integrationMany non-profit and commercial publishers have multiple programs and departments that create content. The most frequently created content types include journals, books (e.g., reference, monographs, textbooks, trade, etc.), educational materials (e.g., courses, simulations, question banks, assessments, ancillary materials, etc.), guidelines, standards, databases, and meeting proceedings. However, this list is not nearly exhaustive!

Within a publishing enterprise, these content types likely cover similar subjects, but they are often created by different editorial processes, managed by separate teams with separate business goals, appeal to different audiences, and seek to fulfill different use cases. However, as content technologies have evolved and the expectations and demands of users and purchasers have increased, publishers have started to consider whether content type separation is truly the best way to meet customer needs, the best use of resources, or the best way to create content and content products. Is integration needed?

This month we asked the Chefs: How should a scholarly publisher integrate their books and journals programs? Or can they remain separate?

Joe Esposito: This question is a version of the now-familiar “container” argument.  The idea here is that historically publishers worked in containers that were dictated by the limited forms of print technology. Thus we had the book, the article, the magazine, the newspaper. When things go digital, the sides are torn off the containers and the various content types are permitted to reshape themselves however and wherever they are viewed; and they are enabled for integration with other content. I summarized the thinking behind this on the Kitchen in “Theory of the eBook”.

The complicating issue is that while people search for information without containers (“Give me everything you have, regardless of format, on the total mass of the planet”), information is very much consumed in containers. People read articles, books, and so forth: these forms are adapted to how we read and how we think. So while we have “containerless” material behind the scenes, we experience content in containers. Sounds a bit like the Uncertainty Principle.

So a publisher would do well to embrace the dichotomy: create “databases” of content that are searchable in various ways, but deliver content via interfaces that have been “humanized.” That’s not so bad: as Hamlet said, “What a piece of work is a man!” That is, yet another container. (I address this comment to the bacteria living in my gut.)

Robert Harington: The question is perhaps irrelevant. Publishers are dealing with content regardless of form. A “life in the day” of content begins with the author and progresses through to sale, and use. Depending on the type of content, it may require some level of acquisition, rather than passive delivery. For a publisher to be truly effective in a field, they should be in the community, actively listening and communicating with researchers and teachers, and in some cases steering how research may evolve.

It is true that some separation is necessary in the sense that content experts may not be business experts. One way of handing this is for a publisher to embrace content expertise separately from the business aspects of publishing, but having those groups work together intimately. Let’s take the American Mathematical Society – my home. We are lucky to have content experts who are mathematicians. They know a wide range of people, and can converse in a wide range of topics. My role is to think through the work that they do, be it in books, journals, or indeed with our discovery gateway database, MathSciNet, and translate this into mission driven strategic, and business success. There is separation in activities, but with our mission in mind. We are joined at the hip in outlook, discussion, and action. So, where do I stand? I am in favor of integration, and separation – now that’s clear as mud.

Angela Cochran: Here at American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE), we have opted for integration. We spent considerable time and effort to digitize our front list and a huge chunk of our backlist titles. These new e-books are now on the same platform as journals and conference proceedings. The books program is really transforming into a “digital first” program and new features such as software downloads, video instruction and fillable forms can be packaged as downloads with the content. For most of our book titles, we are not only making the entire book available but we have also created metadata for individual chapters. On the whole, people are not buying individual chapters of the books but having chapter metadata greatly improves discoverability. In most cases, purchasing the entire e-book is a fairly easy upsell and as such, whole book sales are strong. Librarians also like that books are available by the chapter. We have been selling e-book packages to librarians and have gotten feedback that the patrons like not having to download huge files if they really only need one chapter.

So why integrate on the same platform? The ASCE Library is well known to the academic community but not so well known to the practitioner community—the core membership demographic. By putting the books, journals and proceedings on the same platform, all three product lines enjoy exposure through search results and cross marketing. An engineer looking for information on snow loads, will now find our e-book standards on minimum design loads, case studies in the proceedings content, and journal articles.

