The Last Days of Academic Publishing

In the category of things I failed to blog yesterday: Bill Germano, vice-president and publishing director at Routledge, has apparently been forced out by a restructuring of the press’s British parent company, Taylor & Francis.

Now, I’ve got my opinions about the press itself, which was, as the Chron points out, absolutely crucial in the dissemination and popularization of cultural studies in the U.S. in the 1980s and 1990s, but which had been known, of late, to turn out some mighty sloppily put-together books, riddled with typos and otherwise under-edited. Granted, my opinions are tainted unavoidably by a certain negative experience by which I’m still haunted, but nonetheless — it’s seemed evident for some time that things were not right in the Routledge universe, and that big changes were on the horizon. (Rumor — and I repeat that this was nothing but rumor — had it as long ago as late 2003 that the press’s editors had been placed on a strict no-acquisitions-except-for-the-classroom-market diet. I choose to accept this rumor as true, if for no other reason than that it contextualizes my negative experience in a way that makes me feel much, much better.)

All that said, though, it’s hard not to experience what now seems to amount to a passing not just of a publisher but of an entire press as a significant loss to the field. Though my contacts with Germano himself were very few, he was never anything less than enthusiastic and encouraging. It’s clear to me that he has guided numerous academic careers, not just of those authors he’s published but also of those scholars who’ve read those authors, as well as of those who’ve read the books he’s written on the academic publishing process.

But of that process, and of the role Routledge played in it — I don’t want to make too much of this, but again, it’s hard not get that end-of-the-party ring in my ears; for a brief, shining moment, it looked like academic writing could actually be successfully mainstreamed, and like the project of cultural studies could actually extend beyond the walls of the academy, not only in its activist manifestations but also in its intellectual form. Those days, like too many other such idealistic moments, are now vanishing like smoke, leaving just the disillusionment in their wake.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *