An Advocate for Electronic Publishing

Alex Holzman, director of Temple University Press, advocates electronic publishing in this excerpt from his speech at the 2009 Association of American University Presses Annual Meeting

There is no question that the current distribution system for book-length academic scholarship is broken.  We live in a print world that this year saw returns spike as never before.  I watched in both horror and genuine fascination as our March returns at Temple hit close to ninety percent.  And our overall returns for the year will be close to one-third.  Think about that.  Even with reduced print runs we continue to live in a world where the books go out, then get returned, then go out, then get returned.  Great for FedEx and UPS and Yellow Freight, not so much for us or the environment.  When we do sell a book for a course, it often is sold back to the bookstore that sold it, then resold at a price that helps the student save a little money and helps the bookstore bottom line, but cuts out both author and publisher who created the product in the first place.  So it has been in my thirty-plus years in publishing and so, many have said, it must always be.

Not any more.  Suddenly this year e-books have become increasingly attractive, in the first instance to us and, I’m finding, to librarians.  Several of our members—Cambridge, Johns Hopkins, Chicago, Stanford via Highwire, to name a few—are investigating new ways to offer e-books from multiple presses to librarians.  Commercial entities like Ingram and Baker & Taylor are also gearing up.  And so I am inclined to say don’t even bother to try to fix the old system—let’s invent a new one!

(Full disclosure—NYU, Rutgers, Penn, and Temple have just received a Mellon grant to investigate how best to establish a university press e-book platform and do so quickly.)

Why a new system and why now?  Because I can see an e-world—always backed up by print on demand, by the way—where we save most PP&B costs, where there are no returns and no used books, and where the varieties of ways to sell, rent, or rent-to-buy are subject only to what the market tells us it wants.  I am thinking not only of libraries, where this should and will take place first, but also all the course adoptions that now form the bread and butter of our backlists.  Being an optimist, I also see such a system eventually being used to pick and choose on chapter as well as book level—a plus for faculty—and being easy enough to use that illegal use of such materials on Blackboard will no longer be worth the effort or provide a sufficient cost-saving.

Are there things to work out?  Yes, and a lot of them and it won’t be easy.  First the models for libraries to purchase, the implementation of a manageable approval process, the achievement of critical masses of university press materials on just a few—but not just one—site, the servicing and archiving of files.  Extend the system to students and there are questions concerning how students pay, where they pay, what they get exactly.  That is, a downloadable file?  Web access for a semester?  Something else?

Yes, there are vast details to work out but for the first time I believe the benefits of doing so outweigh the costs.  Imagine for a moment a new system where libraries have a more workable means for buying monographs, students can save some money buying textbooks, and university presses are freed from returns and used books.  Three citizenries of the university all benefit from the change in system and we university presses fulfill our roles not only as university citizens but as those who are charged specifically with disseminating the best scholarship to the widest possible audience for the lowest possible price.  Not free and not open access because I don’t necessarily agree that free to end user is always the most desirable model, though I’m certainly open to it when it is.

This win-win-win vision is at this point utopian and I am aware of the pitfalls of utopian thinking.  But really—has anybody got a better idea?

Reflections on the Recent AAUP Annual Meeting

Emily Taber, Editorial Assistant at Temple University Press, offers her thoughts on the 2009 Association of American University Press (AAUP) Annual Meeting held last week in Philadelphia.

I have worked at Temple University Press for two years, and this was my first AAUP annual meeting. Aside from attending lively sessions and meeting new people, the AAUP conference was a fantastic opportunity to see the two sides of publishing connect. On the one hand, you have a group of people who genuinely love the look and feel of printed books. The Book, Jacket, and Journal Show was a crowd favorite. On the other hand, you have industry professionals closely following the latest developments in e-books and open access technology. Sessions on electronic publishing were some of the most talked-about at the conference—everyone was wondering what the future of the book will be.

These two groups do not have to be mutually exclusive. In fact, for publishing to succeed, they cannot be. It’s possible to love the smell of new books and own a Kindle. It’s possible to appreciate the convenience offered by e-book readers and value production design.

It was a rewarding and refreshing experience to be at AAUP, where conversations about the necessity of electronic publishing existed side-by-side with praise for well crafted print books. Digital technology has left its mark on print publishing already, through print-on-demand and digital reprints. Members of the AAUP know this, and their perspective is essential in shaping sound publishing practices for the future. While no one knows what the state of publishing will be in fifty years, much less in five or ten, it is heartening to think that there will still be a group of our colleagues engaged in thoughtful consideration of what comes next.

