Welcome to the Illinois Open Publishing Network!

On behalf of the Illinois Open Publishing Network (IOPN), I am happy to welcome authors, editors, and readers to our website and this news feed, where we will be sharing announcements for forthcoming titles, new series and press initiatives, and other news related to IOPN and its imprints. In this post, I want to take a moment to describe what it is we are up to and how we got started.

IOPN is a set of open access, born-digital publishing services run by the Scholarly Communication and Publishing unit of the University of Illinois Library. As a press, we aim to publish high quality long-form scholarship, open educational resources, and journals. We are uniquely equipped to support long-form scholarly publications (whether you call them “books” or something else) that would not be possible in print due to the use of multimedia or interactive content alongside text.

Why do this?

IOPN began operations in 2015 with a Mellon Foundation grant to support the development of digital publishing services that would meet the needs of humanities scholars. In particular, as we got started, we saw the strong role a library publishing operation might play in solving a set of problems that have emerged in what is known as the “digital humanities,” but which are applicable to digital projects in other fields as well. As experiments in scholarly publishing have developed, researchers have found themselves in the position of creating highly customized digital web projects that allowed them to do new sorts of scholarly work, but that disappeared because they were unpreservable or didn’t have a “home” at a conventional publisher. The lack of a conventional publisher also meant other things like a lack of peer review (although some disciplinary communities have taken up this challenge), lack of registration to facilitate discovery in library catalogs or other ways people find books, and lack of editorial processes to ensure quality of the final product. University Press publishers have not lacked interest in this work but have in most cases lacked the infrastructure to support it in addition to their essential support for established forms of scholarly monographs and journals. Many scholars producing work in this realm have noted that their work is not cited even when it is clearly used, and while bias against digital publishing may contribute to that problem, one might surmise the lack of stability around these publications may contribute to skepticism over whether citation is worthwhile.

A library-based press has several things to offer these challenges including a growing history of academic library involvement in consulting on the best practices for creating digital web publications and best practices for project management; familiarity with metadata standards that are at the center of many web publications; understanding of copyright issues; a strong tradition of research into how patrons use information resources and using it to inform service design; and technical infrastructure to support publication and preservation of multimedia and publications that integrate multimedia.

Our approach is to balance the need for flexibility and innovation with the ability to create a sustainable publishing model. One-off customized web-publications in the realm of digital scholarship often involve significant grants, take years to develop, and suffer from scope-creep or never-ending evolution that can strain resources. Not all of these things are bad in all cases (although the strain, I think we can say, is), but it means fewer projects by fewer scholars get the kind of support they need to get produced in the first place, much less succeed. Additionally, a focus on boutique features and designs for every publication means it is much harder for readers to engage with digital publications as they re-learn how to engage with every new site.

We seek to address this problem by supporting publication of digital projects through a set of open source platforms developed for scholarly publication, facilitating different genres of digital publication. Do you have something that is mostly like a long-form book (an open textbook, a biography, or a scholarly monograph, perhaps) but maybe has some multimedia to include? Pressbooks will work for that. Are you trying to bring together a set of historical primary sources and making an argument about their significance? Omeka is probably a good fit. Do you have more of a balance between text and multimedia and need features like media annotation, creation of multiple paths, and integrated data visualizations or maps? Scalar might be just what you are looking for. Regardless of platform, we provide developmental editing and technical consulting as you build out your project, review proposals and support peer review where needed, and provide standard quality control and registration services such as ISBN and DOI registration, copyediting and accessibility reviews, and entry into standard library discovery services and others as applicable.

Our publishing model means we can’t support some projects that need specialized customizations beyond what we can achieve with CSS or Javascript in our platforms, but it means we can support a larger number of projects in emerging digital genres. We believe that creating sustainable digital publishing models and, moreover, usable digital publications, means moving to support genres that, while more varied and capacious than what you can achieve in print, still establish some norms for production and reading. The reading part there is key: supporting more regular genres of publication is about making digital reading sustainable as much as it is about making the labor for publishing workflows and the publications themselves sustainable.

So, please, explore our publications! Under our Publishing Without Walls imprint, you’ll find core scholarly research, with a particular emphasis on works integrating text with multimedia or interactive visualizations and needing traditional or experimental forms of peer review. Our other long-form imprint, Windsor & Downs Press, features scholarly genres in support of research and education, including biographies, conference monographs, Festschrifts, open textbooks, digital scholarly editions, and curated exhibitions of primary sources featuring scholarly analysis. Finally, IOPN Journals includes a growing set of established and new open access journals across the disciplines.

If you are an author or editor who would like to explore publishing with IOPN, please contact us with your idea. We would love to explore how your digital publishing project fits our program!

Thanks for reading,

Daniel Tracy
Head, Scholarly Communication and Publishing
University of Illinois Library

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