I think Princeton University Press kinda jumped the shark on this one

I’m suspicious of for-profit journal publishers, but I like university presses. They are often value-driven, down on their heels, and plucky. When the death of publishing at the hands of The Digital was first announced, they were pretty depressed. But since then they’ve moved into ebooks, developed new ways to market their books, and have done a good job embracing the new.

Princeton is a good example of a large, (relatively) wealthy press with a lot of cultural capital that is looking for new ways to engage audiences. I think this ‘trailer’ (yes, you read that right) for their new book 1177 B.C. just stepped over the line. My favorite part is when the words “NO MORE MYCENEANS” start drifting towards you while the soundtrack from Lord of the Rings plays in the background.

Alex Golub is an associate professor of anthropology at the University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa. His book Leviathans at The Gold Mine has been published by Duke University Press. You can contact him at rex@savageminds.org

13 thoughts on “I think Princeton University Press kinda jumped the shark on this one

  1. One of my gender studies friends does “trailers” for his courses, I think its a kinda neat idea.

  2. What strikes me is the adoption of the role-playing game memes (ancient or mythical history version). Could be very attractive to folks who are into that kind of thing. Also big history buffs. I am not a gamer, but even so I felt the pull. As an adman, I’d call it well done.

  3. Not to be bitchy, but I think you misuse “jump the shark” as in I do not think it is a gimmick to do a trailer for a book. A) Those have been around for awhile. B) It is about time that serious books get trailers C) The trailer is actually well done, and probably not expensive. What is your alternative? That academic books should stand or fall in the marketplace on their own, without any advertising? That is how things have been done, sure, and look how well we are doing with this model!

    Frankly, every academic should see this and think how they can do the same for their book. I think the idea above with the trailers for classes is also fantastic. As anthropologists, who better than we to know one can never escape the culture of origin? We do not live in the 19th century, but instead in a highly visual and graphical time-period. Also a fairly democratic one, where the means for constructing and transmitting a contribution is within everyone’s grasp.

    Finally, to return to THIS book, I think it is incredibly savvy of them to button on to the Jared Diamond bandwagon and draft some of his publishing momentum. He may drive us all nuts, but he does get on Colbert and the NYT. Where else will the reading PUBLIC hear about a new book?

  4. What strikes me is the adoption of the role-playing game memes (ancient or mythical history version). Could be very attractive to folks who are into that kind of thing. Also big history buffs. I am not a gamer, but even so I felt the pull. As an adman, I’d call it well done.

    I’d call it well done if the intended audience is history buffs rather than academic historians, but I can’t tell by looking at the Princeton University Press product page. A sample from the book would help me judge, but, ironically enough given the effort expended to come across as digitally savvy by creation of the trailer, the link to the PDF of the book’s Prologue is broken. I know that the rules for presentation of self in the digital world are still coalescing, but surely “Verify your links” is one of them!

  5. I’m not opposed to trailers… well, part of me isn’t opposed to trailers. I meant to say that I thought it was the content of the trailer that jumped the shark, not the decision to make one — sorry if that was unclear!

    In fact I agree with Eugene. I can see it now:

    Music: the breathless, urgent strings of the Zales Diamond commercial

    Title over:
    Before BENEDICT….

    Before MEAD….

    …there was….

    E L S I E . CL E W S . P A R S O N S

    FEAR AND CONVENTIONALITY: DROPPING OA EVERYWHERE 14 APRIL 2014.

    CATCH IT

  6. Um…we were just having fun and knowingly mimicking sensational movie trailer. Plus, it’s all in the service of bringing the Bronze Age collapse to a wider audience. Thanks to those who recognize that. P.S. Gerard Butler was unavailable to play the Hittite King Muwattalli II.

  7. Lighten up, people, please — we were just having a bit of marketing fun, to create some pre-publication buzz; the trailer was made by one of my ex-students, who now has his own production company. Diana, don’t let the music mislead you; the book is entirely about history and archaeology — and it’s about bringing the Late Bronze Age to the attention of the general public. Given your own apparent interests in Nafplion, Mycenae, etc, you might find it of interest…Cheers, EHC

  8. Well it think the pre-publication buzz worked, since you got me to write about it! Maybe you could do one like this (esp. with the same background music) for Smallshire and Swash’s “Britain’s Dragonflys”?

    The Southern Migrant Hawker
    AS YOU’VE NEVER SEEN IT BEFORE….

    WHAT WILL HAPPEN IN THE THIRD EDITION?

    BRITAIN’S DRAGONFLIES!!!

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