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Academic publishers examine future of books at Yale University Press symposium -

As part of its ongoing centenary celebration, Yale University Press recently hosted a one-day symposium entitled 'Why Books Still Matter'. The conference on scholarly publishing was sponsored by Yale's Whitney Humanities Center, the Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library and Yale University Press.

In his keynote address, YUP Director John Donatich invoked the theme - the hazy economic future of print works in an increasingly digitised publishing environment. This was followed by three all-star panels weighing in on the issues that continue to confront the publishing industry, as the Press moves into its second century. The panel discussed issues such as the digital future of scholarly publishing; the idea of the press in the modern university; and the future of the university press.

Yochai Benkler, a professor of entrepreneurial legal studies at Harvard, and Michael Heller, an expert on property theory at Columbia Law School, challenged the existing publishing business model. According to them, all forms of culture today, from music to news, involve gathering information from different sources. Heller further emphasised that universities should be supporting the cutting edge of cultural production.

Other panelists contradicted this view, supporting the traditional book as the best means of exploring ideas in detail. Yale President Richard Levin moderated the second panel, 'The Idea of the Press in the Modern University,' along with three other Yale faculty members. The final panel, 'Whither the University Press,' featured four heads of presses. These include Donatich of Yale, Peter Dougherty of Princeton, Ellen Faran of MIT and William Sisler of Harvard. They dealt with the basics of experiments in digital and open access publishing and assessed other ways of expanding their readership.

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