Almost a year ago, Gary Hall a theorist, writer and experimental publisher, working in the areas of new media, philosophy, art and politics, and Professor of Media and Performing Arts in the Faculty of Arts & Humanities, as well as Director of the Centre for Disruptive Media at Coventry University, UK reached out to me, in my role of editor as the Journal of Electronic Publishing, to propose a special issue to be based on the Disrupting the Humanities seminar at Coventry University.
The production of this report of an interview with Richard Nash, serial entrepreneur and broadly acknowledged publishing Big Thinker, turned into a bit of a digital publishing parable. As the twentieth anniversary of the Journal of Electronic Publishing neared, I deployed the forces of social media and the online publishing communities I most respect, asked for volunteers to be interviewed about their (long) views of where we have been as publishers in the past twenty years and where me might or should go next. I was delighted when Richard Nash put up his hand, as he has been saying smart things about publishing, digital and otherwise, for as long as I’ve been paying attention.
Tzviya Siegman is in her second year as Digital Book Standards & Capabilities Lead at John Wiley and Sons. I began our conversation by asking about her work and her history in publishing. She has been, she told me, with Wiley for 15 years. As so many people in the publishing industry do, she began as an editorial assistant, in culinary and hospitality books, an area where textbooks cross over into trade, and she became engaged with software and internal testing, experience that she developed into a more formal focus on “production technology.” In 2008, that focus become her full time employment, in a moment where, as she says, “e-books became the ‘thing’.” She started by doing quality assurance, primarily for Kindle editions and then became increasingly focused on EPUB, as EPUB 2 emerged. As the e-book market grew, so did her job responsibilities, until she “slowly” (her word; to this interviewer it seems like rapid growth) took over all of EPUB at Wiley. Tzviya wrote and maintained Wiley’s e-book specifications and style sheets and serves as Wiley’s liaison to publishing industry groups including the International Digital Publishing Forum (IDPF), Book Industry Study Group (BISG), and the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C). Tzviya most recently joined Wiley’s Information Modeling Group, joining her interests in content structure, standards, and linked data. Tzviya co-chairs the W3C Digital Publishing Interest Group and the EPUB 3.1 working group, helping to make the web and books better friends.
Anniversaries inevitably lead to introspection and retrospection. As it dawned upon the editorial and production team here at the Journal of Electronic Publishing (JEP) that our journal was twenty years old, I was cast back to my own first encounters with JEP, circa 1996, when it was already a mature publication of one year. I was a just entering the field of librarianship, in the School of Library and Information Science, now School of Information, at the University of Michigan and encountering the World Wide Web in its earliest days. As my wheels began to turn about what forms of publication might be possible through that Web, a colleague at the library pointed out that our adventurous university press had put a journal on line that was all about electronic publishing. That, I thought, was pretty cool.
As a librarian of long standing and a recent information school educator (one of whose classes focuses on “access to information”) I take occasions to remind myself that access is a topic of enduring interest to that profession, one that predates the Internet. In its almost oldest sense – The Oxford English Dictionary tells us dating back to the 14th century (one cannot help but be amused that in its very oldest sense access is an
onset of a disease) access is about “approaching, entering, exiting, communicating with, or making use of” (Free Dictionary) and “the ability, right, or permission to approach, enter, speak with, or use; admittance” (Merriam Webster), a sense that takes us back to questions like whether stacks should be open to all who hold a library card and whether libraries should be open on Sundays. At the same time, I am acutely aware of the acceleration of discussion about access. A Google Ngram tracking use of the term from 1800 onwards shows an almost vertical cliff rising from 1960 to the present. Starting in the 1980’s we see “open” often prepending “access,” and those new to the conversation might justifiably belief that “open access” and “access” are one and the same.
As regular readers may recall, last year The Journal of Electronic Publishing was fortunate to partner with the annual Books in Browsers conference to bring the conference proceedings, a mix of videos, transcripts, slide sets and written papers, together online. A happy effect of this was that this editor was able to attend the conference, observe the consistently compelling and informative presentations, engage in the thought provoking conversations that happened in the pockets of time and corners of space around the main program, and return to enthusiastically report upon the event.