From an article in The Chronicle of Higher Education:
If you have recently published with an academic press, or if your book is in press now, you might have been disappointed to learn that your work won’t be available on your e-reader anytime soon. While novelists take for granted that their new books will appear in all the electronic formats simultaneously with print publication, for scholars there are no such assurances. Why?
The answers fall into three main areas: (1) technology, (2) rights, and (3) money.
While novels typically consist of straight prose that is relatively easy to pour into the proprietary formats required by the different e-book devices, academic books tend to feature more complex elements. Maps, tables, graphs, and appendixes are still a challenge for e-readers, which must be able to reflow text into various fonts and type sizes according to user preference.
Krista Coulson, digital publishing manager at the University of Chicago Press, points out that while straightforward monographs are excellent candidates for electronic publishing, “math, musical notes, tables, and nonstandard characters don’t translate reliably into reflowable format, especially if the same file needs to work on every platform. Right now we have to insert them as images instead of text.”
More in the article. Thanks to Michael von Glahn for the link.
Here is another constraint on transfer of scholarly monographs to the screen. The influence of a scholarly work derives from a wide interplay of the given work in among a whole scope of other works. The reading occurs in this interplay rather than within a narrative content.
Shouldn’t make any difference? Well there is a premium on cross-reference and comparative reading and multi work comprehension. This requires both print and screen research, but cannot depend on screen search alone. There is also an impediment of side-by-side screen evaluation or authenticated comparisons across time and cultures.