September 25, 2003

Crisis in Scholarly Publishing

The bottom line is that scholarly publishing isn't financially feasible as a business model -- never was, never was intended to be, and should not be. If scholarship paid, we wouldn't need university presses.

Without a subsidy of one kind or another, scholarly publishing cannot exist. Right now, universities are responsible for finding a way to support scholarly publishing -- but most universities are in perilous financial situations, too. That is the crisis. The most basic aspect of scholarship -- the foundation of our profession -- is at risk under the current model of who pays to publish the books and articles we write.

-- Cathy N. Davidson, "Understanding the Economic Burden of Scholarly Publishing"

The Chronicle has just published the above-linked article as a background piece to its upcoming Colloquy Live (October 2) entitled In Search of Solutions for Scholarly Publishing. Davidson insists that the oft-proclaimed "crisis in scholarly publishing" is indeed a real crisis. The purpose of her column (and presumably, of her participation as the guest speaker for the upcoming Colloquy) is "to find systemic and strategic solutions and move beyond hand-wringing and finger-pointing."

After briefly reviewing the various explanations that have been offered to account for the demise of the scholarly press, Davidson concludes that "the problem is that almost all of the above are part of the problem." The bottom line, she emphasizes, is that scholarly publishing never has been and never will be profitable (a point that was made by several commentators in a discussion on this blog several months ago). Given this bottom line, she argues, the only real solution to the crisis lies in a more equitable distribution of the unavoidable costs and burdens. To that end, she offers "10 small, practical, and workable ideas for how to distribute the economic burden of scholarly publishing."

Of particular interest to citizens of the blogosphere is her second proposal: "Publish it electronically." I suspect her sixth proposal is also relevant to some of the readers of this blog:

6. Stamp out course packs! Professors need to be aware that every course pack assigned is a university-press book unsold. University-press books are often cheaper for students than course packs, and certainly less hassle than taking on all the copyright issues these days. And it is good for everyone, including the instructor, to read a whole book occasionally.

Of course, this doesn't address the reason why instructors use course packs: which is, to offer a diverse selection of shorter readers on a given topic or theme. I wonder if there's a solution to 6 that also combines 2? Couldn't university presses follow the example of Pearson Custom Publishing and offer custom course packs that could be distributed electronically?

It's worth placing this piece alongside John Sutherland's Publish or Perish. Like Davidson, Sutherland emphasizes that scholarly publishing is not profitable:

Academic presses are no longer prestige operations into which (like their football or basketball teams) college authorities are prepared to pour large sums of money. Even academic presses are nowadays expected to break even. Make profits, even.

But where Davidson proposes new ways to subsidize academic publishing, Sutherland argues that subsidies represent a form of vanity publishing (though he is speaking here of one proposal in particular, his comments suggest that he would apply his criticism of subsidies more broadly):

Mr Greenblatt's most radical suggestion is that institutions (universities) 'provide a first-book subvention'. Pay the publisher, that is, to publish what the publisher doesn't want to publish. A bigger flaw in Mr Greenblatt's subvention proposal is that, at the sharp end, the public doesn't want to read the thousands of academic monographs currently being produced by the tenure-needy literary critics of America. Not even academics buy academic books. There was a time, long ago, when I used to scan the latest publishers' catalogues with some eagerness. Now what I feel is faint nausea and a desire to pick up the Guardian. Or Hello magazine.

There is no market demand for what is being produced. And if you publish books for the sole benefit of the author, not the reader, it's called vanity publishing. It does not make for high quality. The uncomfortable fact is that the academic literary critics of America (and the UK) should seriously consider writing books that readers - even readers outside the academic orbit - want to buy or borrow.

For Sutherland, apparently, saving scholarly publishing is, if not a lost cause then a cause worth losing: the only solution, he suggests, lies in placing more emphasis on teaching rather than publications. For Davidson, on the other hand, scholarly publishing must be saved, for the crisis threatens to undermine "the foundation of our profession."


In addition to his comments here, Chun has more to say on this topic at his new blog.


Academics of the world unite! You have nothing to lose but a full-time job and/or tenure your chains.

