Vol. 43, No. 2, April 2014
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The University of Chicago Press and HSS
by Jay Malone, History of Science Society Executive Director
As more and more people freely share their work and their lives with a world-wide audience, (e.g. Linked In and Facebook) many individuals now question the need and the value of publishers. Since the HSS is developing a strategic plan for the future, now is a good time to examine the various moving parts of the Society.
Traditionally, publishers served as information conduits to the world but in this age of a million points of access, what role do publishers play in current scholarship? HSS members sometimes ask me why the Society does not switch to self publishing or they suggest that we move toward variations of an open-access model. And although it seems that bypassing our publisher, the University of Chicago Press (UCP), and thus producing our work for consumption is straightforward, in fact, it is not. Self publishing would result in the loss of many valuable services—most of them not self evident. This solitary path would also mean that the HSS staff would be tasked with subscription fulfillment, itself a monster-sized duty, in addition to the many other services that members of professional societies expect. Of course, we would not be paying UCP to publish our journals if we self published, thus freeing up resources, so it is prudent that we engage in a cost-benefit analysis and the first question should be “What does UCP bring to the table?” I asked our press representative, Teresa (Tess) Mullen this question and she sent me a 15-page document, parts of which I excerpt below.
Like HSS, UCP is a non-profit organization, dedicated to the furtherance of scholarship. Some of the more visible benefits of our association with UCP, not necessarily in order of importance, include access to the complete run of Isis andOsiris through JSTOR; a high profile journal web presence (with full text HTML and PDF formats); e-Book editions of our journals; a 30% discount on Chicago books, as well as a 30% discount with select other publishers; customer support; and membership renewal campaigns (the current campaign includes free e-Books). But these aspects of our relationship touch only the tip of what UCP does.
UCP As A Pragmatic And Intellectual Partner
In the “not self evident” part of the equation, UCP’s managers are at the disposal of our editorial team to report on business operations, discuss day-to-day editorial matters or ideas for development, and to serve as a sounding board regarding any relevant editorial policy and legal issues. UCP provides regular reports on myriad matters, such as financial statements, online usage statistics, bibliometric analyses (ISI and other rankings); circulation, renewal, and access; marketing; publishing industry trends; technology developments; contract review (UCP has offered HSS advice on several contracts); and licensing opportunities.
UCP’s publishing technology helps authors with the requirements demanded by funding and credentialing boards, including adherence to green open access (OA) requirements, hybrid Gold level policies for open access articles (OA from the time of publication), as well as generating an automatic e-mail of an article’s PDF to authors upon completion of Isis‘s posting.
But far beyond simply posting Isis on a Web site in full-text HTML and PDF formats, UCP also creates mobile optimized articles and e-Book editions of entire journal issues. The Press handles the hosting of online article enhancements (audio and video files, color images, etc.); content crawled by all major search engines, returning results at the author, abstract, article, and journal level; metadata deposited with CrossRef and made available to appropriate abstracting and indexing services; content preserved in perpetuity, working from XML source files—the most generic, flexible format for storing content, allowing UCP to migrate to different technologies and platforms and to generate a variety of display formats. With a new “born digital” electronic edition, Isis will be able to include online-only enhancements that are impractical or cannot be rendered in print. These range from the simple—images published in black and white in the print version may be published online in color—to the complex: audio and video files and large data sets. This material is selected by the editors during the peer-review process and formatted for presentation by UCP’s electronic publishing technology team. Online-only enhancements are referenced in the print version of the journal and promoted online through email and social media to motivate interested readers to visit the online edition.
Since online editions, unlike print copies, can face an uncertain future in the digital world, UCP’s partnership with JSTOR (also a non-profit entity), provides the following benefits:
- Easy consolidated licensing to both current content and archival back content.
- Seamless access for users to the journal’s current issues, back issues, and online-only material via a unified “publisher neutral” platform.
- State-of-the-art Web discoverability and reference-resolving technologies.
- Simplified license administration for institutional customers.
- Targeted, large-scale sales efforts to institutions.
And because the ways that we read continue to evolve, UCP collaborates with JSTOR to ensure that the hosting platform for our journals keeps pace with changes in online format. JSTOR was recently redesigned using a responsive web-design model, meaning that the interface prioritizes displayed content so that the Web site’s features adjust to the screen size of the user’s desktop, laptop, tablet, or smartphone. No matter how journal content is accessed, the site adapts its format to provide the most streamlined reading experience possible.
UCP and Subscription/Author Services
During our recent rebuilding of the HSS Web site, made possible through the assistance of volunteers, most notably Fred Gibbs and Alex Wellerstein, the Executive Office investigated the possibility of taking over membership management from UCP. Our member data is our most valuable asset and ready access to this data figures prominently in membership services. However, we quickly realized that in addition to the extra time it would take to handle subscription questions, Web site access, and other queries, we would immediately lose some $12,000 US, which would be our costs for membership credit-card processing. So, in addition to the deep resources that the Press brings to bear on journal production and analysis, UCP also handles all the details involved with membership payment, provides additional help with association management, and offers assistance with fund raising, such as hosting our online donation pages. UCP also warehouses back issues of Isis and Osiris (not a minor endeavor), provides design support for journal covers and interior, authorizes JSTOR to transfer files to Thomson Reuters Web of Science, sends issues to the printer for distribution, pays all manufacturing invoices, registers copyright for each issue, manages reprints and translations, ensures author’s rights post publications, grants permissions, foreign authorizations service and much more.
Few of our members will have noted the passing of the economist Ronald Coase (at the age of 102). As a young man, Coase asked a fundamental question: Why do companies exist? After studying American automobile plants he concluded that price-setting mechanisms contained a flaw, that flaw being the cost incurred by buyers and sellers when trying to arrive at an agreed-upon price. Firms existed, he reasoned, because they could more easily (and more cheaply) coordinate transactions from a position of central authority. The same question may be asked of the HSS and UCP. Why do they exist? As the above UCP benefits demonstrate, large presses are better equipped than small academic societies (or individuals) to handle the multitudinous details that surround the transmission of knowledge, even in this age of knowledge wanting to be free. Likewise, the HSS will be asking why academic societies exist and what benefits the HSS brings to you. We hope to have a good answer.