UKOLN The likely role, nature and impact of electronic publishing on scholarly monographs and textbooks

Terms of reference


Much attention has been paid to the impact of electronic publishing on journals, but there has been far less discussion about its impact on monographs. It is perhaps a result of their nature that there is now a reasonable number of electronic journals available: articles tend to be a more manageable size, journal issues can easily be divided into parts and are more easily delivered. Another factor is that the repeating nature of journals means that larger investments can be made, in the expectation of longer term return. (Monograph series could be a natural first target for electronic form.) There are clearly also the incentives of currency and convenient access. However, it is recognised that in the move towards greater availability of full text electronic resources, the dividing line between journals and monographs is likely to become increasingly blurred.

In fact, the concept of the monograph is potential more fluid than the journal article. This is because each is a one-off, and does not follow or precede any other piece of work, which may determine the possibilities. Therefore depending on suitability, publishers may choose formats ranging from unillustrated text on paper, to a multimedia interactive hypertext package.

Monographs can be divided into research monographs communicating major pieces of new research, and textbooks which are designed to support the student learning experience.

The availability of electronic textbooks has some particular advantages. Information can be updated on a regular basis, without waiting for new editions. Text books often run to 500 pages (negating the argument that print books are portable!) and students may be forced to buy the complete volume, when only a small section is needed; network versions enable purchase of relevant sections only. (This calls to mind some of the custom publishing projects.) However electronic text books additionally allow the inclusion of multimedia applications, providing invaluable teaching tools, such as video clips of clinical operations.

The study

The study should examine the concept of the 'monograph' in the context of electronic publishing. As many as possible of the following elements should be covered:

  1. Outline the current extent of electronic publishing of scholarly monographs and text books
  2. Examine the market role this is likely to play in the forseeable future
  3. How will an electronic monograph be identified, in a more fluid environment?
  4. Consider the granularity issues
  5. Examine the likely nature of electronic books eg what happens to a book when hypertext is added - does the book become less of a self-contained package and hence less easily marketable? Does writing style need to change to take account of non-linearity of reading?
  6. Briefly consider the significance of the draft BICI standard for identifying book items and contributions
  7. Briefly examine the business and pricing models for composites
  8. Explore the outcomes/impact of custom publishing initiatives (eg Primis, eLib projects, Docutech)
  9. Explore how value may be added to existing print books through the electronic medium - eg mounting tables of contents, first chapters etc as loss-leaders (eg CUP?)
  10. Explore how value can be added to electronic works in more innovative ways - eg reader participation through debates about issues raised
  11. Discuss the impact that electronic publishing of scholarly monographs and text books is likely to have on publishers (what happened to the Sony Book?) and intermediary vendors, and on library services and end users. Is it likely that self-publishing of monographs will occur, or an increasing role from university presses? Will this be in any sense a solution to the monograph publishing crisis?


The total cost of the study is expected to be under £10,000, including VAT if applicable.

Proposals should:


Proposals will be evaluated by referees; the following criteria will be used for evaluation purposes:


The final report will be published in conjunction with eLib. Reports should be delivered in an appropriate electronic format, to be agreed with UKOLN. Proposers should be prepared to assign publication rights (including electronic) for the study to JISC, or its nominee.


Proposals should be submitted by 5pm on Friday 26 September 1997. Four hard copies of the proposal are required and should be sent to Rosemary Russell at the address below.

The final report will be required by 30 December 1997.


Queries should be directed to Rosemary Russell at UKOLN.

UKOLN, ULCC, 20 Guilford St, London WC1N 1DZ
Tel: +44 (0)171 692 1302; Fax: +44 (0)171 692 1234

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