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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).

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.

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