JSTOR has conducted a study on needs, challenges and missions of University presses in a digital age and has published its report. The study is based on interviews of several institutions involved in university publishing, coming however mainly from the US.
The authors of the study believe that University presses could play a more substantial role in the new publishing schemes than in the traditional ones. According to them Universities’ missions, as non-profit organizations, should also involve publishing scholarly results, besides producing them and transmitting them through eduction. They also emphasize that the new means promote sharing of information and results among scholars and create further discussion for specialists, which could again be of great interest for Universities. Another important aspect of these activities is a closer link to librarians and their needs for storage and creating new repositories for the electronic publications. And finally the authors believe that these changes could be a great opportunity for smaller institutions to be more attractive.
The study shows also that one should not create a too clear-cut distinction between printed books and new electronic publications. The documented change does not mean the end of the book, which still -and always may have- some advantages over electronic publications. It is therefore not the scholarly monographs, which will be the main target of electronic publications. There are other forms of scholarly writings, which are more suitable for electronic publications and the authors of the article mention for instance electronic journals as a good starting point (maybe relying on their own point of view). They also draw attention to the fact that there is also a wide range of methods to give access to these electronic publications, reaching from suscription-based publications to open access documents, each of these methods having advantages and inconvenients for scholars, readers and publishers.
One striking though could however be added:
– according to the graphs following the article, the part taken by publications from the fields of Humanities (books or journals) is amazingly high in the institutions selected for the study.
Scholarly research based in Humanities could then take an important part in shaping the development of the new medias for their own needs. But often, as their own domains of research do involve less technological aspects, the fields of Humanities are the most reluctant to move to electronic publications. There are no doubts good reasons for this situation. For the Humanities, the book has always be central, as source for information, object of study and goal to achieve. And the question remains of how much value a printed book may always have as objet of study and evidence of scholarly activity in the field of Humanities. There lays then another important challenge for electronic publications.