05 November 2006

Gutenberg-e

The reading for this week came close to considering many of the issues discussed thus far in the course. According to Patrick Manning, the publishing of electronic books "poses the question of whether graduate education should prepare new historians to focus on field-specific monographic research or on a wider range of professional responsibilities." The beat of this drum is familiar and in step with David Pace and our past discussion concerning the bridge between professional research and mediocre teaching practices. Pace postulates a solid argument on refining the skills of historians to teach, which is to be more emblematic of research with significant consequences that many historians are reluctant to embrace. Manning is yet another who advocates that historians should think outside the box of specialized training, research, and interpretation. His article discusses the review of eleven scholarly works in four distinct fields of history. It is a good example of "thinking outside the box" by considering questions on interpreting modern history as a whole.

The purpose of Gutenberg-e-books was to save the historical monograph, allow endangered historical fields to flourish, develop a business model for an electronic successor to the older university-press monograph, and for another broad campaign of developing electronic publication in the social sciences. At present, the high cost of producing new monographs electronically remains a slow and laborious process. I was not at all surprised to read about the chilling results of the project and that a reluctance to fund the continuation of the endeavor may spell its demise. Very few libraries have invested in a rudimentary purpose of the program- to publish works for which there is no interest. Indeed, enrollment in GMU's Clio Wired class may be in order. Our discussion last week struck at the heart of these issues in the face of budgetary restrictions: scan and publish the important stuff and deal with the less important later!

In closing, I think the excursion by historians into the realm of history on the Internet will continue at an unprecedented rate. However, as Manning pointed out, websites have yet to be seen as more than a supplement to the book.