Typography needs to be considered as much in electronic publishing as in book production (Châtry-Komarek 2003; Peck 2003), because both books and e-texts should be readable: the material must be designed to be legible and to communicate meaning as unambiguously as possible. Among their tools, graphic designers need typographical skills as well as design skills for both books and websites. Design is not by itself sufficient to convey a message to book readers or Website visitors; the quality of the text is just as important. A reader should be assisted in navigating through text with ease, using optimal inter-line, inter-letter, and inter-word spacing and text justification, coupled with appropriate line length and position on the page.
OurBlook is a collaborative Web 2.0 site that allows readers to exchange research and information on national and global issues. The goal of the site is to gather and effectively organize opinions and information from today’s leaders, in the hopes of collaboratively finding tomorrow’s solutions.
Much attention has been focused recently on the transition from the printed to the digital book, and some of these reactions—and invariably the ones featured in the media—have been extreme, ranging, at one end, from teeth-gnashing proclamations on the end of culture, if not civilization, as we know it and, at the other end, to apocalyptic euphoria verging on Rapture. To the true believers, the digital book, and the seamless connectivity it seems to make inevitable between everything ever written and everybody still reading, appears either as the final dagger in the heart of the literary culture or as the realization of the globalizing, utopian visions of writers such as Teilhard de Chardin, Marshall McLuhan, or Internet guru Ted Nelson. Both extremes, but with opposite affect and attitude, seem to take for granted the imminent precipitous decline, if not outright demise, of the printed book, notwithstanding that such books have held sway for four and a half centuries, during which they have been integral to and instrumental within immense religious, political, social, intellectual, scientific, and cultural reformations, revolutions, and upheavals.
“Every civilization is, among other things, an arrangement for domesticating the passions and setting them to do useful work," Aldous Huxley wrote in Tomorrow and Tomorrow and Tomorrow. As we see it, electronic publishing is becoming civilized. We seem to have reached the end of the period of passionate conviction about what scholarly publishing should become, and are setting about the serious work of understanding what it has become. The articles in this issue of The Journal of Electronic Publishing start by accepting the new electronic landscape.
A growing number of authors and publishers freely distribute their books electronically to increase the visibility of their work. These books, for both academic and general audiences, cover a wide variety of genres, including technology, law, fantasy, and science fiction. Some authors claim that free digital distribution has increased the impact of their work and their reputations as authors. But beyond increased exposure, a vital question for those with a commercial stake in selling books is, “What happens to book sales if digital versions are given away?”
Jean Baudrillard (1929-2007) was a French thinker, writer, and photographer who was named by the New Statesman (Hussey, 2003) as one of the 12 most important thinkers of our time (alongside of James Lovelock, E.O. Wilson, Martha Nussbaum, Peter Singer, Noam Chomsky, Jacques Derrida, Li Hongzhi, Kate Millet, Maulana Sayyid Abul-Ala Maududi, Antonio Negri, and John Maynard Smith). From 1968 through 2006 he published more than 45 books all of which have now been translated into English. At a broad level his work constitutes an effort to surpass traditional critical theory by providing constant challenge and provocation. There continues to be much interest in his thought around the world.
Book publishers have struggled in recent years to find ways to adopt XML-based editorial and production workflows. Complexity, unfamiliarity, and uncertainty about implementation details contribute to a kind of impasse among publishers—particularly small and medium-sized firms that lack the resources to maintain innovative IT departments that might push them into 21st-century processes. While the benefits of XML-based processes are trumpeted widely, and the general business case for adopting and investing in XML and related technology has existed for 20 years, gathering the energy and resources to move into an XML-based environment has eluded many. Could it be that XML-based workflows are simply too complicated to be readily adopted by smaller publishers? And if that is so, what are the implications as we move into the digital era?
