Category Archives: Digital Formats

Sustaining and Reimagining the Monograph

By Lisa Bayer

Lisa Bayer is AUPresses President (2021-2022) and the director of the University of Georgia Press. This article is based on her remarks to the National Information Standards Organization’s 2021 Humanities Roundtable, “The Monograph in an Evolving Humanities Ecosystem.”

During a podcast interview last year Rich Barton, the founder of Expedia and Zillow, was asked how he’d pitched the idea of Expedia to Bill Gates back in 1996. He replied, “We were encouraged to swing big.” It’s an apt metaphor for university press publishing in general too, particularly for this community’s collaborative work, with each other and with the entire scholarly ecosystem, to sustain and reimagine monographs.

University presses individually and as a team—in the form of the Association of University Presses (AUPresses)—are in league with humanities scholars and a variety of other individual and institutional partners around the world. Long-form scholarship, otherwise known as the monograph, is the game ball or the diamond, depending on your perspective. A 2019 survey of some 5,000 scholars by Cambridge University Press and Oxford University Press found that “the monograph remains a vital part of the scholarly ecosystem . . .  especially in the Humanities.” But monograph publishing has not ever been about the final product alone. Respondents said that the process of writing, of conducting research, of thinking it through, of creativity and intellectual freedom, allowed them to develop “interconnected, complex arguments” that became new knowledge through delivery in long-form texts. Survey respondents did feel, however, that “experimentation and evolution,” especially regarding access and discoverability, were necessary for monographs to remain relevant and useful—which is why this conversation continues, and continues to matter.

Continue reading Sustaining and Reimagining the Monograph

Say Yes First, Figure it Out Later

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 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

Book Places in the Digital Age

Image by Kevin Crumbs CC license

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.

Posted by Tony Sanfilippo, Ohio State University Press

Producing the “Freedom’s Teacher” enhanced e-book

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 (; or sent to me, Sylvia K. Miller, Director, Publishing the Long Civil Rights Movement (

Princeton Shorts


In June 2010 our associate marketing director Leslie Nangle raised the notion of publishing short e-“works” – that is, content shorter than a book but longer than a magazine article. The thought was that with the explosion of smartphones, dedicated reading devices, and tablets, we had an opportunity to distinguish ourselves by providing short content to non-fiction readers interested in an in-depth look at a topic. Subsequent meetings took place and with management’s blessing we moved forward.

A committee was formed with representatives from all departments at the Press who would be involved and whose experience had some relevance to the venture: editorial, production, marketing, sales, rights/permissions, design, and digital publishing. We made sure to include people with lengthy tenures at the Press who have a deep knowledge of our backlist. Since it all begins with content, Executive Editor Rob Tempio (philosophy, political theory, and the ancient world) seemed the logical choice for chair.

Our Process

To get us to the point of actually releasing the Shorts into the marketplace, the following topics were raised, considered, and resolved – not necessarily in this order, and not necessarily with optimal forethought! After all, we were plowing new ground.

