Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Mellon Foundation Assesses E-Book Projects

According to an item in the Aug. 8, 2008 issue of The Chronicle of Higher Education, the section on scholarly communication in the just-published 2007 report of the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation states: "The transition to e-books has not been as smooth and as rapid as Mellon (and many others) thought it would be." In an effort to give a much needed boost to university presses but without any requirements that the presses produce books in digital format, the Mellon Foundation has awarded sizable grants to the presses for publishing books in one of two categories: the first a new series called the American Literature Initiative and the second a series on the civil rights movement. The absence of any expectation that the books be produced digitally was explained by two of the Mellon report authors Donald J. Waters and Joseph S. Meisel:
"Both projects [Gutenberg-e monographs and The Humanities E-Book project] have been extremely valuable in demonstrating the capabilities and requirements for publishing monographs authored specifically for electronic media," Mr. Waters and Mr. Meisel write. "But neither of them succeeded in establishing the core hypothesis that such books would be cheaper to produce and distribute than those designed for print media."
All of which suggests we'll have to wait and see what the future role for e-books will be in the complex world of scholarly communication.

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