Today marks (roughly) the tenth birthday of a fantastically successful open science project called the Chemical Development Kit (CDK). At the time the skeleton of the project was set down on my office whiteboard, I was still the lead developer of Jmol, and Egon Willighagen and Christoph Steinbeck had contributed code to the Jmol project. Christoph’s pet code was a neat 2-d structure editor called JChemPaint, and Egon was working largely on the Chemical Markup Language (CML), although his code contributions were showing up nearly everywhere. Egon and Christoph were in the US for a “Chemistry and the Internet” conference and made a side trip by train to visit me so we could figure out how to unify these projects and to make a more general and reusable set of chemical objects.
The CDK design session was a fun weekend. In retrospect, they were some of the purest days of collaborative creativity I’ve ever experienced. We spent many hours and a lot of coffee hashing out some of the basic classes of CDK. The final picture of the whiteboard shows a classic waterfall diagram of what we were going to implement.
I’m the first to admit that my contributions to CDK were minimal. Egon & Chris ran with the design, expanded and improved it, implemented all the missing pieces, and released it to the world. It has become an important piece of scientific software, particularly in the bioinformatics community. Beyond Egon & Chris, Rajarshi Guha has been one of the prime developers of the software.
CDK is, by all objective standards a fantastic success story of open source scientific software. It has a large and vibrant user community, active developers, and a number of people (including myself) who browse the code just to see how it does something difficult. Egon has written a thoughtful piece on where CDK should go from here.
Happy Birthday CDK!
Update October 5, 2010: the currency reported in the STM report was USD, not UK pounds sterling. Thanks to Mark Ware, author of the STM report, for this information – and interesting example of open peer review in action! The USD currency is reflected in the STM report v1.1 on the STM website.
What this means is that my original figure (based on an assumption of US currency) of 64% savings is more accurate. I will rework the spreadsheet and re-release in the near future. Additional open peer review is welcome.
At the PLoS average article processing fee of $1,649 U.S. per article, or BMC average article processing charge of $1,560 U.S., libraries worldwide could fund full open access to the world’s estimated 1.5 million scholarly peer-reviewed journal articles produced every year at less than 30% of current annual global academic library journal expenditures.
The purpose of this broad-brush, macroeconomic analysis is to sweep aside the complexities of transitioning to open access, to view just how achievable open access is from an economic standpoint.
The method for calculating these savings involves:
- Take the total STM annual journal revenue as reported by Mark Ware for STM of 8 billion pounds sterling and convert to about 12.6 billion U.S.
- Divide by .7 (approx. 70% of STM journal revenue is from academic libraries according to Ware)
- This gives $8.8 billion USD annual revenue to STM from academic libraries alone
Full open access at PLoS or BMC rates
- PLoS average rate: multiply # of articles / PLoS journal by article processing fee for that journal, add and calculate average
- BMC standard rate is from BMC webpage
- Multiply by approx. 1.5 million scholarly peer-reviewed journal articles per year as discovered by Björk et al
Calculate the ratio and voila! Libraries CAN have our cake and eat it too – full open access with cost savings.
One key point: the average cost per article matters. To keep things simple, this macroanalysis only considers one business model for open access, and only two publishers.
BioMedCentral standard article processing charge – from BMC website http://www.biomedcentral.com/info/authors/apcfaq Sept. 27, 2010.
Björk, Bo-Christer; Roosr, Annikki; Lauri, Mari. (2008). Global annual volume of peer reviewed scholarly articles and the share available via different open access options. ELPUB2008. Open Scholarship: Authority, Community, and Sustainability in the Age of Web 2.0 – Proceedings of the 12th International Conference on Electronic Publishing held in Toronto, Canada 25-27 June 2008 / Edited by: Leslie Chan and Susanna Mornati.
PLoS average publication fee (2010): http://www.plosone.org/static/policies.action#pubfee
Research Information Network (RIN). (2008). Activities, costs and funding flows in the scholarly communications system in the UK Retrieved from http://is.gd/3Q7cm
Universal Currency Converter. Retrieved from http://www.xe.com/ucc/ September 27, 2010
Ware, Mark. (2009) The stm report: An overview of scientific and scholarly
journals publishing 2009. International Association of Scientific, Technical and Medical Publishers (STM). Retrieved from http://www.stm-assoc.org/ February 2010
To download a spreadsheet with calculations, go to the Economics of Scholarly Communication Dataverse.