HEFCE report on Monographs and open access is out now…

The perception that academic books are not being read, or even read in depth, does not appear to be sustained by the evidence.”

A quick search and read-through of the main report shows no use of the words “index” or “indexing”, in the context of discovery. There are only fleeting and cursory mentions of “discovery”. Discovery for download-and-reading barely merits a full paragraph…

There appears to be disagreement about whether providing open access to a book without active measures to disseminate it is sufficient. … the rise of aggregation and distribution services for open-access books, as well as increasing sophistication in search engine technology and an ever-greater reliance among academics and others on the Web as a discovery tool, might help smaller operations to challenge the larger publishers … For policymakers this is a critical area of concern: a key benefit of open access is surely increased dissemination; if particular models are likely to fail in this regard, then the benefit could be lost.”

It would have been interesting to know if the current standard monograph practice requires that the author must submit a publicity and marketing plan along with their open monograph. That practice isn’t mentioned, so I wonder how often it happens in the UK. It seems a pity to overlook active paid-for marketing, of the sort that proper publishers take for granted. Especially when there might be an opportunity now to embed this widely for even the most diffident or overworked authors, potentially enhancing everything from the scholar’s career and the university’s standing through to the UK’s wider projection of ‘soft power’. So the report might have suggested (at least) a new flowchart / guide for planning some basic academic book marketing, and a requirement that it be completed and submitted along with the monograph. Something that would take just six hours to enact, by someone other than the author (one has to factor in how utterly sick of a book an author can be by the time it’s completed, and how they just want to see the back of it). Asking for specifics such as a list of Facebook groups and listservs etc; contacts for likely book reviewers; magazine and newsletter contacts for tailored press releases; ‘local author writes book’ local newspaper contacts (since their stories, naff though they may be in tone, show up in Google News); niche radio and podcast interview possibilities, and so on. Such a one-day publication-day campaign might then most usefully be handed off to a freelance marketeer on oDesk for $350 or so, rather than be dumped on someone who either lacks the skills or doesn’t have the time.

Note that there’s also an “Annex 3: Patterns of scholarly communication in the humanities and social sciences” for the report…

Humanities and social science researchers also seem to make significant use of relatively old content, compared to other disciplines. Tenopir et al (2012) find that around half of the ‘last articles read’ in the critical incident component of their survey were more than 6.5 years old; a quarter were more than 15 years old.”

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