For those thinking of taking this kind of project on, don’t underestimate the level of difficulty. Online journal platforms are not made for book content and it can sometimes feel like you are jamming a square peg into a round hole. Also, if you are like us, there is no chapter level metadata available and as such, this all needs to be created. Lastly, the eCommerce around selling print and digital side-by-side, using two different systems, is not for the faint of heart.

Michael Clarke: Books and journals programs remain quite separate divisions at many publishers, including all of those I worked for during my days as a publisher (though I was delighted to hear that the American Academy of Pediatrics just completed a merger of the two divisions). This is because they have historically been organized around production and distribution activities. Books and journals have long had very different workflows and have employed different production technologies. Books have traditionally been sold via wholesalers and bookstores whereas journals are typically distributed via subscription agents and direct to individuals and libraries. Differences in production workflows and technologies are becoming smaller, however, as books (at least in the STM and scholarly arena) are increasingly adopting XML workflows. And while sales and distribution between the two formats continue to have important differences, they are increasingly available in common packages and integrated together on the same web delivery platforms. As differences in production and distribution diminish, publishers are increasingly asking whether it makes sense to combine the two programs.

There is no universal answer to this question (that would be too easy). One way of determining whether to combine programs is to ask what makes the most sense for your customers and especially your end users (understanding these may be different people). There is, of course, no such thing as a “book reader” or a “journal reader.” There are instead pediatricians and geologists and psychologists and so forth. They read books and journals, along with conference proceedings, standards, white papers, guidelines, and much else. How do your customers want to discover and consume your information? Answering that question is the first step in determining how best to organize your enterprise in order to meet their needs.

Charlie Rapple: Integrate is one of those words. Some people hear: “merge systems, datasets, processes, teams, departments, offices … and then start from scratch when the disruption drives all your staff to leave, taking all their knowledge with them”. Others hear: “just create a light interface to sit on top of everything.” Too often, where we land on this spectrum is driven by technological possibilities (“let’s do an app!”) or impossibilities (“this feature is hard-coded; none shall pass”), rather than by a solid understanding of what will make sense for customers; in fairness, decisions can also be driven by business goals that are equally uninformed by market research (“let’s just have one way into everything!”).

Rephrasing the question as “to what end would a publisher integrate their books and journals programs?” is helpful – knowing where you’re going in order to decide what route to take there. If your goal is to provide more consistent services to your authors, with greater economies of scale, then you’ll be starting with editorial teams and processes. If your goal is to increase cross-readership of your content, you’ll be starting with the design of your online content pages. If your goal is to increase revenues from your content, you might need to start with your e-commerce middleware. Of course, you’ll be thinking you want to do all of this: that’s where some customer research can help you prioritize, by understanding which are the biggest obstacles that need to be dealt with first. I guess what I’m saying is, “focus on the user and all else will follow”. Seems to be working for Google!

David Crotty: While others here have addressed the needs of readers, it’s important to also think about attracting authors. I last worked on books when I was at Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory Press. Despite a long history of popular life science monographs and lab manuals, it was becoming harder and harder to attract top authors to write chapters. We were repeatedly turned down, and told that book chapters didn’t “count” toward career advancement and funding as much as journal articles. Authors felt they couldn’t sacrifice the time to write for anything that didn’t have an Impact Factor, and that wasn’t indexed in Medline.

At the same time, like many other academic book publishers, we were seeing declines in print book sales. For authors and readers, if it wasn’t online, it didn’t exist. To solve both problems, we turned areas of our book acquisition program into journals, launching new methods and review journals. The usual collection of chapters are instead commissioned as journal articles, which are peer reviewed and published in the journals as they come in. When the entire set is in, a printed book collection and an ebook are issued for those who prefer the content in those sorts of packages.

This has created new revenue streams from new journals and cut way back on the costs of producing books — the journal editing and production process results in print-ready PDFs which can readily be repurposed for a small print run of a book. And for authors, they now get an Impact Factor-having, peer reviewed journal article to put on their C.V., making recruitment much easier.