Brad DeLong declares that "We can move from the realm of necessity to the realm of freedom tomorrow, if we will just open our eyes and abandon our false consciousness." More specifically, in response to Chun's more pessimistic account of "book-fetishization, entrenched prejudices, and administrative neuroses," Brad maintains that "when book-fetishization, entrenched prejudices, and administrative neuroses run up against budgets, they will fall." His proposed solution: "Have every university press 'publish' books that it doesn't believe will sell 2000 copies by putting .pdf files up on their respective webservers." 2000 copies?! That's setting the bar rather high. As I understand it, under this system most humanities books would end up in .PDF format on the web (which is not necessarily a bad thing). What's the average print run for an econ book, anyway?

In any case, I'm sure he's basically right. A solution to the publishing crisis will almost certainly involve finding cheaper ways to publish scholarly work (or, to put it in policy paper speak, the scholarly publishing crisis offers the opportunity to discover creative solutions involving a more expansive definition of published scholarship). But who will make the first move? Or, as Thomas H. Benton puts it in the comments to this entry, who will be the first to disarm?

Posted by Invisible Adjunct at September 25, 2003 01:07 PM

Davidson seems to think that all tenure-track jobs require a book for tenure. This is not the case; and, if it is the case at any university which requires more than a 2/2 load, it is deserving of censure.

I also think it's quite clearly the case that the book-for-tenure requirement should be phased out virtually everywhere in the humanities. That might not solve the problem, but it'd certainly help.

Posted by: Chun the Unavoidable at September 25, 2003 02:23 PM

I'm on the Sutherland side here. How can there really be a crisis in academic publishing when more academic books are published every year and, in my judgement at least, many are not very good?

I believe this is an issue of particular importance for adjuncts and other untenured faculty for the following reason. The "crisis" seems to me to be that graduate students from elite programs, who are hired on their pedigree and connections and don't pay their dues on the visiting circuit, find that their dissertations are unpublishable. Subventions and new, "internal" rather than "external" means of gaining tenure, are attempts to make it even more difficult for adjuncts and other outsiders to distinguish themselves. Who is more likely to receive a subvention--an assistant professor at Princeton or and adjunct at North Texas State?

It's not enough to fend off competition by means of tenure--now even being tenure track is thought to be enough.

Posted by: Lucy S. at September 25, 2003 02:27 PM

"Davidson seems to think that all tenure-track jobs require a book for tenure."

Both Davidson and Sutherland think this, and I believe they are correct. While there may be exceptions, a book for tenure is now the rule.

Posted by: Invisible Adjunct at September 25, 2003 02:42 PM

No, no, no.

In English at least, the vast majority of schools with a 3/3 load or more do not require a book for tenure, for what are I think obvious reasons. There are disturbing trends towards heavy-teaching jobs requiring research institution output, but there are by no means the rule.

Perhaps Davidson, etc. doesn't consider a non-research institution or elite liberal arts position an actual tenure-track job. That's fine, but they should say so.

Posted by: Chun the Unavoidable at September 25, 2003 02:46 PM

One way to lower the cost of book publishing is to move to a print-on-demand approach instead of standard press runs. My poetry press is starting a poetry criticism imprint that will focus on modern amd postmodern poetry (see the website at Print-on-demand is the foundation of our business model for all imprints, because it lowers the initial investment in the book to the point that it is possible to make a profit on relatively low sales.

I think the current models of scholarly publishing are unsustainable. I also think that changes are going to be slow in coming, if at all. There is an unresolvable conflict between the publication/tenure requirements of university departments and the market demand for such publication. Simply put, you must publish or you're gone, but that doesn't mean anyone (libraries included) will buy the book.

Posted by: Kevin Walzer at September 25, 2003 03:00 PM

Um, I'm going along with Chun here. The CSUs (3/3/3 or 4/4) don't require books for tenure, nor do the SUNY colleges (3/3 or 4/4; the Big Four are a different matter). As I understand it, this is also true of the smaller UWiscs and the Penn branches. Similarly, I sat on a assoc/full search committee for two years, and the majority of our candidates came from campuses (regional comprehensives, small liberal arts colleges--some reasonably ritzy--some Christian colleges) with no book requirement. If you take the time to go through the publication histories of faculty at any school with a 4/4 load (which is common) or a 5/5 (not unheard of), very few of them will have written a book--and if they have, it will be often be later in their careers, not for tenure.

