Scholarly Roadkill

Mitch’s Blog

Welcome to Scholarly Roadkill

Saturday, December 10, 2016

Mitch’s blog, Scholarly Roadkill, is part of a consulting business, Scholarly Roadside Service, detailed on this website.The blog will cover topics I'm interested in, not only scholarly publishing, but archaeology, dance, the university, writing, scholarly life, and the absurdity of the 21st century universe.  We have no facility to sign up followers, but if you click Like on our Facebook page, you’ll get announcements of new posts. Guest blogs welcomed, just let me know what you want to write about. 

Travels with Harvey

Thursday, February 15, 2018

“Did I tell you about the 12 hour train ride I took with Harvey Oswald?” That’s usually a good conversation starter. 

Bill and I drifted there from figuring out how to open the footlockers in his garage, the ones that held his most valuable books and his youthful writings, but for which he lost the key. The jingly ringful of hardware that we dragged out to the garage was no use. The footlockers married to those keys had long ago departed. But the one key we needed to confirm Bill’s diary entry of this encounter was sadly absent.

“Harvey Oswald?…

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It’s Amazing What Famous Authors Don’t Know About Publishing

Monday, January 29, 2018

I gave up reading James Michener novels long ago, somewhere between Colorado and Alaska, or maybe it was Texas. They had turned into very bad history books compiled by his research assistants and woven into pedestrian narratives of fictional historical families over the span of centuries.  I had no idea what was in his later works—Finland? Detroit? So I was surprised to find in the Cozy Corner Bookshop a Michener novel about writing and publishing called….The Novel. This one was about Michener’s own world, the experience of a novelist wending his way through a writing/publishing career. I broke my Michener ban…

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Orwell on a Shelf

Sunday, December 24, 2017

My education into the holiday season traditions of the 21st century teen decade began at Bed, Bath, and Beyond a week before Christmas last year. Josh and I weren’t even there shopping for gifts, but to find him a humidifier for his nasty chest cold. We found it, nestled between the reindeer towels and the ceiling-high stack of aroma-scented aerators. In the lengthy wait for an available checkout station, we were pushed up against the Hanukkah (or Chanukkah or Hanuka or… whatever, some people worry about how to spell it) display case.

Josh got a good laugh out of one…

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Shedding My Skin

Wednesday, December 06, 2017

I’ve done it. I’ve shed my skin as a publisher and have a new one. I realized it only last weekend when the second anniversary of my selling of Left Coast Press to Routledge was finalized. Had I not received a heartfelt note from Mary Curtis, who sold her legendary Transaction Publishers  to  Routledge exactly a year after I did, the event would have passed me by completely. I quickly posted something on social media announcing the anniversary (interesting how that has become the chosen method for public announcements) then went out with Vida for  celebratory tea and Kung Pao…

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The Thanksgiving That Almost Wasn’t

Monday, November 27, 2017

My favorite Thanksgiving dinner was one I almost missed.  I won’t post a picture of the feast on Facebook. Not only had FB not been invented, Mark Zuckerberg hadn’t been either. It was November 1974 and I was in Afghanistan.

It’s fun to reminisce about past holiday meals when you’re stuffed with leftovers, watching the Tupperwares of turkey and dressing rapidly disappear from the refrigerator as the whole family regularly dips in. Thanksgiving in our camp on the Sar-o Tar plain was a bit different. Centerpiece was the turkey of course, straight out of half a dozen Swanson…

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The Non-Mysterious Past of Publishing

Friday, November 24, 2017

I’ve written each of these editor’s letters before. Turning down someone who has spent a decade writing the book that defines their identity. Suggesting a different direction to an author who thinks she knows what she wants to write. Urging a writing project on a scholar that you know will consume his life for the next half decade. But these weren’t my letters, rather they were ones written by editors at Scribners and Thames & Hudson in the early 1960s to archaeologist Walter Fairservis and buried in Walter’s archives at the Peabody Museum in Cambridge.


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Suspenders on University Avenue

Thursday, November 02, 2017

“Do you still carry suspenders?” was my conversation starter to the owner of the work clothes shop on University Avenue. He had all the other necessary ingredients for the blue collar worker. Flannel shirts, steel toed boots, jeans tough enough to survive the next apocalypse. And, sure enough, on three carefully hung racks just past the register, suspenders. Jubilee is performing Louisiana Roadhouse this weekend, auditioning for the San Francisco Ethnic Dance Festival, and I was instructed to switch my suspenders from black to tan to match my 1930s earth-tone costume.  

This is not your…

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Publish and/or Perish

Thursday, September 28, 2017

How tough is the publishing game? Maybe it takes a publishing game to find out. Andrew Reinhard masks himself as head of publications for the American Numismatic Society, though he’s actually an archaeologist who deals with artifacts of the contemporary world and is one of the key proponents of archaeogaming. And, with a foot in the publications world and one in the scholarly world, he invented a Twine game called Publish and Perish. The conjunction “and” is all that is necessary here. If you want to try it, the game is not behind a firewall, but…

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A Scholarly Monopoly Nightmare

Monday, September 25, 2017

Scholarly publishing is $25 billion industry, according to a 2015 report, including $10 billion in journals, $5 billion in scholarly books.  Large global media companies have a vested interest in keeping income and profit flowing. The key players work in the billions of dollars-- Elsevier, Wolters Kluwer, Wiley, Taylor & Francis, and Springer/Nature—all of which rank among the world’s largest publishing houses.  To increase market share in the shrinking of the scholarly marketplace of frozen academic hires and capped of library budgets, they have swallowed up smaller ones as the key strategy. This includes my own…

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