NYU Libraries and Institute for the Future of the Book Partner to Develop New Digital Scholarly Communication Tools

The New York University Division of Libraries and the Institute for the Future of the Book will work together to develop new digital scholarly communications tools.

Here's an excerpt from the press release:

"We are constantly watching the unfolding digital landscape for new paths we might want to take," said Carol A. Mandel, dean of the NYU Libraries. "IFB is a thought leader in the future of scholarly communication. We will work together to develop new software and new options that faculty can use to pubish, review, share, and collaborate at NYU and in the larger academic community."

For the past three years, IFB has been researching, prototyping, and sketching out models for how university presses could expand their publishing programs to include digital and networked formats. IFB is best known for its series of "networked book" experiments, which modify popular blogging technologies to create social book formats for the Web. Among these are: "Without Gods" by NYU’s Mitchell Stephens, "The Googlization of Everything" by Siva Vaidhyanathan, "Gamer Theory" by McKenzie Wark (the first fully networked digital monograph), and "Expressive Processing" by Noah Wardrip-Fruin, which is currently undergoing the first blog-based peer review.

Out of these projects, IFB developed CommentPress, an extension for the WordPress blog platform that enables paragraph-level commenting in the margins of a text. IFB is also at work on a powerful open source digital authoring environment called Sophie, the first version of which has just been released.

"We are thrilled to be working with NYU," said IFB Director Bob Stein. "We now have the benefit not only of the Libraries’ first-rate technical support, but also of working with world-class faculty, many of whom are leading innovators in digital scholarly communications."

In an auspicious start to their partnership, NYU Libraries and IFB have been awarded a start-up grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) to design a set of networking tools that will serve as the membership system for MediaCommons, an all-electronic scholarly publishing network in the digital humanities that IFB has been instrumental in developing.

Under the agreement, three of IFB’s leaders will serve as visiting scholars at NYU. They are Bob Stein; Ben Vershbow, IFB editorial director; and researcher Dan Visel. They will work with NYU librarians; with the digital library team, headed by James Bullen; and with Monica McCormick, the Libraries’ program officer for digital scholarly publishing.

Read more about it at "Major News: IFB and NYU Libraries to Collaborate."

Book to Be Published by MIT Press Undergoing Blog-Based Open Peer Review

Noah Wardrip-Fruin's draft of Expressive Processing: Digital Fictions, Computer Games, and Software Studies, which will be published by MIT Press, is undergoing an open peer-review process on the Grand Text Auto Weblog using a new plug-in version of CommentPress. The book is also undergoing a conventional peer-review process.

Read more about it at "Blog Comments and Peer Review Go Head to Head to See Which Makes a Book Better"and "Expressive Processing: An Experiment in Blog-Based Peer Review."

Mellon Foundation Awards Four Grants for Cooperative University Press Projects

The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation has awarded grants to four groups of university presses to support the cooperative publication of scholarly books and digital works in the fields of American Literatures, Ethnomusicology, Slavic Studies, and South Asian Studies. The Ethnomusicology project will develop a plan for publishing printed and digital works, and the American Literatures project will utilize a "a shared, centralized, external editorial service dedicated solely to managing the production of books in the initiative."

Here's an excerpt from the press release:

The four projects and participating presses are:

  • Slavic Studies: University of Wisconsin Press, Northwestern University Press, and the University of Pittsburgh Press;
  • American Literatures: New York University Press, Fordham University Press, Rutgers University Press, Temple University Press, and the University of Virginia Press;
  • South Asian Studies: Columbia University Press, the University of California Press, and the University of Chicago Press;
  • Ethnomusicology: Indiana University Press, Kent State University Press, and Temple University Press. . . .

Wisconsin, Northwestern, and Pittsburgh will use the Mellon funds to support the publication and promotion of first monographs in Russian, East European, and Central Asian studies. Although all three presses have strong publication lists in this field, this initiative will enable them to accept more first books by junior scholars, to work closely with those scholars to develop their authorial skills, and in some cases to underwrite the publication of works in paperback or the incorporation of expensive elements (such as color images). . . .

