In the spring of 2017, Literature/Film Quarterly will become an openly-accessible online journal. I’m writing because I know this will be news to many of you, and I want you to have the backstory for this dramatic change.
Last year I was charged by Salisbury University with the task of coming up with a plan for the future of LFQ. This need for a plan became clear because we were at a crossroads for several reasons. Though we have managed to keep the journal going through several financial crises and many changes in the climate of journal publishing (with an increasing trend towards publishing online), it has been a struggle to break even over the last several years. My co-editor, Dave Johnson, and I have done well to keep the journal in existence since 2003 despite some major setbacks—some companies with whom we do business have gone bankrupt, and we have faced challenges with maintaining subscriptions in tough economic times.
In short, we have reached a point where we can no longer be sure of our future as a print publication. The costs of publishing Literature/Film Quarterly are simply too high for the journal to sustain itself for the long term. We have raised the subscription rates of the journal several times over the last decade and we cannot raise them again in the foreseeable future if we are to keep all our current subscriptions: this is a basic fact of the current economic climate and the general move away from print subscriptions (especially by tertiary libraries). Our current financial reality is such that we are merely treading water, sometimes losing money and sometimes breaking even, and not able to anticipate a rise in subscriptions.
In addition to this financial reality, our wonderful Copyeditor/Business Manager Brenda Grodzicki is planning to retire in spring 2016, and we cannot afford to replace her (but, of course, she’s irreplaceable anyway). Those of you who have worked with, or even simply corresponded with, Ms. Grodzicki know her to be a person of extraordinary generosity and dedication. She has truly helped us make the journal as polished as possible and taken pride in making sure each issue is meticulously prepared for publication. When she retires, we shall miss her at the LFQ office dearly, and this letter is in part my heartfelt thanks to her for her tireless work for LFQ since long before I even arrived at Salisbury.
Along with Ms. Grodzicki’s imminent retirement, my Co-Editor Dave Johnson has decided to step down from the journal. We have had a terrific run for more than a decade, but the time is right for him to move onto other projects, especially as we welcome a new faculty member who has taken up the position of Assistant Editor, Andrew (Andy) Scahill. I feel confident that Andy and I can make a great new team, but we are also facing the reality of comparatively limited resources and no more superb administrative assistance of the sort we have come to rely on with Ms. Grodzicki on board.
In light of these personnel changes, I’ve had to consider how best to not only ensure the possible long-term future of Literature/Film Quarterly but to also ensure that we stay with the times and have a workable model for sustaining ourselves. As I researched our options over a period of several months, it became increasingly clear to me that we were effectively paying to stay in print and that a large number of duties associated with running the journal were administrative. Rather than my attempting to absorb new administrative duties that might slow our production, I realized that moving online would allow us to focus almost exclusively on the journal’s content. In addition, I researched the open access movement and became deeply inspired by the possibilities of making our journal available to anyone and everyone who might want to read it. I connected with Catherine Grant, of Film Studies for Free, who has been very supportive of this decision and has agreed to provide links to all our articles that become openly accessible online.
I am also excited to share with you that a faculty member of Salisbury University has agreed to professionally design our new website. His name is John Mosher and he is an Assistant Professor in the Art Department at SU. Dr. Mosher has a background in fine arts as well as web design, and I feel sure he will create something elegant and newly appealing to the eye. Just the other morning I gave him several print copies of the journal to look at with a view to considering the tangible object of LFQ and how it might be translated into a new online presence. He is genuinely thrilled to be a part of the new LFQ’s future.
At this point I confess that I love holding LFQ in my hand, and I shall miss its physical presence in the current printed form. It took me months to wrap my head around the transition to becoming an online, freely-accessible work. But I also feel that blazing a new trail in this way is true to the pioneering spirit that led James Welsh and Tom Erskine to found the journal in the first place. The bottom line is that we will ensure that their legacy lives much longer too. We will create a sustainable future for ourselves. If we remain in print we may struggle to maintain our independence and have to become absorbed by a publisher to keep going.
In joining the open access movement, I believe we are also doing something ideologically important. This is a moral argument over-and-above a practical one. But I think it deserves some emphasis because I believe this is the direction of future academic publishing, and it’s one that I emphatically support. I believe that LFQ should be available to anyone who wants to read it. This strong moral imperative is what drives many other scholars within the open access movement today. Martin Eve’s work has influenced me in this regard—and I recommend his freely available book on the politics and economics of open access that was recently published through Cambridge University Press. Last year I learned that the “Research Assessment Exercise” that determines government funding for universities in the United Kingdom is now only counting open access publications—we will be directly affected by this since our U.K. authors will most likely need to print their work with journals that are already part of the open access movement. Last year the Bill Gates Foundation, which spends approximately 900 million on funding research publications annually, announced that it would only finance works that are made immediately free to the public. Though this affects scientific research specifically, it is reflective of a general trend.
In summary, I believe we can solve both our immediate and long-term financial problems and personnel changes by investing in a website and maintaining the journal as a free publication with minimal expenses. We have a strong new team for moving forward. After Dave steps down at the end of spring 2016, I will be Editor-in-Chief, and I’ll work closely with Andy and John as Assistant Editor and Web Designer, respectively. At this point we have yet to find a copyeditor to work on a contractual basis for four issues per year (a greatly pared-down position in relation to what Ms. Grodzicki has been doing as both Copyeditor and Business Manager for LFQ), but we have a year before that becomes an urgent matter. We also have some funds to hire such a person for a few years before we need to seek new funding, and I am quietly optimistic that we can find charitable or grant-based support. LFQ will be on hiatus in the fall of next year as we prepare the website and while I am on sabbatical (although we will continue to accept submissions). But in spring 2017…look out! We will be launching a new website that we hope you will visit and take pride in. Our editorial staff, our peer reviewers, our writers, and our readers have all helped us develop a journal to be proud of, and we hope you’ll share some of our excitement as we look ahead with an optimistic and creative spirit. I believe that the potential benefits of our joining the open access movement are huge in terms of our readership, our scholarly influence, and our sustainability in the long term.
If you have questions or concerns, please don’t hesitate to contact us, and please be assured that we will continue to update you in the coming months about how everything is going and what exciting prospects lie ahead.