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Stories along the Road to Innovation from the Johns Hopkins University Press

by Becky Brasington Clark and Claire McCabe Tamberino

Our consumer health editor, Jackie Wehmueller, had turned up a promising opportunity. She had contacted a prominent dermatologist about writing a book on chronic itch, a condition that affects millions of individuals. The market potential for the book was enormous and the dermatologist was renowned. He liked the idea and agreed to write the book with one key condition: it had to be a fully interactive e-book with patient videos and three-dimensional graphics, and it had to be published as a multi-touch iBook.

The author was coming to Baltimore in a few weeks. Did we want to meet with him and learn more?

The answer was an enthusiastic yes. As a longstanding publisher of titles in consumer health—including the bestselling Thirty-Six Hour Day—the Johns Hopkins University Press was the natural home for this path-breaking project.

There was a small twinge of anxiety over the fact that we had never before used iBooks Author—the multi-touch platform that seamlessly incorporates video, audio, 3-D graphics, and other interactive features directly into the e-book file—but that kind of anxiety is familiar in an industry where change is the only constant. “We’ll figure it out,” we said, and quickly got to work.

Meet the JHU Press screenshot

JHUP medical publishing: from manuscript to iBook.

Figuring it out is the charge of the Online Books Division (OBD)—a big name for a three-person operation within JHUP’s Books Marketing Department. We seek commercially promising opportunities for digital innovation and figure out how to integrate them into the Book Division’s workflow. Since 2010, we’ve developed and posted supplemental material on CD and online for dozens of titles, we’ve incorporated 3,000 new pages to our online reference, The Early Republic, and we published the 2nd edition of the Johns Hopkins Atlas of Digital EEG (a proprietary software product accompanied by a print book). We’ve also digitized our course adoption campaigns, expanded and refined our list-serv, and segmented 20,000 e-mail subscribers by subject area preference—all while adding new vendors and territories to our e-book program.

We’ve learned a few things along the way, perhaps nothing as important as this: innovation requires not only a willingness to learn, but a stomach for frustration and occasional failure. It requires us to engage fully with that which we do not know, and to begin anew the long journey of mastery. It requires us to add new challenges to already heavy workloads, disrupt routines, and make new kinds of mistakes. And sometimes it requires that we say “yes” to a project before we are 100% certain that we know exactly how to get it done.

Learning iBooks Author

A couple of weeks in advance of the author meeting, two members of the OBD staff—Claire McCabe Tamberino and Michael Carroll—enrolled in a two-day training course on iBooks Author. They came back full of enthusiasm for the platform and confident that we could master it quickly.

We all agreed that we needed a beta project that would allow us to become proficient with iBooks Author in advance of using it for our first commercial endeavor. The search for a practice project came in the midst of a press-wide strategic communications discussion, in which we had identified the need for multi-media collateral material for JHU Press. That’s when it hit us: why not use iBooks Author to develop a multi-touch iBook about the Press?

Turning the Camera on Ourselves

Screenshot of Meet the JHU Press

Interactive maps invite readers to explore the history of the press.

With that, Meet the Johns Hopkins University Press was born. The vision was simple enough: repurpose descriptive copy about the Press and its four divisions—Books, Journals, HFS, and Project MUSE—and enhance it with multimedia.

Inspired by the video UNC Press had recently released to highlight the appointment of director John Sherer, we decided to conduct video interviews with Press leaders. That’s where things got a little tricky. We didn’t have a resident videographer on staff, and we couldn’t afford the steep rates charged by the university. So we decided to do it ourselves.

With another small investment in software and training (iMovie), we were ready to start shooting video using the Press’s newest iPad. We wrote scripts, scheduled video shoots, and called “action.”

The shooting went smoothly enough, but we quickly discovered two unanticipated problems. First, the interviews were far too long. Second, the video quality was compromised by the lack of professional lighting. Reshooting all of the interviews simply wasn’t an option. We were already on a tight schedule and the budget was even tighter.

They say necessity is the mother of invention. In this case, it led to creative thinking and innovation. We decided to shorten the video interviews considerably, and since the audio quality was better than the video quality, we decided to use small snippets of video, then continue the audio with still shots and animated B-roll.

Nearly a dozen people[1] came together to finish the project. We published Meet the Johns Hopkins University Press in April and made it available free of charge in the iTunes store. We’ve been using it to introduce the Press to university stakeholders, prospective clients, funders, and authors, and the reaction to it has been overwhelmingly positive.

Lessons Learned

Meet the Johns Hopkins University Press helped us achieve our primary goal: becoming proficient in iBooks Author in advance of our first commercial project, Living with Itch, which will be published in August (more on that project in a future column). But the beta project bestowed some additional benefits that we found instructive.

First, we gained confidence in our ability to master new ways of publishing. When faced with a challenge like publishing in iBooks Author, it can be easy to assume that we aren’t big enough to handle it, that such opportunity is better left to trade houses and large commercial publishers. That simply isn’t the case.  University presses are staffed by smart, adaptable professionals who master new challenges every day. Why worry that we can’t when we demonstrate day after day that we can?

Second, the project forced us to share information across divisions, a process that has been encouraged via our Press-wide strategic messaging efforts. Not only is it interesting to learn more about the work of our colleagues, but this kind of information sharing helps us leverage our collective strength and identify new responses to industry and market challenges.

Third, we were reminded of the value of professional services. Sure, we can shoot and edit video on the iPad, but it isn’t going to be of the same quality as work from professional videographers. For future book-length projects requiring video, we’ll ask the author to deliver high-quality video or we’ll hire a pro.

See for Yourself

Meet the JHU Press screenshot

A stop on JHU Press’s digital journey.

