Improve digital monographs – report

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Oxford University Press and Cambridge University Press today publish a new report entitled, Researcher’s perspectives on the purpose and value of the monograph: Using and engaging with monographs in a digital environment. Following on from a comprehensive report jointly undertaken by the world’s two largest university presses last year and published in October 2019, this new report returns to the original survey results to better understand what readers and researchers need from digital monographs in light of the immediate need for remote learning and research driven by the global COVID-19 pandemic.

In the original survey, 5,000 scholars of all ages, nationalities, and career levels in the Humanities and Social Sciences gave their thoughts about reading, writing, and publishing monographs - what they would change if they could improve one aspect? Three distinct themes emerged which this supplementary report probes in more detail. Readers want to see:

  1. Digital options with stellar content
  2. Enhanced usability
  3. A fully functional format

Respondents expressed their commitment to the monograph but equally, their desire for the format of digital and e-book editions to be improved and better adapted.

David Clark, managing director of the academic division at Oxford University Press, said: ‘Under radically different circumstances, our study into the monograph continues to guide our response to our users who are now (at times reluctantly) immersed in the online world. Although the allure of the page has not dimmed, our authors and readers are encouraging us to create dynamic, interactive works which combine fully integrated multimedia content with core elements of the printed book such as page numbers and the ability to highlight text’.

Mandy Hill, managing director of the academic division at Cambridge University Press, added: ‘It is clear that the possibilities of an increasingly digital future are already crystallising for the readers and writers of the monograph. We are especially keen to explore how the digital monograph has the potential to support the needs of a typical scholar better than the traditional printed format.

'Our last report concluded that the monograph ‘must evolve to remain relevant….in an increasingly digital world’. That world is now here, the technology exists, the requirements are clear – now we need to harness this with creative thinking to ignite this evolution into a speedier revolution’.

The full report is available here.