E. Ike Udogu is professor of International and African politics at Appalachian State University, Boone, North Carolina, USA. He is the editor of the just published book, Nigeria in the Twenty-First Century: Strategies for Political Stability and Peaceful Coexistence (AWP).
The Imbroglio of a Lifetime of Scholarship
Anecdotally, my partner said to me the other day, you have spent more time writing and publishing articles and books, but I fail to see the reward for your efforts. And what is more? Your gray and falling hairs are beginning to irritate and disgust me. She complained, justifiably, that I spend more time on my scholarship than I do with her. One of these days, she moaned, you will have to decide if it's going to be me or your manuscripts.
A cursory review of the amount of time and work that a writer of a text puts into a manuscript is phenomenal. And, this is not to mention how disappointing it is for the scholar to put out a book that might be rejected diplomatically by a request to rework it so drastically that it would be better off to throw in the towel.
Having been in the excruciating, and yet rewarding, habit of wring scholarly works for quite awhile, I have seldom placed a dollar value on my works perhaps because I have often seen the end result as that of tenure and promotion. Recently, however, I took up a pad and figured out roughly how much it cost me to work on a forthcoming edited volume. At approximately $20.00 an hour, a minimum of 40 hours a week, for 3 years, I found out that conservatively I put in approximately $115,200 amount of labor on the manuscript. This is minus the frustrations flowing from colleagues who fail to return their chapters on time. A writer, in the academy, I am sure, would be delighted to recoup his/her investment, or should I say some of it, from sales.
It goes without saying that, increasingly, scholars are seeing less financial reward from writing book-length manuscripts probably because of the fierce competition out there-exacerbated and magnified by the sophistication of modern information and communication technologies. Nevertheless, it is comforting that there are more publishing houses today than in the past that offer opportunities to seasoned, as well as new, writers.
What, then, keeps the "old timers" writing and investing so much of their time, energy and money in their works-manuscripts that could be rejected by publishers? The response to this query is numerous and varies from one author to the other. In the academy at least, I contend that the drive to publish is often related to tenure and promotion pressures and for full professors-addiction (more than reputation). Having written one's way from assistant professor to full professor, as it were, the urge to stop even with a powerful threat from one's spouse tend to be insufficient to stop a "mature" and advanced professor from quitting. The contradictions between home life and that of the writing/ teaching professor in academe are powerful. A solution to these competing forces may continue to tax the wits of those who wish to strike a balance between these powerful bipolar forces. Do you have an answer or suggestion as to how to tackle this imbroglio?
In a way, this submission is a peripheral response to Dialogues 496 and 501 and is intended to augment the comments in these submissions. And, might I add that, the preceding comments were my casual reply to a publishing house that had sought my opinion on matters concerning book publications. I share this with the group because many of you on this list may have confronted this dilemma or are likely to in the future.
Moreover, a related issue that we may have to address with respect to Dialogues 496 and 501 is how to make books affordable to Africans and African universities in particular. To this list, I would like to add historically black universities and colleges. The "poor" collections in the libraries of African universities and historically black universities and colleges in the US that I have visited as a guest speaker are, to put it mildly, disappointing. There is need to beef up the collections at some of these institutions.
The following anecdote bears me out. I was honored to have been invited not too long ago to present a paper on democracy in Benin City, the capital of Edo State in Nigeria by a very good friend. I took with me a piece on "Who killed democracy in Africa? The piece was written by one of our doyens, Professor Ali Mazrui, and I had quoted from it. As soon as I was done with my presentation, a professor of political science at the University of Benin approached me for the copy. He took it and made several copies for his class. The moral of this story is that some of our colleagues in Africa "survive" in the academy by re/producing such materials because they cannot afford to buy a book for $95+, for example.
The issue, then, is how do we make books affordable to these academic constituencies in Africa and the US? How can Africans and African Americans read and write more when they are saddled with other survival issues? Perhaps we should extend our kudos to Africa World Press (AWP) and other publishers that publish hard and paper back volumes. The paper backs are cheap enough for us as individuals and groups to buy and donate to universities in Africa and historically black universities and colleges in the US. And, for those of us in America, we might be able to claim the expenses in our tax returns.
More importantly, however, attempts to get Africans reading more may rest with us bringing pressure to bear on African governments, Non-governmental Organizations, et cetera, to invest more on human capital-a strategy that is absolutely necessary for promoting African development.