Glassbead Books

Glassbead Books BeakersEditor
John Holbo

National University of Singapore

Glassbead books will exemplify what academic book publishing should be in an age of electronic publishing: namely, a generous gift culture. All Glassbead books will be available as quality, affordable paperbacks, but also as free PDF downloads. All will be released under a Creative Commons (non-commercial) license. Academic book publishing has poor circulation, which is variously diagnosed but generally goes by the name 'the publishing crisis in the humanities'. We propose that free e plus CC will scour a few clogged arteries and—not only will our patient not die—we predict she will feel a  bit better right away. 

Glassbead will exemplify what academic book publishing should be in another sense: namely, healthy public intellectual culture. We will purvey a wide variety of content—ranging from academic specialist works to journalism to critical editions of public domain fiction to new fiction. But we aim to make our mark with works that solve intellectual circulation problems—within the ivory tower and without. We will make books that are maximally available, searchable, usable—by the public and by academics. We will make books the general reader (not so mythical as sometimes reported) and the academic reader will want to make use of

Our most distinctive offerings—our first releases—will be "book events." Born on blogs as massive, multi-reviewer online seminars, the book events are hybrid creatures, unknown in a paper age. We are proud of the critical work they do, the range of participants they have attracted. And, after the fact, they look quite nice on paper. And we hereby demonstrate what an intellectual gift culture can do for the rest of academic publishing. Not all of these books will be narrowly academic, but the case for their intellectual functionality is clearest in the scholarly cases, and perhaps clearest of all in the humanities. Every book published in the humanities should be widely read, discussed, publicly reviewed—should have its own lively comment box, not to put too fine a point on it. Because any scholarly book incapable of rousing a measure of sustained, considerate, knowledgeable, intelligent criticism and downright bookchat from a few dozen souls specializing in that area . . . needn't have been published, after all. Turning the point around: in an age in which technology assures any book worth publishing can be accompanied by such an event, any book that lacks one has been sadly failed by the academic culture in which it was so unfortunate as to be born. We hope to do our part and, even more so, set an excellent example of how to keep ideas circulating.

The book events staged to date have been hosted, primarily, at Crooked Timber ( and The Valve ( Our first "book event" Glassbead book is Chris Mooney's The Republican War on Science. Behind it will follow book versions of some subset of the events dedicated to Theory's EmpireThe Literary WittgensteinHow Novels ThinkMaps, Graphs and TreesFreakonomicsThe Wealth of Networks; Jonathan Strange & Mr. NorrellIron Council. And we have more events to come.

New books . . .

Framing Theory's Empire
Edited by John Holbo

A Valve Book Event

The PDF version of the book is available free-of-charge. Read it online in iPaper format here or download it here. The book will open in your browser if you have the Adobe Reader plug in (5.0 or higher).


Looking for a Fight: Is There a Republican War on Science?

A Crooked Timber Book Event

The PDF version of the book is available free-of-charge. Read it in iPaper format here or download it here. The book will open in your browser if you have the Adobe Reader plug in (5.0 or higher).

Parlor Press and Glassbead Books

The emergence of  Glassbead represents a convergence of just a few of the publishing opportunities enabled by digital technologies. Parlor Press—itself an independent publisher run entirely by scholars and writers--has the flexibility and track record to help foster new publishing ventures like Glassbead. Since its beginnings in 2002, Parlor Press's goal has been to promote independence and innovation in the publishing world, helping others create their own opportunities for cultivating first-rate scholarly and creative work. Collaborative efforts like the one between Parlor and Glassbead, or between Parlor and the WAC Clearinghouse, are new formations in an attention economy. We're looking forward to creating more such alchemic moments.