Last month I announced the publication – Death in the Contemporary World: Perspectives from Public Archaeology. This new digital open-access collection on the public archaeology of death is special issue 3 of AP: Online Journal in Public Archaeology. See my earlier post here. You can read it online or download all or any of the articles for free as pdfs here.

While I was pleased and proud of getting this exciting and original collection of studies out in the public domain in under 15 months from first submissions (18 months from first inception), and despite seeing the multiple merits of a accessible digital open access arena free to both authors and readers which was offered by publishing in journal dedicated to promoting public archaeology, I still wanted to possess and share physical print copies. So I ordered a small batch of 10 print copies at a very reasonable price direct from the publisher by making a donation on their website.

To do this – to possess print copies of a digital product – is surely just a vanity? Partly, yes, but there are other reasons too.

Of the 10 copies, one copy will be my home/archive copy: for reference but also to join my long-term repository of my own research outputs. Another will be my work office copy to consult for teaching and research, and occasional loan to students. Both will have a practical function to support my ongoing research and teaching, since I often find, despite online access, I read and work with print material more effectively. Am I old-fashioned in this regard, or is this an indication of the volume of online material and the challenging of navigating it, meaning the print venue retains an invaluable function for researchers?

In addition, two copies will go to individuals who have supported my work on the public archaeology of death in recent years by way of ‘thank you’, and for whom this print copy may also have a research and teaching utility. Two further copies will be gifted to colleagues with relevant research interests, and again, I suspect the print copy has merit here. A further copy will be for my doctoral student who appears in the collection and is her first academic publication. Another has gone to one of my postgraduate researchers for whom this will be useful in her ongoing research and who is more confident in using print material.

A copy I will share with my Assistant Editor for a future academic publication project, which we aim to produce with the same publisher. Therefore, this was a trial-run of how that journal will be produced, even if the product will look significantly different.

The final copy? I imagine this one will be useful as a display copy at University Open Days: the print copy has a function in promotion at real-world events in a fashion a digital product might not. It might also double in terms of presenting my research at other venues around the University. And of course, one never knows when a self-aggrandising selfie pic is required with one’s publications!

Note: I haven’t a plan to give a copy to the University Library, since it is unclear whether academic libraries value print editions of anything anymore.

So, there are multiple reasons why, despite engaging with digital research cultures and publication venues, I decided to acquire hard-copies of this digital publication publications. I read them and work with them differently. So do others, and they serve as gifts with clear utility for recipients and to promote potential collaborations and other scholarly dialogues.

Above all else, I confess there is also something special about receiving a new publication in print form that is difficult to pin down, and which an email notification of online publication simply cannot match!