We begin this report with an examination of the policy context within which academics write, produce and read academic books, and the effect these have upon research and teaching. We then move to a detailed analysis of what we actually mean by an academic book, and describe many of the forms and formats of long-form publications that might be included under this rubric. Next we consider the enduring value of books in the academy, how they are used and appreciated at all levels in research and teaching, but also the constraints upon them.
One of our key aims in this project was to engage as broad a community as possible in our deliberations, drawn from the academy, publishers, libraries, and booksellers. The next section outlines our community-building work, and is followed by a summary of the activities we engaged in. This is dealt with in much more detail in Jubb (2017).
One strategy that we proposed to the funders was that we should not assign all our funding before the project began, but that we should be free to commission activities and pieces of research as we uncovered promising areas of investigation. This has allowed us to be agile in our approach, and some important and substantial reports have been produced for the Project by both our team and our collaborators. We commissioned major reports on research outputs especially books, submitted to the REF2014; the role of the editor from publisher perspectives; academic book discovery, evaluation and access; the Academic Book in North America; peer review; altmetrics and the humanities; and technical issues in academic book production, presentation, and use.
The next section looks to the future: with so many new ideas and new technologies for the book, what might the academic book become? This section examines in detail some of the new developments for books in the UK and USA in particular: there are many new experimental partnerships between academics, libraries, and publishers to push the concept of the book beyond its covers. At the same time, there is a continuing (indeed resurging) preference for print for sustained reading and reflection.
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