For more coverage of the AAUP annual meeting visit these sites:

Notes from the Van Cliburn International Piano Competition

1776_regIn this entry, Mari Yoshihara, author of Musicians from a Different Shore: Asians and Asians Americans and Classical Music, offers her impressions on the recent Van Cliburn International Piano Competition

By Mari Yoshihara

I had the fortune of attending the Thirteenth Van Cliburn International Piano Competition held in Fort Worth, TX, from May 22 through June 7, 2009. Held every four years in Fort Worth, the Cliburn competition is now considered one of the most prestigious piano competitions in the world. In addition to the $20,000 cash prize and a CD recording, the winners get three-year concert management for performances around the world that often launches their performing career.

The competition is a perfect example of the phenomenon I discuss in my book, Musicians from a Different Shore: Asians and Asian Americans in Classical Music. This year, 16 out of 30 contestants were Asian. This year’s list of awardees—the gold medal was shared by Nobuyuki Tsujii of Japan and Haochen Zhang of China; Yeol Eum Son of South Korea won the silver; the crystal medal was not awarded—is historic in many ways. For one thing, this was the first time in the history of the competition that the gold medal went to an Asian. Also, the two gold medalists were the two youngest contestants in this year’s competition. And finally—this is certainly the most attention-grabbing fact of all—Tsujii is blind from birth.

While I had mentioned the competition in Musicians from a Different Shore, this was the first time that I had actually attended the event. And it quickly became clear to me that studying the event through documentary films, recordings, and media coverage is one thing, and experiencing it in situ is quite another. In the course of my interviews with the event’s organizers and jurors, I was persuaded of the competitions’ merit in identifying those artists who are most prepared to launch a concertizing career; but in the end, who wins and who doesn’t interest me beyond the reality TV-like curiosity. I did become a convert, however, of the event as an occasion to experience the intensity of a live musical performance. These young (age 19 to 30) musicians have dedicated their entire lives to this art form and worked for years toward this competition. They perform with their future career at stake, making bare every bit of their musical ideas, technical skills, spiritual and emotional state, out for the world to peruse (for the first time, the entire competition was webcast throughout the world) and for the jurors to assess. To witness this extremely courageous and vulnerable act live in the performance hall was immensely moving. And regardless of what happens to the long-term trajectory of these musicians (as a performing career involves many variables beyond musical skills and talent, not all competition winners end up having a renowned performing career), it is an incredible honor to share in the moment of the launching of the career of these young artists. And to have experienced live the performances of these pianists—from his recital in the preliminary round, Zhang’s performance had struck me as something by an extraordinary genius; and Tsujii’s playing moves the audience on so many levels, musical and spiritual—brings the listeners together in a way that defies facile description.

Listening to all the performances live, interviewing the contestants and jurors, meeting various people involved in the event, observing what goes on offstage and outside the concert hall, and getting to know some things about the Fort Worth community greatly expanded my understanding of the practice of classical music in the context of an event such as the Cliburn. It gave me tremendous food for thought as I reflect upon my own ideas about identity and music. Yet I was glad to confirm that my concluding sentences in Musicians from a Different Shore were proven by my experience at the Cliburn: “I believe that music produces power through the meetings of the performers’ and listeners’ subjective engagement with the musical text and the social, collective experience of music. Asians’ and Asian Americans’ realization and performance of identity in and through music help us see how the subjective and the social meet.”

Mari Yoshihara is the author of Musicians from a Different Shore: Asians and Asians Americans and Classical Music

God’s Own Team: The Week That Was Liverpool’s

In this blog entry by Grant Farred, the author of Long Distance Love, writes passionately about soccer, and the team he connects with–Liverpool.


Mark it down, these two dates and places: the 11th of March, 2009: Anfield Road Stadium, Liverpool; 14th of March, 2009: Old Trafford, the outskirts of Manchester. It was the week that demonstrated, without question, as to who the greatest team in English and European football is today. Real Madrid, albeit a shadow of their once-great selves (where have you gone, Zinedine Zidane? Oh, we miss you so in that all-white strip), came to Anfield and Liverpool proceeded to run amok. As early as the third minute, the two geniuses combined: Stevie Gerrard put El Nino, Fernando Torres, through. Wonderful save by Iker Casillas in the Real goal but, no matter, its all over. Magnificent strike by Torres outdone only by Gerrard’s goal. The useless fruitless Ryan Babbel crosses from the left and, Gerrard, who can only, given the bounce and speed of the ball, hit the ball in one spot: his right ankle, and, it has to be perfectly—and I mean perfectly —timed. For Stevie, or, “God’s Own Son,” as I’ve dubbed him in my book Long Distance Love: A Passion for Football, its not quite routine but Lord is it memorable. Stevie gets his ankle into that inch-perfect position and the ball flies into the net. Christ, what a goal. I’ve played that one now, oh, a few dozen times in my head and I’m still awestruck. Can there be any doubt that God, in her or his infinite wisdom, is nothing other than a Liverpool fan? Two days later, said Zidane proclaimed Gerrard the best player in the world. No argument from me, m’sieur. Real left Anfield in tatters, redeemed only by the reflective honesty of their manager, Juande Ramos: beaten fair and square, is more or less what Senor Ramos offered at this press conference.