  1. Content selection. We briefly considered publishing for Kindle Singles, but since that program requires original content and we weren’t at the point of undertaking the full editorial process for “born digital” of any length, we decided to turn to our existing content for pertinent/timely/edifying selections. There is a successful print precedent at PUP for this approach – in 1963 we published A Monetary History of the United States: 1867-1960, by Milton Friedman and Anna Jacobson Schwarz. It quickly became a classic, and the chapter on the Great Depression caught on with economists. In 1965 the Press published it as a stand-alone book, The Great Contraction. (Our bestselling Short is The Second Great Contraction, taken from our bestselling both in print and e, This Time is Different, by Carmen M. Reinhart & Kenneth S. Rogoff.)
  2. E-rights. Do we have them?!
  3. Frontmatter. Backmatter. What should the copyright page contain/look like? What introductory material did we want and who was going to write it? Who was going to edit it? Approve it? Should we have a series statement? Should we list the full works/other works in the Shorts series?
  4. Naming the series. Much discussion and ultimately a debate ensued about whether to include “e” or “electronic” in the series name. Finally it was determined that a reference to digital wasn’t needed, as these were to be published only electronically, so they were obviously, well, e-books. And better to keep the brand image simple and clean. (And if we ever did decide to publish these in print, we wouldn’t have to deal with a pesky “e” reference.)
  5. Designing the covers and content “pages”– the series “look.”  The goal of course was to maintain the look, feel, and integrity of the Press brand but with a treatment that says something new. Designer Jason Alejandro and an intern on premises at the time achieved this with elegance. Leslie adamantly advocated for live links from within the Shorts to web pages for their related full works, and to the new PUP web page for the Shorts.
  6. Titles. Should they reference the full work? We decided yes, and to manage this with subtitles, thus:  Title of Short:  From Full Book.
  7. Should the extracted content be repaginated or carry the page numbers of the original? We debated this as in some cases the Shorts selection referenced content in another chapter of the book. And in this first round we hadn’t planned on editorial intervention to the extent necessary to deal with those references. So we didn’t re-paginate, but regretted this later, as they looked odd and the conversion houses thought the source files were missing huge chunks of content, causing production and publication delays.
  8. Where should we sell them? We decided all retailers and all library aggregator partners. Why not test them everywhere?
  9. Metadata. We had to figure out how to construct metadata to associate but not confuse the Short, with the longer work. It took us awhile to work this out: some Shorts displayed on Amazon detail pages as hundreds of pages long (the length of the full book from which the Short content was lifted).
  10. Pricing.  In consultation with marketing, we decided no price higher than $4.99. Prices were ultimately finalized by Rob. We discovered that Amazon required minimum euro and pounds prices of .99 and .79, respectively. (Slightly higher than what we would have preferred for our $0.99 selection from Thoreau, On Reading.)
  11.  Conversion formats. Since we planned to sell them in the usual channels, we got the usual conversions – web pdf and epub for all.
  12.  Press databases. Our in-house programmers configured a new product type for our databases.
  13. Marketing.  Created web pages and catalogue copy. Advertised in catalogues, at academic meetings, through email campaigns and social media. Press release.  Ads in the Boston Review and NY Review of Books.

Challenges,  Rewards, and Measuring Success

All agree that this project was much more complicated than expected. This was uncharted territory in many respects, and we did not have a full production workflow in place from the start. Consequently and notwithstanding the enthusiasm and best intentions of the project team, at times steps were skipped; repercussions of missed deadlines misunderstood; and folks were fuzzy about who was supposed to do what – and why – and when.  Clearly, lifting content from existing books to produce short e-books involved much more than “cut, paste, and plop” (into a simple template).

As a consequence, a formal production process was put in place for Shorts Round II, and all is going swimmingly for achieving our April 16th release date. Designs of source files have been refined: Art Director Maria Lindenfelder has been bothered  by e-books in which frontmatter and backmatter are static, while the main text is dynamic. She’s overseen the design of a template for flowable PDFs, to create a more holistic design.

The jury is still out on how we will measure the success of the Shorts publishing program. We’ve enjoyed positive publicity, which is always a good thing. Authors are delighted. And the actual production costs are minimal – composition, conversion, and storage. But there is a real cost in staff time – human resources. Ultimately success will need to be measured in terms of sales. The measuring stick for units and dollars is unique for Shorts – we haven’t figured out what the threshold needs to be. Obviously they don’t have physical counterparts to drive sales in bookstores or online. And though difficult to identify, there may be an uptick of sales of the original work advertised within each Short.

In Conclusion:

We all came away with greater insight into what our colleagues in other departments do, and appreciation for the details and variables they contend with and of which we are often unaware. And it was a welcome change of pace to work with people we don’t normally get to work with. Team members’ comments follow:

 “since we were doing this de novo, we were in a sense inventing the wheel and there were lots of choices to be made”

“a short course in entrepreneurship and its transition to a mature business”

“I did appreciate that if I had an opinion about any of the areas I wasn’t an expert in, I had the freedom to make a suggestion”

“I learned how complicated e-book publishing is and also what a vast open space the possibility of e-books in all their variations has made in the world of publishing at large”

“many of the processes we have in place for regular print books are there with good reason and having to operate outside them feels a bit like anarchy”

“I really enjoyed seeing the whole thing launch and receive such great press”

“something that sounded easy actually required lots of problem solving and cross-departmental teamwork to patch together disparate elements into a digital product”

“I think the program may open the door for the Press to talk about other types of e-initiatives”

“digital does not equal easy despite what some authors may think”