However, it's also the case that you have a lot of folks trained at research institutions (*waves*) who wind up at regional campuses and still write books. (This is more or less possible with a 3/3 or a 4/4, provided one has access to a decent library.) About the only advantage we have is that, really, your colleagues are just pleased to see you publishing something, never mind what.

Posted by: Miriam at September 25, 2003 03:06 PM

There's a lot of variation, but I'm teaching 4/4 at a small Christian college, and the expection is at least one book and a few substantial articles for tenure (there are exceptions, but they usually have to do with other significant contributions).

Not too long ago I remember the feeling was one book for an interview of almost any kind. Again, this is not entirely the case, but I didn't get my first on-campus interview till I had several articles and a book under contract.

Paranoid perhaps, but this feeling is part of what's causing the glut. My undergraduates are successfully publishing in order to get into the better grad schools. What choice is there?

Who is going to disarm first?

Posted by: THB at September 25, 2003 03:51 PM


May I ask where your undergraduates are publishing? The "publishing to get into graduate school" thing is straining my credulity a little bit.

I may be confusing you with someone else, but I'd guess that for everyone from Harvard who had to have a book contract to get a 4/4 job, there are ten people who get a 2/2 job with an article, book review, or less. There's no question that this is true historically, and I'd be surprised if it doesn't remain the case now.

At your 4/4 college, the associates all have books?

Posted by: Chun the Unavoidable at September 25, 2003 04:11 PM

In my subfield, if you don't get a job right after finishing the PhD (in which case you are hired on potential) then you probably do need a book contract to get a tenure-track job. Too few jobs + too many candidates = an increase in the requirements. How else to eliminate candidates?

Posted by: Invisible Adjunct at September 25, 2003 04:28 PM


With one exception, all the associates in English have one or more books published or under contract at my present institution (that with a 12-credit load).

Of my extended cohort at Harvard, I estimate somewhat more than half found tenure-track jobs. Most did not get these jobs immediately after completing their degree; they typically spent one or two years as post-docs beefing up their publication records. I'm not sure where you are getting your information about Harvard's placement history. (If your numbers more accurate than mine, and I needed a book to get a 4/4 job while most others needed an article to get a 2/2 job, what can I do but concede my own extreme inferiority relative to my cohort?)

At my present institution, our undergraduate publications are usually in creative writing journals (e.g., Antioch Review, The Beat, Borderlands, Cimarron Review, Crazyhorse, The Feminist Review, Gettysburg Review, Grand Street, and so on), but I also encourage and work with upper-level seminar students to submit their work to 2nd-tier scholarly journals and regional conferences. All of our students who are considering grad school are desperate to get published, and we don't discourage them if their work is good enough--or possibly can be made good enough. It's valuable experience, and they need the competitive edge if they can get it. Don't we all.

Posted by: THB at September 25, 2003 05:03 PM


Your information is almost certainly more up-to-date than mine, which is based upon anecdote and odd observation; but you do have to acknowledge that candidates from Harvard (and about twenty other places) have at least the chance of getting a 2/2 job, whereas all those in the other 100 English PhD-granting programs do not, for the most part.

I don't really know what creative writing pubs are going to do for someone's chances to get in grad school (unless it's an MFA, obviously).

Re "second-tier" journals, I have a post about this at my blog; and I'd certainly like some feedback about what literary/cultural journals people consider n-rate.

Posted by: Chun the Unavoidable at September 25, 2003 05:13 PM


I do indeed concede the CHANCE. I know Harvard students who started their tenure-track jobs at reputable instutions as ABDs. But I wouldn't write off the regional institutions, which can have networks that function in a more concentrated way than the diffuse national networks of more famous institutions. It's hard to be categorical, except for rhetorical effect (something of which I am sometimes guilty).

Our undergrads tend to go for MFAs, ed school, and law school, but this is shifting a little (despite everything I do to discourage them at first). Once they make their decision, we work hard at giving all of our students every possible advantage, including helping them with submissions for publication.

