Germanists Discussion Group Minutes – 2011 Midwinter

ALA Midwinter Meeting, San Diego

Sunday, January 9, 2011
4:00 – 5:30pm
Hilton Bayfront, Sapphire M-Room


  • Sebastian Hierl, Harvard University


  • Judy Alspash, CRL
  • Sheila Smith, University of California, Irvine
  • Tim Shipe, University of Iowa
  • Gordon Anderson, University of Minnesota
  • Dick Hacken, Brigham Young University
  • Jim Niessen, Rutgers University
  • Karen Holt, University of Texas, Austin
  • Thea Lindquist, Colorado
  • Heidi Madden, ,Duke University
  • Lidia Uziel, Yale University
  • Marcus Richter, Alma College
  • Jon Marner, Texas A&M University
  • Gaile Hueting, University of Illinois, Urbana Champagne
  • Louis Reith, Georgetown University
  • Brian Vetruba, Washington University in St. Louis


I. Introductions

  • Presentations.
  • Approval of the last minutes.
  • Announcement: Lidia Uziel, Yale, will be chairing the Germanists Discussion Group meetings in 2012.


  • Introduction of the Speakers
    • David Pan, Associate Professor of German and Director, Humanities Core Course, at the University of California, Irvine and Editor at Telos Press.
    • Kizer Walker, Director of Collection Development for Cornell University Library and the Librarian for German Studies, Classics, Archaeology, and Ancient Near Eastern Studies, and managing editor of Signale: Modern German Letters, Cultures, and Thought.
    • Sven Fund, CEO, De Gruyter (replacing Katrin Siems, Vice President of Marketing & Sales, De Gruyter).
  • Presentations
    • In the first presentation, David Pan reviewed current landscape and pressures upon publishers in German Studies and examined the challenges and opportunities provided, in particular, by Open Access (OA). He examined changes in university library policies and their consequences for university presses and independent publishers and considered future directions in publishing and the challenges faced by an independent journal such as Telos.
    • Following Pan, the number of journals in German Studies is limited and can be divided in three major categories.
      • The first category are journals published by professional societies with the support of membership fees (members’ dues are supporting the journal, rather than an institution or publisher) with strong peer review, well organized production processes and offering sustainability for the long term.
      • The second category of journals is supported by universities, via university presses.
      • The third category mentioned are independent scholarly journals that are supported entirely through their subscription revenue, such as Telos. These are struggling for subsistence as libraries have reduced their serials subscriptions.
    • In this perspective, David Pan presented Telos as a unique publication, in the sense that it is an independent, subscription-based journal without institutional affiliation, but with a strong academic reputation and that publishes high quality research in particular subjects (literary theory, philosophy, French literary criticism, etc.,), but without the systematized peer review process of traditional academic journals in German studies.
    • Following Pan, publishing in German studies is in crisis, as the larger field of German studies is in crisis, with interest in the field waning. David Pan doesn’t yet see a profound impact of OA or of new online communication mediums on publishing in German studies. Print will probably not go away in the immediate future, though the number of OA publications is likely to increase. Although OA brings greater capacity to process publications and facilitate the submission of research with a high level of quality, new OA journals are still struggling to find their place in the market. In particular, the problem of the financial viability of OA has not yet been successfully resolved and OA journals are dependent upon institutions or foundations to cover ongoing costs (maintenance of the Web platform; formatting; edition; etc). However, the current Web developments bring other interesting opportunities for the publishing industry with new forms of discourse that are emerging in the current landscape, such as blogs, twitter feeds, interactive platforms to exchange information, etc. Telos explored and experimented with these opportunities in order to discover if there is any advantage in adding them to Telos’ publication platform. These new interactive forms of discourse can be very interesting, but they are not a “money making deal.” In addition, it is very difficult to maintain the high quality level of content and several constrains appear such as: content, space, size, vitality of academic field, etc.
    • In the future, David Pan sees several challenges for Telos in order to maintain its journal:
      • Manage its collections and content effectively.
      • Manage subscriptions (libraries are increasingly consolidating their subscriptions into single consortial subscriptions).
      • Manage format files.
      • Manage fixed costs.
      • Arrive at a new model of collaboration between publishers, the university system and the library to solve the financial problems and control of overall spending.
    • In the second presentation, Kizer Walker discussed the experience of the joint Library/University Press OA endeavor, Signale, at Cornell, with implications for the financial viability of OA from an institutional/non-profit point of view.
      • Signale: Modern German letters, cultures and thought offers a new publishing model for English-language book manuscripts in German literature, criticism, and cultural studies; translations of important German-language works; as well as selected conference proceedings (with topic ranging from the early modern period until present). Signale books are published under a joint imprint of Cornell University Press and Cornell University Library in electronic and print formats. Faced with dropping library subscriptions and reduced institutional support, university presses are searching for innovative models that will permit to reduce costs, while maintaining their rigorous peer review process and fulfilling their mission of distributing new scholarship. Manuscript submissions to Signale undergo the same rigorous editorial and peer review as Cornell University Press monographs published in the traditional manner. Signale is supported by a three-year grant from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation. Beyond the reduction of costs, the essential goal of the project is to address the current crisis in humanities publishing related to the tenure promotion system (which defines the monograph as the gold standard for tenure) and the production of scholarship. As outlets for scholarship in German studies have dwindled, Signale provides authors writing on German topics with a fresh distribution channel through a new publishing venture at Cornell University that aspires to provide a more stable and sustainable forum for their work.
