Chapter 4 of my thesis focuses on the genealogy of the (discourse surrounding) scholarly systems of material production and the book as commodity. You can find a draft of the first part of this chapter underneath, including an introduction to the 2nd section of my thesis, which also includes chapter 5, which I will publish here soon. As always, any feedback is more than welcome.
Chapter 4, part II can be found here.
The frontiers of a book are never clear-cut. (Foucault 1969b: 25)
The book as a perceived object of material and discursive unity, comes about partly through unitary notions such as ‘the work’ and ‘the oeuvre,’ both of which emerge out of the close material-discursive bond between the book and the author. In the previous chapter we have therefore extensively explored the discourse surrounding authorship; how it developed within book history, was taken up in theories of poststructuralism, and in practices ranging from hypertext to the digital humanities and remix studies. As I showed there, this discourse has been shaped and sustained by essentialist and liberal-humanist notions such as individualism, authority and originality. These notions are, as we have seen, hard to critique or ‘re-cut’ in a sustained way (both theoretically and practically). This partly has to do with the close intra-action between the author-subject and the book-object. Both, in their essentialist humanist uptake and performance, can be seen to provide bindings and fixtures to scholarly communication (connected to notions such as the work, and the ownership of a work). On the other hand, as I will argue here and have argued in the previous chapter, both the author-subject and the book-object, in their entangled discursive-materiality, offer the potential to be performed differently; through forms of anti-authorship and posthuman authorship (critique) in the case of the author for example; but also, as I will argue in this section, through forms of open and experimental publishing in the case of the book-object. Due to their entangled state, this means that each alternative performance has consequences for both the book and the author.
Although authorship has played an important role in the formation of the book as an object, the commodification of the monograph has developed alongside a more complex system of scholarly communication and publishing. Over the centuries, the system of material production that has surrounded the scholarly book—which includes its production, distribution and consumption—has played an essential role in the creation of the book-object and in how the monograph as a specific form of scholarly communication has developed and how it has been perceived and used. Related to the idea of textual and material fixity brought about by the entanglement of print technology and its variety of uses, is therefore the notion of the book as a bound and stable material object. It is this book-object that has played a range of roles in the system of material production from which it co-emerged. Not only has it functioned as a specific medium or a technological format through which research is communicated, it has also served as a marketable commodity and as an object of symbolic value exchange (i.e. for tenure and promotion in the context of the academic profession).
The history of print can be seen to privilege a vision of the book as a fixed object of communication; a discrete medial entity that, when well preserved, can have certain cultural effects. Here, in what can be seen as a naturalising tendency in media history writing (Gitelman 2006: 2), print is often opposed to the presumed fluidity of orality, and the mutability of handwritten texts. This dualist discourse surrounding the physical materiality of the book and its inherent fixity, stability and authority, as opposed to more fluid and liquid perceptions, will be explored and critiqued in depth in chapter 6, in the third section of this thesis. This second section on the other hand, will investigate how an entanglement of technological, economical and institutional factors and structures, and the struggles between them, stimulated the development of the book into both a product and a value-laden object of knowledge exchange within academia. At the same time, it will show how the material features of the book-object, in its intra-action with these factors and structures, were involved in bringing about our modern system of scholarly communication.
In the first chapter of this section, chapter 4, the focus will be on the historical development of the scholarly book as a commodity and an object of symbolic value exchange within publishing and academia. In which specific ways has the discourse on book history narrated and shaped this history? This chapter is closely connected to and forms an introduction to chapter 5, where attention will be given to how this historical development has currently culminated in a system and a book-object that is no longer sustainable and which runs the risk of becoming obsolete before long, if it has not done so already (Fitzpatrick 2011). Chapter 5 then explores how we can critique and potentially start to change the cultures and systems of material and technological production surrounding scholarly communication in such a way that it allows for alternative, critical, more ethical and ‘experimental’ forms of research. I will argue here that it will be useful to start rethinking and deconstructing the object-formation of the book and of scholarship, both in academia and as part of our publishing system.