Meet the Johns Hopkins University Press incorporates the multi-touch functionality of iBooks Author, with text, three-dimensional graphics, interactive maps, video, audio, and a self-grading quiz. If you’d like to see it for yourself, go to the iTunes store and download a free copy. We’d love to get your feedback. Feel free to email Claire McCabe Tamberino with your comments and questions at cmt@press.jhu.edu. And watch this space for a future column on Living with Itch: A Patient’s Guide and an update on how we’ve used Meet the Press in our strategic communications.


[1]Bill Breichner, Davida Breier, Greg Britton, Glen Burris, Michael Carroll, Jack Holmes, Kathleen Keane, Mary Lou Kenney, Dean Smith, Claire McCabe Tamberino

Image by Kevin Crumbs CC license http://www.flickr.com/photos/crumbs/2702417097/sizes/l/in/photostream/

 

The other morning I read an interesting essay by William H. Weitzer in Inside Higher Ed that explored the campus as a “place”, and extolled some of the benefits real campuses offered over online education. The essay went on to suggest that these “places” and their associated experiences should be exploited when recruiting students, especially since they are absent in the online equivalent. Apparently colleges and universities are beginning to feel pressure from the third fastest growing industry in America, for-profit universities, where the majority of the educational experience occurs online.

And then later in the week I read another IHE piece about the importance of place, this time by Scott McLemee and concerning the New York Public Library’s plan to move about 1.5 million books out of the main library and to a storage facility in New Jersey. The reason the library has given for the move is to make room for people working on their computers.

It seems there have been a lot of discussions about “place” these days, and in our business, the focus has been on the disappearance of places that sell books.

Last year the Borders chain folded, closing 800 bookstores and removing millions of books from our communities, and so far this year not a week has gone by without the announcement that an indie that’s been around for over a decade is either closing or up for sale. Important stores like R.J. Julia and University Press Books are both looking for new owners, and if new owners aren’t found, University Press Books is likely to close. The downward spiral of the bookstore in America seems to be increasing in speed. With ebooks, pirating, and predatory online booksellers, it seems only an idiot would suggest bookstores even have a future. Well, my friends, that is precisely what this idiot is about to propose.

It seems clear at this point that the relationship that publishers have with indies has to change. Last year, right before Christmas, Amazon urged customers to go to brick and mortar stores and compare the physical store prices to Amazon’s prices. Amazon even paid people for reporting those store prices back to Amazon. Bookstores called the practice “Showrooming” and noted the inherent unfairness in providing an important service for the book community without receiving the actual sustaining sale. But it got me thinking. With bookstores closing and libraries cutting staff, hours, and even the number of books actually in a library, perhaps a new approach is in order. Maybe if we can’t beat them, we ought to join them.

If I had any capital (which I don’t, I have children instead) and I lived in a town without a great Book Place (which I do, if you don’t count the libraries), here’s what I’d do…

Imagine you’re walking downtown and you see a sign for a new business, THAT BOOK PLACE. Cool, you think to yourself, an idiot with money they apparently don’t need has opened a new bookstore in my community. I’m going to go check that out before it goes out of business. So you cross the street and walk in. In front is what you might expect, big stacks of The Hunger Games trilogy, a book of erotica for moms that appears to have something to do with the Pantone variations between PMS 400 and PMS 450, and a new cookbook teaching the virtues of artisanal water boiling.

After venturing a little farther into the store you come across a machine that looks like a copier. The only reason you’re pretty sure it isn’t a copier is because of the Plexiglas chamber in the middle with robot parts that seem to be making something. At first you’re a bit excited and hope that it’s one of those Mold-a-Ramas you remember from childhood visits to the natural history museum and that a warm, wax dinosaur will pop out of the chute. But no, instead a warm Stephen King paperback pops out. And as you look closer at the Plexiglas chamber you see that the machinery inside is making books, paperback books, one at a time.

Curious, you go to the counter and ask about the machine.

“Oh that. That’s our Espresso Book Machine. With that we can print you a copy of one of over 7,000,000 titles in the EspressNet system. Anything in the public domain can be printed and bound for you at roughly the printing cost, and many in copyright books can be printed here as well. So if you don’t find what you’re looking for, we can easily see if the book can be printed for you in a couple of minutes.”

Cool, you think to yourself, as you head into the stacks. I’ve been meaning to get a copy of Lea’s History of the Inquisition of the Middle Ages. I’ll have them crank one out before I leave.

Approaching the literature section first, you notice that some of the books look used. You suppose that’s not all that unusual these days. Lots of stores sell new and used mixed together. In the Vs you see an unfamiliar Vonnegut title, Slapstick; or, Lonesome No More!, and you pull it off the shelf, and on the cover is a sticker, and it says:

Display/Used/Lending copy

  • New, shipped next day: $24.95
  • Used: $8.99
  • Rental: $ 3.99/week
  • Ask about the DRM-free e-book: $9.95 for Members

Confused about this, you head back to the counter to ask what it’s all about.

“Yes, many of the books on the shelves are available under those options. We can have the publisher drop ship a brand new copy anywhere you like, or you can purchase this used copy. You can also rent the book, but you might want to consider a membership because then the rental is free. Members don’t pay for rentals, though like non-members, if they don’t return the book eventually, the cost of the book is charged to their credit card and we order another.”

“How much is membership?” you ask.

“For an individual, it’s $49.95 a year. But with that membership you can borrow any book in the store for free. In most cases you can also request that we acquire a book for you to borrow and we will, or we’ll print it for you using our Espresso Book Machine.”

“Interesting,” you say, “Tell me more about that DRM-free ebook.”