One day most competitive undergraduate programs will expect publications in 2nd-tier journals (**Rhetorical excess alert**)

Posted by: THB at September 25, 2003 05:29 PM

Yes, once again it's the French Foreign Legion out there and we all must mount our steeds and PUBLISH PUBLISH PUBLISH. Rubbish.

As Chun rightly points out, the situation is extremely variable; and as the Chronicle piece and the recent MLA committee statement about publishing and tenure (along with Greenblatt's statement) suggest, market forces if nothing else are beginning to make clear to everyone what many people have long known: hundreds of pointless unread books are churned out every year in the United States for no purpose other than tenuring the author. A rich country can get away with this folly, but no one stays that rich forever.

Likewise, Cathy Davidson can issue as much solemn rhetoric as she likes about the indisputable value of our overdriven scholarly output; she can try, absurdly, to make professors stop using packets in class in place of the articles on steroids that tenure manuscripts and many other scholarly books often turn out to be. A wiser path would be to stop passively acquiescing in the absurdities of the publish or perish regime and publish only what you think is truly valuable, accessible, and of the proper length. That piece of scholarly writing is indeed likely to turn out to be one of the article-length essays that professors are rightly selecting for their class packets.

Posted by: Ania at September 25, 2003 05:55 PM


Though I agree with some of your remarks, those of us without jobs or tenure cannot simply choose to get off the publication train if we wish to achieve those goals.

Posted by: Chun the Unavoidable at September 25, 2003 06:16 PM

I agree with Kevin Walzer and Ania. What Ania said may not be a practical individual strategy, I think that it should be the long-term public goal.

Couldn't we start by dividing all academic publications into categories? I. Things that many people may want to read. II. Things that very few people will want to read, but some of these will be extremely interested (i.e., good, highly-specialized stuff). III. Things that only the author and his/her personal friends and accomplices think is worth bothering about, though people in the field feel they have to know about it. IV. Things that author himself/herself totally hates, wishing that he/she
had not been forced to write it.

Categories III and IV exist only for the benefit of the Personnel Dept. making choices on promotion and retention. These writings, instead of being published, should be awarded parchment credentials denominated as "one tenure unit", "two tenure units", etc. (Or perhaps ribbons to be attached to the PhD diploma.)

Most of the rest should be published print-on-demand except for textbooks and trade books. I'm not sure what Kevin has in mind but a widely-distributed freeware could make it possible for authors to submit electronically in such a way that the editor's job would be easier (regarding stuff like style sheet and formatting). And the print-on-demand format would allow anyone who wants a durable library edition (instead of a looseleaf printout) to get or produce one.

Incidentally, not all subsidized publishing is problematic. I just paid an exorbitant price for Yuri Bregel's Historical Atlas of Central Asia. It's really worth it; something like this only will have a few readers, but it's indespensable to us.

Posted by: Zizka at September 25, 2003 06:40 PM

I have two quite unrelated comments, so I'll do them separately.

1. There seems to be a great deal of disagreement here over tenure requirements. People seem to be arguing from anecdotal experience. Is there a source of actual data out there? The Chronicle does lists of tenurings, I believe. Has anyone looked up the publication records of those people and created statistics?

Posted by: jam at September 25, 2003 06:43 PM

2. Sutherland is wrong. He published Victorian Novelists and Publishers in 1976. It is good work. He went through the business archives of several mid-19th century publishers and analyzed their dealings with authors, showing the changes across the period. It is essential to those working on some aspects of the 19th century novel. It has very little interest for the mythical general reader (who may not know who Bentley or Reade were). Yet it made money for UChicago Press.

In 1976, US university libraries still bought books. A publisher could print 1000 copies (these numbers are illustrative--that means I've made them up, but they're of the right order of magnitude) of a book; price it to recover its production costs if 400 were sold; sell 350 to libraries, 30 to academics in the subfield, 20 to friends of the author; and still have 600 in the warehouse, paid for, to dribble out over the next decade or three. Such backlist sales were gravy.