Ann Michael: This question is all about use cases. For your organization, how interoperable is your content? How interoperable should it be to meet or exceed the expectations of your key audiences? By the way, that is not just limited to the content that your organization produces, but also includes content that is valuable or critical to your audience that you don’t produce. Are there commonly available guidelines or databases that your audience requires? Are there partnerships you should explore? Are there tools that you can offer your customers that, while leveraging the value of your content, also makes your members/customers/users more productive?

We can consider integration from several perspectives. From a user perspective, is there a value (increased productivity, access, efficiency, etc.) derived from frictionless simultaneous access to multiple content types that they may or may not recognize? From a technology perspective, integration can mean the content is on the same delivery platform, leverages the same search capabilities and shared indexes, is categorized with the same taxonomy, is available through a single eCommerce transaction, etc. From a business perspective, integration generally means that there is a set of common (or at least complementary) organizational goals, targets, and incentives. From a content perspective, integration could mean that steps have been taken to ensure a compatible “voice” across content intended for the same audience or use case. From a business model perspective, there is a positive financial impact for making content interoperable. Will interoperability offer value to the purchaser that will allow the organization to maintain or increase revenue and/or mission impact.

Now it’s your turn!

What type of content types does your organization produce? Are they integrated? Should they be? If they are integrated, what benefits or draw backs have you experienced?

Ann Michael

Ann Michael

Ann Michael is Chief Transformation Officer at AIP Publishing, leading the Data & Analytics, Product Innovation, Strategic Alignment Office, and Product Development and Operations teams. She also serves as Board Chair of Delta Think, a consultancy focused on strategy and innovation in scholarly communications. Throughout her career she has gained broad exposure to society and commercial scholarly publishers, librarians and library consortia, funders, and researchers. As an ardent believer in data informed decision-making, Ann was instrumental in the 2017 launch of the Delta Think Open Access Data & Analytics Tool, which tracks and assesses the impact of open access uptake and policies on the scholarly communications ecosystem. Additionally, Ann has served as Chief Digital Officer at PLOS, charged with driving execution and operations as well as their overall digital and supporting data strategy.


22 Thoughts on "Ask The Chefs: How Should a Scholarly Publisher Integrate Their Books and Journals Programs?"

At GeoScienceWorld, our customers indicated that it was very valuable for journals, books, and our GeoRef A&I to have a common search system, cross-content referrals, and tools. We opted for an integrated, database-like approach in order to create as holistic a research experience as possible. I agree with many of the approaches TSK authors mention — We have chapter-level metadata, are interested in speeding time to online availability (for articles and chapters), and are potentially interested in exploring DDA and usage-based purchasing models when the technology is available to us.

Thank you very much, Ann and SK, for this post. It reads like a brief history of decision-making at Duke University Press ( over the past five years.

(Apologies in advance for the length that follows. TL;DR: it’s really, really hard, but we think it’s worth it.)

We publish 120 books a year and 48 scholarly journal titles, with strong emphasis in the humanities, social sciences, and mathematics. The good news is that our customers–scholars, librarians, book authors, journal editors–align very nicely around what we publish, issue and book, chapter, and article. This is such an overwhelming positive that we have decided to integrate our journal and book content so that it is out in the world for all to find and sample and connect and use. In 2014, we put our books online on the same platform as our journals, and provided cross-content searching, browsing, access, and administration with more integration possible in the future ( We’re very happy with the decision, and we’ve received really positive feedback from the scholarly community. BUT…

The not-so-good news is that the world (or, at least, our corner of the world) is not yet built for container-less content. As researchers, scholars love the idea of “give me everything, regardless of format.” But as journal editors, they love their themed, curated, and lovingly packaged printed issues. As book authors, they are heavily invested in the self-contained and irreducible argument built across chapters at a carefully calibrated pace and presented with a show-stopping cover design.

