The monograph remains the corner stone of scholarly publishing, especially in the humanities and social sciences, and it remains, despite the affordances associated with digital technologies, firmly wedged in the age of print. While the need to deliver content digitally and produce ebooks is generally accepted, we seem to be producing ebooks that are little more than digital copies of the printed codex. In many respects, they provide a less satisfactory experience for our readers: the ebooks are more difficult to read, annotate and quote from.

Complex academic writing lends itself to deep immersive reading which is problematic in an electronic format. Research shows that reading comprehension remains higher when books are read on paper rather than a computer screen or an ereader. While it is becoming increasingly easier to annotate ebooks, the lack of page numbers in ePub makes quoting difficult. Moreover, all too often books in the ePub format do not contain indexes and the reader, deprived of another important avenue of entry to the text, is expected to use the search function instead.

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Photo of Isaac Gilman=

By Isaac Gilman

Peter Givler observes in his history of university presses in the United States that “Universities have been publishers for at least as long as there has been moveable type.” For over 100 years in the United States – and for over 90 years in Australia – the most prominent expression of university publishing has been the university press. Over the past two decades, however, shifts in technology and the economics of publishing have created an opportunity for university libraries to take an active role in fulfilling “one of the noblest duties of a university”: the publication and dissemination of useful knowledge.

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In September 2012 a review of the Sydney University Press was undertaken to assess the value and viability of the press. As a result of the review, followed by discussions with senior academics at the University of Sydney, SUP has been undergoing an evolution in order to better support and facilitate the communication of the intellectual and research outputs of the University of Sydney and the Australian research community. The new vision for SUP is to become a leading scholarly publisher in Australia of books that advance knowledge and influence policy while supporting Sydney University’s brand as a research-intensive institution nationally and globally. At the same time, SUP aims to provide an avenue for Australian researchers to communicate their research to other scholars, policy-makers and the general public.

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For the Sake of a Song: Wangga Songmen and their Repertories=

By Katharine Leonarder

I should probably start this entry with a rather embarrassing admission, I know nothing about music. To me the sounds of Taylor Swift are on the same technical scale as those of the Basel Symphony Orchestra. So it was with some trepidation that I agreed to read For the sake of a song: wangga songmen and their repertories and write this blog. Surprisingly enough I found myself enjoying the detailed descriptions of wangga music, even down to the meticulously documented notations of tempo, rhythm and structure, which – I might add – were written in such I way that even I managed to understand them.

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Beyond thalidomide: birth defects explained=

By Dr Janet McCredie AM

Between 1958 and 1962, thousands of babies across the Western world were unaccountably born with a plethora of physical deformities, including short or absent limbs, ears and eyes, holes in the heart, blocked intestines, and/or absence or duplication of other internal organs.

At first glance, longitudinal reduction of limbs was the most obvious feature, but more serious, often lethal defects were hidden in other organs. Vital organs such as the ear, eye, heart, gut, and/or kidney were deformed or completely absent. The perinatal mortality rate of these babies was an alarming 40 percent.

Striking patterns emerged in the geography of this alarming epidemic. West Germany had thousands of deformed babies, while East Germany had none: they simply stopped at the Iron Curtain. Canada had over 150, but the USA had almost none. They stopped at the 49th parallel. Britain had over 400 cases, and the British Commonwealth was afflicted, for example Australia had 46 known cases.

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Photo by Mark Lewis, Radio Pictures, Mullumbimby

By Professor Barney Glover

It is particularly fitting that the launch of Cane toads: a tale of sugar, politics and flawed science by Nigel Turvey coincides with this time in the seasonal calendar of the tropical north of Australia, when the wettest months will soon be upon us, which while bringing respite to many, are those months in which the cane toads are most active.

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Cane toads: a tale of sugar, politics and flawed science=

When cane toads were released in Australia in 1935, they were seen as the latest innovation for biological control of pests in sugar cane. Cane toads were promoted widely by sugar cane scientists but the science was flawed, and these flaws were magnified by the political necessity of supporting the sugar industry. It was the same in the Caribbean, Hawai‘i and Queensland when cane toads were introduced.

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