“Well, if you invest in a membership and thus in this store, then we can sell you a DRM-free ebook edition for many of the titles in the store. Many of the publishers we work with have been convinced that if you have a stake in the store, you will have a stake in its continuance and your access to the books we offer.  And that, they hope, would be enough for you to use the file only in legal ways. They also get a cut of the membership fee, which they don’t have to pay royalties on, or any other costs for that matter.”

“So they’re willing to trust me, if I become a member?”

“Yes,” replies the clerk, “the publishers are willing to trust you, and so are we.”

“Well, what kind of file is it?” you ask.

“You get both a PDF and an ePub file,” replies the clerk.

“Well, this is pretty cool. Sign me up,” you say. “Oh, and could you please print me a copy of History of the Inquisition of the Middle Ages by Henry Lea?”

So maybe publishers should treat indies like showrooms, and send their books to indies on consignment. That means that only if and when a book sells is money paid to the publisher. The books in the store shouldn’t be the focus of the revenue. Instead, the revenue might come from membership fees, book rentals, and referral fees for drop shipped new copies or ebook sales. Members of this store/library then would have a stake in keeping the store/library open, so presumably they would have little motivation to misuse ebook files. Then I as a publisher might have a reason to trust the store and those members with DRM free files. I would offer DRM free files in a store like that, where there is a relationship between the file and the store and the customer/patron. We are all shareholders in that scenario. I think other publishers might consider offering DRM free files in such a scenario too, but perhaps I’m too pie in the sky. If your local bookstore/library depended on the revenue ebook sales and rentals generated, you would have a stake in that revenue. I would hope that that could be an environment where publishers might be willing experiment with trust. But then again, I’ve been known to believe in lost causes before, and have been absolutely wrong.

So if I were to open a new store today, that’s the model I’d try to sell to publishers. Treat me like a community library/showroom, whose mission is both dissemination and access, and book ownership, maybe even a non-profit. For a publishing community like ours that has a similar mission, this might be very fruitful. But it would depend a lot on the store, and particularly where it was. Which “place” are we talking about?

This brings me back to University Press Books. No, not our product, instead the store in Berkeley, California. I have been in conversation with the owner, William McClung, and I shared some of these ideas. He’s willing to experiment. We also discussed practical ways we might transition to such a model and one thing we both decided had to be the first step was books had to be sent on consignment. If the point is to display the books, why would we charge the store for the display copies? You might ask why we would want to display our books there. Why wouldn’t we? Just between Stanford and UC Berkeley there is an enormous audience of scholars I want to look at our books. It’s like a year round conference where scholars are continually visiting. This is not to say they shouldn’t be allowed to sell that display copy, but if they do, they will probably have to sell it below the retail price, as it won’t be in pristine condition. So, we ought to consider allowing them to set the price of the display copy. Yes, if it does sell, we’ll still get the majority of the revenue, but it will be based on a price that the store sets. I also told them that I would pay them a commission on anything they sold using that display copy. And I promised that I would pay to drop ship a brand new book to a customer, if the customer preferred that to getting it at the store.

So, I’ve put my money where my mouth is and I’ve sent them 200 of our books, on consignment, and I’m giving them the flexibility to price those books. When our business manager asked how we would know what they sold it for, I told her we would trust them. And I pointed out that if we can trust POD and ebook platforms selling our content when we really have no way of knowing how much they’ve really sold, I think I can trust a bookseller.

Another advantage to this approach is since they are display copies, I don’t have to send still-in-the-shrink-wrap copies. I can send slightly damaged copies, or left over exhibit copies. The important thing however is my books are now in front of one of the largest academic audiences in the country. With that in mind the books I chose weren’t necessarily all of our latest titles. Instead, I was sure to include all of our perennial adoption titles, some of our best sellers (non-regional, of course) and some of our most impressive new books. I also did a search of our author database and was sure to include all of the authors who live in the vicinity, though they also typically taught at UC or Stanford.

It’s at this point in the post that I make the pitch. Unless something really radical happens, University Press Books is going to close. Would you consider doing what I’m suggesting? The McClungs think that this model has the potential to keep them open. Simply moving to a consignment basis makes a major difference in cash flow for them. Will you consider doing the same? I’m not asking anyone to sell DRM free files, or to allow their titles to be rented, at least not yet, but I am challenging our community to do something, anything, to keep that store open. Would you consider sending books you’ve chosen to University Press Books on a consignment basis? If this works in Berkeley, perhaps it’s a model that could also help St. Mark’s at NYU, or any of a number of bookstores that specialize in our books. Please consider this. And if you’re not convinced it’s worth trying, consider the alternative—one less book place—one less university press book place.

By Sylvia K. Miller

Many thanks to our AAUP colleagues who sent positive comments and thoughtful questions in response to our announcement of the enhanced e-book version of Freedom’s Teacher:  The Life of Septima Clark by Katherine Mellen Charron. In this blog post, I’d like to review briefly some of the aspects of the enhanced e-book production process that were new to us.

Author’s voice, multiplied.  At our invitation, the author provided extended captions for 19 of the enhancements, or 20% of the total.  The author’s voice now appears in the book in three layers: (1) in the audio, in the role of interviewer; (2) in the finished biographical narrative; (3) in the extended captions, which might be said to mediate between the first two.  She is slightly embarrassed when she hears her own voice in the audio; nevertheless, she is interested in the ways in which the enhanced e-book reveals the historian’s research process to readers, especially students of history.  One enhancement is a map, based on her notes from reviewing the 1910 census, on which she has marked the race of Clark’s neighbors in Charleston.  The map connects the raw census data with the finished narrative, in which the author states that Clark’s was a mixed-race neighborhood.  We toyed with a possible headline, “Historian at Work,” which we did not include but which might describe all of the enhancements.