Our market research has shown that while librarians like the idea of a combined book and journal database of content, few of them have the systems or processes in place to acquire and manage them. Resource-strapped librarians are attracted to the prospect of fewer platforms to support and administer, but their budgeting, purchasing, and cataloging practices are largely set up along format lines. In the humanities, the most popular platform for institutional purchase of ebooks is ebrary. It doesn’t host journals at all. Journal platforms with stellar reputations among journal-focused electronic resource librarians, such as HighWire and Atypon, are unknown to book-focused librarians.

And that’s just the outside the walls of the Press. We’ve encountered the challenge of a containered world in virtually every area of our internal production and distribution operations. The order and inventory systems that well support book sales do not handle subscriptions and electronic access very easily, and vice versa. The peer review and acquisition tools sets are different, the production management tool sets are different, and the approaches to managing content and assets are different. Dominant journal content standards (XML, specifically JATS) and dominant book standards (HTML5, specifically EPUB and EPUB-like formats) are not the same. Yes, you can do books with BITS, but if your market is largely the iBooks and Kindle reader, that’s a lot of expense and overhead, even if your journals division is already doing it. With virtually every publishing operation decision, we weigh which side of the house gets to be the square peg in the round hole this time.

So why are we trying to integrate our book and journal content and, to some extent, publishing operations? Because we are betting that the original, overwhelmingly positive proposition–there is a strong, focused, engaged community that writes, reads, and buys what we publish–will win out over time. We are betting that most of these challenges are outweighed by the strength, synergy, and value of our body of work. We are betting that the drive to operational efficiencies at libraries will make our combined, online offering more and more compelling. We are betting that scholars’ desires as editors and authors will come to more closely mirror their desires as researchers. But we are also betting that there will always be a significant number of people who want to read a themed issue in the original article order and who want to follow that long argument from page 1 to page 322.

As Angela says, this is not for the faint of heart.

Thanks, ladies. These are great perspectives – and further show that there are so many things packed into that one little word – “integration.”

I’d love to hear from some of the platform providers on this too – you have a broad client base – what are your customers asking for regarding content type integration and why?

Alix’s comment and those of David Crotty, together seem to make the most sense. One has to think about what is on the horizon since changing the publishing world is glacial and incremental. There are several pieces in motion outside of the pub/perish world:

a) The cost of research is increasing and the funding is becoming less causing more institutions, globally, to seek collaboration across disciplines and more links outside of The Academy

b) Research shows that, at least, thru 2030, the demand for qualified post secondary graduates shows that the need will be about 1:2:7 (masters+: bachelors: skill and experienced) Hence the shift in academic hires at the post secondary level for faculty

c) “Deep Learning” and similar software (eg that used by Google, Amazon, Facebook, etc and now available to searchers in all sector) will search and anticipate needs in all areas, can parse down to the words in a document, and will soon be able to interpret in the form of documents, stripping out the persiflage which entangles the world of research publishing. As long as the knowledge is digital, it can be scanned and interpreted based on a users need and avoids the human having to read all the documents, regardless of whether it is in monograph or journal formats. It also creates a lot of meta data linking relevant (the operational term) materials where accessible to the engine.

With the above:

a) The production and use of information will change and the needed knowledge can be deconstructed, analyzed and re-assembled without researchers having to laboriously toil thru the literature to tease out relevance. How machine accessible systems will impact the business model of publishers has yet to be addressed fully with regards to where the material lies and where the marketable value may be

b) Impact factors, so dear to the promotion/tenure academics and the publishers’ key to use and thus profitability will need to be carefully weighed

c) The continued proliferation of books and journals as opposed to providing other ways to validate value (to the producers (authors and publishers) and the end users (regardless of affiliation) may need to be carefully examined given the ability to “slice/dice” and reassemble across the knowledge creating/using environment.

d) Basically, there lies the capability, if all materials were assembled into a stack, for Machine Intelligence to be able to sort thru, send out documents for human review/validation and then assemble to meet the needs of the end user.

