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Re: Gutenberg-e

I have a great respect for Kate Wittenberg and have followed this 
project almost from its inception. When I was writing my 2001 
study on Electronic Solutions to the Problems of Monograph 
Publishing (now most easily found at 
http://www.publishing.ucl.ac.uk/papers/2001Watkinson.pdf) I did 
comment on the concept doubted that in its entirety it could ever 
be financially sustainable.

There are various models for e-only monographs in actuality and 
in development and it is probable that they can be as sustainable 
as p-only monographs and as acceptable to the community - at 
least that is my impression and indeed hope.

However, what I think of as the Darnton project is set out in his 
description on the AHA site (see 
http://www.historians.org/prizes/gutenberg/rdarnton2.cfm). He 
writes there that, as well as being conventional monographs and 
indeed available in print form, there is the extra dimension:

"But at other levels, the e-books will contain material that 
could never be conveyed by print: extensive documentation, 
hyperlinks to supplementary secondary literature, recordings, 
images, music, and historiographical and methodological 
discussions. The possibilities are endless, but the execution of 
the work must be of the highest quality."

Is this project sustainable and could Kate tell us?  I have no 
problems at all in sustainability being a result of a decision of 
the Academy to subsidise such a project on a long term basis but 
someone in the end has to pay.

Anthony Watkinson

----- Original Message -----
From: "Ann Okerson" <ann.okerson@yale.edu>
To: <liblicense-l@lists.yale.edu>
Sent: Friday, March 07, 2008 10:31 PM
Subject: Re: Gutenberg-e

> Forwarded from Kate Wittenberg, Columbia University, who 
> managed this project throughout its life:
> ____
> Ann:  I hope you don't mind if I share some personal thoughts about the
> Gutenberg-e project, as I am concerned that some important issues may have
> gotten lost in the flurry of press surrounding the recent decisions
> regarding distribution of the digital books. As you know, I have been
> involved in this project from the start, and I wanted to share some of my
> thoughts looking back at the project from this point near its completion.
> You may share some, all, or none of this with your colleagues and readers
> as you think best.
> Gutenberg-e was created as a bold experiment to explore whether
> peer-reviewed, born-digital monographs by young academics would alter the
> way in which historical scholarship is presented, whether the scholars
> would received the same professional credit for these publications that
> they would receive from work published in print, and whether the project
> would permit publication of monographs that would otherwise be turned down
> for financial reasons by university presses. The long-term business model
> for this enterprise was not the main focus of the project, although we did
> always hope that there would be a way to receive sufficient revenue to
> allow for the maintenance, and possibly the continued development of the
> series.
> This project has a long and complicated history that includes many
> exciting breakthroughs as well as a number of significant challenges. The
> authors involved are courageous and innovative scholars, and in my view
> represent the best of the next generation of historians. A number of them
> have created completely new models of author/publisher collaboration in
> the scholarly communication process, as well as new models of historical
> scholarship and narrative. The authors who have come up for tenure have
> received it, with their Gutenberg-e book being their major publication.
> Most of the e-books have been reviewed positively in distinguished history
> journals.
> In complex research projects that are managed by multiple organizations,
> agendas and missions sometimes get confused.  The fact that a decision was
> made to have the e-books distributed through the ACLS E-Humanities
> publishing project, while maintaining them in their original form on the
> Gutenberg-e.org website hosted by the Columbia University Libraries, is
> not a condemnation of the project as an economic failure. Rather, it is a
> creative solution to stabilizing and ensuring the availability and
> preservation of these works over time.  If, in the future, the Press, the
> Libraries, or some new organization that does not yet exist takes on the
> mission of publication of digital scholarship in history, the Gutenberg-e
> series will be made available, as appropriate, through this project as
> well. The point is that we have broken new ground, learned a tremendous
> amount, provided a group of scholars with beautifully designed and
> produced publications, and offered a new model of university
> press/library/information technology collaboration in scholarly
> communication. These are findings that few would consider a failed
> experiment and that instead offer valuable models and knowledge for
> others.
> Kate Wittenberg
> Manager, E-Publishing Programs
> Center for Digital Research and Scholarship
> Columbia University
> 330 Fifth Avenue, 12th Floor
> New York, NY 10001
> 212 851-2923
> kw49@columbia.edu