Electronic Publishing at IU Press: Collaboration Is the Key

by Heather Shupp

A new model for scholarly publishing is being developed at Indiana University Bloomington. Advances in electronic technology and creative mixing of talents from different parts of the university have enabled Indiana University Press to begin to develop electronic multimedia products. "Electronic publishing is a much more collaborative and interactive endeavor than is traditional print-based bookmaking; it requires different organizations and procedures," says John Gallman, director of Indiana University Press. Gallman believes that scholarly presses must now devote an increasing portion of their resources to mastering the electronic media or face getting left by the wayside in the information industry of the twenty-first century.

"The nature of electronic publishing is very different from print publishing," Gallman says. "We have to reeducate ourselves to master the new technology and its possibilities." He explains that the traditional book development process is basically linear, with the author working in isolation and then bringing a completed manuscript to the publisher for editing, design, printing, and marketing. In electronic publishing, Gallman says, "the author of the content isn't the only author. Technical collaborators add another creative source to the process. It's more like making a movie. The technical people make a big contribution in the content area by interacting with the author."

For IU Press, collaboration on electronic projects has meant partnering with other units of the university, as well as with faculty. After deciding to publish a CD-ROM companion to one of it's best-selling books, Africa (now in its third edition), the press started building alliances with other units of the university. One of the units the press approached was the Teaching and Learning Technologies Laboratory (TLTL), which was founded in 1994 by Instructional Support Services and University Computing Services to help faculty create multimedia teaching materials. The press formed a partnership with TLTL to produce the Africa CD ROM, and in their discussions about that project, learned that the laboratory was working on a multimedia case study of Africa's Olduvai Gorge with Jeanne Sept, an associate professor of anthropology at IUB. After viewing the program, the press became interested in publishing it on CD-ROM.

Although IU Press is not a textbook publisher and does not usually publish books intended to be used exclusively as teaching and learning tools, Sept's project had two big attractions: its topic was clearly one to which value was added by being published in a multimedia form, and it was almost finished. "Jeanne and TLTL have spent hundreds of hours on it. They did all the work," Gallman says. Investigating Olduvai: Archaeology of Human Origins will be available as a CD ROM for Macintosh computers in the fall of 1996 and for PCs in the spring of 1997. A portion of the profits from sales of Investigating Olduvai will go to TLTL to help it recover development costs for the project.

Sept had been working with TLTL and its predecessor, Instructional Consulting and Technology, for about four years to develop the interactive program and had been using successive prototypes in her classes since the fall of 1992. The program asks students to play the role of a working archaeologist studying human origins in the Olduvai Gorge in east Africa and to gather and interpret data about the site. One of Sept's primary objectives in developing an interactive multimedia program was "to give students access to real data and real problems and then to challenge them to grapple with those problems in a way that would give them a feel for how archaeologists actually do the work, and the pitfalls and the problems and, really, the ambiguities of working in a real scientific world," Sept says. Because the software evolved over such a long period, Sept and TLTL were able to alter the program in response to student suggestions and complaints, thus creating a better, and more marketable, product.

Gallman foresees cooperation between the press and TLTL extending beyond the two current projects. Although the primary mission of TLTL is to support faculty members in their endeavors to teach more effectively by using technology, not to produce commercially viable products, sometimes marketable products, such as Sept's courseware, can emerge from the work TLTL and faculty do. Gallman suggests that TLTL is a natural conduit to funnel faculty ideas and projects that do have value as external multimedia products to the press.

As a result of the IU Press-TLTL collaboration, the press, the dean of the faculties, and University Computing Services have jointly applied for funding under Indiana University's Strategic Directions Initiative to establish an electronic publishing division at the press. Under the proposal, faculty who approach TLTL with multimedia projects that might have commercial potential would be directed to the electronic publishing division of the IU Press. The press would then develop and publish selected products. The press's electronic publishing division would also partner with other divisions of the university to provide an outlet for electronic publishing at IU.

Gallman envisions the press eventually making many types of publications available in electronic format. He notes that journals, particularly scientific journals where the timeliness of new research is so important, "make sense in electronic form." He explains that the press could sell a subscription to the journal database and then post each article as soon as it was peer reviewed and edited so that subscribers wouldn't have to wait until other articles were ready. Gallman also suggests that the press could combine print and electronic publishing by putting pieces of works up on the World Wide Web and then reproducing copies of the full works cheaply on demand. Some day, the press might even market its entire list of books to libraries in electronic form, Gallman says. Does all this mean the demise of traditional books? Nobody is sure, including Gallman, who says that there is "a powerful novelty factor with CD-ROMs and the Internet," a novelty factor that could perhaps fade or that could come to dominate the publications market. "It's a very tricky time," Gallman says.

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