Publishers are slowly creeping up on this, as most of the above comments note and which we can see as the major houses are moving in this direction, adding some software that approaches the issues but is not disruptive to the current model. Unfortunately, the rapid development of deep learning systems, particularly by those in all sectors who need critical access, may take the system out of the hands of the creators and publishers as materials are extracted and reassembled outside of the system. The economics of The Academy (teaching and research) and the publishing industry may increasingly finding themselves talking to each other which will probably become fiscally problematic.

At Cambridge University Press we are moving our book and journal operations closer together to benefit from various improvements in efficiency, clarity and consistency of presentation, engagement with our readers and authors, etc. However, one of the earliest benefits we are seeing is that working closely together has broken down some of the previous internal barriers and encouraged the sharing of experiences, both good and bad, knowledge and best practice. This leads to a broader understanding of, and engagement with, the opportunities and challenges we face.

Our experience here at University of California Press echoes those of others, notably Allison above – perhaps not surprisingly as we’re both university presses serving a similar audience. Over the past 4 years we have largely integrated our book and journal publishing divisions – thought Robert’s preference for “integrated and separate” probably best describes the actual structure. This change has delivered enormous and diverse benefits, some organizational and some more strategic:

1. Cost and efficiency: Our book and journal divisions were totally separate – not just publishing staff, but also finance, IT and building. We have delivered very significant efficiencies and cost reductions through integration.

2. Better use of talent: we had really talented staff buried in our journals division who are now making important contributions at a press-wide level. And we’ve been able to provide career paths for people we might otherwise have lost.

3. More informed management decision-making: in the past many of the senior management team understood little about our journals business, but we’re now making decisions for the future of the Press that are informed by an understanding of each part of our business.

4. A more informed and flexible team of staff: we’ve become more of a matrix organization, and many of our staff regularly work in cross-functional teams on specific projects which has increased their knowledge – and often motivation.

That said, we’ve learned some lessons:

– The internal change – both process and culture – can be painful, and required a great deal of our attention over a period of time to be successful.

– Integration alone doesn’t suddenly create new market and revenue opportunities. Rather, it’s the foundation on which we build through through a deeper understanding of our customers’ and users needs as we move forward (as noted my many above).

– Understanding what customers want isn’t as easy as it sounds. As a traditional book and journal publisher, we’ve had to develop and hire a whole new range of skills in project management and iterative product development.

– Much of our traditional market is in the humanities and social sciences which are, as Allison notes, still some way behind in their understanding and acceptance of new forms of publishing, especially digital. In these fields at least, the printed monograph as gold standard in tenure/promotion remains a core challenge and although we’re trying to push boundaries, our ambitions are tempered somewhat by where our audience is.

That said, we’re still convinced (and our evidence to date supports) that this is the right long-term play in strategic terms.

Alison – I especially like your mention of the impact and benefits for staff – being cross-functional and more capable of publishing content in the format or “package” to which its most suited has to be an exciting outcome for staff and consumers!

Ann, as far as platform providers go, Semantico has been talking about integrating books and journals on the same platform for many years now, though it’s only relatively recently that we’ve seen strong demand coming through from clients. I’d love to say it was a blinding piece of strategic foresight that put us ahead of the market in this way, but in truth it probably has just as much to do with our origins as a company.

Historically, we started out in reference and book content, where content types are more tricky and diverse (journal articles are a relatively simple content type to handle, by contrast). Every job was a new set of problems. This meant that we evolved our technical architecture to be accepting of different content types practically from the get-go. Adding journals to books was therefore not a big leap, and since large populations of users clearly want this type of integration, we scratched our heads for some time about why publishers weren’t crying out for it.