Nonetheless, we can’t ignore the fact that the book is and needs to be a scholarly object at some point in time and thus cannot only be processual and never-ending, for instance, for a number of reasons. One of the reasons it will be useful to rethink this object-formation is that doing so will enable us to emphasise what other points and cuts are possible that might critique certain excessive forms of the ongoing commercialisation and capitalisation of scholarship, such as the increasing need for measurement and audit criteria, and for marketable, innovative and transparent research. Although the scholarly book functions within an entangled scholarly, technological and economic context, this does not mean that we do not have a hand in constructing these realms together-apart differently (Kember and Zylinska 2012). One of the ways we can begin to do this is by means of a threefold, interdependent strategy of: rethinking and re-envisioning the discourse surrounding the past and future of the scholarly book (which I will discuss in chapter 4); the system of material and scholarly production that surrounds it; and our own performances of and material-discursive practices related to the book (which I will both discuss in chapter 5)
How did the discourse related to the commodification and object-formation of the book, in particular the academic book, develop? How did it evolve as part of the general history of the book, but also as part of the debates surrounding the development of the scholarly press and scholarly publishing more in general? How, in this respect, has our modern system of scholarly communication and publishing been envisioned amongst object-oriented lines?
These are some of the questions I want to explore here. Additionally, I will focus mainly on the first part of the above described strategy in this chapter; namely, on reframing the discourse surrounding the past and the future of the book, with a specific focus on the development of the monograph as a commercial product within scholarly publishing and as a value-laden object within the academic reputation economy. For with the coming of print (or even earlier with the coming of writing), one can claim that the book turned into an object, a standardised product that can be duplicated over and over again to securely communicate and preserve thoughts. Even more, it can be argued that with the coming of the printing press, and especially with the advent of industrial mechanisation and printing processes in the 19th century, the book turned into a mass-market commodity. Due to declining production costs, the book could be produced and sold to an ever-growing audience of potential consumers. New forms of material production thus accompanied this ‘book-object’, part of which became the blossoming (early-) capitalist enterprise of the international book trade.
Similarly and simultaneously a system of scholarly communication and publishing, with specific roles and power structures, arose as part of these new forms of print communication in Europe. It was a system that from the beginning was integrally connected with, and almost indistinguishable from, the developments and interests of the commercial book trade. This system for the production, distribution and consumption of scholarly research (which can be seen as continuously ‘in progress’) consisted of practices and tactics of standardisation, attribution, reviewing, selection, and quality establishment, as well as trust and reputation building. Eventually this developed into what we presently perceive as the ‘modern’ system of formal scholarly communication.
In this chapter I will explore the ways in which this gradually developing system can be said to have been partly responsible for turning the book into a scholarly object (both materially and conceptually), playing specific roles and functions within the scholarly communication and publishing system, and how it influenced future scholarly journal and book forms. Some of the main issues this chapter will engage with are encapsulated in the following questions: How did publications turn into integral, trustworthy, authorised documents that were unlikely to change? How did a set of functions and roles develop, involving academics, publishers and librarians among others, all with a great stake in the system of securing the book as a stable and solid object? And, vice versa, in what ways did the specific materiality of the printed book help to shape our scholarly communication system, where some have even said that ‘historically, the school and the university have been the institutional expressions of the book’ (Lechte 1999: 140)
As with the discourse (which I touched upon in chapter 2 and will return to in chapter 6) on the presumed fixity of the scholarly book—is fixity an intrinsic element of printed books, as Eisenstein suggests, or has it been imposed on the printed object by historical actors in their intentions with and uses of books, as Johns has for instance pointed out?—a similar discussion has taken place with respect to the rise of the book as an object and a commodity within larger networks of trade and scholarly publishing. Was the process of commodification and object-formation a direct effect of print technology, or of the system of material production that arose around the book, turning it into a fixed commodity that could be sold and bartered? The argument that will be made in this chapter is that it has always been both, and that the book and its environment emerged in their intra-action (Barad 2007) where the book functions as an apparatus (Foucault 1980, Barad 2007, Deleuze 1992, Stiegler 2010) in its dynamic relationship with the political-economy surrounding it. The modern system of scholarly communication, as mentioned above, has always been integrally connected both to developments in publishing technology and to expansions of the book trade. Scholarly communication, and more specifically academic book publishing, has thus always been a cultural, an economic and a technological endeavour.
