The academic publishing sector has been stretching the limits of its traditional business model for some time now:
- Academic journals are nearly entirely digital
- More and more books are offered in their entirety online
The possibilities of publishing, however, do not end there despite the apparent reluctance from disciplines in the humanities.
Where they remain traditional on their publication model (even as their business model fails) scientific publications have excelled. They have done this by incorporating interactive multimedia into their publications, as well as by appealing to the general audience like Nature does.
The academic publishing sectors that adhere to traditional models, however, still fair better overall than the new hybrid projects that attempt to contextualise old information using technology. These projects are typically open-source and for the benefit of any interested party, rather than strictly for researchers or academics alone.
The lack of success with these hybrid projecys, however, is not an indicator to stay the course. Instead, what is inhibiting the general user from benefiting from the efforts of academic publishing, particularly when they incorporate hybrid editions, is the complexity and sheer density of their projects.
Casual users are constantly being bombarded with content that demands their attention, and though the general populace constantly consumes information they often steer clear of these unruly projects.
One such hybrid project, Hestia, offers incredible possibilities for learning. It’s difficult layout and unfriendly user experience, however, mean that it failed to market itself to a wider audience. This problem extends to many disciplines. Historians, in particular, commonly write for academic audiences, rather than for the general public. This failure perpetuates an elitist notion of knowledge, despite the goal of digital humanists to make knowledge available to anyone and everyone.
Projects like these that offer users tools to conduct their own analysis should look for new ways to collaborate with different industries in order to reach wider audiences, and academics need to strive to have their projects actively reach the general public, rather than passively waiting for users to come forth.