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Reaching a Broader Audience With a University Press Book

March 15th, 2010

A scholar has an interesting take on writing for a general audience in the AHA Fortnightly News.  By request he wrote a book about Oak Ridge, Tennessee, for the young adult market, but it was published by the University of Tennessee Press and it counted toward his tenure review.  I’m on the fence about stretching the definition of published scholarship too far, but this is a quite interesting take on the question, and it is well-written and thought-provoking.  Also, I have friends who grew up in Oak Ridge and who will always have to contend with what it meant in the atomic age and beyond, and for whom military ethics will always be complex and personal because of it.

One troubling aspect of the article was the press’s insistence that the book was work-for-hire (i.e. an upfront payment but no royalties, and the press owns the book forever).  I’m not a huge fan of these deals although they may have their place in limited contexts.  The article does not convince me that this was one of them, but I’d be interested in hearing other points of view.

The best part of the article is its reminder that “university press publishing” is a richly layered thing, and that university presses generate all kinds of books other than the endangered scholarly monograph.

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