Humanities E-Book (HEB) is constantly evaluating backlist titles and new publishers in coordination with the participating learned societies of the ACLS that improve the HEB collection for humanities scholars and students all over the globe. HEB is proud to announce that The Ohio State University Press is joining our list of over 100 partner publishers in 2017, and we look forward to working with the press for future additions.
Since 1957, The Ohio State University Press has been a premier publisher in the humanities and social sciences, with specializations in literary and cultural studies. Mr. Tony Sanfilippo has been director of the press since December 2014 and was kind enough to answer some of HEB’s questions over email.
In your opinion, what is the greatest challenge facing humanities monographs, specifically e-books?
The starving of library budgets is the single greatest challenge that university presses are facing today. As to e-books specifically, I think some of the DRM free models and unlimited user models are also hurting the ability of presses to remain sustainable. I worry that it’s creating this spiral where the loss of revenue caused by both of those factors is causing price increases and those price increases further cut into sales in the library and all other monograph markets.
Why did Ohio State UP agree to partner with Humanities E-Book? There is rarely a single factor driving business decisions in academic publishing, but if you could pick just one, what is it?
Like our participation with the Project MUSE and JSTOR platforms, we see the Humanities E-Book project as one of the platforms that we have an obligation to work with, primarily because of its mission, but how deeply we participate in these mission-based projects is coming into conflict with decreasing revenues and our need to remain sustainable. In this case, the books requested were farther along in their lifecycle so including them on this platform seemed to have little risk of cannibalizing other revenue streams.
The 5 Ohio State UP titles that will be on the HEB platform August 1 range from rhetoric to gender studies, and Ohio State UP has historically had a focus in literary and cultural studies, but what new or underserved area/sub-discipline do you see as becoming more relevant in the future of humanities publishing?
I suspect that due to the current political environment, gender and sexuality studies, race and ethnic studies, and immigration studies will grow in relevance. That is certainly what we’re seeing in the form of both submissions and sales.
Open access is on the forefront many academic and university publisher agendas and I noticed Ohio State has quite a few open access titles, can you speak more to what make an Ohio State UP title suited for the press’s open access initiative?
Almost all of our monographs become Open Access through the University Library’s Institution Repository, Knowledge Bank five years after publication. We hold back our trade and regional books and anything that we think might have adoption potential, but the presses commitment to access is one of the oldest and most liberal among university presses.
With budget disputes on Capital Hill related to the NEA & NEH, the social, political, & cultural debates on the role (and often efficacy) of American higher education, and decreased enrollment in humanities programs, what role do UP’s have in promoting scholarship in the humanities and social science?
I think that people forget that university presses do more than just publish scholarship, and one of the ways that I think we support the mission and message of the university is through some of our trade publishing. Regional publishing helps to demonstrate to the citizens of the state the practical value the university brings to efforts to preserve the history and culture of the states we serve, and our internship programs produce students trained for the workforce in ways they’d never get in a classroom.
I’m not sure we have a role to play in improving enrollment in humanities programs at the university but if we can make those programs more attractive to potential students by working with our campus partners to increase the visibility of their departments by mirroring their strengths in our program, and by training their students for careers in publishing, then we can better serve the larger institution and the humanities in a more direct way than our monograph program alone can do.