meson press publishes research on digital cultures and networked media. Our open access publications challenge contemporary theories and advance key debates in the humanities of today.
Despite our admiration for books we believe they need to be reinvented. We face changing reading habits in the era of digital media: for academic reading as well as for public outreach ›searchability‹ has become central, and as such the pdf-format of the book. At the same time we face a rise in publishing (especially with edited volumes) leading to more and more books to be released under the increasing pressure to publish. This makes it necessary to experiment with new forms of book publishing that explore the books’ digital being, e.g. shorter formats of books as well as new forms of (still rigorous) peer review.
These developments allow authors to shape their manuscripts in a different manner. Examples for this are future book projects like the upcoming »Symptoms of Our Planetary Condition«, a critical vocabulary developed by the group terracritica.net. Or the upcoming »Terms of Media Series«, an experiment initiated by Wendy Chun, Timon Beyes, Goetz Bachmann and Boris Traue, who reinvent conference proceedings as a series of short books rather than thinking of them as an edited volume.
Generally, books by meson press are timely and of high expertise while written in a style that openly engages the reader in the spirit of Open Access. We believe in openness. For us this means that all our books are released under an open license on our website www.meson.press free of charge and that our publications can be harvested by libraries and other content aggregators using the OAI-PMH inferface. Recent publications published in this spirit include topics like »No software, just services« (Kaldrack, Leeker 2015), »The Politics of Micro-Decisions: Edward Snowden, Net Neutrality, and the Architectures of the Internet« (Sprenger 2015) or »Rethinking Gamification« (Fuchs, et al. 2014).
meson press has also published a range of translations of theoretical classics, among those Isabelle Stengers’ »In Catastrophic Times« (co-published with Open Humanities Press), the Italian 1960s classic »The Cyborg« by Antonia Caronia, or the German translation of Étienne Souriaus »Les différents modes d’existence«. As one can see from this list, our books are not only written for media scholars and advanced students of cultural and media studies, but also address the serious reader interested in digital media.
In the spirit of digital media, all of our books are published in digital formats and as print-on-demand. The visual identity of the press, which is effectively optimized for both environments, has been developed in close collaboration with the book designer Torsten Köchlin and the digital designer Silke Krieg. Working with the print-on-demand provider Lightning Source allows our beautifully printed books to be available in flexible numbers worldwide far beyond Europe including the UK, US, and South America.
Publications have become cheaper in recent years, however, publishing still isn’t free. Recent developments show that the sales especially for smaller presses are not high enough to sustain a press and its editors. This means, presses rely on a charge – hopefully paid by funding agencies or academic institutions – generally known as ›author processing fee‹ or ›print support fees‹. In German speaking countries, academic book publishing is already heavily subsidized by those fees known as »Druckkostenzuschuss«.
meson press remains an optimistic experiment despite Open Access is still highly contested in many respects and faces challenges that cannot be ignored. Taking a closer look at current developments, the suspicion against open access as not rigorous enough or the one-sided focus on OA journals quickly becomes apparent. The latter might be historically explained by the fact that the idea for Open Access was first voiced in the MINT disciplines. However, one size does not fit all in scholarly publishing and it is therefore important to us to take part in the development of Open Access publishing models more suited to the publishing cultures in the humanities and the social sciences, which still rely heavily on the book as a powerful means of scholarly communication.
meson press is a spin off of the “Hybrid Publishing Lab” which was funded within the framework of the EU major project “Innovation Incubator” at Leuphana University Lüneburg from 2012 until 2015. Its aim was to investigate the future of scholarly publishing in digital environments and generating ideas, technologies as well as business models for supporting the development of the regional publishing industry. It is in this context that we, Mercedes Bunz, Andreas Kirchner and Marcus Burkhardt met. As a consequence, the aim of meson press is to develop an academically sound strategy for Open Access book publishing. Today, meson press is an experiment we continue with verve after our research time at Leuphana University. As academic nomads living at the moment in Munich, Cologne and London, we run meson press in a decentralized manner, while keeping our main office in Lüneburg. To stress this network-like structure as well as its participative and democratic character, we chose to organize meson press as a cooperative – a legal framework not only meeting our requirements for the moment, but also enabling us to include further members in our hopefully growing network.
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