The University of Michigan Press has announced they are now transitioning to an all eBook list within 24 months.
Within two years, press officials expect well over 50 of the 60-plus monographs that the press publishes each year—currently in book form—to be released only in digital editions. Readers will still be able to use print-on-demand systems to produce versions that can be held in their hands, but the press will consider the digital monograph the norm.
Savings on both print and distribution are going to be rechanneled back into quality of the publication (peer reviewing etc) and into broadening the list to include books of merit that wouldn’t have necessarily be published in print due to uncertain demand.
Benefits for the reader: cheaper books, more variety, lightened ecological footprint, and potentially, unrestricted access to borrow digital books through site licenses.
Will libraries be restricted as to how many ‘copies’ can be in circulation at any given time? As a poor philosophy undergrad, there were plenty of books I would have borrowed indefinitely rather than buy—but scarcity of the physical objects at my school didn’t allow it. With a digital book, that challenge is met…though to the detriment of the publishing house’s bottom line.
One more thing: if I’d bought my books digitally, how would people who visit me now have a chance to accidentally learn that I, at one point in my life, valiantly struggled through Being and Time or The Critique of Pure Reason? Might I humbly suggest that upon reaching the last page of the digital edition, a small trophy is sent to the home of the reader?