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The paradigm of publishing and the University of Guyana Press

By Dr Ken Danns
THE advent of new technologies has fundamentally transformed and liberated human communications and concomitantly the paradigm of publishing. The paradigm of publishing refers to the complex of systems, technologies and media for the acquisition, reproduction, dissemination, ownership and marketing of information and scientific knowledge.

Publishing is an expression of freedom. The right to publish underlines freedom of expression that is fundamental to any democratic society. When you publish you propagate information to the public or to a community through broadcasting, printing or the internet. It is a formalised medium to share and to be heard, to convey news and to disseminate scientific, artistic and other scholarly knowledge.

An inability to publish is restrictive of the spread of enlightenment and of scientific development. An inability to publish muzzles the voice. It enables cocoons of complacency and ignorance to flourish. Dictatorships and authoritarian systems actively control the capacity to publish and to be heard. Poverty, underdevelopment and indifference equally impede publishing capabilities.

The University of Guyana has historically been negatively affected by two poverties of publishing. First, the poverty of access to publications — contemporary books, journals and other published materials necessary for its effective functioning as an institution for higher learning in the modern world.

Second, the University of Guyana has historically been negatively impacted by the poverty of publishing and disseminating the scientific and scholarly knowledge it manufactures.
The impact of the poverty of access to publications is that the students and faculty of the university may have been inadequately exposed to and integrated into the body of knowledge, paradigms and schools of thought that characterise their respective academic disciplines.

The foreign exchange crisis in Guyana during the last three decades of the 20th century severely limited access to text books, which were almost exclusively published abroad. Broader resource deprivation of the university severely limited its capabilities to stock its libraries with current books and journals. It was not unusual for students to take a class that had no assigned textbooks.

Or, if such books were assigned, they were not able to afford them. The shelves of the university bookstore were sparse and stocked more with t-shirts and plantain chips than contemporary books for the various courses. Even when books were written by local or regional scholars, the cost to access these was prohibitive.UG lecturers generally had no relationship with publishers and often had to rely on books and notes derived from a past era. Similarly, scientific research was limited by the inability to access relevant literature.

Gallant efforts and sacrifices were however made by the University of Guyana library to remain contemporary, and, by individual scholars to stay engaged within their respective disciplines. The Caribbean Research Library, developed and sustained by the heroic efforts of Joel Benjamin, was a beacon of accomplishment in this trend of deprived access.

The second poverty of publishing has been the crippled capabilities of the university to publish and disseminate its intellectual manufacture. Consequently, serious research produced by scholars at the university was confined to photocopied and stencilled documents which had limited availability and circulation.

The existence of a couple of academic journals such as “Transition” the Journal of the Institute of Development studies and Faculty of Social Sciences, was compromised by only being able to produce an issue on the average every two to three years. Marketing these journals was an uphill battle and the university lacked institutional capabilities to do so. These journals, along with books published locally and abroad by UG scholars, were not readily available to the university community.

The march of history and technological advancements, such as the internet and social media, have revolutionised the paradigm of publishing. The paradigm of publishing has been transformed. The internet has allowed millions global access to published materials. Further, social media has transformed every individual into an online publisher and a disseminator of information and ideas. People on social platforms such as Facebook mainly externalise their private selves and market their professional beings.

People share online, knowledge about themselves, their families, communities and country. They share information on issues and goings on everywhere. Importantly, many share scientific information and intellectual knowledge from themselves or from others. Some even self-publish manuscripts online and offer these for sale.

This tsunami of information and publications from the internet brings the good, the bad and the indifferent surging through institutional barriers, national boundaries and parental controls. It blurs the boundaries between the real and unreal, genuine and fake, the scientific and the imagined. It places both access to and control of information at the fingertips of the average person in ways hitherto unimagined. It frees citizens from the control of authoritarian regimes, while making them at the same time susceptible to alternate influences competing for their loyalty.

The University of Guyana Press (UGP) is a medium for promoting scientific enlightenment and engendering scholastic growth. The University of Guyana Press has been launched amidst the ferment of this new paradigm of publishing. It is occasioned by the all-embracing reach of the publishing revolution that requires institutions to have a unique publishing presence in order to define and sustain their identities as well as promote their brands.

• UGP then, is an imperative for the affirmation and marketing of the University of Guyana’s brand. It is a public and global voice of the university’s scholarship.

• UGP must incentivise UG’s students and faculties to conduct research and seek publication of these.

• UGP must attract, develop and promote quality academic research from the university community and from scholars in the Region and the broader diaspora.

• UGP must make its publications both available and affordable to students.
Publishing today and for the foreseeable future is and will be largely digital. The days of producing printed books are rapidly receding. People are reading books online and on their computers and other electronic devices.

These changing modes of delivery and knowledge transmission are integral to this new publishing paradigm. The UGP must, from its inception, embrace digital publishing and online sale and distribution of its products. It must however, still retain the capabilities to produce and market hard copies of its publications.