Today, US university libraries don't buy (many) books. A friend of mine published a book a three or four years ago, also on the 19th century novel. Precisely 47 libraries bought the book. Even if the academics in the subfield and the friends of the author did as they would have done in 1976, that's still less than 100 copies sold on publication. There is no way such a sale can cover production costs, even though they're relatively cheaper than they were a quarter century ago. The publisher lost money.

Academic books have always had a small sale to individuals. I cannot help but quote the first paragraph of Housman's preface to book V of his Manilius (1930):

"The first volume of the edition of Manilius now completed was published in 1903, the second in 1912, the third in 1916, and the fourth in 1920. All were produced at my own expense and offered to the public at much less than cost price; but this unscrupulous artifice did not overcome the natural disrelish of mankind for the combination of a tedious author with an odious editor. Of each volume there were printed 400 copies: only the first is yet sold out, and that took 23 years; and the reason why it took no longer is that it found purchasers among the unlearned, who had heard that it contained a scurrilous preface and hoped to extract from it a low enjoyment."

Vaniity publishing, my ass.

Posted by: jam at September 25, 2003 07:21 PM

And what about the Germans (at least - and perhaps other European systems as well?) who more or less require publication of the thesis for the Ph.D.?

They have always had series whose only purpose was to publish dissertations (shudder), which is part of why there is so MUCH to read in German (shudder) on any field in which people count literacy in foreign languages as a requirement.

Posted by: Michael Tinkler at September 25, 2003 11:09 PM

Yes, "vanity publishing" is a bit much, and gratuitously insulting. And as Zizka suggests (with the example of the Historical Atlas of Central Asia), there are extremely valuable works that will never be market successes. It would be a very real loss to see an end to that kind of publishing (esp. since we can no longer rely on the monks to preserve the mss).

At the same time, I agree with Sutherland and (in this thread) THB that publication requirements are intensifying to the point of absurdity. Or at least, the requirements for publication as defined in terms of the monograph and the peer-reviewed article. In my ideal world (and, uh, don't look to its realization any time soon), there might actually be more publication of another sort: fewer but better monographs and journal articles, but more informal (eg, web-based content to content) publishing.

Posted by: Invisible Adjunct at September 25, 2003 11:22 PM

I am boggled though not really surprised at the way that this discussion is being driven entirely by a.) requirements for tenure and b.) budget problems. The question of "How do we get writings out to people who want to read them" seems non-present. But that's the wonderful thing about internet publication.

Posted by: Zizka at September 26, 2003 12:16 AM

But Zizka, this really is about tenure and money.

In a larger sense, Sutherland is right. What's happening here, what has happened over the last few decades, is an example of a well-known phenomenon: when you manage to a metric, the people you are managing find ways to decouple the metric from the reality you're really trying to manage. The metric takes on a life of its own. Everyone does better (on the metric, not necessarily in reality) so the criteria for success become stricter. At some point the metric becomes meaningless.

We will have reached that point if "scholarly publishing" becomes more a metric for academic success than it is a means of disseminating knowledge.

I take it Sutherland believes we have reached that point.

Posted by: jam at September 26, 2003 09:23 AM

What I have in mind for my press is a traditional book, but printed on-demand using digital technology (Xerox Docutechs--essentially very high-speed laser printers--as opposed to offset printing). This allows books to be printed, bound, and shipped one at a time, and the quality now equals offset printing. Many university presses use this method for slow-moving backlist titles; it's a cost-effective way to keep such books in print. However, there's no reason that this appraoch can't also be used for first-run books. The setup cost is only a few hundred dollars, and one must sell only a handful of hardback books at standard academic market prices to break even.

This solves the "print" problem. What solves the "demand" problem? We haven't quite figured that out yet. We use contests to subsidize the publication of our poetry books, and then market them through a combination of a) direct mail to libraries, b) e-mail to interested parties, c) the author's own efforts to set up signings and readings (this is the best method by far for moving books). I don't think the contest method is transplanatable from poetry to scholarly publishing.