Now an increasing number of publishers are making this requirement – in fact we’re working on an integrated platform for IOS Press at this moment – and it’s interesting to see a movement towards integrated platforms echoed by so many voices in this comments stream. What I also hear, however, is a plethora of practical problems this breaking down of silo walls is causing, though these aren’t primarily technology issues (from the machines’ point of view, your books and journals content became integrated on the day the content was digitised). Many of these difficulties come, arguably, from having to operate with an infrastructure that was built in imitation of the pre-internet, physical-world model of scholarly publishing, resulting in different workflows, metadata standards, access protocols, etc. etc. which have to be harmonised.

None of these problems need be insurmountable. Technology has moved on in some very useful ways, and here perhaps we can take a bit of actual credit for looking forward (although perhaps not as far ahead as Tabeles) – because our current technology architecture and roadmap are all about providing integrated search, browsing, access and services for users across different platforms – including legacy technology investments. Integration goes deep, in our thinking, as does a pragmatic acceptance of a type of pluralism in technology. Too neat a solution is never a good one: you should always factor in the messiness of the real environment.

Technological advance cannot always be relied on, however to come up with the get-out-of-jail-free-card. It’s easy to restrict your options by focusing too hard on short term imperatives, and we’d encourage publishers to think hard about their forward platform strategy in the light of the current drive towards integrating different content types. Of course, this doesn’t mean that just because a publisher can do something, a publisher necessarily should, as Charlie Rapple rightly points out. However, focusing on your short term goals, without taking a forward look at where the scoreboard might be trending, means that while you might win a few short term skirmishes, you leave yourself highly vulnerable to a more long-term strategic play that shows up later in the game.

I am not so concerned about integration, but hope that scholarly publishers don’t opt for complicated and frustrating interfaces like ebrary. The process followed by those with chapter downloads is virtually the only ones I am interested in. Otherwise, print is preferred.

It’s interesting you say that. A few years back, libraries were going all in with services like ebrary because they liked the one stop shop and having one consistent interface. These seem to have fallen out of favor. Publishers and libraries are still trying to figure out the best model for serving ebooks to the library market.

I think ASCE is on the right track integrating their journals, books, and conference proceedings in a single website. End users understand the significant differences between content types, and are happy to find them all in one place. Ideally, publishers might benefit from having all of their content on a content agnostic platform that presents journals, books, and other content types equally well. But even if a publisher sees value in keeping different content on different hosting platforms, there is no reason not to strive for an integrated user experience.

If publishers want to integrate their books and journals programs further and develop new categories of products, or find new opportunities for existing product categories, it may have to start with the kind of organizational change that commenters from Duke, CUP and UCP are describing. Michael made the point that book and journal programs are typically run as separate divisions with separate and different workflows and business models. The revenue and prestige they bring to the publisher is also likely to differ. It may not be enough to say “let’s work together to find useful, profitable ways to integrate books and journals”. The opportunities aren’t obvious, and one side has a very weak incentive to find them.

Thanks Toby. You can see on our platform that we have different landing pages for books, journals and proceedings when it comes to people who browse but any search will return results from all three categories. There are some things that we needed to compromise on when it comes content templates on the platform. And, there are standard constructions for journal content that just do not make sense for books. But more so, there is stuff that needs to be added to book metadata (we have several book series, “edited by” information that appears with each chapter, and displaying information on each abstract page for the whole book for those that want to purchase it). We are continuing to advance the program by bringing on title management software that allows us to treat books by the chapter much better. The metadata issues we very, very difficult if you don’t already have chapter level metadata. With a digital first approach, and a title management system to house it all, things are getting easier. Next up will be full text XML, which for now only exists for a small subset of books.

HighWire has done a number of interviews in recent years and we hear from researchers that they just want the “best match” resource for a research need, and don’t separate books (chapters) from journals (articles). The same researcher may need a book chapter for a field they are new to, and a journal article for something they are expert in. In fact, we have heard that they don’t really want to limit their research to book chapters and journal articles: they use Google to “clean around the edges of the carpet” (as one researcher put it to us): to find things that are significant but not in the scholarly databases that Scholar and Pubmed etc. limit themselves to.

