“If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” It’s not a proverb that applies to much of publishing in 2013, particularly scholarly publishing.
Advances in technology; demands for greater information access; and challenges to academic hierarchy have combined to put authors, editors, and publishers – and even readers – on notice that the system needs repair, renewal, and rethinking. Kathleen Fitzpatrick, author of Planned Obsolescence: Publishing, Technology, and the Future of the Academy, says what’s broken is the culture and the community of publishing.
“Honestly, what I believe is obsolete – if anything – is our way of thinking about scholarly publishing,” Fitzpatrick tells CCC’s Chris Kenneally. “My argument is not that the book itself is an obsolete form, or that we need to be moving everything wholesale over into the digital. Instead, what I really try to think about is how obsolescence functions as a form of cultural discourse around way that we understand new technologies and their relationships to old ones.”
Planned Obsolescence: Publishing, Technology, and the Future of the Academy, was published by NYU Press in November 2011, and chosen for Choice’s Outstanding Academic Title list for 2013. Kathleen Fitzpatrick is Director of Scholarly Communication at the Modern Language Association, and is on leave from a position as Professor of Media Studies at Pomona College, in Claremont, California. She is also the author of The Anxiety of Obsolescence: The American Novel in the Age of Television, published in 2006 by Vanderbilt University Press, and she is co-founder of the digital scholarly network MediaCommons.