Transforming Scholarly Publishing: Book Business Interview with Alison Mudditt

Alison Mudditt photo
UC Press Director Alison Mudditt’s message is clear: the publishing industry is undergoing a profound transformation, and digital products are at the center of the change.

Mudditt recently spoke to Book Business magazine about the the explosion of interest in e-books, two pilot “born-digital” products the Press is developing, and the new challenges scholarly publishers face. She shares insight on the ways UC Press’s e-book strategy is changing, and reveals how Kindle sales of Mark Twain’s Autobiography have compared to the print version.

Read an excerpt of the interview below, and access the full article on Book Business’s website.

Is the demand for scholarly books changing? What do you think is causing these trends?

Mudditt: The market for scholarly monographs has been shrinking for at least a couple of decades. This has been driven in significant part by the allocation of shrinking library budgets: As the price of scholarly journals, particularly in STEM [science, technology, engineering and mathematics] fields, has skyrocketed, the available budget for books has become smaller and smaller. Over the past decade or so, the budgetary problem has been exacerbated by the dramatic technological and cultural shifts as information has moved to a Web-based, decentralized and abundant environment. In this world, the largely static, often print-only, scholarly monograph seems both isolated and out-of-date. The challenge for those of us in the scholarly publishing world is to find a way to reinvent the model in such a way that scholarly discourse can become more accessible than it has ever been—a vibrant hub of information and debate that serves not only the academy, but a much wider audience seeking answers to many contemporary problems. 

One thought on “Transforming Scholarly Publishing: Book Business Interview with Alison Mudditt

  1. Very smart set of observations. As one who has watched and participated in UC Press over almost 50 years now, I think it is important to keep in mind that the challenges to scholarly publishing of today have, to a degree, been Ever-Thus. Digital capabilities began to transform publishing and printing in the 1960s; library book budgets and University subsidies began to decline on the 1970s; the need for foundation and private subventions became apparent in the 1970-80s; UC Press was an early and adroit adopter of Mac-based office and design devises, and later and now to the amazing reach of the internet, in the last three decades. BRAVO! Change is rapid and unstoppable, but through it I hope UC Press will keep faith with the profound purposes of scholarly publishing: to make available the immense publishable riches of our University culture, which have always tended toward the highly specialized and non-profitable.

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