My latest story for the Chronicle looks at lessons learned from Gutenberg-e, the high-profile digital-history monograph series created by Columbia University Press and the Columbia Libraries in collaboration with the American Historical Association. It has quietly added an open-access option. It has also switched its subscription model from in-house to the Humanities E-Book project run by the American Council of Learned Societies.
The bottom line? Well–surprise–digital publishing isn’t necessarily cheaper than the old-fashioned kind. What you save in printing and binding and warehousing, at least with a project as sophisticated as Gutenberg-e, you may lose in extra labor-and-tech costs. “We discovered that online is not cheaper,” one person close to the project told me.
And open access? Many welcome it, for obvious reasons. But publishers struggle with the worry that–to borrow a phrase I heard recently–it will make them “audience rich and cash poor.”
Cathy Davidson wrestles with all these questions over at her HASTAC blog Cat in the Stack. You can read the AHA’s take on the evolving Gutenberg-e experiment here, and a research librarian’s reaction here.