Continuum: The Australian Journal of Media & Culture
Vol. 4, No. 1, 1990
The Media of Publishing
Edited by Albert Moran

Preface

Tom O'Regan and Brian Shoesmith

This issue continues Continuum's brief to be a 'journal of the media' - in this case principally, but not exclusively, the medium of publishing. It also marks a continuation of the journal's strategy to examine important and neglected 'cultural sites'. Typically - and this issue is no exception - a number of perspectives are brought to bear on the site chosen. The resulting juxtaposition creates fruitful tensions over how best to characterise, understand and interpret a cultural site. Continuum is committed to articulating the energies, fragmentations, and loose coalitions that attend cultural sites. It is hoped that this compiling of sites from issue to issue will assist in some small measure the systematic and comparative study of media - particularly the study of Australian cultural industries.

The issue's editor, Albert Moran, put this issue together so as to enliven and help direct research into the publishing, marketing and selling of print in Australia. Apart from work on literary and cultural magazines much of Australian publishing and bookselling has evaded systematic scrutiny. Much still remains to be done on publishing. The reader will find little here on the coffee table book, the cook book, 'how to' books including computing books. There is nothing on 'the desk-top publishing' revolution and the new 'concept bookshops' like Fremantle's and Paddington's New Edition. There is nothing on the turnover strategies, street orientations and market positioning of book chains. Also untouched in these pages is the book created from the film (why is the literary imagination in these post-modernist days incapable of addressing this 'copying' in reverse?) and the phenomenon of small and ephemeral publications. These are publications driven: by the 'madness' of fans and cranks, by transitory political allegiances, and by sub-cultural affinities. Such ephemeral magazines and journals represent much of the vitality of the field connecting as they do with useful and even deviant energies. But they enter oblivion so quickly after their moment of production ceases. By contrast those publications with (institutional) legs do, through their own inertia, become the journal of record.

Recommending such avenues of investigation to readers takes nothing away from the issue as it stands. On the contrary it shows how the conversation on publishing represented by the articles in these pages can be extended.

This issue is not solely concerned with publishing. Also included are three articles on 'Pay TV' and broadcasting regulation. Peter Cook argues for a middle course in Australian broadcast regulation - one which steers between state and public power. In a valuable essay Tim Dwyer surveys the different enquiries into Pay TV in Australia beginning with the ABT's 1982 enquiry and ending with the Saunderson Committee's To Pay or Not to Pay. Dwyer argues that over the period we have seen a transformation in the rhetoric from a social discourse which recognised 'audience needs' to one in which a 'consumer orientation' dominates. Finally, economist Allan Brown assesses the difficult economic prospects for pay-TV in Australia.

Our reviews section features two reviews by Chris Berry on Japanese cinema and the cinema journal Cinemaya, Rodney Giblett reviews Dugald Williamson's Authorship and Criticism, John de Reuck reviews Ian Douglas's Film and Meaning, and Alan Mansfield reviews a selection of the Institute for Cultural Policy Studies' Occasional Papers. We also carry a 'Correspondence' section for this issue. John Hinkson takes issue with John Docker's characterisation of both his argument and 'left pessimism' in Continuum, v. 1, n.2 (1987); and Keyan Tomaselli reviews the 7th International Conference on Culture and Communication held in Philadelphia in 1989.

This volume, v. 4, marks our first price increase in four years. Subscription costs will rise to $A25 for individuals in Australasia; $US25 for those elsewhere. Institution prices have risen to $A45 for Australasia, and $US45 for elsewhere. This decision was taken reluctantly. Our production costs per issue have nearly doubled with the journal stabilising its size at 228 pages and a quality, reliable printer being employed. We have been able to cover some of these costs through author's supplying computer disks and voluntary labour. But even with this the journal would cost at least twice as much per issue if it were not for the Australian Film Commission's generous assistance.

This, the publishing issue (v.4, n.1), will be followed in early 1991 by Alec McHoul's 'Language and Media' issue (v. 4, n. 2). Volume 5 will consist of John Hartley's 'TV Issue' (due out also in early 1991) and Adrian Martin's 'Film Stylistics' (due out late that year). With Martin's issue Continuum will have reached its tenth issue. This increased publishing activity will permit Continuum to fulfil its promise to bring out five volumes in five years. It is a matter of pride that we have not once resorted to a double issue. Volume 6 will see Toby Miller's radio issue and Brian Shoesmith and Ian Angus's issue "Innis, Canada and Australia".

Tom O'Regan & Brian Shoesmith, Editors, Continuum, Perth, November 1990.


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