Text & Con­text: Pub­lish­ing in Con­tem­po­rary Cul­ture

Syl­labus for Fall 2017
Mon­days 9:30am–12:00pm, rm x
John Maxwell, jmax@​sfu.​ca


This course is an ex­am­i­na­tion of the sig­nif­i­cance, con­tem­po­rary state and de­vel­op­ing trends in pub­lish­ing, mostly from a Cana­dian per­spec­tive, across book, pe­ri­od­i­cal, on­line, and schol­arly forms.

As a sem­i­nar, PUB­800 op­er­ates as a com­mu­nity of in­quiry in which, through read­ing, writ­ing, and dis­cussing, we will to­gether build a col­lec­tive un­der­stand­ing of pub­lish­ing and its key is­sues. We will work largely in pub­lic: all writ­ten and pre­sented work will re­side on this web­site, which will grow to be the archive of our ef­forts. We will write, com­ment, and pub­lish, and thereby ac­tively shape our writ­ing and read­ing con­texts.

Lorimer, Row­land. 2012. Ultra Lib­ris: Pol­icy, Tech­nol­ogy, and the Cre­ative Econ­omy of Book Pub­lish­ing in Canada. Toronto: ECW Press.

Young­ing, Greg, 2017. El­e­ments of In­dige­nous Style: A Guide for Writ­ing by and about In­dige­nous Peo­ples. Ed­mon­ton: Brush Ed­u­ca­tion. (Available October 2017)

Ver­meer, Leslie, 2016. The Com­plete Cana­dian Book Ed­i­tor. Ed­mon­ton: Brush Ed­u­ca­tion.

Blogs & On­line Sources

You should also be fol­low­ing the fol­low­ing, as we will make ref­er­ence to these over the course of the term:

A com­pre­hen­sive read­ing list for the course can be found in our Zotero group, at https://​tkbr.​publishing.​sfu.​ca/​pub800/​zotero-bibliography/​

As well, the “Pin­board Links” above, (col­lected at https://​pinboard.​in/​u:​tkbr/​t:​802/​) col­lect ref­er­ences week to week as we move through the term.


PUB­800 is a grad­u­ate sem­i­nar: the fun­da­men­tal mode here is in­formed dis­cus­sion: we read things to­gether and argue about the im­pli­ca­tions.

More specif­i­cally, the class is dri­ven by stu­dent-led dis­cus­sion. Each of you will be re­spon­si­ble for lead­ing the dis­cus­sion on a topic and/or read­ing(s) for a ses­sion (to be ne­go­ti­ated in ad­vance).

You will also write three short es­says (1500–2000 words) on top­ics to be ne­go­ti­ated. Es­says will be posted on the course web­site (which is pub­licly ac­ces­si­ble), and peer-re­viewed by your col­leagues.

We will an­no­tate on­line read­ings via the Hypothes.​is web an­no­ta­tion sys­tem, so we have can dig in to read­ings in a so­cial and durable way.

The as­sess­ment struc­ture for the course is as fol­lows:

Par­tic­i­pa­tion [20%]: In ad­di­tion to at­ten­dance and ac­tive par­tic­i­pa­tion in sem­i­nar dis­cus­sions, you are ex­pected to spend the se­mes­ter read­ing be­yond the (quite min­i­mal) as­signed read­ings, and shar­ing the good ones with your col­leagues.

Sem­i­nar Pre­sen­ta­tion [20%]: You will be re­spon­si­ble for lead­ing class dis­cus­sion on one read­ing. In PUB­800, we will not do for­mal pre­sen­ta­tions or slides, just fo­cused con­ver­sa­tion. At min­i­mum, you should look to lead with a (~20-minute) crit­i­cal sum­mary of the topic, in­clud­ing the fol­low­ing points:

  1. What it is;
  2. Who is in­volved? To whom does it mat­ter?
  3. Why it is im­por­tant or dis­tinc­tive;
  4. What’s in­ter­est­ing/con­tro­ver­sial/wrong/in­spir­ing about it;
  5. What do your class­mates think?

