The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation supported 13 monograph-focused grants in 2014-15, and John Maxwell, Alessandra Bordini, and Katie Shamash were tasked with reporting on each of these initiatives. “Reassembling Scholarly Communications: An Evaluation of the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation’s Monograph Initiative” is the report that summarizes their findings after studying each funded project and discussing it with project leads. Of note, the authors organize the projects into 4 unique categories: 1) Studies of monograph publishing processes and economics; 2) Projects that enhance monograph publishing at university presses; 3) Projects that develop digital publication capacity for faculty; and 4) Projects that develop digital capacity at university presses. This sorting is significant: rather than lumping initiatives into broad categories (e.g., studies vs. projects), or sorting by progenitor (e.g., library vs. researcher vs. university press), this much more nuanced categorization reflects on the perceived objectives of each initiative.
Although the raison d’etre of the report is to present synopses of each funded project, and to organize them within a network of meaning, Maxwell, Bordini, and Shamash also take time to ruminate on the monograph themselves. They present monograph publication as a multipurpose endeavour: it simultaneously incorporates institutional knowledge production, accreditation / status endowment for authors, and small-scale industrial activity. The authors also consider the impact of the increasing pressure toward open access publication of research output, and suggest that despite moral and ethical imperatives, the transition to an open access model will be more difficult for monograph publishing than, say, journal publishing, because books are “harder work” (n.p.) — they are more costly, more time-intensive, and less flexible to produce. On the monograph’s relation to larger sociotechnological shifts, the authors write, “The larger opportunities presented by networked digital media have so far made little impact on the authorship or production of monographs, nor the speed of their route to publication, nor their reception and use by audiences” (n.p.) The Mellon-funded projects all seek to change that, in their own way.
Maxwell, John, Alessandra Bordini, and Katie Shamash. 2017. “Reassembling Scholarly Communications: An Evaluation of the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation’s Monograph Initiative.” Journal of Electronic Publishing 20 (1): n.p. http://quod.lib.umich.edu/j/jep/3336451.0020.101/–reassembling-scholarly-communications-an-evaluation?rgn=main;view=fulltext