosophers' Imprint masthead (Open Access)

Philosophers’ Imprint: “Edited by philosophers, Published by librarians, Free to readers of the Web,” Philosophers’ Imprint is proactive in its use of available technology and in meeting the challenges of the present/near future where libraries are unable to either foot the bill for journal subscriptions or house more and more bound copies.  Despite its no-frills but clean layout, the journal really seems to be ahead of the curve in rethinking how scholarship is disseminated and appreciated, offering its contents for free online without sticking to a strict publication schedule to maximize flexibility.  Because it’s free, it also makes the most of basic resources available to scholars while dispensing with a huge editing apparatus and licensing issues.

More on the publishing philosophy of Philosophers’ Imprint, after the jump…

Hosted by the U Michigan library, this publication is an online one first and foremost, and not fixated on a print fetish where a PDF is viewed as a facsimile of the real thing.  Perhaps what’s most relevant is that Philosophers’ Imprint wants to demystify scholarly publishing.  Check out the very interesting mission statement:

At the time of the Imprint’s founding, significant obstacles stood in the way of a transition to fully electronic publishing. Authors did not view electronic publication as prestigious, readers did not view the electronic literature as authoritative, and neither of these views seemed likely to develop in the absence of the other. Younger scholars were unsure whether electronic publications would count towards tenure and promotion. And the funds that would support electronic publication and archiving were tied up in print subscriptions that could not be discontinued until an electronic alternative was available. Philosophers’ Imprint was founded to overcome these obstacles to the free electronic dissemination of scholarship. The Imprint is designed to combine the permanence and authority of print with the instant and universal accessibility of the Internet.

Literature Compass: While Literature Compass is perhaps a less radical project than Philosophers’ Imprint (there’s a $69 subscription fee), it puts its online interface to good use.  Sections are clearly and logically arranged according to period and/or national literature, so it’s easy to access and search for articles.  More importantly, Literature Compass puts an emphasis on publishing more articles more frequently with a quicker turnaround, up to 100 pieces a year, which it claims is three times more than the typical journal.  The articles themselves includes tags of the subject matter, which makes it easy to find connections to other selections compiled at Literature Compass.  Also, the free abstracts provide the number of site views, which gives a sense of what the trends are in literary research.  The one drawback is that you need to purchase a $69 annual subscription to access full articles.

Vectors: Sponsored by USC, Vectors, Journal of Culture and Technology in a Dynamic Vernacular appears so cutting edge that it’s a bit hard to figure out for the less tech savvy–all I could get a hang of is that there is a lot of clicking and dragging involved.  While it can be difficult to find the “articles” compiled in each “issue” and even harder to “read” them, the multimedia journal encourages play, experimentation, and active participation.  Each article pairs an author and a designer to create something that seems more like an art installation where the multimedia form really is the message.  As the Vectors intro explains:

Vectors doesn’t seek to replace text; instead, we encourage a fusion of old and new media in order to foster ways of knowing and seeing that expand the rigid text-based paradigms of traditional scholarship. Simply put, we publish only works that need, for whatever reason, to exist in multimedia. In so doing, we aim to explore the immersive and experiential dimensions of emerging scholarly vernaculars across media platforms.

I’m not sure about what they mean by “need” necessarily and the statement of purpose reads a little high-fallutin’, since some of the articles do seem to be essays that might be overcomplicated, but it’s definitely a thought-provoking and intellectually engaging project.  So even if the material might outpace a reader’s ability to comprehend it, Vectors is glimpse into what it’s like to be ahead of the times now.

Send us more examples of online journals!

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One Response to 'Academic publishing: New media, new approaches'

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  1. Camille Gamboa said,

    You should check out SAGE publications’ Open Access journal, SAGE Open. Easy to use, amazing content, and free…:) http://sgo.sagepub.com/


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