Nevertheless, a single-sided emphasis on specific (technological, economic, cultural) elements of the discursive object-formation of the book has played an important role in the various media histories that have narrated the development of the book as a scholarly and material object. In this sense the way book history has been ‘done’, has played an important role in how people today perceive books, understand their history and with that the development of our academic system into the future (Gitelman 2006: 1). Book history has thus become an integral part of the power struggle surrounding the future of the book. A focus on either cultural or technological aspects of the development of the book, for instance, can be seen as neglecting the historical development of the scholarly communication system in its entangled becoming, as well as the various interests that have shaped the struggles over the book’s design and implementation. Values and practices underlying scholarship, such as authorship, peer review, openness, fixity, trust etc., were not developed separately from economic, cultural-institutional and technological concerns and needs but in tandem with them, showcasing both historical as well as current struggles about the past and future of the book, scholarship, and publishing. As I will therefore argue in depth later in this chapter, when narrating the past or future of the book it will not be constructive to emphasise either of these approaches separately or distinctively, without seeing them as integrally connected to and entangled with the system of material production of the book as a whole.
To provide an example, in battling the increasing commercialisation of scholarship and publishing, it will not do much good to see scholarship as solely or most of all a ‘cultural’ endeavour (Leavis 1979, Arnold and Garnett 2006), in a conservative and reactive stance against market forces. All the more so since, as Bill Readings has argued, to uphold the idea of ‘culture’ and the university’s ‘cultural value’ as a kind of antidote against commercialism has in many ways become useless, due to the way that culture has now become de-referentialised (without a specific set of referents, i.e. things or ideas to refer to) (1996: 17–18). In this respect, Stefan Collini has pointed out that we are still defining our cultural values concerning the ideal of university education based on an a-historical context, one that was always already contingent and differential from the start (2012: 21). It will therefore likewise not be particularly useful, in this specific context, to blame commercial publishers and their profit-driven interests for the impoverishment of formal scholarly publishing, while at the same time seeing scholarship and research as an endeavour that is or should be led solely by cultural values and motives. Making a distinction between publishing as a commercial undertaking and scholarship as a purely cultural endeavour (which John Thompson is close to doing, as we shall see later in this chapter), does not do justice to the fact that scholarly research and communication has always been a commercial enterprise too, and has been intrinsically connected with and heavily involved in trade publishing from its inception. These kind of simplified, black-and-white analyses also do not help with regard to developing a sustained critique of some of the excesses and problems underlying the current highly interconnected publishing and scholarly systems and the way they function. Building on this position, I will argue that scholarship and publishing are not separate fields (Thompson 2005), but rather that a ‘publishing function’ (or any other alternative system of material production surrounding scholarly communication), should be seen as an integral aspect of scholarship and knowledge formation. What is more, change in scholarly communication, publishing, or even scholarly practices and the university, can only come about if we take into consideration the entangled nature of scholarship and the diverse concerns that continue to shape it.
For this reason I will focus in this chapter on the genealogy of the material production of the book as a struggled over disciplining regime, involving both knowledge and ‘bodies’ of knowledge, across a plurality of frontiers of object formation, including technological, economical, and cultural-institutional aspects, and taking into consideration both the book as object and discourse. Hence I will argue that processes of book materialisation should be viewed as material-discursive practices, as entanglements (Barad 2007).
However this does not mean that specific, targeted and localised forms of critique, focused on reforming the copyright system, creating alternative economic models, or engaging in experiments to rethink our scholarly practices—such as my project is attempting to do—are not on their own important steps towards change. In their efforts to tip the power balance, and enable alternative visions of the book and scholarship different from those based predominantly on the market, these endeavours should be encouraged. But what is needed first and foremost is an acknowledgment that embarking on these kinds of projects comes with a need to take responsibility for the fact that these localised interventions are capable of having consequences for the system as a whole, and therefore also influence and target the entire system. A progressive, affirmative strategy that takes into account the genealogy of the book and our scholarly material-discursive practices, and that critiques aspects of the book as part of their wider entanglement with the scholarly system, is thus needed. For instance, as Fitzpatrick has emphasised with respect to authorship: ‘Academic authorship as we understand it today has evolved in conjunction with our publishing and employment practices, and changing one aspect of the way we work of necessity implies change across its entirety’ (2011: 53). This does not mean we have to rethink everything all the time. Rather, we need to make specific decisions about what will be the most appropriate, responsible, effective or strategic parts of the system to rethink at any particular time and in each specific historical or cultural situation. However, as part of this specificity it remains important to focus on the entangled nature of these developments and on the consequences the cuts we make have for the entire system. As will be explored in more depth in chapter 5, this involves a plea for forms of radical open access that go beyond mere provision of access and that argue for a continued rethinking of the entire system of scholarly communication, starting with the scholarly monograph.
