Ruminations on Publications

The last blogpost on the publication of my thesis by Palgrave may have sounded a bit too negative. In the end I am happy (but also relieved) that this whole process is finished and has actually resulted in a printed book. That is great. Full stop.

Yet, with all the troubles involved in the production of the book I am wondering if it’s worth the mess, especially if analyses tell us that on average only ten people read PhD-theses. And the trouble during the production proces was located on all sides: the publisher’s, the copy-editor’s and my own. What for? In my case, to be honest, to comply with the regulations that only allow me to proudly call myself a Dr. phil. if my thesis has been officially published.

With so many opportunities for online publishing, publishing-on-demand and even the possibility to make material available on my own webpage, it begs the question: Why did I choose this way?

I guess because I knew that in my discipline, American Studies, a renowned publishing outfit makes an impression, and I had hoped that this would boost my chances of finding a job in the field. Secondly, I thought that a well-known publisher would provide just that type of editorial guidance I had encountered while working in the tandem that produced the volume Fugitive Knowledge.

So far, it seems that I was mistaken on both fronts, and at the moment I feel a bit exhausted with all the nuisances the publishing process (not the writing as such) involved.

My conclusion: I would increasingly opt for online publications of PhD-theses, with a possible inclusion of articles into journals that specialize in PhD presentations and which include a link to those online publications. This would not only benefit the visibility of the newcomers, but would also make it possible to access cutting edge investigations more rapidly.

Of course, that is nothing really new. Many PhD-researchers already publish abridged versions or articles during their late PhD-phase, but the obligation to publish in book form, and especially the discipline inclination to favor printed material still makes change on that matter difficult.

Let’s see what the future brings. Some colleagues have already taken the brave step of opting for the online publication, others lack the financial or time resources to prepare a manuscript (which usually means cutting down on material and re-arranging) and look desperately for a chance to get this thing over with. As with many things in academia, right now there seems to be the first glimpses of change, and it would be a good idea to pursue this matter in a way that benefits writers, readers (academic and non-academic, if possible) as well as editorials, without simply converting to cost-cutting logic.

Postscript: The accompanying image for this post is from Chilean artist Natalie Matta-Landero and titled “Rumination.” Her work can be found here.


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