On the other hand, the Edwin Mellen Press (which published one of my books and has moved more than 100 of them to various university libraries) seems pretty good at placing books with libraries, and they use a modified version of print on demand. Mellen has a lousy reputation among academics because they are incorrectly perceived as a vanity press (I paid nothing to have my book done with them, but it is likely that they are not particularly selective in what they accept). What's relevant here is that they have built a substantial business in selling scholarly books. I have taken some idesa from their approach to my own press. Is there anything that other university presses can learn from them?

Posted by: Kevin Walzer at September 26, 2003 10:06 AM

Well, nobody seemed interested in my comments yesterday but nevertheless I'll try again. There are many good candidates and few good jobs. This site is dedicated to those who don't have the good jobs, sometimes because their grad school was second tier, or they don't have the connections that others have, or simple bad luck. If third-party evaluations like book contracts are downplayed in tenure decisions, outsiders will lose one more way to distinguish themselves and the boundaries between insider and outsider will become even more impermeable. Let's have less crying for tenure candidates in good jobs and more for those who would do anything to be in that position.

Posted by: Lucy S. at September 26, 2003 10:24 AM

Kevin -- I have bought many books from a company called Elibron which uses that tech. They offer the option of e-books for ~$10 and bound books for ~$20. The printed books are nicely done and look old-fashioned since they're mostly reprints of public domain. They seem to specialize in obscure old travel books and historical studies. As an example, I got Chavannes 1900 book on the old Turks for $20, which had previously been available rae at #300--$600, or by ILL in a very few places.

To me it would be possible to separate the electronic production and the printing. The publisher would put it on the net for a fee, and the receiver would print it at the local Kinko's POD site. And authors could be encouraged to write into the publisher's template, thus reducing that part of the editorial burder. BTW. Check it out.

P.S. To sharpen my original point -- if a lot of books are being published which no one wants to read, they shouldn't be.

Incidentally, in Taiwan 1983 I was told that pirate publishers could make a profit, using old technology, on runs of 200 @ $10 retail. English-language publishers in India also publish obscure, low-demand books quite cheaply.

Posted by: Zizka at September 26, 2003 11:32 AM

Yes, in theory you could use POD from the beginning. But besides the setup and printing costs, you also still have to account for the copyeditor's time, the designer's time, and possibly the costs of getting the manuscript vetted by one or two outside readers, plus other overhead costs. The 100 books in that short run are going to be pretty pricey. (POD makes more sense for reprints; the original print run of the book covered the initial overhead costs, so you don't have to allow for them in the reprint. Still gotta pay your customer service rep's salary, though.)

Jam's in the right ballpark on sales figures; the way I've heard it, in the Good Old Days, you could count on selling 700 to 2000 copies of a monograph to libraries. These days, if you sell 250 to libraries, you're doing really well.

IA, Brad DeLong's 2000 figure definitely sounds high to me; I'd toss out 750 as a more reasonable number. But it probably varies by press.

Coursepacks -- well, yes, they mean that a book isn't sold, but if the copy shop is getting the permissions as they're supposed to, then the university press (and usually the author) is still making a little money off the thing; less than they'd make from the book sale, but they aren't paying for returns either. And besides, the coursepack might be using an excerpt from an out-of-print book, which means that the press is making money on an OP title -- not a bad deal.

As for that PDF or other electronic file, it's still going to cost staff time to create the things and university server space and bandwidth to make it available; if we're assuming that it's available for free, then we still need that big university subsidy to pay the folks putting it up. I do think that ultimately, various forms of e-publishing are part of the solution, but my suspicion is that it'll work better in the form that Zizka described in the comments to Brad DeLong's post -- scholars post their research themselves; scholarly organizations read and rate the articles, and post links to the articles that pass their criteria.

--slc, not officially speaking for the university press I work for

Posted by: Castiron at September 26, 2003 11:37 AM

Lucy--it seems to me, unfortunately, that even book contracts don't count for much. The window of opportunity is extremely narrow and the luck factor so great (even for the Ivies) that even if you publish a book with Oxford or Harvard, you'll never make the jump to the tenure track unless you're in the right place at the right time.

