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Is Scholarly Publishing Like Rock and Roll?


David W. Lewis

About David
Mr. Lewis has a BA from Carleton College (1973), an MLS from Columbia University (1975), and certificates of advanced study in librarianship one from the University of Chicago (1983) and from Columbia University (1991). He began his library career as a reference librarian and became a library administrator. He worked at SUNY Farmingdale (1975-76), Hamilton College (1976-78), Franklin and Marshall College (1978-83), Columbia University (1983-88) and the University of Connecticut (1988-93). He came to Indiana University Purdue University Indianapolis (IUPUI) in 1993 as the Head of Public Services and became the Dean of the University Library in 2000, a position he held until his retirement in 2018. He is currently the co-PI on a Mellon funded project, “Mapping Digital Scholarly Communications Infrastructure.” He is current working on developing strategies and structures to create and sustain the infrastructure to support the open scholarly commons. He has published nearly 50 articles and book chapters. His 1988 article “Inventing the Electronic University” was selected one of seven “landmark” articles to be republished in the 75th anniversary issue of College & Research Libraries. His book Reimagining the Academic Library was published by Rowman & Littlefield in 2016. In 2018 he was named the ACRL Academic/Research Librarian of the Year. He is a masters swimmer who enjoys cooking and traveling to parts of the world where red wine is made.
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This article uses Alan B. Krueger’s analysis of the music industry in his book Rockonomics: A Backstage Tour of What the Music Industry Can Teach Us About Economics and Life as a lens to consider the structure of scholarly publishing and what could happen to scholarly publishing going forward. Both the music industry and scholarly publishing are facing disruption as their products become digital. Digital content provides opportunities to a create a better product at lower prices and in the music industry this has happened. Scholarly publishing has not yet done so. Similarities and differences between the music industry and scholarly publishing will be considered. Like music, scholarly publishing appears to be a superstar industry. Both music and scholarly publishing are subject to piracy, which threatens revenue, though Napster was a greater disrupter than Sci-Hub seems to be. It also appears that for a variety of reasons market forces are not effective in driving changes in business models and practices in scholarly publishing, at least not at the rate we would expect given the changes in technology. After reviewing similarities and differences, the prospects for the future of scholarly publishing will be considered.
How to Cite: Lewis, D.W., 2020. Is Scholarly Publishing Like Rock and Roll?. Journal of Librarianship and Scholarly Communication, 8(1), p.eP2333. DOI:
Published on 09 Nov 2020.
Peer Reviewed


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