This complicated entanglement of factors, agencies, technologies and discourses that has accompanied the development of the scholarly book object, might also partly explain why its system of material production, with most of its key players derived from a print situation, has still not really been questioned with the coming of digital technologies. Until now the equilibrium of the forces of print power seems to be reinforced—for the most part uncritically—in digital publishing, with some of the initial experiments with open access publishing, new publishing models, and new forms of peer review, despite their critical character, at risk of becoming usurped within this larger model again. Critique of the scholarly book object, of peer review and of economic models therefore needs to be a continuous process and calls for an assessment that is integrally connected to an examination of institutional and technological models of innovation.
In the remainder of this chapter I will first explore the development of our modern system of scholarly communication and the initial stages of book objectification as narrated within the discourse on book history. From there I will examine the rise of the university press as an institution that epitomizes the entanglement of ‘university extension work’ and the forces of the publishing economy. Additionally, I will analyse how the mission of the press has been narrated within the discourse on book history and I will conclude by arguing how a reframing of this discourse can be beneficial to battle the ongoing commodification of the book.
As is made clear above, a lot of emphasis has been placed within the discourse on book history upon the influence print technology has had on the rise of both the modern scholarly communication system, and of the book as a scholarly object and a mass commodity. But was it print that started this development? Ong states that it was the objectifying movement of writing more than print that turned words into signs and time into fragments (1982: 31). Nonetheless, Ong argues at the same time that it was print that truly objectified words as things, where words were now made out of pre-existing mechanical units (types). Print ‘embedded the word itself deeply in the manufacturing process and made it into a kind of commodity’ (Ong 1982: 116). It was with print that we entered what McLuhan called the ‘first great consumer age’ (1962: 138), while Febvre and Martin declared the introduction of printing ‘a stage on the road to our present society of mass consumption and of standardisation’ (1997: 260). Eisenstein also emphasises that it was the advent of print that enabled the mechanical reproduction of books and transformed the conditions under which texts were produced, disseminated and consumed. Initially, it was not the product that changed (in the age of incunabula), but this product was reproduced in larger quantities than was ever possible before (Eisenstein 1979: 168). The organisation of printed book production also introduced new roles and functions and with that the whole system around book production took on a different scale. By the same token, one could argue that the medieval production of manuscripts by scribes in scriptoria was already a highly commercial business. The market value of hand copied books also remained high for a long time after the invention of the printing press (Eisenstein 1979: 50). Nonetheless, where manuscript production was producer-oriented, print was highly consumer-oriented (Ong 1982: 120). For instance, the use of abbreviations in manuscripts was designed to help the producer of the work, not to improve the ease of reading. Texts were also often bound in one ‘book’ cover in the Middle Ages, making it hard to ascertain the number of texts included in one manuscript. It was print that influenced the coming of the book as an object containing a single work (Eisenstein 1979: 43).
Eisenstein points out that the printing press was incremental in promoting one of the main values of science: making knowledge public (1979: 478). Print enabled feedback and it secured old and new records. Once research observations could be duplicated in printed books, they became available to readers who could check them and feed back corrections with new observations that could then be incorporated into new editions again (1979: 487–488). Print, Eisenstein states, was a publicising machine, where it stimulated the circulation of what was previously private information as a public good, stimulating the move away from a system of guild secrecy and toward one of publication, which in turn lead to more cooperative science. Print thus served both the motives of altruism and self-advancement that came to be so important in modern science (Eisenstein 1979: 560).