Digitization.  Ideally the author’s materials would become a digital archive at a collaborating institution during production of the book.  However, in this demonstration project, the author had not yet decided where to donate her research materials, including 13 taped interviews.  Making do with the situation, we borrowed her stack of cassette tapes and digitized them in the media lab at UNC’s undergraduate library.  This took about 20 hours of staff time, spread over a couple of weeks, that we were able to justify under the umbrella of the Publishing the Long Civil Rights Movement project.

Publisher-archive partnership.  Septima Clark’s papers are housed at the Avery Center for African American Research and Culture at the College of Charleston.  Recognizing the potential of the enhanced e-book to bring  the Center’s collections to the attention of a wider audience, the archivists granted permission for use of the materials that the author had identified and, with the support of the college’s Lowcountry Digital Library, digitized them.  The Center’s archivists were enthusiastic partners and even rediscovered in their holdings an interview with Clark that the author had not previously heard.  The collaboration is formally acknowledged on the title page of the enhanced e-book, and links to the Center’s website are included in the captions.

Technology.  The technology that we used was fairly simple; new standards from Barnes & Noble and Amazon allowed us to avoid having to use or write special software.  Starting with an Epub file, we inserted outbound links in the form of DOIs and URLs.  We inserted new content in an appendix and created internal navigation via HTML links inserted by hand; the audio content was in MP3 form.   (See the contact information below if you would like more detail.)

Audio excerpts.  Cutting the excerpts from the long interviews took only a few hours.  However, choosing and marking the excerpts to be cut took another several hours.  We did it the old-fashioned way, by reviewing transcripts together with the author, who bracketed chosen passages with a pencil.  Once all the MP3 audio files were included in the Epub file, some work had to be done to even out the sound volume.  The very best interview with Clark is, ironically, the one with the most ambient noise; perhaps more experienced sound engineers could have removed some of it.

Ellipsis.  In a couple of cases, the transcripts of interview excerpts included ellipsis points where the author had asked that we skip a digression in the conversation.   However, at first the digitally spliced-together audio did not indicate an ellipsis; this is a minor point, but it seemed to cross a line of scholarly integrity.  Playing around with “Garage Band,” a program that comes automatically loaded into a Mac laptop, we devised a swift clock-ticking sound to indicate the ellipsis.  We hope that people will know instinctively what it is when they hear it.

Permissions database.  Once you have more than a dozen or so items needing permission, it’s useful to switch from a spreadsheet to a database.  We set up a FileMaker database so that we could easily filter the growing list of items for data such as format, source, permission cleared/not cleared, location in the book (we were trying to balance enhancements across the book), and conveniently write captions and credit lines while referring to the descriptive and rights information on the same screen.  We were able to export reports for the author in Word (she did not want a spreadsheet) and, later on, export a captions manuscript for editing.

Navigation and usability testing.  I hardly need to point out that traditional navigational tools in print books such as tables of contents, running heads, numbered notes, and indexes have not needed usability testing in principle for a century or more.  However, our decision to group the enhancements in an appendix, list them in the front matter, and link to both of these added front and backmatter elements from the text was a new use of old tools, and we wanted to make sure that what we had done was clear.  Testing a prototype, the author’s graduate students gave us more than a dozen suggestions for changes, mostly links that would ease navigation among the new parts of the book.

Outbound links.  I have written about what I call a portal book, an e-book transformed by outbound links into an interface to a body of digital information. However, only 18, or 19%, of the enhancements in Freedom’s Teacher are accompanied by links to an online collection in which the item can be viewed in the context of other like items.  Although most of the remaining 77 enhancements carry links to the archive’s website, the archival items themselves are not yet viewable online.  We gave the full URLs as well as other identifying information about the online archives, so that if the links cease functioning, the reader can perform a Google search and find the archives anyway.  This is explained in a “Publisher’s Note” in the front matter.   The DOIs in the bibliography are the only outbound links guaranteed to be permanent, although of course there are very few because publishers are just beginning to register their books with CrossRef.  We hope that the inclusion of outbound links inspires archives to make more collections available online and book publishers to join CrossRef.  Maybe even archives will begin to use DOIs for archival items!  (This idea has been discussed but not enacted anywhere yet, as far as I am aware.)

Digital divide.  Despite her enthusiasm about the enhanced e-book project, the author does not own an iPad.  UNC Press owns one shared iPad, on which we loaded our corrected file for the author.  We lent this to her for a week.  She found, as we had in house, that checking the enhanced e-book demands time and patience, in order to check 60 audio examples (totaling 3 hours and 18 minutes of audio) for accuracy, along with the transcripts.  With the original print page numbers omitted in the digital book, it was a puzzle deciding how the author would notate corrections; after asking her to refer to the digital page locations—and to refrain from changing the type-size display, or the book would reflow and the page locations would all change, too—we realized it would have been better to have asked her to use the last eight words of the previous paragraph as a marker, because a phrase is easy to search.

Schedule and timing.  We produced this retrospective enhanced e-book in an intensive two months.  Of course it would be helpful to have more time; the best scenario, we believe, would be to plan the enhanced version along with the traditional version, from the start.

Video demonstration.  In order to explain the features of the enhanced e-book to readers who have not yet purchased it for a Nook , iPhone, or iPad, it was important to demonstrate it in a short YouTube video. We asked our colleague Seth Kotch of the Southern Oral History Program to narrate and use oral-history equipment for digital video.  He rigged up a stand for the iPad with two chairs and managed to film it without an opaque glare on the glass.  He followed our storyboard but altered the words in minor ways that felt more natural.  Subsequently the audio and video were subjected to a number of adjustments as we worked for a smooth flow of pictures and sound.  As only the second video that we have ever produced, it may have an amateur flavor which we hope is appealing.