“in the course of two rounds of Shorts, I saw change from a chaotic creative phase [Fall ’11  Shorts] to a more regulated production phase [Spring ’12 Shorts]”

“the name ‘Princeton Shorts’ has caught on, and we are seeing other publishers using the word “shorts” to describe their electronic content”

By Priscilla Treadwell, Digital Sales Director

A Primer on Digital Object Identifiers

by Carol Anne Meyer of CrossRef in conversation with Erich Van Rijn, University of California Press

As the first installment in my series on digital standards for the Digest, I asked Carol Anne Meyer, the Director of Business Development and Marketing for CrossRef , to answer a few questions about digital object identifiers.  With several ebook initiatives going live that are geared specifically toward the delivery of content that is accessed through academic libraries, it is critical to apply a standards-based approach to the stable identification of digital book content to enable increased discoverability and usage.  This piece is intended to give AAUP members (and others) a basic overview of the DOI, and I encourage those who are interested in a deeper dive into the topic of DOIs to take a look at some of CrossRef’s recorded webinars.

1) Simply put what is a DOI and what purpose does it serve?

CM: A DOI is a Digital Object Identifier. It serves as a unique and persistent identifier or address for digital content on the web. DOIs remain the same even if the underlying address or URL for the content changes. The primary purpose that DOIs serve for scholarly content is to enable reference linking so that readers can click from the references of a scholarly monograph, article, or reference work directly to the content being referenced. DOIs also support services like Cited-By Linking, where users can see other relevant content that cites a particular work. Many book publishers are increasingly concerned about the discoverability of their content. DOIs can increase traffic to book content through reference citations, through secondary databases, and increasingly through third party discovery tools that use CrossRef metadata.

2) What is CrossRef’s role in the assignment and maintenance of DOIs, and what are the first steps publishers should take in setting up a relationship with CrossRef?

CM: The International DOI Foundation (IDF) appoints registration agencies (RAs) to assign DOIs. CrossRef is the oldest and largest IDF RA. About 94% of all the DOIs that have been assigned have come through CrossRef. CrossRef DOIs are DOIs assigned to scholarly publications:  books, book chapters, reference entries, journal articles, conference proceedings, reports, theses, data sets, and even components like individual tables or graphics.

CrossRef maintains a web service that publishers use to deposit bibliographic metadata, including the URL and the DOI of their content. CrossRef works with the handle infrastructure at the Corporation for National Research Initiatives (CNRI) to make the DOI live, which means that a user clicking on a DOI link is redirected to the URL deposited at CrossRef. CrossRef publishers promise to update their metadata if it changes so that any existing references to the DOI still work even if the URL changes.

CrossRef also provides lookup services so that publishers and affiliated organizations can put CrossRef DOI links into their services and tools. These links increase traffic to the member publishers’ content.

Publishers and affiliates add DOI links to the references in their content by submitting metadata queries to the CrossRef system. They get back the DOI that they can use to link to the content of that reference.

CrossRef is a not-for-profit trade association of publishers. In order to participate in the CrossRef DOI system, publishers need to become members of the association. This entails signing a membership agreement and paying an annual fee based on publishing revenue. The membership agreement lists the obligations of all CrossRef members. CrossRef is not just a technical linking solution, it is also a social contract among publishers, and that is why it works.

 3) Does a DOI differ from a URL, and if so, how?

CM: Yes. A DOI redirects users to the URL where content lives on the web. DOIs are designed to be persistent. Imagine that you are a book publisher, and you decide to host your book content directly on your own web site. The full text of each book has its own URL. This is fine. But then in a few years, you decide that the web site you created is starting to look a little dated, and you choose to migrate all of your content to a newly-formed multi-publisher consortium of ebooks, and you want to shut down your old content site. If you participate in the CrossRef DOI system, you would not have disseminated the actual URLs of your content publically; instead, people would use CrossRef DOIs as the web address. So you can move your content to JSTOR, or Project Muse, or Cambridge University Press, or Oxford University Press, or Highwire or some other hosting platform. As long as you update the new URL at CrossRef, everybody who ever had the DOI for the content can still access that same content without getting a URL not found error message.

