Before we start looking at Arnulf in detail, let me explain why I'm re-publishing this book. I came into academia late. I was fifty years old by the time I got my PhD, which meant that I probably looked at the whole profession of college and university teaching a bit differently than my younger colleagues did. They seemed to enjoy the whole atmosphere of exclusivity, while I found it annoying.
Here's what writing a doctoral dissertation and publishing it as a book involved, a least in the field of medieval history. We spent close to ten years researching, traveling back and forth to Europe, writing, and supporting ourselves on small stipends to pay for our Ramen noodles. When we finally finished the dissertation, it went to a panel of academics to be read, criticized, and corrected. Then we faced an oral exam, open to the public but attended only by academics, during which we had to defend our work against all comers.
Once we actually received that coveted PhD, the search began for an academic job, which was the only acceptable employment option. At the same time we embarked on a quest to find an academic publisher (no other kind would do) who would agree to publish the book under the copyright of some big-name university. The academic press claimed the right to edit the work unmercifully, market it only to other academics, and take all profits for themselves.
When the book appeared, it was sent to a few academic journals for reviews, displayed at academic conferences, and listed in the university's academics-only catalog. It sold to a pre-determined list of academic libraries who had a contract with the press to buy one copy of everything they printed, plus a few academic friends in our own narrow academic specialties. Eventually, if we were lucky, a review actually appeared in an academic journal. But then the next class of newly-minted PhDs arrived with their new dissertations, and our shiny books went to the back shelves and then the remainder boxes.
What a waste! All those "academics" amounted to only a handful of readers and nary a cent of profit for the writer. Our time, our knowledge, our insights suddenly seemed unimportant. Meanwhile a whole generation of history buffs were settling for reading historical novels (don't get me wrong--some of those were quite good), watching the History Channel (no comment!), and going to movies that distorted the truths of history to please the box office. Today, with all the innovations in the publishing work, I'm betting that there will be quite a few readers out there who will welcome a good story and solid history, even if it comes with all those academic footnotes attached.
I've encouraged my fellow academics to consider self-publishing their out-of-print books, and I support the new PhDs who are finding publishers hard to reach. A few of them are already turning to alternate publishing methods in hopes of reaching the wider reading audience. They're taking a risk, of course. The granting of tenure and promotion still hinges on traditional publication in most institutions, but I firmly believe that policy must, and will, change. But that won't happen until those of us who no longer have to worry about tenure and promotion step forward.
Maybe Arnulf can finally find his mission by leading the way.