A number of publishers produce content that is book-chapter-length in journal-article-containers. Reviews publications (e.g., Annual Reviews, ASPET’s Pharmacological Reviews) are obvious examples. And the measure that these are valued by researchers is that they are highly cited.

For platform providers (like HighWire) the challenge is that articles sum up to issues more easily than books decompose into chapters: there can be narrative arguments from chapter to chapter that get lost. And there are ecommerce complications since end-users may want to purchase an electronic chapter or a whole book.

From a search-engine standpoint (and the standpoint of a user making a decision on which one of a dozen articles and chapters to read) scholarly books are only recently adding chapter-level abstracts which give the user a sense of the whole the way an abstract does in an article. But we have to start somewhere! Abstracts in articles were relatively-recently introduced in the 350-year history of the scholarly journal.

Our interviews with librarians and researchers about online book functionality requirements were very clear: “if I can’t store the chapter on my machine, and print it out, I’d prefer a print book over an online one” Of course, that assumes that the library owns the print copy, and that it is not checked out or missing…

Remarkably, though several commenters come from university presses, no one has yet mentioned Project Muse. When i came to Penn State Press as its new director in 1989, the Press was publishing about 30 books a year, mostly in the humanities, and 8 journals. All of the journals were in fields in which the Press also published books. It was evident that there were some real marketing efficiencies to be achieved through this kind of integration. The Press’s new books could be advertised in the Press’s journals, and the journals could be marketed at the same scholarly conventions where the Press had book exhibits. I continued this approach for that very reason, and though we added a few journals along the way, they were still connected tightly to our book editorial acquisition program. In 1995 our journals manager, Sue Lewis, was hired by Johns Hopkins to work with Michael Jensen to design and launch Project Muse, with the support of a Mellon grant. Being keenly interested in this experiment in e-journal publishing and connected to it via our former employee, Penn State Press in 2000 became the first press to have its journals accepted into Project Muse, which up until then published only its own journals through the platform. Joining Muse was the only way in which a small press like ours could afford to go digital. Our print subscriptions had been steadily eroding and we knew we had to make the transition, but could not do it on our own. Our journals were key to the Press’s financial survival because they generated a surplus that we used to subsidize the money-losing monograph publishing we did. It was crucial to maintain that revenue stream, and Project Muse allowed us to do so, eventually generating about two-thirds of our overall journal revenues by the time I retired in mid-2009. I also foresaw that Muse could help us get into ebook publishing, and as a member of the Muse advisory board, I kept urging JHU Press to add books to its aggregation, which it finally did, also following my recommendation that the books and journals not be siloed on the site but cross-searchable. This seems to have worked very well, but perhaps someone from Hopkins can provide more details. Anyway, it solved our Press’s problem for going digital with books just as it had for journals.Whether this will ultimately be sustainable as a publishing model over the long haul remains to be seen, but it was our salvation at the time. My successor as director at Penn State Press went a different route and tripled the size of the journals list, not concerned about keeping it editorially connected to the book program. I can certainly understand the financial considerations behind this different approach, but it did lead to some separation, contentwise, between the two programs. I think this is a matter of strategic preference, and I was comfortable with my approach as I am sure he is with his.

The benefits of the integrated model that Angela describes are so compelling, from Atypon’s perspective as a platform provider, that we risk underestimating the organizational effort necessary for some publishers to get there. But publishers should take motivation from the fact that to a great extent the technology is already there, ready to help simplify complexity. Solutions to challenges that seemed daunting not too long ago have become commonplace. In a few clicks, publishers can set up content and metadata deposits to a myriad of repositories and discovery services, or drill down into large data sets in interactive dashboards, surfacing important business insights.

As preferences continue to migrate toward consumer-type interactions, it’s also becoming easier to track users’ preferences and behavior, and to segment them into groups, and to provide tailored experiences that support their needs and interests.

Given the right information and ability to experiment, publishers can develop innovative business models like DDA and become experts at cross-promoting and up-selling and delivering custom content packages and experiences—creating more value for everyone, including authors, researchers, libraries, and (as Alison points out) your own staff.

