Academica Content. New Directionsb in 2016c?

07 March 2016

Production, Static Sites, Academic publishing, print on demand

A strong strategy shift has appeared on the table in our discussions with small and medium academic and university publishers.

Smaller academic and university press publishers are often focused on specialist vertical or regional subjects that have correspondingly smaller readerships, even though the books and journals produced are significant and important contributions to the sum of human knowledge and understanding.

ACADEMIC PUBLISHING New Directions in 2016

Large academic publishers were early adopters of digital content. For example our team designed the XML and digitized over 10,000 Taylor and Francis books between 1999 and 2004. The revenue model from various online sites is based on volume.

Smaller and regional academic publishers have tended to stay with the traditional publishing book model for the good reason that there were no economies of scale and a limited international market.

The shifting business model

However user demands are changing very fast.  We have discussed the available production and distribution technology options with a number of regional academic publishers. A strong strategy shift has appeared on the table. There is now a real requirement for academic content to be available online as the first reading preference.

The Internet is emerging as "the" publishing distribution format of preference for smaller academic publishers. It makes sense and the discussed publishing model looks like this:

  1. Make books available online first through websites that can be sold (subscriptions) to individuals and institutions as the first published format.
  2. Sell content based on selected book collections and subject metadata providing more value for the users/researchers and the publisher (new sales models).
  3. Make print books an option for those who need a physical copy through Print on Demand services.
  4. Drop e-Book formats such as Mobi and ePub for Amazon, iBooks, etc. completely. Apparently academic eBook sales are miniscule and many ePub reading systems don't handle academic structures well, if at all.
  5. Work with other regional academic publishers with common and shared content promotion and access sites.

The Internet-first publishing model would appear to have few downsides and a lot of benefits:

  • Search. This is a very important feature for academic books. All available content can be filtered by metadata and discovered with powerful full text search tools.
  • Volume. Subject to the academic peer review process publishers can produce more content and don't have to think as hard about the sales upside for a particular book as the print costs overheads (printing and distribution) are a next consideration.
  • Velocity. Content is available as soon as it is released. No long winded waiting for print books to appear in bookstores and catalogs.
  • Better content presentation and engagement. Academic content has a LOT of links. There are multiple "Lists of...", references/bibliographies, notes and footnotes, glossaries and abbreviation lists, not to mention the indexes. Digital content produced the right way allows the referenced content to be brought to the reading position rather than having to navigate to that content.
  • Personal notes and citations. A reader can create their own notes and citation references as they read on any platform or devices.
  • Additional Content. Every academic and university publisher we have spoken two has also floated the concept of new and additional information resources online.
  • Rich media and interactivity. Some scholarly works may have libraries of video or audio that were created as part of the research process. If and when appropriate these can be made available.
  • Statistics. Maintain comprehensive statistics on real access to the books to understand revenue, calculate author royalties and assist with other business decisions on a near real-time basis.

The value of this strategy is that it can be implemented without affecting current business models if the right production tools are used. The right tools are of course the IGP:Digital Publisher production suite and it's ability to handle complex content challenges and multiple formats.

How to go Internet first

Academic content is considerably more complex than most trade content with notes, footnotes, references (aka bibliographies) and lots of "list of ..." things. 

IGP:Digital Publisher is an ideal HTML5 first digital content production environment that can produce any required output formats or packages including:

  • Multiple print editions: Including hardcover, paperback, large print simultaneously.
  • Multiple eBook packages: ePub2/3-reflowable and fixed layout, Mobi.
  • Static sites: Get valuable content online quickly and securely. (All the Infogrid Pacific Websites are Static Sites.)

All of this happens from the same single master content stored in IGP:Digital Publisher. It is then processed to the required format or package using the IGP:Formats On Demand (FOD) processor.

Desktop products like Adobe InDesign are not a good starting point for digital first strategies as structural and semantic HTML is a very poor cousin to presentation and a lot of expensive post processing is required.