Guidelines for authors.  Based on our experience with this project, we have drafted some guidelines for authors about selecting and preparing multimedia files for an enhanced e-book and incorporating callouts in the manuscript.  We are delighted that one of the UNC Press acquisitions editors requested this document for an author who is currently writing her book.

 Freedom’s Teacher is not UNC Press’s first enhanced e-book.  Our first was also one of Amazon’s first, Give My Poor Heart Ease:  Voices of the Mississippi Blues, originally a hardcover trade book that included discs tucked into envelopes in the back cover.  The Publishing the Long Civil Rights Movement project team made a video demonstration for it that was key to our success in bringing the author of Freedom’s Teacher and the archivists at the Avery Research Center on board to create the Freedom’s Teacher enhanced e-book.

We hope that the foregoing notes are of general interest, and we welcome specifically technological questions on the AAUP production listserv; sent directly to Tom Elrod, Digital Production Specialist, UNC Press (telrod@email.unc.edu); or sent to me, Sylvia K. Miller, Director, Publishing the Long Civil Rights Movement (skm@email.unc.edu).

When I was invited to the panel “Protests, Petitions and Publishing: Widening Access to Research in 2012,” I was on the fence about attending. Did I really want to spend two hours of my day hearing the debate on open access, anticipating that it would be filled with much controversy? Because it was close and I was confident that I would learn something, I made the short trek earlier this week from the Bronx to Morningside Heights, even scoring a parking spot in front of the Columbia building housing the event on a day on which alternate-side-of-the-street parking was in effect. The press release indicated that the event was meant to consider how Occupy Wall Street, the Research Works Act (RWA), the boycott of Elsevier journals by a growing number of academics, and other recent developments are informing the debate over access to research and scholarship on open access. The event was hosted by Columbia’s Center for Digital Research and Scholarship (CDRS) and included a diverse panel of speakers. I’ll do my best to summarize the session based on my notes drafted the old school way on a notepad in barely legible handwriting. (This exercise made me realize that I need to embrace the iPad more.) The audio will be available shortly, so I will post a link on the Digital Digest when it is. The issues are complicated, and there are no easy answers as was evident by the talk on Monday. Alex Golub from the University of Hawaii called current publishing models a death spiral. As most of us know, the hard sciences are very different from the humanities. The AAUP made an official statement about three pieces of legislation related to research policies that have resulted in a flurry of mixed responses from university press directors.

Here goes with my summary.

Allen Adler, Vice President for Legal and Government Affairs in the Washington, D.C., headquarters of the Association of American Publishers (AAP), kicked off the talk by stating that the goal of the panel was to answer the following questions:

What is a journal publisher’s role in informing the public about research policies?

What are publishers’ achievements in this process related to innovation, technology, and business?

What is publishing with federal agency–funded research, especially by nongovernmental officers?

What does the government currently do to disseminate federally funded research?

Adler mentioned that the National Institutes of Health Policy requires that peer-reviewed articles be made open access one year after they appear in a journal.

He emphasized that we need to understand the diversity of the field.

Oona Schmid, Director of Publishing at the American Anthropological Association (AAA), gave her perspective as a representative from one of the leading academic societies in America and publisher of the venerable journal American Anthropologist.

I give her credit for talking to this crowd knowing that it was going to be a contentious conversation and that her society was not always looked upon with the highest esteem.

Schmid began her talk by emphasizing that AAA is interested in the dissemination of scholarly information, believing that knowledge can solve human problems. She made the following points:

  • The academic system is tied to peer review.
  • Authors need credit for their contributions.
  • Citations need long-term archiving.
  • Publishing needs balance: cost versus readers’ desire for visibility and widespread dissemination.

Schmid stressed that AAA has huge costs for publishing 20 journals, 600 articles per year, and 482 reviews because of duration, personnel, and overhead.

She said that 63% of journal costs are covered through the sales of library subscriptions, 36% through sales to members, and 1% through ads. Open access would wipe out that 63%.

She continued by saying that AAA could increase members’ dues but that’s unlikely to happen because of major resistance from members and key stakeholders at the association.

Schmid mentioned that author fees work well in biomedical fields and that anthropologists do not have a centralized grant funder.

She asked about nonresearch commentaries and reviews.

Possible support mechanisms she pointed out: Produce more informal scholarly content; make use of social media.

Her new funding ideas include charging for premium functionality and super-user fees.

Peter Woit, Senior Lecturer in the Department of Mathematics at Columbia University, was up next and spoke from the angle of a researcher and a professor.

He said that of the 7,500 scholars boycotting Elsevier journals, 1,400 were mathematicians, 1,000 were biologists, and 650 were physicists.

A major reason he cited is that Elsevier journals are expensive and there have been problems with quality.

He stated that monographs are important. (Smile on my face.) He showed a picture of his office with bookshelves behind his desk. Two bottom shelves were filled with books published by Springer, as was obvious by their yellow spines. Other key publishers in his field included Oxford, Cambridge, and Princeton university presses.

He said that high quality is expensive; Elsevier could go away and he wouldn’t care, but monograph publishers are a different story.

Woit made the point that middle-class students are taking big loans to pay for tuition at expensive universities.

He said that detailed, high-quality content doesn’t work on blogs because discussion is difficult and has a time constraint, going so far as to say that the “Global village has a village idiot. You can’t replace academic scholarship.”

He went on to say that Google is the elephant in the room. Google Books show a few pages with ads. They can run your e-mail and analyze your online activity and make purchase suggestions. What will Google’s role be in this?

Gail Drakes, a doctoral candidate in the Program in American Studies at NYU and Associate Faculty at NYU’s Gallatin School of Individualized Study, spoke next.

