Guest Post – Scaffolding a Shift to a Values-driven Open Books Ecosystem – The Scholarly Kitchen

“Pressure from all sides of the ecosystem has propelled growth, experimentation, and commitment to making more scholarship accessible to more people. There is increased awareness, too, that making research open does not resolve all issues of equity and access to knowledge, that more critical engagement with the moral economy of open access is still to come. Living in a pandemic has accelerated the momentum and heightened the sense of urgency, not only in discourse, but in concrete steps being taken and strategies developed by institutions and publishers alike. Libraries, scholars, students, and readers of all kinds have had to move rapidly to adopt and adapt digital resources and tools. Open access books offer increased access to knowledge for the reader, but they also present an opportunity to remake a fragmented ecosystem, and to increase channels of communication about the processes involved in researching, writing, shepherding, financing, publishing, acquiring, and reading research….

Digital books, open or not, require infrastructure. Disintermediating hosting, distribution, and sales helps simplify cost structures. Non-profit presses are developing their own infrastructure to support greater strategic choice. Fulcrum, from Michigan Publishing, and Manifold, from the University of Minnesota Press, are two such developments that expand the new universe of values-aligned platforms. The MIT Press Direct platform launched in 2019 in an effort to disintermediate the relationship between the press and libraries. The platform aligns ebook distribution with the university press mission and opens space for dialogue with libraries. The greater connection with libraries has confirmed a gap in knowledge sharing between librarians, editors, library sales, and authors that, when filled, could make the monograph publication process clearer. Each stakeholder, internal and external to a press, holds valuable information about open access book development, funding, hosting, and discovery. Creating channels to share this information, and doing so through new, collective models, has the potential to benefit the system as a whole….”

Our New Interactive Reading Platform | Athabasca University Press

“AU Press is excited to announce an innovative and interactive way to read our freely accessible ebooks! As a leader in open access publishing, AU Press is constantly striving for innovation and this new reading platform offers the accessibility and interactivity that we believe will help define the future of open access.

The reading platform that offers readers the ability to annotate, share, and comment on all our open access books. Readers can share their annotations publicly or keep them private. The platform allows readers to adjust font size, change to dark mode, and read on a variety of devices. We are able to incorporate audio, video, and supplementary documents to enrich our books. The result is interactive monographs that will encourage new ways of thinking about long-form scholarship….”

Access Granted | Building Manifold

“We are delighted to announce the release of Manifold version 5.0, which is available for download here! The centerpiece of this release, a new Access Controls feature, will allow users to limit access to selected projects on a Manifold installation.

With this feature, publishers can switch on restricted access to any existing or new Manifold project, and can grant project access to any number of registered users on a Manifold site. The potential use cases are indeed manifold: Publishers of scholarly journals and conference proceedings can share publications with a base of subscribers or members. Teachers can create educational materials that can be shared only with students in a particular class. Works in progress can be shared with a select group of peer reviewers. Creators of collaborative projects can share drafts with a team for feedback. University presses can use Access Controls to serve exam and review copies or potentially offer paid access to course texts, opening up new revenue streams through the platform. …”

The Monograph Is Broken. Long Live the Monograph. – The Chronicle of Higher Education

“Despite the steadfast nature of this trust dynamic in publishing, scholarly-book publishing has been in a self-professed state of crisis for at least the past quarter century, even as the number of scholarly books published increases each year. This crisis is rooted in the desire of — and necessity for — scholars to publish monographs at a time when sales of such books continue to dwindle. These conflicting pressures are exacerbated by other changes, such as the growth of digital publishing and open access….

So what do we need to do to get this digital transition right?

Acknowledge that scholarly engagement with monographs varies from discipline to discipline and that this might warrant changes in some areas that aren’t appropriate for others.

Don’t focus on print sales but on usage and on what that usage enables. This applies to authors, tenure committees, and publishers alike.

Get all backlist titles online, and not just as e-books but in as many forms as possible.

Beware the fetishizing of print. We know, we know, that this is a grim imperative to the book-lover’s ear. We love books too (we’re publishers after all). But a monograph’s jacket and price often say more about the funding of a publisher than about the quality of or audience for a given book.

Devote more resources to digital: tagging, metadata, indexing, citation, etc. We need to establish new standards to improve discoverability and track usage.

Embrace new ways of promoting scholarship, such as organic (e.g., nonpaid) search-engine optimization.

Support — via participation and sponsorship — innovative experiments, such as:

  • The University of North Carolina Press’s Sustainable History Monograph Pilot, working to establish acceptance of a new publishing model for specialized scholarship.
  • The University of Michigan Press’s Fulcrum and the University of Minnesota Press’s Manifold, open-source platforms, which offer authors the opportunity to create interactive monographs.
  • MIT Press’s PubPub, a hosting platform for the multimedia-enhanced publishing needs of journals, books, labs, and conferences.
  • The University of British Columbia Press’s and the University of Washington Press’s RavenSpace, a collaborative site for indigenous-studies publishing.

For scholarship that adds value primarily to the more esoteric realms of the academic corpus and that increasingly may not be seen as a reliable investment for publishers (even university presses), we need new models, including “pay to publish.”  …”

Manifold v0.2.0 Released | Building Manifold

“On behalf of the entire Manifold team, I’m super excited to announce the release of Manifold v0.2.0! The release is up on Github now, and we’ll be rolling it out to our staging site later today. This release contains a number of new features and bugfixes, listed below. For the full list of revisions and pull requests, please consult the changelog.

Remember, Manifold is open source and freely available to all who are interested. While we have plans to build docker containers and OS packages, we’ve also written up installation instructions for all you early adopters out there. Take it for a spin and let us know how it goes.”