Wednesday, July 05, 2006

University Press Books and the Digital Public Sphere

Most of my non-work time is spent reading and I follow many literary blogs in addition to regular subs to reviewing sources. I served on the ALA Notable Books Council for 4 years and regularly used blogs as an alterting service but seldom as a review source. The essay by McLemee I reference below has made me start to reconsider the reviewing process. It also has implications for librarians in collection development and their use of blogs.

Scott McLemee of Inside Higher Education writes: "I’ve learned to move between what Marshall McLuhan called “the Gutenberg galaxy” (the cultural universe created by movable type) and “the broadband flatland” (as we might dub the uncharted frontier landscape of digital media)....with regard to making university-press books known to the public, it appears that the old gap remains deep and wide. On the one hand, there may now be more opportunities than ever to connect up readers with the books that will interest them. (That includes not just new titles, but books from the backlist.)So much for the good news. The bad news is that, for the most part, it isn’t happening....In short, there is still a tendency to think of bloggers, podcasters, etc. as some distinct group that operates apart from the worlds of academia, publishing, or offline culture. To treat them, in effect, as ham-radio operators — people who possess a certain technical knowhow, and who talk mainly to each other....The reality is very different. The relationship between online communities and other kinds of social or professional networks is a complicated topic. Scholarly careers will be made exploring this matter."