The book I published before my Mellen title was with Story Line Press, an independent literary press that publishes both poetry and criticism; the book was the first major study in its subfield (New Formalist poetry) and won an award from Choice magazine. I had the contract for this book before I defended my dissertation. A third book, a critical anthology of essays on the poet John Haines (also published by Story Line) was under contract before I took my orals and appeared right after I got my degree in 1996.

This publication record surpassed most of the full professors at my department--two books out by my 30th birthday, the second of which won a major professional honor. I'm fairly certain it would have gotten me tenure at most places. But it didn't get me a single tenure-track offer. I had about a dozen interviews over a two-year period, and a single campus visit. I turned down two campus visits for one-year positions because I didn't want to uproot my wife for such meager offerings.

Perhaps that last decision is what sealed my fate. I didn't "pay my dues" on the visiting circuit, as you put it. But as my wife frequently said, what if I didn't get another job or renewal and we ended up stuck and unemployed in Holly Springs, Mississippi or Elizabeth City, North Carolina?

Bottom line, there's no rhyme or reason to how the employment process works. I had plenty of "third-party validation." In fact, the recommendations I got from senior scholars and poets in my field from *outside* my department--including the current chairman of the National Endowment for the Arts--were mostly far better than what I got from my dissertation committee. I spent *lots* of time building a reputation for myself in my larger field. And the best it yielded me was an invitation to teach for $24,000 per year in rural northern Misssissipi.

Forgive the cynicism, but I hope you aren't thinking that you can simply publish your way into a tenure-track job. At the very least, it didn't work for me. And mind you, I'm making no assumptions here about your qualifications; I'm sure, like most folks in this boat, that your qualifications are very high. Still, I wish you all the luck in the world, because in the end that's the only thing that will help you--or anyone.

Posted by: Kevin Walzer at September 26, 2003 12:29 PM

After what Kevin just said, I feel a cad even to utter a word — but a colleague and I are administering a grant one of whose purposes is to crack open, at least a bit, an opportunity for serious, peer-reviewed publishing in the field of theology/religious studies (The Disseminary, at ). We license the prerogative to distribute copies digitally, and to sell print copies from a P-O-D publisher (with a small royalty to the author, over and above the grant-funded honorarium). Since one theme of this thread seems to be that the criteria for hiring and tenure vary widely from position to position, field to field, we're hoping that this medium will enable some scholars in theology to get attention (an aspect of publishing that no one’s mentioned yet, I think) and credit toward tenure, apart from the follies of conventional print publishing.

We don't know what will happen next, but that’s part of the excitement.

Posted by: AKMA at September 26, 2003 02:46 PM

Regarding Kevin's bad experience: One of the many reasons I have for not regretting my decision not to get a PhD is the fate of one of the best guys in my field of interest (Central Asian / Mongol studies) after producing an ambitious dissertation based on research in about eight languages, he spent five years (around 1980) trying to get a job. He finally switched to high tech. (It's true that this field of interest is specialized, but it's relevant to all parts of medieval Eurasian history because of the Mongol Empire). I've met the guy and he's a good speaker and has wide interests. A place really should have been found for him.

Posted by: Zizka at September 26, 2003 06:32 PM

"Davidson seems to think that all tenure-track jobs require a book for tenure." Both Davidson and Sutherland think this, and I believe they are correct. While there may be exceptions, a book for tenure is now the rule."

Bug or Feature? To IA and Kevin this a problem. To academic administrators, who regard tenure the same way y'all regard the President, this is great. One stone two birds. Less money for the press to print unreadable glub, fewer tenured profs to clog up future budgets, more money for me.

Have Lemons? Make Lemonade. "(Central Asian / Mongol studies) after producing an ambitious dissertation" Hey, Translate that pup into english, trim up the footnotes and he could publish the thing commercially. The same goes for the rest of you.

You may not care for Naill Ferguson, looks too much like Hugh Grant, conservative, writes popular books . . . But, he is making money and having a good time. His career should be an exemplar for you.

If you write a book, in standard english, without a heavy academic agenda, and keep the footnotes under control, it may be commercially publishable. You could actually make money.

You may not get tenure, but that won't be the reason why. You were not going to get tenure anyway. Its not personal, its just the way it is.

Posted by: Robert Schwartz at September 30, 2003 12:32 PM