In April 2009, I met NUS Press managing director Paul Kratoska to ask if he would be interested in publishing a book on the Singapore press system. He said yes (subject to the usual review processes) and I set to work. I thought it would take a year, but life got in the way, so it took three.
At last, it is done. On Thursday, I visited Paul’s office to pick up my copies. I’m told Freedom From The Press should be in Singapore bookstores by next weekend, retailing at S$38.
My previous book, Contentious Journalism and the Internet, had also been published by NUS Press, when it was run by Peter Schoppert. Originally called Singapore University Press, NUS Press has a long tradition of academic publishing. But one of the unfortunate side-effects of Singapore universities’ drive for so-called “world class” excellence (the most serious being the devaluation of Singapore studies across the social sciences here) is that many scholars now think that they should target foreign imprints instead of settling for Singapore’s top academic publisher.
Recently, one of my senior colleagues said as much, suggesting that my CV would look better if my book was published by an entity more illustrious than NUS Press.
I knew of this foreign bias within Singapore universities long before I met up with Paul three years ago. Nonetheless, NUS Press was my first stop, and thankfully it was my last. After all, I didn’t write this for my CV. It is a book by a Singaporean writer for a probable readership that is mainly in Singapore, so it made sense to publish it locally. Assuming people buy it, it would be easier for bookstores to replenish their shelves. And it would be more accessible than some excellent academic books on Singapore published in the US and Europe that come with astronomical price tags.
Furthermore, I try to chart my young academic career by the light of living role models, rather than clinical appraisal forms and bureaucratically-derived KPIs. And many of the scholars I most respect – including Wang Gung Wu, Anthony Reid, Chan Heng Chee, Eddie Kuo, Chua Beng Huat, Kwok Kian Woon, Hong Lysa and Huang Jianli – have titles under the SUP or NUS Press imprint. If it was good enough them, it is certainly good enough for me.
So, thanks NUS Press, for helping me get this book out.