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Berlusconi: Social “Delinquent” or Key Symbol of a Fragile Polity?

1938_regJohn Agnew, co-author (with Michael Shin) of Berlusconi’s Italy, provides his thoughts on how the Italian Prime Minister is weathering his lastest political scandal.

Einaudi, the Turin publisher owned by Silvio Berlusconi, the Italian Prime Minister, has rejected the famous Portuguese writer Jose Saramago’s latest book of literary texts and political analysis on all accounts because it is heavily critical of Berlusconi as a person and politician as well as condemnatory of Italians for their “moral indifference” in the face of Berlusconi’s multiple conflicts of interest.  Long Saramago’s publisher in Italy, Einaudi’s decision has suggested to many commentators that Berlusconi is very much the “delinquent” that Saramago describes him as: that the concentration of so much power in the hands of one man undermines the pluralism of institutions and society that lies at the heart of a presumably democratic political order.

Saramago’s charges were made long before the recent brouhaha over Berlusconi’s (age 72) notorious consorting with an eighteen-year old Neapolitan girl which was the prima facie reason that Berlusconi’s wife (herself a former “topless performer”) publicly announced that she was divorcing him. Berlusconi has long marketed himself as a “manly man” who flirts openly with whichever attractive woman is currently available.  Yet, he is also Italy’s leading proponent of family values and the “right to life” (except seemingly for immigrants). Few Italian clerics seem to take exception, at least in public, to his lothario image.  They share his genetic hostility to the atheistic “communists” he constantly invokes as the source of criticism of his performance as Italian “premier,” as he likes to call himself.  He is also, of course, one of Italy’s wealthiest men with a fortune based initially and finally on his political connections.  It was through state licensing from his close friend, former Prime Minister (and convicted blackmailer) Bettino Craxi that he gained control over the private television networks.  It has been through his subsequent political career since 1994 that he has protected his business empire.  Saramago couldn’t make this stuff up.

The Borgia Popes long ago set the standard for an idiosyncratic norm of public behavior.  Recall the bloody machinations of various offspring of the officially celibate.  Berlusconi is thus in a long line of all-too-human men who have occupied high office without much local public approbation.  Mussolini, to remember another iconic figure in more recent Italian history, was assassinated and displayed publicly when captured by anti-Fascist partisans in April 1945 not with his wife but with his lover Claretta Petacci.  She, at least, was loyal to the end.  Sergio Luzzatto’s fascinating history of the trajectory of Mussolini’s body and its image over the course of the dictator’s life and beyond (The Body of Il Duce, 2005) makes clear how much the post-mortem story of Mussolini involved removing Petacci from prior events so as to re-invent the leader as a more sober and serious figure than he had been in life. With a nod and a wink, though, Italians know the truth.  Mussolini too was a “manly man.”

A simple official “delinquency” doesn’t seem to do credit to this historic behavioral pattern of manly transgression all-too-easily forgiven by an understanding public. More centrally is the importance of a polity that puts so much emphasis on recruiting a decisive leader rather than on establishing reliable institutional checks and balances.  Berlusconi is the first such leader since Mussolini. The extreme political immobilism of the postwar years produced a series of compromises and compromised governments that never produced fruitful decisions but endless obfuscation and fudging.  Nevertheless this did provide a propitious setting for the growth of a “real” Italy which actually worked by operating around the “official” governmental version. Since Berlusconi’s arrival on the political scene many Italians have been impressed by the way in which the new leader has essentially provided both a model and an endorsement of the radical particularism, by which individuals can make their own private deals with government, that has long served as the main barrier to successful transparent government in Italy. It is not that Berlusconi has ever actually achieved anything as the Prime Minister.  But Berlusconi effectively has united real with official Italy.  This is the secret of his political success, along with his ability to win over crucial political allies by his singular promise as a political entrepreneur.  Together these make Berlusconi’s delinquency possible.

In other words, Saramago’s version of Italian moral indifference has cause and effect the wrong way round.  It is not Berlusconi himself but what makes him possible that deserves emphasis. Now, as the film director Marco Bellocchio has pointed out, when asked about the parallels between his new film about the 1920s, Vincere, and present-day Italy, “the comparison Mussolini-Berlusconi is forced, but in Italy today conformism and resignation also prevail.”  In this context, Berlusconi’s continued popularity in the face of his scandalous behavior and burlesque performativity is readily understood.  Soap operas always follow the same script.

For more infomation on John Agnew and Michael Shin’s Berlusconi’s Italy, visit:

Advances for Women Scientists? Yes and No.

