Plenary II: When Business is Personal: the Rice University Press
Speaker: Chuck Henry, President, Council on Library and Information Resources
Description: In 2006 several of us reconstituted the Rice University Press, which had been closed down in 1996, as an all digital venture. This presentation covered the intellectual and personal reasons for reviving the press, the paradoxes of instantiating a digital university publishing company (no backlog, no warehouse, no inventory, and no press); the business model it is derived from; and the longer term aspirations: migrating to new forms of scholarly communication and new methods of research narrative.
The Rice University Press arose within an interesting academic nexus of a research library, mature and powerful technology, and a salient need for alternative ways of representing and distributing the results of scholarship. My experience has also been threaded with challenges, bias, and skepticism: healthy on occasion, but also constraining and self serving. These facets of introducing a new type of academic press were candidly explored.
The presentation concluded by extrapolating from this experience some lessons, guidelines, and warnings that all of us involved with academic publishing may benefit from understanding, including the powerful tradition of humanistic scholarship, cognitive responses to the book as a idealized medium for knowledge acquisition, and the need to replicate the familiar as a major determinate of the application of technology. These are consistent, complex barriers to innovation. In discussing the leadership necessary to address them I drew on my experience as president of CLIR.
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