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Posts Tagged ‘digital publishing’

I’m a member of SHARP, the Society for the History of Authorship, Reading and Publishing. Basically a bunch of book historians. They hold an annual conference each year, and I’ve been to two in the past: Halifax, Nova Scotia, in 2005, and Dublin, Ireland, in 2012. Next year’s conference is in Antwerp in Belgium, which is terribly exciting from a print history viewpoint, being such an important early centre for printing, as well as a fun tourist destination.

I hope to be there. It depends on how I’m doing health-wise at the time. I’m long-term ill, with an MS-like illness, and my condition fluctuates quite a lot. But I’ve booked flights – cheap at the moment – and have sorted out a wheelchair-accessible hotel. I wouldn’t be using my wheelchair all the time there – Antwerp is a very cobbly old city – but would want it some of the time, and especially when at the conference talks.

A few months ago a fellow SHARP member on Twitter was toying with the idea of proposing a Doctor Who panel. In the end she decided she probably couldn’t make the trip over to Antwerp from America, but it raised ideas in my mind, that have been rumbling away ever since. And I think I might be going to propose a paper. The conference theme is religion, but also covers cult books and related publishing, and that’s a way in for Doctor Who, perhaps the most cult-ish TV programme ever, with rather an interesting relationship with publishing history.

My topic would be Doctor Who fanzines and their relationship to the programme, on air, then off air, then on air again. It also ties into the print versus digital debate. And fanzines are an interesting form of ephemeral publication that usually fall through the cracks. I have so many ideas for things I could talk about in a 20 minute talk. Back in July when I first had the idea I brainstormed ideas on my iPod touch, in an audio recording, so have that to refer to too.

On the downside this is well outside my specialist area 🙂 I’m a book historian, but my PhD, which looked at reading habits in Scotland, focused on the 18th and early 19th centuries. My postgraduate Masters dissertation was even earlier, looking at local court records from the 17th century. I’ve never looked formally at the 20th century or 21st century. But I think I could do this well, if only I can familiarise myself enough in time with the relevant secondary writings.

The SHARP 2014 Call for Papers closes on 30th November 2013. That gives me time to think over my options and do the necessary reading. Obviously if I do submit a paper proposal it would then be a question of whether the conference organisers accept it. But I’ll do my best, if I do decide to go ahead with a proposal. Another goal for Academic Writing Month!

If my SHARP paper is accepted I’d also turn up to my talk with a lot of fanzines to pass around the audience to let them see what I was talking about.

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I’ve just been lucky to take part in a Q&A on Facebook with Neil Gaiman for Amazon Kindle UK. He’s one of my favourite writers. I’ve seen him a couple of times talk at the Edinburgh Book Festival, and will be seeing him talk this weekend too.

Anyway partly because the talk is hosted by Amazon Kindle UK and partly because of my own academic research interests I was curious about his views on ebooks versus print books. Specifically I asked:

Do you read ebooks Neil, and how do you feel about the relative merits of digital books and print books? (I’m a fan of both)

Lots of people were asking questions, and I was lucky that he picked mine as one to answer:

Vivienne Dunstan, I think ebooks are easier to use and transport than any library of books, and have the ability to be obtained immediately, but I think that an individual book is a nicer thing than a single ebook. I like holding books, when I can. So yes, I have ebooks — I had a prototype Kindle before they were ever released — and love people reading in whatever way they wish.

That echoes my views to a large extent. Although I love ebooks, not least because they are easier for me to read because of disability reasons, I still buy and cherish print books. I particularly like signed copies by my favourite authors, and big coffee table highly illustrated books.

So essentially I’m a fan of both formats, and expect to be for a long time. It’s nice to know that Neil is too.

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I have a new blog post on the SHARP (Society for the History of Authorship Reading & Publishing) website arguing for greater engagement by book historians, and SHARP members in particular, with the digital publishing revolution. See here.

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I’ve just created this blog as a repository for my general musings on academic issues, historical research things etc. I have quite a few blogs already, to do with my genealogy interests, such as for my one-name study and my one-place studies. But I haven’t had anywhere dedicated to blogging about my academic research and writings, and I think it would be good to have that here.

I will be blogging occasionally, as the mood strikes me. I’m not planning on sticking to a specific pre-planned timetable. And I’ll also be blogging on a variety of issues, from academic writing as I turn my research into more journal papers, and research in archives, and time management etc. So rather a mixed bag.

My historical research specialises in the 17th, 18th and 19th centuries, and is a mix of social, cultural and reading history. I also have a postgraduate taught Masters degree in cultural and urban histories, so there may be some urban history touched on here too. My PhD looked at reading habits in Scotland circa 1750-1820, using a variety of sources, such as evidence for reading in the context of daily lives (particularly diaries and memoirs), library borrowing records, and evidence for book ownership.

I’m getting increasingly intrigued with the modern digital revolution in publishing and reading, and may blog some thoughts about that here. My PhD specialism is much earlier, but I’m interested in all aspects of reading history, and the current changes are quite exciting from an academic viewpoint, as well as a reader’s. This growing interest of mine also ties in with my prior computer science background, where I was a graduate and postgraduate student before studying various history degrees.

So that’s my introduction. Shortly I’m going to resurrect a couple of blog posts that I’ve made on my Google+ account about academic-related issues. After that though it will be new material here, as and when I feel like writing it.

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