1904_regIn this blog entry, Sandra L. Hanson, author of Swimming Against the Tide, addresses the findings of a new report about women in science education

The recent report (requested by Congress and released by the National Academies) on women in science faculties at research universities offers some encouraging news:  there are advances at these universities with regard to hiring and promoting women.

Most would agree that there has been progress in reaching gender equity in the sciences. The report does not, however, provide evidence for a lack of gender bias in these institutions (or in science in general). In stating that, “For the most part, men and women faculty in science, engineering, and mathematics have enjoyed comparable opportunities within the university…” the report comes to misleading conclusions about the state of science.  Research on gender and science reveals considerable complexity and suggests many layers of reality.

Women continue to get fewer Ph.D.’s in the sciences than do men and they apply for fewer of the positions at research universities. There is considerable evidence of continued gender bias in science education and occupations.

Because research universities are beginning to interview, hire, and promote more women does not mean that the culture of science is changing in any radical way. Sociologists have shown that even when elites bring in new members (from different race and sex groups) they often recruit new members that think and act in ways that are similar to the elite.

In order to understand the complex situation of women in the sciences, we must supplement the hiring and promotion data with interview data. These “open-ended” interviews would allow women scientists to describe the situation in their own words. Even this is tricky given the tendency toward bias and socially acceptable responses when collecting data on sensitive issues involving race and sex.

Researchers who have interviewed women scientists hear reports about being harassed and ignored and unable to have the kind of family lives that they would’ve wanted. Women scientists report having to act like men in order to get ahead. They see advantages for men in networking and opportunity systems.

Interviews with women scientists suggest that many of the gendered interactions in their work environments are not official policies and procedures but far more subtle day to day interactions and work environments.

It would have been interesting to include questions and measures (in this report by the National Academies) that were similar to those used by an earlier MIT study. This would have been helpful in assessing change.

Finally, it appears as if the recently released study of women on science faculties paid little or no attention to the issue of race. Race and sex interact in important ways in the development and retention of scientists. I would be curious to see how many of the women scientists who were hired and promoted were women of color.

Although recent research shows women of color are very interested in science, they sometimes feel like they are “swimming against the tide” because of race and gender structures in the sciences.

The National Academies report is a good start. However, in order to fully understand the situation of women scientists, we need to look at the full range of universities and science occupations with multiple research methods and with an understanding of the complexity of gender structures within organizations.

Sandra L. Hanson is the author of Swimming Against the Tide: : African American Girls and Science Education

Berlusconi Back in the News

Michael Shin, co-author of Berlusconi’s Italy, considers the personal and professional affair(s) of the colorful Italian Prime Minister.

It has been over one year since Silvio Berlusconi’s victory in the 2008 elections. In this time Italy has been confronted with several pressing issues, some new and some old. From the devastating earthquake in L’Aquila and the trash crisis in Naples to the stagnant economy that is coupled with some of the lowest wages and lowest levels of growth in Europe, it appears that Italy continues to be the sick man of Europe in more ways than one.

Amid this turmoil and malaise, and in perhaps what is best characterized as a parallel universe, lives Mr. Berlusconi. More notable for his gaffes than governing during the past year, Berlusconi has most recently made headlines around the world for his wife’s very public demand for a divorce that in part stems from his allegedly “spicy” relationship with an aspiring eighteen year old model, Ms. Noemi Letizia.

How did Berlusconi get here (again)?

In very much the same way that he took power in the 2001 and 1994 elections. Berlusconi forged electoral pacts with the post-fascist National Alliance and regionalist Northern League, which in theory and in practice oppose each other on several grounds. Notwithstanding such differences, and due to an unexpected resurgence in support for the League across northern Italy and to the lack-luster offering put forth by the rival Democratic Party, Berlusconi emerged victorious. Italians wanted Berlusconi back despite his numerous conflicts of interest, an underwhelming track record, and criticism at home and from abroad.

It would be an overstatement to say that expectations both inside and outside of Italy for the new Berlusconi government were high after his victory. Berlusconi’s few political achievements of the last year, such as temporarily resolving the Neapolitan trash crisis and establishing a new party – the People of Freedom – with his electoral ally of the far-right, have been greatly overshadowed by his antics at the NATO summit, and most recently by questions surrounding his involvement with Ms. Letizia.

Whether or not Berlusconi’s latest personal affair (pun intended) will have broader political implications remains to be seen. Over the years Mr. Berlusconi has proven to be incredibly resilient and cannot easily be written off. That said, this is quite likely to be his last term in office. What will Italy look like after Berlusconi? Probably much the same as it does now, with the same social, economic and political problems. This will be Berlusconi’s legacy. So while the spotlight is currently focused on him, in the shadows is a post-Berlusconi Italy that may be difficult to see and to imagine, but that indeed merits further consideration.

For more infomation on John Agnew and Michael Shin’s Berlusconi’s Italy, visit:

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