Three short es­says and peer re­views:

Short Essay #1 [15%]: Due Oct 2nd
Peer Re­view #1 [5%]: Due Oct 10th

Short Essay #2 [15%]: Due Oct 30th
Peer Re­view #2 [5%]: Due Nov 6th

Short Essay #3 [15%]: Due Nov 27th
Peer Re­view #3 [5%]: Due Dec 4th

Course Out­line

One: In­tro­duc­tions – Sept 11th

In­tro­duc­tions; the role of print in so­ci­ety; the role of lit­er­a­ture in so­ci­ety; the role of MPub­bers in pub­lish­ing; the call­ing of the roll.


  • Vir­ginia Woolf, A Room of One’s Own;
  • Homer: Iliad & Odyssey;

Two: Publics and Mar­kets – Sept 18th

What is Pub­li­ca­tion, what are publics? Are publics the same as au­di­ences, mar­kets? How do texts and publics co-con­sti­tute one an­other?

See Matthew Stadler: What Is Pub­li­ca­tion? http://​vimeo.​com/​14888791


  • Brown and Duguid, “The So­cial Life of Doc­u­ments”;
  • Warner, “Publics and Coun­ter­publics.”

Three: To­ward a The­ory of Pub­lish­ing – Sept 25th

Do we even have a the­ory of what pub­lish­ing is? Do our in­her­ited as­sump­tions about pub­lish­ing help or hin­der us? How do we ap­proach hav­ing a frame within which to make sense of things?


  • Bhaskar, The Con­tent Ma­chine;
  • Malik, “Hori­zons of the Pub­lish­able”;
  • Nash, “What Is the Busi­ness of Lit­er­a­ture?”;
  • O’Leary, “Let’s Put Our Heads To­gether”;
  • Squires, Mar­ket­ing Lit­er­a­ture;
  • Barthes, “From Work to Text.”

Four: The Struc­ture of the In­dus­try – Oc­to­ber 2nd

What does pub­lish­ing look like as an in­dus­trial ac­tiv­ity? Where does ‘lit­er­a­ture’ fit in along­side sci­en­tific and ed­u­ca­tional pub­lish­ing? What are the his­tor­i­cal and colo­nial un­der­pin­nings to the in­dus­try as we see it today?


  • Wis­chen­bart, “The Global Rank­ing of the Pub­lish­ing In­dus­try 2015”;
  • Lorimer, Ultra Lib­ris (chap­ter 1);
  • Aki­wen­zie-Damm, “We Think Dif­fer­ently”;
  • An­der­son, “The Long Tail”;
  • Nash, “What Is the Busi­ness of Lit­er­a­ture?”;
  • Wer­sh­ler, “The Eth­i­cally In­com­plete Ed­i­tor”;
  • Schiffrin, Words & Money;
  • Thomp­son, Mer­chants of Cul­ture

Thanks­giv­ing – Oc­to­ber 9th

No class this day. Go eat To­furkey in­tead.

Five: Cul­tural Na­tion­al­ism in Cana­dian Pub­lish­ing – Oc­to­ber 16th

How has pub­lish­ing in Canada emerged as part of the Na­tional pro­ject? How do Eng­lish-Cana­dian pub­lish­ers po­si­tion them­selves, a small Eng­lish-lan­guage mar­ket amongs gi­ants?


  • Lorimer, Ultra Lib­ris (chap­ters 2 & 3);
  • DCH, “In­vest­ing in the Fu­ture of Cana­dian Books”;
  • Ipsos Pub­lic Af­fairs, “Cana­dian Cul­ture in a Dig­i­tal World”;
  • Smith, “Soup Cans and Love Slaves”;
  • Marche, “What Was Cana­dian Lit­er­a­ture?”

Six: Book Pub­lish­ing in Canada Today – Oc­to­ber 23rd

What is the shape of the Cana­dian in­dus­try in the era of mega­cap­i­tal, on­line com­merce, and post-na­tion­al­ism? What are the con­stituent parts of the book in­dus­try today?


