Editor’s Note [17.2]
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As one who is both a publishing practitioner and a commentator upon contemporary publishing, I view every issue of JEP through the lenses of both personal interest and personal experience. This is doubly true of the issue at hand: Education and Training for 21st Century Publishers. I myself came to publishing mid-way through my professional life (after years as both scholar and librarian), and as I immersed myself in the publishing world, was struck by how much I needed to know and how sometimes I didn’t even know what I needed to know. As I assumed positions of increasing responsibility and authority, I became responsible for hiring and managing a large staff and often opined gaps in those staff members’ professional preparation and yearned for hires who could meet our ever-burgeoning lists of required skills. Because my publishing operation was located within a university, I also saw dozens of students make their way through my offices, as both part-time labor and in pursuit of educational opportunities. Some of these students (often hailing from the local English Department or the Information School) sought out my operation intent on a publishing career. Others conceived a desire for such a career on my watch, and while I worked hard to provide advice and guidance, I always worried that there was more to say. Now my career has taken yet another turn, and I am employed at an Information School where I teach, among other things, publishing – a demonstration in itself of the changing publishing landscape. I am eager to learn from my publishing colleagues and compatriots about their perspectives on both education publishing needs and the best ways to meet those needs, a learning I hope will in turn benefit my own students.
And so I put JEP to work for me (and, I hope, for all of you) and put out a call for proposals and papers on the topic of publishing education. I had a very happy response; as I hoped I might, I heard from those who aspire to be publishing professionals, those who teach them, and those who hire them. In adding their experiences and opinions throughout this issue, you will see, as I did that contemporary publishing requires a broad set of skills: editorial, technological, and just plain interpersonal. You will see that publishing training, as I believe has long been true, supports both a curricular and apprenticeship model. New professionals have much to learn in the classroom, and they need to learn a lot on the job. You will also see affirmed one thing I was always sure of, as I suspect are many of our readers: publishing is a rapidly evolving profession with an accompanying rapidly evolving set of skills and lexicon of basic literacy.
Katherine Skinner, et al. for their article “Library-as-Publisher: Capacity Building for the Library Publishing Subfield” interviewed many publishers to understand their human resource needs, and their article both echoes and reinforces my own suspicions about the dynamic nature of the field, with particular attention to another rapidly evolving area of publishing: library based publishing activity. Complementing these interviews, Penn State University Press director Patrick Alexander discusses the skills and expertise digital and print publishers are looking for in book and journal publishing. Specifically Alexander addresses how those skills are acquired, how those skill sets will change, and where scholarly publishers are currently looking for help in the future of scholarly communications.
This issue also contains the perspectives of those who attend to publishing training as part of their daily work. Nick Ruffilo in this essay on “Technology Skills and Requirements for Publishing,” illuminates how publishing must not just train a new generation of professionals; it must cultivate and continue to educate those workers already in place. He points out the ever presence of change and does us the service of noting “the good news is that this is a change, and not a terminal disease. For us to properly navigate this change, we must adapt and develop a new toolset. This new landscape will require that workers in all aspects of the business pick up new skills.” John Maxwell, an associate professor in the publishing program at Simon Fraser University, the only program in Canada to offer a postgraduate degree in publishing, argues for the university as the ideal training ground for publishers, a place that “nurtures a community of practice and professional discourse, and in doing so generates and renews the very culture of publishing.” If commitment to a Masters degree is one end of a time spectrum for publishing education, the other end is represented by the nascent City University of New York Publishing Institute. John Oakes, its director, tells us that the Institute has “three crucial motivators: 1. existing schools of book publishing purport to offer much more than they do or even can; 2. The essentials of book publishing can be elucidated in an intensive, focused and effective manner; 3. the field has grown in ways no one foresaw: there are different formats, different ways to reach readers, and at least a sampling of these should be explored. The goal was to do it all in one packed work week, Monday to Friday, 8:30 to 5:30.”
Finally, this issue features contributions from new and aspiring publishers reflecting on their recent publishing education and early work experiences. In “Graduate Programs in Publishing: Are They Worth It?” Veronica Thompson offers aspiring publishers sound advice on adapting to publishing’s digital transformation by finding balance between traditional and digital publishing coursework while at Emerson’s MA Publishing program. And looking at education from a different angle, Alix Keener shares her experience blending the broad theoretical framework and service mission of library and information school graduate coursework with practical experience in scholarly publishing jobs to prepare for a future career in academic publishing and the digital humanities.
As I review the contributions to this issue and bring my own first semester as a publishing educator to a close, I come to the conclusion that although not explicit in many job postings, amongst the required skills should probably always be willingness to engage in continuous learning and comfort with uncertainty. Coupled with a spirit of adventure and a passion for content, such skills well help guide publishing well into the twenty-first century.
This issue of JEP is richer than usual in book reviews, of Brad Stone’s The Everything Store: Jeff Bezos and the Age of Amazon, of Michael Bhaskar’s The Content Machine: Towards a Theory of Publishing from the Printing Press to the Digital Network, and of The Cambridge Handbook of Journal Publishing. While your erstwhile editor cannot yet attest to having read all of all three volumes, my reading of the reviews convinces me that all are good candidates for syllabi to support the education and training of twenty-first century publishers.
On a final note, this issue of JEP also features the launch of a new feature that we hope will both enrich our readers’ experience and our own understanding of how to do the best digital publishing. With this issue, we introduce full support of Hypothes.is, an open platform for the collaborative evaluation of knowledge. It supports sentence-level critique and is a tool for community peer-review to provide commentary, references, and insight at the article level. Now, every article of JEP is open for commentary and discussion through annotation. Please explore the annotations and add your own. Both the authors, publishers, and Hypothes.is developers are eager to see your contributions and to observe and participate in the many discussions we hope it will open up.
Please do keep in mind Hypothes.is is in alpha release. Meaning: this is an early version of the application and you are one of the lucky, select users who get a first crack at Hypothes.is. The developers are still very active adding features, so behavior of the application can and will change, and you may be lucky enough to spot a bug. If you do spot a bug or have a question, get in touch with the developers at firstname.lastname@example.org.