      • Signale is publishing books electronically with a print-on-demand option. The print-on-demand edition is a trade-quality bound paperback, virtually indistinguishable from conventionally produced trade books. When possible, access to the electronic version is free and open. Sometimes issues are not allowed to be published in their entirety in OA and only a specific percentage of a book is made freely accessible online. An important question was therefore raised about whether the OA online content will drive sales of the printed books up or down. The Cornell University Press is already shifting toward the online distribution and sale of PDF formats that are not printable. The offer is accompanied by a free sample of the text provided by the publisher for the reader to evaluate its quality.
      • One of the very important aspects of Signale is a rigorous editorial and peer-review process as is characteristic of traditional university press-published books, with the expertise of an interdisciplinary board of distinguished Cornell faculty and an advisory board of top scholars in German Studies from North American universities. This effort toward excellence and quality of publications aims to respond to the question of the crisis in publishing, and to MLA principles, defined in 2006 (cf. MLA task for evaluation scholarship for tenure and promotion). In addition, the Mellon grant provides funding for the documentation of the endeavor. At the end of the grant project, the Library/Cornell UP will have a precise record of the cost of this model of publishing and will be able to evaluate its efficiency based upon major characteristics, such as: the focus on key subjects related to the academic strength of the institution; intensive involvement of local scholars in the publishing process; division of labor among the library, University Press, and the faculty; attention to sustainability that guaranties the survival of this publishing model; the involvement of the library being at the center of the whole publishing model and bringing to it the crucial digital component: user-friendliness and flexibility of the format, increased visibility and access, long term preservation, etc.
    • In the third presentation, Sven Fund provided the observations of a commercial publisher on the development of OA in the STM area and the conclusions that may be drawn for the Humanities, with concrete examples of how De Gruyter is tailoring its strategy to Open Access challenges and opportunities.
      • Currently, many commercial publishers offer OA models in addition to a traditional model of academic publishing. By offering a hybrid business model, OA publishers can be highly profitable. In various disciplines, leading journals depend on a subscription model that provides readers (and academic libraries) with the high level publications, range of services, and quality of archiving and preservation that they demand. The OA publishing model is struggling to address and fully satisfy these requirements. Migration scenarios from a subscription model to an OA-only model are still unclear and involve a high risk for publishers. In addition, there currently isn’t a model for publishing books in OA or, at least, these are still in an exploratory phase. Nevertheless, OA is very attractive for authors since it offers a high degree of transparency for most copyright issues. Publishers recognize this fact and have come a long way in providing OA options and have been constantly moving the discussion about current and new models of scholarly communication forward (even though in the Humanities, 70% of authors are still resistant to open access solutions).
      • De Gruyter recognizes that existing publishing models (hybrid models) are not optimal but that they have their advantages. They allow a gradual shift of budgets from the subscription model to alternatives models; bring bigger opportunities for authors to publish; allow the use of still predominant distribution channels and modes of production. Following Fund, however, the hybrid models are not working in practice. In addition, journals subscriptions are still rising, despite OA. Nevertheless, De Gruyter considers OA an important force that will eventually shift the paradigm of the publishing industry. OA will bring substantial improvement to the publication process: it will speed up the entire process, improve services and accessibility, as well as enable bibliometric audits. Publishers need to understand that the customers of OA are authors (instead of readers and libraries). In consequence, publishers will diversify their business models in the future and offer various pricing models for different publics.
      • De Gruyter considers that publishers are best suited to provide and put in place an alternative OA publishing model with strong content, credibility, strong infrastructure, etc. Therefore, De Gruyter Open Library is a new OA publishing initiative that applies to journals, books, series, collections volumes and monographs. There is no influence of OA on the peer review process and a common pricing model per discipline was introduced (with $1750 per article independent of the field of study). In addition, a strong preservation and long term archiving solution has been put in place through De Gruyter’s cooperation with Portico.
      • In the context of positive reactions by authors and editors to its OA initiatives, De Gruyter is continuing to invest and to develop its OA offering. De Gruyter wants to make progress on all the OA-related issues, despite of the obstacles that are still pervasive, such as the lack of funding and funding policies (research institutions are still lacking consistency and sustainability in this matter) and the continued suspicion of established authors toward OA solutions. In light of this situation, De Gruyter will be implementing the new model of the Open Library 2.0; ensure the quality of its OA projects; provide new branding; complete the existing portfolio by expanding into new subject areas in which De Gruyter was previously underrepresented (such as Chemistry); and in general, work on transferring the strength of De Gruyter’s core business, instead of establishing a parallel business.
      • In conclusion, De Gruyter considers that the shift from the existing publication model toward the OA model will be beneficial for all parties involved.
  • Group discussion and questions from the audience
    • The presentations were followed by a group discussion and questions from the audience. Questions addressed the difference in the cost of production between the traditional and OA publishing models; the continuing illegitimate high profits by certain publishers, even within an OA model (financed through high author fees, generally paid by universities or funding institutions); whether OA, by shifting the financial onus on the author fee, will disadvantage authors from the less funded institutions and provide better publishing opportunities for authors in the Sciences versus those in the Humanities; and about the design of online publications/ebooks and whether De Gruyter would consider increased functionality of its Reference Global database, away from the static PDF file/document.

Minutes submitted by Lidia Uziel, Yale University