The American Literatures Initiative, led by NYU in collaboration with Fordham, Rutgers, Temple and Virginia, also seeks to publish promising scholars’ first books in their focus field of English-language literatures of Central and North America and the Caribbean. The most innovative aspect of the program will be the establishment of a shared, centralized, external editorial service dedicated solely to managing the production of books in the initiative. This service will handle all copyediting, design, layout, and typesetting costs, and manage each title through to the point where it is ready for printing. Mellon funds will also be used to pay authors modest royalty advances and develop robust, collaborative marketing efforts among the five presses—which will reduce costs for advertising and electronic marketing, publicity, academic conference exhibits, and other efforts. . . .

Major editorial goals of the Columbia-led South Asian Studies series will be to open up new archival material to scholars, to explore new theories and methods, and to develop scholarship that is both deep in expertise and broad in appeal across disciplines. . . .

The ethnomusicology project received a one-year planning grant, the first phase in establishing a cooperative publishing program that will include the digital publication of related field materials. Through their cooperative series Indiana, Kent State, and Temple will seek to broaden publishing opportunities for emerging scholars in ethnomusicology, and to offer scholars in ethnomusicology and related fields enhanced means of accessing these materials via the Web. In so doing the presses’ goal is to assist in disseminating scholarship and developing new methodologies in both research and publication. The project will be eligible to apply for continued funding at the completion of the planning stage.

Spiro Reviews Last Year's Key Digital Humanities Developments

In a series of three interesting posts, Lisa Spiro, Director of the Digital Media Center and the Educational Technology Research and Assessment Cooperative at Rice University's Fondren Library, has reviewed 2007's major digital humanities developments: "Digital Humanities in 2007 [Part 1 of 3]," "Digital Humanities in 2007 [Part 2 of 3]," and "Digital Humanities in 2007 [Part 3 of 3]."

Pitt's Libraries and University Press Establish Open Access Book Program

The University of Pittsburgh University Library System and the University of Pittsburgh University Press have established the University of Pittsburgh University Press Digital Editions, which offers free access to digitized versions of print books from the press.

Here's an excerpt from the press release:

The University of Pittsburgh’s University Library System (ULS) and University Press have formed a partnership to provide digital editions of press titles as part of the library system’s D-Scribe Digital Publishing Program. Thirty-nine books from the Pitt Latin American Series published by the University of Pittsburgh Press are now available online, freely accessible to scholars and students worldwide. Ultimately, most of the Press’ titles older than 2 years will be provided through this open access platform.

For the past decade, the University Library System has been building digital collections on the Web under its D-Scribe Digital Publishing Program, making available a wide array of historical documents, images and texts which can be browsed by collection and are fully searchable. The addition of the University of Pittsburgh Press Digital Editions collection marks the newest in an expanding number of digital collaborations between the University Library System and the University Press.

The D-Scribe Digital Publishing Program includes digitized materials drawn from Pitt collections and those of other libraries and cultural institutions in the region, pre-print repositories in several disciplines, the University’s mandatory electronic theses and dissertations program, and electronic journals during the past eight years, sixty separate collections have been digitized and made freely accessible via the World Wide Web. Many of these projects have been carried out with content partners such as Pitt faculty members, other libraries and museums in the area, professional associations, and most recently, with the University of Pittsburgh Press with several professional journals and the new University of Pittsburgh Press Digital Editions. . . .

More titles will be added to the University of Pittsburgh Press Digital Editions each month until most of the current scholarly books published by the Press are available both in print and as digital editions. The collection will eventually include titles from the Pitt Series in Russian and East European Studies, the Pitt-Konstanz Series in the Philosophy and History of Science, the Pittsburgh Series in Composition, Literacy, and Culture, the Security Continuum: Global Politics in the Modern Age, the History of the Urban Environment, back issues of Cuban Studies, and numerous other scholarly titles in history, political science, philosophy, and cultural studies.

Preprints on University Publishing from a Special Double Issue of ARL: A Bimonthly Report

Preprints on university publishing from a special double issue of ARL: A Bimonthly Report on Research Library Issues and Actions from ARL, CNI, and SPARC are now available.

Athabasca University Establishes AU Press, an Open Access Publisher

Athabasca University has established AU Press, which will publish open access books, journals, and other digital publications.

Here's an excerpt from the press release:

AU Press, Canada’s first 21st century university press, is dedicated to disseminating knowledge emanating from scholarly research to a broad audience through open access digital media and in a variety of formats (e.g., journals, monographs, author podcasts).

