by Sarah Canfield-Fuller, Acquisitions Editor, APUS ePress
Digital publishing is transforming the landscape of academic scholarship. In the 20th century, academic publishing relied on a time-, labor-, and cost-intensive print process that could take a year or more to bring articles from submission to publication. The process could take even longer for books. Today, academic publishers benefit greatly from digital tools.
The online editing workflow and digital publication process makes journals and e-books available more quickly and in a variety of convenient formats. Scholars can now access research materials through computers, e-readers, tablets, and smartphones. The time it takes to publish an e-journal like Internet Learning has been cut in half.
Not only is digital publishing faster and more convenient, it eliminates postage and print-on-demand services lower the printing costs dramatically. These savings make it easier for publishers to provide quality content at low cost, easing the financial burden on libraries and allowing for a freer exchange of ideas.
The most exciting aspect of digital publishing is the ability to create interactive e-texts. Where traditional print allows only two kinds of content—text and static images—e-books and e-journals enable more dynamic content. Examples are:
- Hyperlinks to Web content (such as data sets, bibliographic sources, or related materials)
- Embedded audio, video, and animated graphics
- Rollover text and pop-up sidebars
- Comments and direct feedback
Challenges remain, of course. Two particular obstacles have slowed the progress of innovation—a lingering print mindset and a lack of flexible tools. Academia has been slow to break free of the traditional printed page. Writers, editors, and production staff must develop new skills to take advantage of digital enhancements. “Emerging Trends in Digital Scholarship—Authorship: Part I” discusses this from the author’s viewpoint, but it applies to publishers as well.
The technical end of digital publishing is not as well developed as it needs to be. No simple one-stop-shop for converting content from print to e-text exists for all popular file formats. Fixed formats
require different standards than flowable text, with separate adjustments required for each file type before final publication.
These challenges can be overcome. Electronic publishing is the future of scholarship as more and more scholars depend on online research to do their work. While the transition to digital has been rocky, the benefits to publishers and scholars alike cannot be ignored.
Sarah Canfield Fuller, PhD, is the Acquisitions Editor for the APUS ePress and Production Editor for Internet Learning 2.2. She was an early adopter of eLearning strategies in her classes and brings her expertise as an instructor to the task of publishing dynamic and engaging online monographs, textbooks, and journals.