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September 2014

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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