Our publications are of the highest quality and are assessed by peer review; however, we are dedicated to working with emerging writers and researchers to promote success in scholarly publishing.

Our geographical focus is Canada, the West, and the Circumpolar North, and we are mandated to publish innovative and experimental works that challenge the limits of established canons, subjects and formats. Series under development in several subject areas will promote and contribute to specific academic disciplines, and we aim to revitalize neglected forms such as diary, memoir and oral history.

At AU Press, we also publish scholarly websites with a particular focus on distance education and e-learning, labour studies, Métis and Aboriginal studies, gender studies and the environment.

Review by a Prominent Press, Publication by the Rice University Press

In the fall, Rice University Press will publish Images of Memorable Cases by Herbert L. Fred. What's unusual is that the book was first reviewed by "a prominent press," which deemed it worthy of publication, but decided that it was not economically viable to do so by conventional means. However, the Rice University press, a digital press that offers free online access and low-cost print-on-demand books, saw a good fit with its new The Long Tail Press program, which will publish books vetted by other presses that they cannot feasibly publish. The change in publication strategy brought the print copy price down to about $80 from a projected $175.

The Rice University Press is also starting a collaborative publishing effort with Stanford University Press, which will review books for potential publication, with the works either being published by Rice alone or by both Rice and Stanford in a "hybrid" print/online model.

Other Rice University Press postings: "Digital University/Library Presses, Part 11: Other Digital Presses," "Rice University Names Head of Its Digital Press," and "Rice University Press Publishes Its First Open Access Digital Document."

Source: Jaschik, Scott. "New Model for University Presses." Inside Higher Ed, 31 July 2007.

University Publishing in a Digital Age

Ithaka has released University Publishing in a Digital Age by Laura Brown, Rebecca Griffiths, and Matthew Rascoff (preface by Kevin Guthrie).

Here's an excerpt from the "Introduction":

This paper has four purposes: First, we hope to make the case that universities should become more actively involved in publishing scholarship. It may not be obvious to many administrators that they should be in this “business” at all. . . . We will argue, however, that universities give up too much by withdrawing from publishing. They give up the opportunity to enhance institutional reputation and prestige. They reduce their ability to influence what gets published—and, therefore, not only what gets read but also who gets hired or promoted. They give up an opportunity to enhance the quality of what is published through the rich dialogue that is enabled by bringing editors into the fabric of relationships among scholars. And, as is often decried by open access advocates, universities sometimes must pay excessively high prices to gain access to published scholarship. . . .

Our second purpose is to galvanize action and investment to support revitalization of university publishing. . . . In some cases, that may mean making major structural and strategic changes to an existing press. In other cases it may mean forming new collaborations between different entities on campus or even across institutions, or disaggregating and recombining publishing related activities across multiple campus entities. It will no doubt require new infusions of capital, but this investment can create economies of scale that could help, in the end, to lower the costs and extend the reach of scholarly publishing. . . .

Third, we wish to explore some of the challenges and opportunities specific to university presses, as we believe that they can remain a vibrant part of the scholarly system if they are able to adapt quickly to the new electronic environment. . . . We concentrated primarily on exploring how the presses see themselves, how they are seen by others in the university community, and what unique strengths presses have to offer, with an eye towards identifying opportunities for them to translate their skills and assets to the future needs of the academy. We have also sought to understand the factors that have impeded their transition to electronic media, especially in monograph programs, in an effort to identify realistic measures going forward.

Fourth, and finally, we aim to start a conversation and gauge interest in a possible collective investment in a technological platform to support innovation in university-based, mission-driven publishing. . . . Our discussions with administrators, publishers, faculty, and librarians revealed real enthusiasm for the concept of a service that could aggregate published university content online, create a dynamic, efficient space for the tools of scholarship developed within universities, and spread the costs of investment among multiple institutions. We would now like to expand this conversation to the wider community, to test and refine the idea, and determine whether it may merit further exploration and possible investment.

The study was sponsored by JSTOR and Ithaka and was led by Laura Brown, former president of Oxford University Press USA, in collaboration with Ithaka’s Strategic Services group. We gratefully acknowledge the assistance of Peter Givler of the American Association of University Presses in distributing the survey to university press directors and encouraging their participation.

You can find further information about the report in the Inside Higher Ed article "Ideas to Shake Up Publishing."

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