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A number of scholars argued that the quality of a scholarly work is independent of the medium in which it ispublished. When asked whether printed books contribute something toscholarship that electronic publications cannot, one scholar replied,“Aside from [allowing you] to have your own book on theshelf with those of your predecessors, no. I’m sure we’re going to end up there [accepting electronic publishing as valid]. I think there is a reason to keep books. But it is about tradition, notpracticality.”

But some still view the printed book as standing at the pinnacle of the scholarly publishing hierarchy.Said one scholar,“I still hold out for the artifact. It does constitute something more substantive. At the same time, forpragmatic reasons, I would support what you say [about the possibilities of electronic publishing].”

One reason the printed book is held in such high regard is due to the quality of illustrations it permits.“We want photographs to be rich and beautiful,”said one scholar.“Maybe you could have a hybrid of text and a web site with photographs for something that would be considered too scholarlyfor mass consumption. But would this be accepted and considered as prestigious [as an illustrated book]?”

In addition, the printed book“can have an intelligence as an artifact through its design,”pointed out another scholar.“When I got my last page proofs back for my book, I was astonishingly pleased at the groupings [of images andtext].”

“But so can a digital book,”retorted another scholar.“It depends on how the platform works for delivering images.”

But before art and architectural history can take full advantage of any scholarly possibilities presented bydigital publishing, it was pointed out that the field is going to have to address the issue of digital preservation.“It’s a conservation issue,”said one scholar.“If you have a hybrid text with adjunct photographs on a server somewhere, someone is going tohave to maintain those images.”

A final caveat was offered by another scholar who reminded the group that all of the publishing-related issuesfacing the field of art and architectural history are not going to be solved just by moving more deeply into electronic publishing.“I wouldn’t want to put an electronic band-aid on the problems facing the field, which are copyright and reproduction fees and also therelationship of universities to their presses, now that [university]presses have to make money.”

Defining the problem of“Art history publishing”In comprehensive terms and finding solutions

One of the dilemmas that emerged from the mid-career scholars’discussion was the sense among many scholars that even as opportunities for publishing scholarly monographs aredecreasing, the general quality of the books that are being published is declining as well. Some scholars believe that politicsmay play in a role in the publication of some manuscripts, noting that manuscripts they have been asked to review have been publisheddespite objections raised during the review process. And because publishers are attempting to reach wider audiences, somemanuscripts may appear to scholars to have been watered down or stripped of some of their most important scholarly contributions.In addition, there is a strong sense among scholars that many good manuscripts are going unpublished because they don’t match up well with what university presses are looking to publish.

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Source:  OpenStax, The state of scholarly publishing in the history of art and architecture. OpenStax CNX. Sep 22, 2006 Download for free at http://cnx.org/content/col10377/1.2
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