In addition to paying attention to the role played by technology and the materiality of the printed book, the book historical discourse focuses specifically on the influence the commercial book trade had on the development of our modern system of scholarly communication. As Eisenstein emphasises, one of the effects of the modernisation and rationalisation of the new commercial book trade was that it influenced the rise of an ‘ésprit de systeme’ in academia (1979: 88). The newly established international book trade promoted an ethos that became associated with the community of men of letters: ‘tolerant yet not secular, pious yet not fanatic’ (Eisenstein 1979: 140). Print shops were besides commercial enterprises also cultural centres as well as the focal point of scientific development. Eisenstein thus argues that the rise of the republic of letters must be seen to have gone hand-in-hand with the development of the printed book trade (1979: 76). Febvre and Martin similarly point out that from its earliest days printing existed as an industry, where the scholarly book was a piece of merchandise from which to make a profit and earn a living, even for scholars (1997: 108). For example, as part of the growing market economy around books, printers used new publicising techniques such as blurbs to sell their books. Individual achievement was heightened in these processes, based on a market mechanism that followed the practical need to advertise products and bring trade to shops. Likewise it can be argued that it was ‘the industry which encouraged publishers to advertise authors and authors to advertise themselves’ (Eisenstein 1979: 229). The rise of scholarly authorship and the growing prestige of the inventor are also connected to new forms of intellectual property rights that were introduced in the book trade to prevent piracy.
The system of material production set up around print and scholarship played an important role in shaping the emerging scientific communication system. Johns, building on Steven Shapin’s identification of trust as a key element in the making of knowledge, focuses specifically on how this system of material production established notions of credentiality and trust (1998: 19). He argues that it was not fixity as brought about by print technology, but trust in a textual work, that was able to turn a book into both a commercial trade and scholarly object. This included constructing trust in the book’s integrity, quality and authority. Johns is mainly interested in how the system of book production, distribution and consumption was constructed and how it functioned, as well as in the shifting roles that were played by printers/publishers (Stationers), booksellers, scholars, and the government or monarch, together with the various institutions that grew out of these groups, such as the Stationers’ Company and the Royal Society in England. Chartier similarly emphasises the importance of studying material practices with respect to book production and consumption, but unlike Johns he directly connects this back to the book as a specific technological affordance. A text here is seen as being integrally connected to its physical support, where meaning gets constructed through the form in which a text reaches its readers. Publishing decisions as well as the constraints of print production are constituted within this form (Chartier 1994: 9). Chartier is thus interested in the controls that were exercised over printed matter as part of its production process, from exterior moral or religious censorship or forms of patronage, to constraining interior mechanisms within the book itself. Print established a market, which came with certain rules and conventions for those players that made a monetary gain from this new commercial system (Chartier 1994: 21). What kind of struggles over the construction of the scholarly book and its history took place between these various constituencies? What was the influence of these discursive struggles on the establishment of trust and the creation of the modern system of scholarly communication?
Johns, as I made clear previously, points out that it was firstly and foremost the Stationers or publishers, and to a lesser extent booksellers, who were responsible for constructing a trustworthy realm of knowledge, by articulating conventions related to propriety (1998: 34). Through the publishers’ agency, following their interests and practices, printed materials and the knowledge embodied within them came into being (Johns 1998: 60). The social character of the printing house hereby influenced its products: who had access to the printing house, what were they allowed to do and under what conditions. What kinds of books were printed and who got to decide what got printed? Not unlike the present situation of academic book publishing, these decisions were often based on economics, where the priorities of the book trade came first, a state of affairs that did not always benefit academic authors nor the emerging system of scientific scholarship. Many scholarly works were expensive to produce (often requiring special typefaces—in the cases of mathematics and astronomy, for instance—as well as elaborate graphs and images) and they suffered from a small market plagued by piracy (Johns 1998: 447). This made learned titles unsustainable to produce in situations where Stationers were reluctant to publish them unless they could be guaranteed to sell. Capital was needed to print a title and only those books that satisfied a demand were actually produced at a competitive price (Febvre and Martin 1997: 108). As Febvre and Martin argue, powerful patronage from public authorities such as bishops or the state was often needed in these situations as well as capital injections through loans, to provide just one example. One could argue that in the early days of the press the main factor in its rapid development was the interest influential men and institutions had in making texts accessible (Febvre and Martin 1997: 170). Nevertheless, marketable products came first. Work on scholarly books was often delayed while printers concentrated on more immediately profitable material, such as pamphlets and ephemera, which were produced in the same space as folio volumes. These were what printers relied on for their economic sustenance, meaning that ‘profitable pamphlets came before scientific books’ (Johns 1998: 454).