She concentrated on the Research Acts, Elsevier boycott, and Occupy movements. She began her talk by saying that research was unavailable—behind pay walls—for her area of humanities, American Studies.

She talked a lot about cultural commons.

Drakes said that the RWA gives the government protection of funded research, causing the cultural commons to shrink, and that intense lobbying is taking place.

She expressed wild enthusiasm for the Elsevier boycott and said that it represents a tension between academic structure and for-profit publishers.

Drakes felt that academic publishers do enough for cultural commons and support authors.

She suggested that we all take a look at the Fake Elsevier Twitter account, @FakeElsevier.

Drakes also stressed that we need balance. In her own case, her professor omitted an important piece in the course pack because of its high costs compared with graduate students’ budgets.

She enthusiastically talked about how Occupy Wall Street created the people’s library that currently has 9,000 titles—check out Library Thing—which is an affirmation of the importance of access to information. The library started out as a box moving to a tarp-covered area (cleared during the raid) to a clear plastic–covered area. Now it is organized by librarians with Masters of Library Sciences degrees who are part of the movement.

Alex Golub, assistant professor of Anthropology at the University Of Hawaii, had some strong statements to make (via Skype).

He asked if authors and publishers are ready to embrace open access? His answer: No. Publishers: Never. Authors want open access and always have.

He continued by saying that scholarly research won’t ever be completely free.

Golub said that we need to innovate. Existing models don’t work. There is a forty-year chunk of stuff trying to get open access.

He didn’t hold back, stating that AnthroSource is slow and embarrassing. “Fig leaf covering the Wiley thing.” He continued by saying that the Mellon-funded AAA program is different from what was originally planned. He said that Wiley took over the journal American Anthropologist and has a different agenda. (It was formerly managed by University of California Press.) He thinks that academic publishing as outlined by Oona’s presentation is in a downward zombie death spiral. The AAA is broken—volunteers to pay scholarly publishers’ profits. AAA pub models don’t work and we need a radical rethinking of how we do things.

He emphasized that we can’t sit on the fence anymore.

He asked the following:

Do we need peer review, and who pays for it?

Is scholarship less true if some words are spelled wrong or the phrasing is unclear?

Do we need expensive annual meetings?

Alternatives he suggested:

Small regional conferences

Blogs

Social media

Civil service and partners. Editors and librarians are at cross-purposes.

Golub was definitely animated and wanted to push buttons. I appreciated his candor and his challenging the status quo. I agree that publishers need to think of new ways to make scholarly content available while at the same time recouping the costs for doing so. I don’t have the answers, but I think it is beneficial to hear what our constituents are saying

There were some audience questions at the end but I’ll let you hear those when the audio is available.

I would like to share a comment (made by Jim Jordan, Director of Columbia University Press) that will resonate with a lot of university press folks. He said that 8% of his budget is subsidized by Columbia but the university wants it reduced by 4%. And that 90% to 98% of the library’s budget is subsidized. Universities should do more to re-fund their presses. I agree.

I’m still wrapping my brain around the whole discussion but am glad I made the trip. Academic and university presses need to be innovative and creative with publishing models and work with their libraries to determine how best to meet the needs of their patrons. There is no one-size-fits-all solution when it comes to research policies. This may all seem obvious but I think the more we hear it the more it will sink in.

Katie Sweeney, assistant marketing manager at Fordham University Press, attended an ebooks seminar recently, courtesy of Brenna McLaughlin of AAUP and Ted Hill, President of THA Consulting. I asked her to write up her notes for a blog post to Digital Commons. Instead of rehashing her notes verbatim, Katie came up with this clever assessment. I think she hit the nail right on the head. We have been having a lot of fun assigning names to the different types of people in our office. Enjoy!

If I was a Director of a small press and I attended the Publisher’s Launch Conference: eBooks for Everyone Else, I’m not sure I would have taken the leap to create an eBooks Program.  However, that’s why organizations have different types of people.

  • You need the “visionary”—the person who sees the big picture.
  • You need the “techie”—the person who is willing to learn the technology, or at least understand enough of it to make an informed decision on the conversion company to hire.
  • You need the “negotiator”—the person who can get a contract on the table, bargain for better terms, and sign on the dotted line.
  • You need someone who’s “OCD.” They’re the person who will care enough about nitpicking every tiny piece of metadata and scrutinize the finished eBook.
  • You need the “worker bee,” although an entire beehive would be useful. This will be the person who knows the theory of how the workflow should operate, but will actually execute it.
  • You need the “naysayer.” The one who hates change and will be taken kicking and screaming into eBooks. They will be a hindrance, but they will probably spot half a dozen problems that you didn’t anticipate. Foresight is key.
  • You need the “scrooge” to nickel and dime your budget because contrary to popular belief, eBooks don’t just appear from established content. They’re another production stream in their own right.
  • You need everyone else who makes a regular book happen, make it happen for an eBook.

Once you’ve identified these people in your organization, the best thing you can do is educate them because there’s a lot to learn.

Like everything, there are advantages and disadvantages to eBooks. There is 24/7 availability. eBooks are never out of stock and there are no returns. Publishers can experiment with price points, create enhancements to files, or rapidly respond to marketplace events. Bonus: there is no physical inventory to ship or store. On the flip side, the disadvantages include, but are not limited to dealing with DRM, the technical file delivery, piracy, quality assurance, fluid business models, and trying to compute royalties.

Another hurdle is the change in the editorial and production workflows. Will you use an XML workflow at the front end of the editing process? In simplistic terms, this means creating a template and guidelines that copyeditors will use for tagging the manuscript. Further down the line, this will rear its head in production. You are now focused on all things “e,” but can your printers accept these files to make a print book? It’s a give and take between the print business we still need to do and eBusiness we want to do.

