Friday, September 08, 2006

New Publishing Experiment: Jack Balkin's "Long Tail"

The Chronicle of Higher Education, in the Hot Type column for Sept. 8, 2006, linked above, reports on a new venture in academic publishing. Jack Balkin's book Cultural Software: A Theory of Ideology (Yale University Press, 1998), had intriguing things to say about the almost Darwinian struggle to spread among memes. Balkin has just persuaded his publisher, Yale University Press, to re-issue the book in a free web-version link. Readers can access or even download the full text of the book under Creative Commons copyright. The Web version is not searchable. The front webpage also offers hyperlinks to order a print copy of the book from Yale University Press, Amazon and Barnes & Noble online stores. In the Chronicle article, Balkin calls this an experiment that may offer a new way for university presses to make money from their backlists, taking advantage of the "long tail" of scholarship that sparks new thinking and interest long after initial publication. So far, Balkin's book is just scanned (the article says photographs) pages, but the author would like to see it available in searchable HTML. Cool!

The Hot Type column goes on to note another Yale University Press experiment with The Wealth of Networks: How Social Prduction Transorms Markets and Freedom by Yochai Benkler, also at Yale Law. This new publication came out in print simultaneously with a free digital version. The online has wiki pages allowing readers to criticize and annotate the book. Press director John Donatich says the experiment did not eat into the print market, and may have pushed it into its third printing since May.

Hot Type also reports on The Caravan Project, by the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation: simultaneous publication in multiple formats. Digital, paperback, hardcover on-demand (not clear from the article if it's just hardcover that is print-on-demand), along with audio formats. Should begin coming out from the six participating presses in 2007.

The image is Lord Stanhope's printing press, courtesy of

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