Printers were seen to personally vouch for the propriety of their products through their character, which was determined among other things by their respect of copy (meaning no piracy) (Johns 1998: 125). Attempts to regulate the book trade against piracy and impropriety thus stressed the model of a stable, domestic household (Johns 1998: 156). This household image of propriety, comparable with today’s emphasis on branding, played an important role in reading strategies too. According to Johns, a reader judged a book based on practices and pragmatics, which included looking at the name of the Stationer or publisher on a book’s title page to determine reliable content (Johns 1998: 147). The craft community (including booksellers) worked to sustain good character for the book trade as a whole (Johns 1998: 187). In this process politics, propriety and print were integrally connected: trust could become possible because of a print-disciplining regime. In England the Stationers’ Company established a propriety culture, as Johns calls it, which was essential in the establishment of the book as trade and scholarly object. The connection between the market and the emerging scholarly communication system becomes even clearer if we take into account that property and propriety used to mean the same. As Johns states: ‘offenses against the property enshrined by convention in the register were seen simultaneously as offenses against proper conduct’ (1998: 109). The Stationers’ Company established a registry system for published books to counter piracy and to strengthen the representation of their business as a respectable and moral art (Johns 1998: 222). In reality this meant they had a monopoly over the publishing industry for setting and enforcing regulations. Where concerns of the state mattered heavily when it came to the book trade, in the representation of the Stationer, licensing and propriety were both seen as integral not only to the concerns of the Stationers, but to those of the state. In this sense the Company ‘constituted the conditions of existence for printed knowledge itself’ (Johns 1998: 190).
 When I write about the book as an ‘object’ here, I am referencing in the main Foucault’s notion of ‘discursive objects’ where ‘it would be the interplay of the rules that make possible the appearance of objects during a given period of time’. Objects are thus not static entities, but emerge out of or as part of certain discursive formations (Foucault 1969a: 36). At the same time, and as Barad has argued, extending her critique of Foucault, objects, in their process of materialisation, are instrumental in shaping and influencing discourses, hence discourse and materiality are ontologically inseparable (2007: 204).
 With cutting things together-apart I refer to Barad’s use of the phrase, meaning that a cut will not enact permanent boundaries, but functions as a reconfiguring, an alternative re-arranged form of ‘cleaving’. As Barad puts it:
As I have explained elsewhere, intra-actions enact agential cuts, which do not produce absolute separations, but rather cut together-apart (one move). Diffraction is not a set pattern, but rather an iterative (re)configuring of patterns of differentiating-entangling. As such, there is no moving beyond, no leaving the ‘old’ behind. There is no absolute boundary between here-now and there-then. There is nothing that is new; there is nothing that is not new. (2014: 168)
 Meaning that the system of scholarship as we know it today, including peer review, authorship, and copyright is not and has never been a static institution but is historically contingent.
 As Christine Borgman makes clear, ‘Scholarly communication is a rich and complex sociotechnical system formed over a period of centuries’ (2007: 48). This system takes on many forms, both formal and informal, and is best understood, Borgman states ‘as a complex set of interactions among processes, structures, functions, and technologies’ (2007: 73). However, as Borgman also points out, as a system, it builds upon a certain tradition in Western thought, based on the free flow of information and quality control, and the functions the system needs to fulfil in order to stimulate this. These functions ensure, among other things, quality, preservation and trust, access and dissemination, reputation and reward structures, and the efficiency and effectivity of the system as a whole (Adema and Rutten 2010).
 For more on how the book functions as an apparatus, see chapter 6.
 For example, see the discussion between Johns and Eisenstein on book history as explored in chapter 2.
 For instance, see George Monbiot’s attack on commercial publishers here: http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2011/aug/29/academic-publishers-murdoch-socialist
 I do not want to imply that the system of scholarly communication has ‘borders’, or that this is in any way a stabilised structure. This system is highly contingent and historically situated, and thus differs in each instantiation. Instead I want to focus on taking responsibility for the systemic relationships and relationalities that structure the academic apparatus, which include technological, economical and cultural/institutional practices.
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