Publishers Launch also included some great nitty-gritty topics, such as metadata for eBooks. If you shop on Zappos, you know the importance of locating a perfect kitten heels in black patent leather in less than 20 seconds. Finding your book needs to be that easy.

Books covers were also a source of discussion. Traditionally, a great cover was thought to draw people from 20 feet. Today, finding a good book online is more about search and discovery. A book cover may be the size of a postage stamp. For publishers, this might mean creating a cover for a print book and creating a cover that is smaller, yet still distinguishable online.

Digital Identifiers are also expanding. Besides ISBNs, there is the ISTC —the International Standard Text Code that is a unique identifier for text. That means it belongs to the textual work, not the edition of a book. It is assigned to related works of the same content. There is also the ISNI—the International Standard Name Identifier. It identifies public identities, such as authors making it easier to locate all titles that an author may publish, regardless of the publisher.

And, once you’ve got your eBook made, you’ve got to figure out how to distribute it. Are you doing it all inhouse? That means you need to make sure you have the right type of file and negotiated agreements with every company you want to sell to. Are you hiring a distributor that will take one file and send it to their existing distribution agreements? The variations on these questions are endless. You need to explore you options and find the best fit for your organization.

The bottom line is that creating eBooks will touch all areas of your organization. It infiltrates editorial, production, marketing and sales. It’s not a simple task. One person doesn’t make it all happen. It’s a coordinated group effort that requires a strong leader and a dynamic team. Always have meetings to regroup. You might get frustrated, but you can always improve. For a small organization it can be a challenge. Some days it’s Survivor: Fordham Press, but every once in a while you hit tropical island status. That’s the day you hang up your hammock and take out your Kindle, your Nook, or your iPad and just read.

Check out the blog at “Publishing the Long Civil Rights Movement” for Sylvia Miller’s reflections on their recently-ended online pilot.

In the first of two posts, she writes:

After 14 months, the Long Civil Rights Movement Project’s pilot online collection officially closed its test period on July 18, 2011.  You can still see it at https://lcrm.lib.unc.edu/voice/works, although project staff will no longer grant premium access to the full text of the experimental site’s 87 titles (books, articles, papers, and reports) to those who register except by special request.  Registration will continue to give any user the ability to see open-access content and comment on it at the paragraph level.

The commenting feature was the focus of the experiment.  During the test period, the number of registered users grew beyond our expectations, finishing at 776.  The number of annotations contributed by users was also impressive, finishing at 607.

In addition to these valuable statistics, Miller shares other learnings from the pilot, including valuable information on contributor behaviors, use of archives in teaching, and enhanced e-books. In her second post, Miller links to a number of other projects also experimenting in the area of archives, enhanced e-books, and “portal books.”

One the eve of its annual conference, the Association of American University Presses has launched a redesigned website and released the results of its second digital book publishing survey in as many years. The press release announcing the report can be read here, and the report itself is available for download.

In addition to providing interesting statistical breakdown as to the number of presses participating in a wide variety of digital publication efforts, it also reveals the widespread (unavoidable?) use of digital technology in traditional print publishing, particularly print-on-demand.

For most presses  (53 of 71 who participated in the survey) revenue from sales of electronic editions remains below 3%. It will be interesting to see how/if that changes in the coming year, particularly since the percentage of presses now reporting as participating in site licenses to libraries has nearly doubled (from 34% in the 2009-2010 survey to 65% in the Spring 2011 survey).

Overall, finding a working business model and creating systems to best allocate limited resources remain the biggest obstacles faced by university presses when it comes to digital publishing. As the report clearly demonstrates, despite these concerns, AAUP member presses are actively and enthusiastically embracing the possibilities. And if history is any indicator, following this weekend’s annual conference, “The Next Wave: Toward a Culture of Collaboration,” that enthusiasm will be redoubled throughout the summer.

By Guest Blogger Lenny Allen

The title of the classic Philip K. Dick story asks whether androids dream of electric sheep. I don’t know the answer to that particular question, but I do know that we’re all–at this very moment, asleep or awake–dreaming of a digital monograph platform that is financially viable, intuitive, sustainable from the perspective of a rapidly shifting market environment, and adaptable enough to be able to meet both the short and long-term needs of scholarly research at all levels as well as the development of new business and acquisition models.

Our shared mission dictates that we disseminate scholarly content as widely as possible. But how best to fulfill this mission and meet the ongoing needs of academic research all while satisfying the above criteria? Simply publishing our content in electronic format is no longer enough.

Oxford Scholarship Online, launched nearly a decade ago and conceived of when ebooks were in what was then a virtually embryonic phase of development, has blazed a trail that is only now being followed in the marketplace. The use of XML and the precise nature of the text tagging it provided was an early and fundamental decision and has been instrumental to OSO’s success.

XML provides us the ability to do more than give users what is essentially a static “picture” of a book, offering instead a rich, robust text that meets the needs of scholarly research today and for the foreseeable future. In spite of all the rapid technological developments and the ensuing seismic shifts in the market, one thing has remained constant:  the nature and methodology of scholarly research. This is often lost in the clamor of our current discussion so it’s worth reminding ourselves from time to time that this is at the very heart of what we do and why we do it.

As OSO now evolves into University Press Scholarship Online and we begin the process of including other university press content on our platform, — see our recently launched pilot partner Fordham Scholarship Online–we’re more focused than ever on the viability of the monograph as a key medium of scholarly communication. The ability to conduct precisely targeted searches across multiple presses within the same platform is an exciting development and one that promises to do much in the way of advancing scholarly research.

