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In the last year or so, themed issues of JEP have taken us through a wide range of publishing scenarios, from university presses to algorithmically generated poetry, from EPUB3 to Twitterature. In this issue, we return to the desk of the individual publisher, editor, and librarian. The emergent theme of this issue is practicality: these are case studies and field research about methods, formats, and tools that professionals can use to make the most of the resources they have at hand.
In “Refurbishing the Camelot of Scholarship: How to Improve the Digital Contribution of the PDF Research Article,” Alex Garnett, John Willinsky, and Angela Pan Wong revisit John Warnock's notion of "Camelot": a format that can be read and printed from anywhere. The authors examine the current, widespread popularity of the PDF as a publication format (particularly for journal articles and scholarly research). According to the authors, the PDF is used almost exclusively to represent/re-create the print environment. Not only does this fail to take full advantage of the digital environment, it counterproductively makes it even more difficult to find, access, and contextualize these articles on the web. The authors investigate existing features of the PDF that could be better exploited in order to more fully integrate these files into the digital landscape, and recommend new guidelines for typesetting and page layout that cater to an audience likely to be reading on-screen. The recommendations are organized according to difficulty of implementation: from steps every author could take to improve a single file, to overhauling the publishing infrastructure that produces print-first PDFs by default, shifting the focus to a web-first workflow.
Next, in “Social Media: New Editing Tools, or Weapons of Mass Distraction?,” Agata Mrva-Montoya reports the results of a survey on the use of social media in a professional capacity among Australian publishers. The survey addresses a range of topics, from the perceived ease of use of various social media tools, to the age range of users (age, it seems, has little impact on who is using which tools!). There are reservations about social media interrupting or distracting from focused, individual work such as reading and copy-editing, as well as the blurring lines between personal and professional life. Nevertheless, these tools are recognized as a powerful way to develop and maintain networks of contacts—particularly important for the growing population of freelance and other self-employed publishing professionals.
In “Publisher-Library Partnership for Accessibility: A Case Study of Scholarly Publishing for Public Audiences,” Sue Kunda and Mark Anderson-Wilk provide a detailed case study of how Oregon State University enhanced its mandated Extension Service by collaborating with the OSU Libraries to adopt the university's institutional repository as a publishing channel. The Extension Service is a federal requirement for land grant universities to provide public access to research materials on certain subjects. OSU is the first land grant institution to adopt an institutional repository as the main channel for publishing and disseminating these important outreach materials. Anderson-Wilk and Kunda describe the costs and benefits of distributing outreach materials in this way, and discuss how they overcame challenges, including presenting multiple versions or out-of-date materials, outreach to faculty to encourage the deposit of materials, and resolving mismatches between the library's and the Extension Service's workflows.
Finally, this issue features Amelia Chesley’s book review of Kenneth Goldsmith's Uncreative Writing, published in 2011 by the Columbia University Press. The book's provocative title draws attention to the role played by innovation—indeed, creativity—in the process of "uncreative" writing, or creating a new literary work out of existing texts. According to Chesley, the book seeks to highlight the ways that "sampling, copying, and appropriation have been the norm in other artistic mediums for decades."
We’re very pleased to bring you this selection of research, reports and reviews on the state of electronic publishing practice in 2012.
Managing Editor, JEP