It’s always great to see such rich information, extensive experience, and community interaction in the comments. Thank you all for participating and please come back to Ask the Chefs next month – we need you 🙂

Also, if you have a question you’d like to have posed in a future post, please let me know.

With respect to chapter level metadata, isn’t one work around to work backwards from the index (if present), with perhaps a modicum of editing? [I’ve suggested this in the past but not seen it in action.] Restriction for platforms is that it works best in terms of consistency at a book level though may become tricky across a series / platform. That’s where aggregate indexes can come into use, perhaps with some data/text mining tools to create further links. Only worries then are overdoing the links (useful vs. non-useful) or the semantics (meaningful vs. non-meaningful)… Starts to make you wonder where to draw the line and how to measure value/ROI.

At OECD, we have long found that our readers are interested in our ‘stuff’ rather than the containers in which they are published. So, when digital came along, we moved quickly to build an online platform that contains all our ‘stuff’. The challenge then (1999) was that the only platforms available were for journals or books, no-one offered ‘stuff’ platforms. At the time, we opted for a journal platform (because it could support subscriptions) and bent many things out of shape so it could accommodate our books and, in 2001, our datasets. The result may have been ugly, but it got us off the ground and librarians were quick to switch their legacy standing orders and individual periodical subs to ‘stuff’ subscriptions that included books, periodicals and datasets. We have since added working papers and indicators to our platform (OECD iLibrary) and it now earns ~85% of our revenue and delivers just over 50% of our dissemination (we also make our content available via third-party channels).

So far, so easy (sort of). The challenges behind the scenes have been significant. First, we reorganised our teams around the traditional publishing functions (editorial, production and marketing) and then added three news ones: project management, metadata management and IT as we outsourced two old ones (fulfilment and printing). Everyone works on ‘stuff’, no-one works within an old container-like silo such as books or journals.

The next challenge was to link up the supply chains and management thereof to make it seamless for our users because some librarians who subscribe to ‘stuff’ subscriptions still want to receive print and, vice versa, anyone who wants to buy a printed book will also want to access the e-book. Thanks to our technology-fulfilment partners (Publishing Technology who provide the Pub2Web platform that supports iLibrary, eHaus who provide our online bookshop and Turpin who does our fulfilment) we can deliver integrated, seamless, solutions for our clients that deliver e, p or both as they want.

Then, there is the workflow complexity to deal with. In 1998, we published about 400 books and periodical issues, the same number as we do today. In 1998, therefore, we received 400 manuscripts and transformed them into 400 print books and issues: one thing in, one thing out. Today, we still receive 400 manuscripts and transform them into 400 printed books and issues, but we also transform them into ~40,000 individual online objects each of which has its own metadata, DOI etc. Each object also has at least two and possible four manifestations – same content in different file formats (PDF, ePub, HTML, Excel etc) so we are releasing online more than 100,000 files a year. So, today, it’s one thing in and >100 things out. (Hence the need for project managers and metadata experts).

Another aspect to complexity is the user experience. They (and our authors) expect an e-book to behave online like a ‘book’ and a journal article to be a ‘journal article’ and so on, so our platform has to show each piece of content in the correct templated context even though it has come through the same workflow and back office systems. Yet, at the same time, they want to find all the stuff in the same search results. We’re trying to simplify the 30-odd templates we currently have in our online platform because they are becoming a nightmare to maintain. We are also looking ahead: our authors are now producing stuff that has nothing to do with the old containers: they are preparing 30-40 page reports, videos, vizualisations, blog postings, newsletters and press releases and some of this content is of archival quality and should be collected with all the traditional stuff. The challenge is how to wrap this stuff with metadata (which standard? how should it be cited?) and then insert it into our workflows.

And they said it would be simpler and cheaper done online . . . . (but I know it’s more fun this way and we reach a much, much larger audience than we ever did in print.)

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