XML is what makes that long-held dream a fully-functioning reality. Rather than merely replicating the confining linearity of the print book usage experience, XML instead offers accurate search-and-discoverability tools that greatly enhance research. Even in its latest incarnation, PDF cannot replicate the advantages provided by XML tagging, which identifies each piece of data and allows it to be found in the context of the search being made. By contrast, PDF searches are analogous to those made on the open web. Improvements made recently to PDF are all ‘bolt-on’ pieces of functionality applied to something which is intrinsically static. XML, in contrast, is designed from the ground up as a dynamic, repurposeable method of managing sophisticated data.

Students, researchers, and scholars are becoming ever more sophisticated consumers of electronic content. We need only look to the latest generation of discoverability services for evidence of the absolute importance of feature-rich metadata. In the newly dawning era of demand-driven acquisition (aka Patron Driven Acquisition) the discoverability of content has become of paramount importance. If the new formula for library acquisitions can be posited as “access = purchase,” no academic publisher can afford to exert less than a herculean effort at ensuring their content discoverability. The higher the quality of the XML tagging, the easier it becomes to discover the content users are looking for amid the ocean of online information, much of which is lacking in the authority guaranteed by the peer-review process.

OSO, UPSO, and all other Oxford online products have been built under the umbrella of a digital strategy that is in many ways dependent on the XML format. We continue to believe that will hold true going forward and that XML provides enormous benefits to researchers and consumers of scholarly content–our own and that of the presses with whom we partner on the UPSO platform.

Lenny Allen is Director of Sales, Wholesale & Online, Oxford University Press. More about University Press Scholarship Online can be found here.

By Guest Blogger Meredith Morris Babb, Director of the University Press of Florida

Many presses are experimenting with Open Access (OA), primarily in the scholarly journal/monograph worlds. At the University Press of Florida (UPF), we have formed a number of alliances to explore OA and textbook use.  In Florida, as in 37 other states, legislation is in place condemning the high cost of higher education texts. Some states, such as Ohio, have gone so far as to create a grant program that will reward faculty who write an OA textbook. UPF has decided to jump into this game, as a way of generating revenue, but also to serve the higher purpose of providing quality, peer-reviewed texts to students and faculty at a fraction of the current cost.

Here is how it works: an OA textbook is created and placed into an OA repository as a PDF. That PDF is free to any other repository, and can be downloaded infinite number of times for free. All OA texts use a form of Creative Commons License to limit commercial use, but authors must allow for adaptations with attribution. A professor selects an OA text, the students download the work from the repository and away we go. I will get to the more nuanced aspects of this in a bit.

Four partners are in play with our OA text site, Orange Grove Text Plus (OGT+). All are critical to the success of the new endeavor and are dedicated to forging this path together. They include UPF, Integrated Book Technologies (IBT), the Orange Grove (OG), and WebAssign. UPF provides developmental editing, copy editing, typesetting, design, production, metadata production, ISBN assignment, print distribution, and marketing. IBT hosts the shopping cart, pre-flights and stores all the print-ready PDF files, and generates print-on-demand versions as they are ordered. OG is Florida’s OA repository, originally created for distance learning resources by the division of state colleges. It is open to all student and faculty in the state. OG hosts the non-print PDF files, manages all the metadata for searchability, creates the background structure that allows an OA text to be pulled directly into a university or college’s learning management system, and is the harvester that seeks out additional OA texts. WebAssign provides digital, on-line homework and testing capabilities. Having worked for many years with many higher ed textbook publishers, they recognize the sea change that is coming with OA textbooks.

So what makes OGT+ unique from say, Connexions?  We provide the peer review, editorial, and design components missing from their create-your-own-text site. The Orange Grove customizes the metadata so that a professor or student can search for a book using Florida’s State University System’s common course numbering system. IBT can print and ship within 24-28 hours after the book is purchased. We assign ISBNs and have a standard retail discount schedule that allows bookstores to purchase directly from UPF (rather than through the shopping cart created for individual users), which benefits many students on aid packages who must buy their books from a retailer with a special Purchase Card.

The current iteration of OGT+ reflects the lessons learned from an ongoing successful experiment to create a basal text in calculus. Last year, the provost at the University of Florida provided one-time seed money to the UF Department of Mathematics. Faculty were given release time to prepare a text book that exactly followed their lectures. Problems and examples were sometimes drawn from existing OA texts. A first draft was test-taught in the honors calculus class last fall. WebAssign, who was already working with UF and their old text, help them create a new set of exercises for class room use and reduced their fee to students. This spring, every calculus class at UF is using the beta version of the text, and all students in the class are charged a $25 fee that goes back to the department for future updates, additional material, and release time to prepare volumes for Calculus II and III. Along the way, UPF had the text peer-reviewed and designed, and provided PDFs to both the Orange Grove and IBT. There are 912 students enrolled this spring in the beta test semester, and as of February 28 we had had 1,247 downloads of the PDF. As of this writing, we have yet to receive a firm number of the number of students that have chosen to hit the “buy this book” button, but research shows us that somewhere between 65-70% of student want both the pdf and the download, even when they start the semester with the PDF only.

Right now, the onus of recovering UPF’s operating costs resides with the students who purchase the print edition. Not fair at all, so we will be sharing the in the revenue from the fee system starting next semester.

Now imagine this: what if 4-5 university presses got together and each developed three general education texts for OA use? All of sudden, those 5 presses have not 3 but 15 OA texts that can be used by their students. With an OA fee and a non-returnable POD print version, there is one potential hefty source of steady revenue.

UPF is in the processing of asking the State University System to make OGT+ part of each Florida university’s strategic plan. This is already the case in the state and community colleges. With more universities moving to a resource centered management finances these texts will be even more attractive to a department also looking for revenue streams. And university presses move into the digital age with their original missions—to create texts for use on their campuses—intact.  What goes around. . . .

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