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Publications (Outgoing VP)—January 2012

The Division of Publications closes 2011 and the term of the incumbent Vice President with mixed news.

1.  The search for an editor for the monographs series has stalled.  We have pursued this for two years with no results.  Discussion in the committee at the January 2012 meeting will pursue next steps.  My own view is that the difficulty reflects some important ambivalence about the mission of APA monographs in the first instance and about the fate and future of scholarly publishing in the second.  Just at the moment, books by classicists are published in abundance and there are very, very few inquiries or submissions to us (one manuscript in the last twelve months, no inquiries).  But the digital landscape shifts its bits and bytes under our feet and the sense, embodied in an important report Don Mastronarde did for us a couple of years ago, that a “digital monograph” series lies in the future is strong.  Concrete attempts, however, some led by Don, some by Textbooks Editor Sander Goldberg, to give shape to such an initiative have run aground on the absence of robust partners.  At least twice, we have thought we had some interesting prospects, only to see financial difficulties on the other side wipe them out.  Meanwhile, we await the next iteration of Oxford Scholarship Online from OUP, which remains our partner for the books we have in the pipeline.

2.  The appointment of the APA’s first Information Architect, Professor Sam Huskey of Oklahoma University, has been a great success, with a refreshed website, more use of networked communications channels (e.g. Facebook and Twitter), and a much better procedure for posting information from multiple sources in the Association, no longer depending on a single “web editor” to handle every file that goes up.  Much more remains to be done and I remain concerned here as with our other endeavors that our dependency on volunteer labor by senior scholars is an insecure model for future progress.

3.  Two questions of importance remain open. 

First, the question of "the portal" – that is, what we imagine doing to fulfill the mission, created in a very different technological environment, set for us by the campaign; and, second, the question of "publishing the APA" – that is, taking up the challenges Sam outlines and defining and supporting a function that will gather, organize, and disseminate information from and through the APA that attracts and promotes the attention of teachers and students.  Resources for either task will not be found merely by hoping for a series of volunteers like Linda Wright, Robin Mitchell-Boyask, and Sam Huskey, whose service we should remember to honor again at this juncture. 

These issues seem to me to lead directly to the long-term planning exercise that the Finance Committee has wisely proposed.  We are no longer at a point where a small committee can think about how we should publish our monographs, make a recommendation, and go on.  These are issues central to the organization's and, in many ways, the profession's future, in a time when many of our stable assumptions seem not so stable any more.

James J. O’Donnell
Vice President for Publications, 2008-2012

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