IGP:Digital Publisher ensures that the content is tagged structurally and semantically in HTML5 first and then the various formats are generated. 

This means the print edition first model can continue as usual until it is time to change to digital first.

Importantly IGP:Digital Publisher has a rich set of processing tools ready for complex academic content processing when required.

  • It can create tables of content, lists of figures, maps, illustrations, abbreviations, glossaries and a lot more based on the XHTML content tagging semantics.
  • For note and footnote heavy documents there are QC functions to make sure every reference has a target item and vice-versa.
  • Automatic generation of multi-pattern title and heading numbering, and where titles and heading are very long alternative text can be defined for generated content such as running headers and content lists.
  • MathML processing to SVG and/or PNG
  • Front-list e-Indexer and backlist auto index tagging.
  • And lots more.

An interesting challenge with academic content is citations. For example:

2 Hugo Grotius, The Freedom of the Seas, translated by Ralph Van Deman Magoffin (New York: Oxford University Press, 1916), pp.28, 30.

In standard academic content many footnotes and notes will contain page references. With digital first these need to become links so IGP:Digital Publisher allows both strategies to be implemented.

The production PDF is (obviously) paginated. IGP:Digital Publisher has the process to insert the PDF page numbers into the digital content at the correct text position. This means the online content can have both digital references and print page references for external citations. Problem addressed.


With print books the metadata is about discovery and organization in a bookstore environment. For any online system, especially one that is being full-text search indexed, good metadata will significantly contribute to the end-user experience. It can be used for category/collection grouping and organization of books as well as primary search filters.

IGP:Digital Publisher has options for multiple levels of metadata with any granularity for content online. Metadata can be made available at various content depths depending on the subject and value of granular metadata That includes: Work metadata (also used for distribution), section metadata, heading metadata and SEO metadata.

In the powerful IGP:Digital Publisher production framework you can add the metadata components at any level of granularity at any time on an as needed basis. This keeps the cost of metadata creation in sync with project revenue opportunities.

You can see comprehensive metadata in action at the section and block level on the UK National Health Service, Care Quality Commission site. The site was created by our UK partner AxisTwelve. Here IGP:Digital Publisher is the report authoring, metadata management and format generation back-end. 113,000 100+ page reports have been created by 800+ inspection teams in just a little over two years. To make it discoverable and easy to use multiple metadata fields have been used at the document, section and block levels.

Getting the content live

Perhaps the biggest decision is whether to delivery content to end users through a CMS (Content Management System) or through a Static Site. This is discussed and explained in detail in this earlier article. IGP:Digital Publisher has the tools to both send content to a Static Site and have it search indexed, or package and process it for transfer to any CMS system.


If you manage and produce your content correctly, multiple format and package generation and delivery is a relatively straight-forward process. It allows academic publishers to create new business models, sustain current business models and 

In many areas of publishing content consumer preferences are shifting. It is  essential that publishers have their content produced and maintained in an environment that guarantees it is available for the future.

Posted by Richard Pipe

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I couldn't resist putting a few (pointless) footnotes in this article. They will popup if you click on the references in the title.

aAcademic publishing is the subfield of publishing which distributes academic research and scholarship. Most academic work is published in academic journal article, book or thesis form.

bNew directions are often very exciting and stimulating, particularly when they're especially hard and challenging. Many people have a strong desire for new directions, but others don't like them because they can often be very messy and unpredictable. New directions can sometimes be frightening to those who are unaccustomed to them. However, new directions are essential to the existence of the human race, and academic publishing.

c2016 (MMXVI) is the current year, and is a leap year starting on Friday (dominical letter CB) of the Gregorian calendar, the 2016th year of the Common Era (CE) and Anno Domini (AD) designations. 2016 has been designated as the International Year of Global Understanding (IYGU) by The International Council for Science (ICSU), the International Social Science Council (ISSC) & International Council for Philosophy and Human Sciences (CIPSH).

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