I totally forgot to post this whenever I started writing it. So pretend it's a couple weeks ago...
In the Chronicle, Princeton University Press' Peter Dougherty offers a "Manifesto for Scholarly Publishing." Dougherty's claim that university presses actually need to publish more is a rim-rocking one, insofar as anything associated with the academy can be that splashy. It's probably true that universities and not-for-profit presses offer "difficult ideas" a valuable incubation period--The Simpsons did not become shorthand for "postmodern" overnight. And it's certainly true that expanding offerings to include finance history, design history, etc would help as well. Dougherty's call is heartening and necessary and almost utopian, given that academic publishing circa now is more beholden to "publish-or-perish" imperatives than the pursuit of "difficult ideas." But it's fantastic that someone is this optimistic. In a weird way it slots nicely alongside Lindsay Waters' Enemies of Promise, a slim, highly recommended book about the present "tyranny" of academic publishing.
In the Times, Ben Sisario reports on the last day of the Union Square Virgin Megastore--the last large-scale record store in New York City. I love the closing anecdote, wherein a Virgin clerk makes off with discounted CDs by Melt Banana and Current 93. I had a passing bout of nostalgia when the Tower chain closed a couple years back, and a lesser version of that infected me when I walked by Virgin and saw some kind of temporary, pop-up healthy living pavilion set up inside. It's strange to feel that way for a corporate chain, let alone one that was devoid of personality or taste and overcharged badly for its CDs. But growing up far from niche record shops in a pre-digital age, a chain like Tower, with its imports, seemingly infinite aisles and occasional indie gems, was an essential gateway. The Union Square Virgin was an eyesore, and it was unnecessary given all the great indie shops mere blocks away. But its passing is yet another symptom of just how rapidly music--how it is made, who makes it, how it is distributed, why it is made--is changing.
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