March 22, 2009

New media and academe

A few somewhat-related ideas floating in my head this afternoon:

The persistent value of blogging. While many others assert a professional value of Twitter and LinkedIn, and I am sure they can be used in that way, I will stick to blogging: it's public, it captures thoughts that require more than 140 characters, and I cannot think of a better way to capture a conversation between academics that is lively and yet substantive, such as the mini-debate evolving today (today!) between Brad DeLong and Paul Krugman about the financial rescue plan to be unveiled tomorrow. DeLong and Krugman are taking the time to explain academic arguments in a way that is accessible to the rest of us. 

Libraries as new-publishing entrepreneurs. Print-on-demand technology may give fresh legs to the long-form academic argument. It has created a new business model for commercial publishers such as Information Age Publishing, it lets traditional academic presses cross-subsidize low-demand work at much less cost, and it has let academic research libraries in the front door of publishing. In my own professional sphere, it's become evident that research libraries contain some incredible entrepreneurial talent, and there are some under-the-radar developments that belong in the best of social entrepreneur literature. Update March 23: this morning's news about the University of Michigan Press should be seen as wholly good news on this front.

The whatever-works model of textbook production. This doesn't exist (yet), but I am hoping that it will. In the competition between standard text publishers and open-source divas, the winner will eventually be college students and whichever group can figure out how to create low-cost texts that still provide royalties to authors. That may involve open-source publishing (in which case the payments wouldn't exactly be "royalties"), or it may involve megacorporation publishers. Or something else like the Kindle or Sony Reader. But the next decade is sure to make this all very interesting.

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Tags: blogging, LinkedIn, Twitter
Posted in The academic life on March 22, 2009 12:33 PM |