Books in the Digital AgeThe Transformation of Academic and Higher Education Publishing in Britain and the United States
Books in the Digital Age
The Transformation of Academic and Higher Education Publishing in Britain and the United States
The book publishing industry is going through a period of profound and turbulent change brought about in part by the digital revolution. What is the role of the book in an age preoccupied with computers and the internet? How has the book publishing industry been transformed by the economic and technological upheavals of recent years, and how is it likely to change in the future?

This is the first major study of the book publishing industry in Britain and the United States for more than two decades. Thompson focuses on academic and higher education publishing and analyses the evolution of these sectors from 1980 to the present. He shows that each sector is characterized by its own distinctive ‘logic’ or dynamic of change, and that by reconstructing this logic we can understand the problems, challenges and opportunities faced by publishing firms today. He also shows that the digital revolution has had, and continues to have, a profound impact on the book publishing business, although the real impact of this revolution has little to do with the ebook scenarios imagined by many commentators.

Books in the Digital Age will become a standard work on the publishing industry at the beginning of the 21st century. It will be of great interest to students taking courses in the sociology of culture, media and cultural studies, and publishing. It will also be of great value to professionals in the publishing industry, educators and policy makers, and to anyone interested in books and their future.

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  • March 2005
  • 480 pages
  • 178 x 257 mm / 7 x 10 in
Available Formats
  • Hardback $104.00
  • 9780745634777
  • Paperback $31.25
  • 9780745634784
  • Open eBook $25.00
  • 9780745684994
Table of Contents
List of figures and tables.



Part I The Publishing Business.

Publishing as an economic and cultural practice.

The social structure of publishing fields.

The publishing field since 1980.

Part II The Field of Academic Publishing.

Academic publishing under pressure.

Academic publishing in transition (1): changing organizational cultures.

Academic publishing in transition (2): list diversification and field migration.

Academic publishing at the crossroads.

Part III The Field of Higher Education Publishing.

Higher education publishing in the US (1): the formation of the field.

Higher education publishing in the US (2): the differentiation of the field.

Higher education publishing in the UK.

Globalization and localization in the UK field of higher education publishing.

Part IV The Digital Revolution.

The digital revolution and the publishing world.

Academic publishing and the digital revolution.

Higher education publishing and the digital revolution.

The hidden revolution: reinventing the life cycle of the book.


Appendix on research methods.



About the Author
John Thompson is Professor of Sociology at the University of Cambridge and Fellow of Jesus College, Cambridge.
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"As compelling as it is thorough ... a fascinating study of the contemporary academic publishing world in the UK and US."
Times Higher Education Supplement

"Likely to become the standard work in the field."
British Journal of Educational Studies

"This is undoubtedly the best book I have read about publishing ... It is the only book about publishing I have ever read where every statement rings true."
Learned Publishing

"Faultless, fascinating ... a must-read."

"A first-rate piece of scholarship."
Academic Matters

"A truly landmark study."
Journal of Scholarly Publishing

"[Those] working within academic/higher education publishing and librarianship have much to gain from this title; it is a valuable resource that explores how textbook publishing programmes in the UK and US in the early stages of the new millennium have evolved from the 1980s industry landscape. It also provides an opportunity to learn directly from senior executives within the academic publishing arena, who speak frankly, on the condition of anonymity."

"Extremely useful to use as a potted history of a new area of interest for me."

"Thompson has soaked himself in publishing fact and lore. [His findings] are consistently reliable."

"The world of academic publishing owes a great debt of gratitude to John Thompson ... this extensive and rigorous study is our best guide to the key issues of the day."
Drake McFeely, Chairman and President of W. W. Norton & Company

"A lucid, absorbing and accurate account of the university press world."

Walter Lippincott, Director of Princeton University Press

"Anyone wishing to know firsthand the issues that keep publishers awake at night would do well to start here. Anyone wishing to know where academic publishing is heading should look no further."
William Sisler, Director of Harvard University Press

"There is no other study of the publishing world, past or present, as comprehensive or fully researched as this."
Professor Michael Schudson, University of California, San Diego

"A masterly study."
Paul Richardson, Oxford Brookes University

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