“A Self-Publishing Gold Rush” is an article that appeared in this week Chronicle of Higher Education written by Marc Bousquet, director of college writing and an associate professor of English at Emory University.
Mr. Bousquet begins his piece by pointing to the differences between popular and academic self-publishing. In order to make these differences more obvious, he initially offers the analogy of popular self-publishing as a gold rush and later describes academic self-publishing as more of a revolution.
Supporting his gold rush analogy, Mr. Bousquet notes that the self-publishing sector “has tripled since 2006” and observes that “the crowdfunding app Kickstarter had its first million-dollar book deal, when 14,000 fans of Rich Burlew’s Order of the Stick Web comic ponied up an average of $75 apiece to finance book republication of the strips.” And this says nothing about the lucrative success of self- published authors like Amanda Hocking, E.L. James, and Hugh Howey.
Of course, Mr. Bousquet acknowledges that academic self-publishing is different. The possibility of academic authors being drawn by fat royalty checks is remote. He admits that the “prestige capital of the press” is still a key consideration for academic authors. Faculty want to be published by scholarly presses. It adds to their personal reputations and hence their future job opportunities.
However, he also detects some changing attitudes, especially among younger scholars and cites the digital humanities movement as an example. He notes that among digital humanists the increasing need and desire to share research and resources is “decentering the book.” He goes on to say that “careers will still be made through publishing—just not necessarily books.” He further argues that this emphasis on sharing will likely lead “most young scholars … to embrace digital publication in relation to the open-access movement—to maximize sharing…”
Of course, in this short space we can not do full justice to all the ideas expressed in the article. In fact, we are just scratching the surface. Mr. Bousquet makes numerous insightful observations supporting his vision of scholarly publishing. But needless to say, you’ll have to read the entire article to get the full thrust of his arguments.