  • Lorimer, Ultra Lib­ris (chap­ters 4–6);
  • BNC Re­search, “The Cana­dian Book Mar­ket 2016”;
  • The­ri­ault, “First, Do No Harm;”
  • Bold, “An Ac­ci­den­tal Pro­fes­sion”

Seven: Ama­zon – Oc­to­ber 30th

What is Ama­zon? Is it the world’s biggest book­store, or is it the In­ter­net’s biggest in­fra­struc­ture provider (and do those two roles have any­thing to do with each other)? What role does Ama­zon play in the world of pub­lish­ing? Does Ama­zon care about pub­lish­ers? Books? What’s a pub­lisher to do?


  • Clark and Young, “Ama­zon”;
  • Maxwell, “Ama­zon and the En­gage­ment Econ­omy”;
  • Row­berry, “Ebook­ness.”

What is copy­right law and where does it come from? How is copy­right chal­lenged by dig­i­tal media? How do cur­rent con­tro­ver­sies about copy­right law and ju­rispru­dence af­fect pub­lish­ers?


  • Hesse, “The Rise of In­tel­lec­tual Prop­erty”;
  • Boyle, The Pub­lic Do­main;
  • Geist, “Fair Ac­cess: Strikes the Right Bal­ance on Ed­u­ca­tion and Copy­right”;
  • Levy, “Ac­cess Copy­right”;
  • Geist, “Ig­nor­ing the Supreme Court”;
  • Al­banese, “Will Rul­ing in ReDigi Case Open the Door to a Used E-Book Mar­ket?”;
  • Somers, “Torch­ing the Mod­ern-Day Li­brary of Alexan­dria.”

Re­mem­brance Day (in lieu) – No­vem­ber 13th

Nine: Schol­arly Com­mu­ni­ca­tion – No­vem­ber 20th

Schol­arly com­mu­ni­ca­tion – which has tra­di­tion­ally com­prised jour­nal, mono­graph, and schol­arly edi­tion pub­lish­ing – has for two decades been on the fore­front of dig­i­tal change; what are the key dis­courses and trends here, and what can trade pub­lish­ers learn from them?


  • Fitz­patrick, Planned Ob­so­les­cence;
  • Lar­ivière et al. “The Oli­gop­oly of Aca­d­e­mic Pub­lish­ers in the Dig­i­tal Era”;
  • Maron, “The Costs of Pub­lish­ing Mono­graphs”;
  • Schon­feld, “Re­flec­tions on ‘El­se­vier Ac­quires Be­press.’”;
  • Ten­nant et al., “A Multi-Dis­ci­pli­nary Per­spec­tive on Emer­gent and Fu­ture In­no­va­tions in Peer Re­view.”

Ten: Mag­a­zine Pub­lish­ing Today – No­vem­ber 27th

What is the shape of the mag­a­zine in­dus­try today? How have print pub­li­ca­tions held out in the face of being over­whelmed and un­der­mined by dig­i­tal media?


  • Madri­gal, “A Day in the Life of a Dig­i­tal Ed­i­tor”;
  • Fis­cher, “Axios Media Trends”;
  • Narang, “Notes From The Un­der­ground”;
  • Hardes, “The Events Model”;
  • Hil­der­man, “Life after Print”;
  • Lazauskas, “The New Model: How Net-a-Porter Keeps the Fash­ion In­dus­try on Its Heels.”

What dis­rup­tions and in­no­va­tions in pub­lish­ing have come forth in the In­ter­net era? We dis­cuss self-pub­lish­ing, the frag­men­ta­tion of mar­kets, on­line com­mu­ni­ties, comics, and other things…


  • Wis­chen­bart, “Global Ebook 2017 Re­port”;
  • authorearnings.​com;
  • Coker, “2017 Smash­words Sur­vey Helps Au­thors Sell More EBooks”;
  • O’Leary, “Twelve Steps”;
  • An­der­son, “What Canada’s Shelfie Data Sug­gests About Ebook Sub­scrip­tions”;
  • Kon­rath, “A New­bie’s Guide to Pub­lish­ing”;
  • Parikh, “Is Genre Fic­tion Cre­at­ing a Mar­ket for Lemons?”;
  • Bri­dle, “Star­books and the Death of the Work”