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I was quite pleased to be asked to write a technical report for JISC. The paper provides background on the state of ebook publishing today, and concludes with a set of recommended projects that aim to improve digital scholarly publishing in the UK. The report is available online as Digital Monograph Technical Landscape: Exemplars and Recommendations under a Creative Commons license. Other formats, including EPUB and PDF, are available from the project blog. Warning, the paper is super-long!

Though I was the principal author of the paper, I’d like to thank the other members of the JISC team for their support, edits, and encouragement: Theo Andrew, Peter Sefton, Emma Tonkin, and David Flanders. Many other deliverables were produced as a part of this project, including digital publishing toolkits and usability studies; please check them out on the jiscPUB blog.

Executive summary

…This report aims to describe some historical perspective on electronic publishing, leading up to why the “ebook revolution” has happened in the 2010s when it had failed to take hold before. We will describe some of the details of how digital books are authored, both in a scholarly context and in general ebook production terms. We have included in-depth coverage of the unexpected outcomes of ebook distribution, including issues of rights, royalties, copyright, academic impact, and the implications of limiting access to and reproduction of digital books. Finally, we review findings from a number of ebook pilot programs conducted in U.S. universities, and draw from the work done by the rest of the “JISCpub” team in uncovering possible future work that could be actionable and relevant to a scholarly publishing audience, with a goal towards providing better tooling for both authors and readers of scholarly works.

Recommendations in brief

  1. Rich full-text semantic search tools for scholarly ebook collections.
  2. Tools for generating or traversing highly-specific stable citations.
  3. Development of a pilot to produce student theses with high-engagement linked-data content.
  4. Plugins or add-ons to provide simple, ebook output for popular word processing tools.
  5. Improved workflows for authoring attractive, accessible, standards-based mathematical notation in ebooks.
  6. Development of an ereading system with an emphasis on scholarly annotation and research-gathering.
  7. Provisions to train and share scholars interested in digital publishing.
  8. Aggregate ebook services for authors and university presses.
  9. Maximize use of orphan works.
  10. Community resources for institutions with digital collection.
  11. Read the complete report.

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