[Humanist] 27.282 the force of online publication

Humanist Discussion Group willard.mccarty at mccarty.org.uk
Wed Aug 14 22:13:35 CEST 2013

                 Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 27, No. 282.
            Department of Digital Humanities, King's College London
                Submit to: humanist at lists.digitalhumanities.org

        Date: Tue, 13 Aug 2013 21:58:23 +0100
        From: Daniel Allington <daniel.allington at open.ac.uk>
        Subject: Re:  27.280 the force of online publication?
        In-Reply-To: <20130813204811.C539E2FEC at digitalhumanities.org>


I was talking to an editor at Bloomsbury / Continuum a couple of weeks ago, and he told me about a book he'd published where the text was also available as a free website. He told me that in his opinion, a publisher makes *books* (printed or electronic), and a website is something else, even if the words are the same. I can't remember the name of the book, but if I could, it would be a parallel example. It was in the field of digital culture. Outside of academia, there seems to be a trend in programming manuals, where the author publishes what is effectively the first draft on his or her website for free, then publishes the corrected text with a commercial publisher.

Best wishes


Dr Daniel Allington
Lecturer in English Language Studies
Centre for Language and Communication
The Open University

www.danielallington.net http://www.danielallington.net

On 13 Aug 2013, at 21:48, Humanist Discussion Group wrote:

                Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 27, No. 280.
           Department of Digital Humanities, King's College London
               Submit to: humanist at lists.digitalhumanities.org<mailto:humanist at lists.digitalhumanities.org>

       Date: Mon, 12 Aug 2013 15:32:49 -0600
       From: Daniel O'Donnell <daniel.odonnell at uleth.ca<mailto:daniel.odonnell at uleth.ca>>
       Subject: Examples of online publication driving Print on Demand and other long-form sales?

Hi all,

I'm in discussions with my press about a second edition of my edition of
Cædmon's Hymn. I'm pushing for an open, on-line release of the text with
Print-on-Demand and ePub sales from the site. Since the introduction has
about 100k words, is frequently cited, and is available in part on
Google Books already (ironically for a print-and-CD-ROM digital edition,
Google just scanned the print copy), my argument is the following:

1) People who are really in the market for a 100k word book on a 9-line
poem are going to want to buy a copy in a format they can annotate, read
off line, and that is generally more pleasing on the eye than a standard
web-page (you'd be surprised how many people have wanted a copy in the
last 8 years!)
2) People who are prepared to put up with poorer-quality, long-form
presentation because they can get it for free on-line are basically
already being lost to the Google Books site
3) Putting the whole argument and text out on the web will help keep the
book central to debates in the field, presumably increasing the number
of people buying copies under argument 1 above.
4) Reprinting a book+CD-ROM digital text today captures the worst of all
worlds: we miss the exposure on-line publication provides via search
engines and we lock the most flexible format (the digital) in a medium
that is increasingly difficult to use and is certainly not multi-platform.

I can think of one somewhat parallel case that seems to show these
arguments: Peter Baker's Introduction to Old English which, I am told,
has sold very well through the years even though it has always been
freely available on-line in a version that, if anything, is actually
more feature-rich than the print copy. Does anybody know of any other

Some background: the edition was published in 2005 in a
Print-and-CD-ROM, where the CD-ROM contained the full text of the print
book and additional views, tools, and features. The edition itself has
done better than you might think for a pretty long edition of a 9-line
poem (I believe it sold through 3+ print runs) and it was runner up for
MLA's best edition in 2007 (first medieval edition and I believe first
digital to be so recognised). What I want to do now is publish a revised
version of the contents of the CD-ROM to the web and offer POD copies
and ePubs of the book content for sale from the site. My theory is that
they are likely to sell for much the same reason the book sold in the
first place: people use digital texts but given the choice they are
still happy doing long-form reading in a format that is better suited to
it that the browser.

Any advice? Parallel examples? Other ideas?


Daniel Paul O'Donnell
Professor of English
University of Lethbridge
Lethbridge AB T1K 3M4

+1 403 393-2539

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