You may see DOIs expressed in the form “doi:10.xxxx/kjlkjljlj’ on the web. We have recently revised our CrossRef DOI display guidelines to encourage people to always display CrossRef DOIs as URLs, for example in the form “” We have made this change so that people who may not know what DOIs are can still use them by just clicking on the link, or right clicking to copy the link.  The change also makes it easy for machines to recognizes a DOI and to access services like linked data available through CrossRef. And displaying DOIs in the http:/ URL format will also ensure that they work on web-aware mobile devices.

4) Can a DOI be assigned to content that’s hosted on more than one platform?  If so, how does that work?

CM: Yes. CrossRef supports Multiple Resolution for CrossRef DOIs. The publisher works with our technical staff to create an interim page that pops up when a user clicks a link. That interim page gives the user the choice of platforms to access the data.

Another solution that helps users find the appropriate copy of a document hosted in multiple places is library link resolvers. Both Serials Solutions and ExLibris are CrossRef Service providers, and they use CrossRef DOIs to direct users of their systems to the local copy of the content based on a library’s holdings.

5) Should a publisher assign and deposit DOIs themselves, or should they utilize a service provider to assign DOIs on their behalf?  Are there pros and cons to letting someone else assign and deposit your DOIs?

CM: The answer depends on the technical expertise and resources available to the publisher. For significant volumes of content, publishers interact with the CrossRef system through batch XML file transfers. We have found that for some smaller publishers, this can be a burden. CrossRef does have more manual tools such as our Web Deposit Form, Guest Query, and Simple Text Query forms. This requires that somebody sit at the form and copy and paste data to and from the tool.

If this is all too much, publishers may choose to work with a Sponsoring Publisher (this is a member of CrossRef that is also authorized to deposit and query on behalf of other publishers) or a CrossRef Service Provider (a vendor that provides CrossRef services to publishers). The advantage to working with one of these organizations is that they have experience in working with CrossRef and they understand the guidelines and obligations. That expertise may come at a cost, so publishers will have to weigh the cost and benefits of doing it themselves against that of using a third party. We have many publishers using both approaches that are happy with their arrangements.

6) How are DOIs used by the research community?  What is the role of the DOI in bibliographic citations?

CM: The most basic use of CrossRef DOIs by researchers is to click on them and be directed to the content they represent. An increasing number of authors, based on recommendations from the major style guides, are including DOIs in their citation lists, in order to help with accurate production, and ultimately to ensure readers can find the referenced content.

Some more innovative uses are also emerging. The Public Library of Science (PLoS) relies heavily on CrossRef DOIs to generate their Article Level Metrics. Secondary database include CrossRef DOIs in their citation records to enable links to the full text. Paper and citation management services like Talis, Mendeley, EasyBib and PubGet use CrossRef DOIs to help researchers located and link to relevant information.

Next year, CrossRef will roll out a service called CrossMark which will use the CrossRef DOI to help researchers discover if updates have been made to an item of scholalry content and where to find information about such an update.

7) What have the challenges been in maintaining the DOI standard over the last few years, and are there any aspects of the standard that are evolving that presses should be aware of? 

CM: The DOI has been a National Information Standards Organization (NISO) standard for many years, and more recently has been approved as an International Standards Organization (ISO) standard. These standards have been very stable.

As I mentioned, CrossRef has recently changed its display guidelines. This recommendation has been the first change of this nature in the history of CrossRef’s existence. We anticipate that it will take CrossRef members and affiliates some time to change their systems to support this new recommendation, and we plan to work closely with the style guides so that they too can update their recommended citation formats to be consistent with these guidelines.

The biggest challenge to the success of the CrossRef DOI system is probably the compliance of the individual publisher members. Most of the 50 million CrossRef DOIs are stable and direct as they should, due to the cooperation of the publishers who own the content. Our challenge now is to provide better support to smaller and less technically savvy publishers to ensure that every CrossRef DOI remains stable and useful.

8) Do you have any advice for book people who are just getting started?

CM: Remember that metadata is marketing. Laura Dawson of Firebrand Technologies, and a book metadata expert, recently compared good metadata with dental floss. It isn’t romantic, she said, but it makes everything work. Scholarly book metadata should include CrossRef DOIs at the title level, the chapter level, and the reference entry level to improve its importance and visibility in the scholarly communications environment. Services such as the recently announced Book Citation Index from Thomson Reuters make it clear that the better the metadata, the more accessible the content. This is true now, and it will become even more important in the future.