Oxford University Press's
Academic Insights for the Thinking World

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New perspectives on the history of publishing

There is a subtle shift occurring in the examination of the history of the book and publishing. Historians are moving away from a history of individuals towards a new perspective grounded in social and corporate history. From A History of Cambridge University Press to The Stationers’ Company: A History to the new History of Oxford University Press, the development of material texts is set in a new context of institutions.

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An interview with Brian Hughes, digital strategist

This week is National Library Week in the United States. Oxford University Press is celebrating the contributions of these institutions to communities around the world in a variety of ways, including granting free access to online products in the United States and Canada.

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What is academic history for?

By Paula A. Michaels
Writing on Saturday in The Age, popular historian Paul Ham launched a frontal assault on “academic history” produced by university-based historians primarily for consumption by their professional peers.

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How much could 19th century nonfiction authors earn?

By Simon Eliot and John Feather
In the 1860s, the introduction of its first named series of education books, the ‘Clarendon Press Series’ (CPS), encouraged the Press to standardize its payments to authors. Most of them were offered a very generous deal: 50 or 60% of net profits. These payments were made annually and were recorded in the minutes of the Press’ newly-established Finance Committee. The list of payments lengthened every year, as new titles were published and very few were ever allowed to go out of print.

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The Press stands firm against the French Revolution and Napoleon

By Simon Eliot
With the French Revolution creating a wave of exiles the Press responded with a very uncharacteristic publication. This was a ‘Latin Testament of the Vulgate Translation’ for emigrant French clergy living in England after the Revolution. In 1796, the Learned (not the Bible) side of the Press issued Novum Testamentum Vulgatae Editionis: Juxta Exemplum Parisiis Editum apud Fratres Barbou.

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Family photos and the spectre of global leadership

By Michael Foley
The ‘family photograph’ is the visual climax of each G8 summit. Each is designed to portray world leaders earnestly engaged with global problems on behalf of a presumptive international constituency. These pictures have a high symbolic value in that they are designed not only to demonstrate that individual leaders can operate in conjunction with one another but also to infer the existence of an upward trajectory of global governance.

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What price books?

By Simon Eliot
For most readers at most times, books were not essential. They were to be bought, if they were to be bought at all, out of disposable income. For most families in the nineteenth century, if they were lucky enough to have any disposable income, it would be a matter of two (10p) or three shillings (15p) a week at best.

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Oxford University Press faces up to the Nazis

By Simon Eliot
Ever since the end of the First World War Oxford University Press had been keen to re-establish some sort of presence in the German book trade. Germany had been a significant market for its academic books in the nineteenth century, and a number of German scholars had edited Greek and Roman texts for the Press. Nevertheless the depressed state of the German economy and the uncertainty of its currency had made this impossible in the first few years after 1918.

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How electronic publishing is changing academia for the better

By Hannah Skoda
When I started in my current post, one of my students, off to a nightclub, very cheekily asked me whether when I was young, they were still called discos. The same sorts of feelings are coming to characterize attitudes towards books – our students find it hard to imagine a time when nothing was available electronically.

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Going local: understanding regional library needs

By Anne Ziebart
As a marketer you spend a lot of time hidden behind your screen. At least it feels like that sometimes. Conferences and the occasional external meeting offer a welcome excuse to step into the picture and finally meet the people you market to. So I was excited when there was talk of setting up regionally focussed “library advisory councils”, and a German-speaking was one under consideration.

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Letters, telegrams, steam, and speed

By Simon Eliot
Oxford was finally linked to the rail network in June 1844. Within a decade or so the railway had become part of the way in which Oxford University Press at all levels conducted its business and its pleasure. One such pleasure was a wayzgoose.

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Facebook turns ten: teenager or (grand)parent?

By José van Dijck
Last November, technology reporter Jenna Wortham of the New York Times observed: “Just a few years ago, most of my online social activity revolved around Facebook … But lately, my formerly hyperactive Facebook life has slowed to a crawl. … I rarely add photographs or post updates about what I’ve been doing… Is it just me, or is Facebook fading?”

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Revisiting reasons to ‘unfriend’ on Facebook’s 10th anniversary

On 4 February 2004, a website named Facebook was launched. Since then it has grown to become a global force affecting many aspects of our lives. Five years ago, Oxford Dictionaries selected ‘unfriend’ as Word of the Year. At the time, we also shared reasons why people unfriend someone on Facebook. On this occasion, we asked once again, why you would — or should — unfriend.

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Half the cost of a book

Simon Eliot
For most of the history of the printed book, from Gutenberg in 1455 onwards, the most expensive part of the material book was paper. Until the mid-nineteenth century, by which time paper was being made by steam-driven machines using esparto grass and wood pulp rather than traditional linen rag as raw material, paper commonly represented at least half the cost of a book’s production.

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Getting back in Blackstone’s game

By Steve Sheppard
In a recent post on Volokh Conspiracy, George Washington University law professor Orin Kerr writes that we have passed the “Golden Age of Treatises.” Considering an obituary of a law professor who had written a law treatise, Securities Regulation, Kerr observed how its author, Louis Loss, had been seen as giving shape and direction to a whole field of law.

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Protecting children from hardcore adult content online

By Julia Hӧrnle
In the offline world the distribution of pornography has been strictly controlled. Age-verification and rating stems ensure that minors cannot access hardcore pornography. The British Board of Film Classification rates cinema and DVD content; content rated as R18 can only be shown in specialised cinemas with strict age-verification standards and certain pornographic content will not be rated for cinema or DVD distribution.

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