Curating a New World of Publishing

by | Nov 8, 2012 | 0 comments


A panel of publishing industry executives discussed how libraries can deal with the flood of information being published today.

This panel addressed these questions:


(L-R) Mark Coker, Eric Hellman, Rush Miller

New Curation Models
Mark Coker, Smashwords

The old model of publishing was based on scarcity; authors and readers were cut out of the process.  Publishers are in the business of selling books, not publishing them.  They guessed what readers wanted to read.  Libraries promote a culture of reading and deliver a readership.  Ebook self-publishing aligns the interests of libraries, readers, and authors.   Authors are the new publishers of the future.

An unimaginable flood of publishing is coming because the tools for professional publishing are now democratized through ebook publishing platforms.  For  example, 100,000 works will be published by Smashword this year!  These books are satisfying millions of readers.

How do you curate this flood?  Coker’s suggestions:

  • Get involved at the beginning:  promote a culture of authorship.
  • Facilitate community publishing.  Hold workshops with authors and readers.  Give users the ability to  “publish to the library”.
  • For the collection, emulate the best practices of ebook retailers.  Major retailers are now carrying everything because ebooks give them unlimited shelf space.

Here are the new models of curation. and the public sector for books
Eric Hellman, Founder,

Libraries are a magic system that coverts physical objects into a public good.  When books become digital, this does not work so well because a library is competing with the commercial channels.  So we need a new public sector for digital books.  Many organizations are working toward bringing books into that sector.

A good way to move books still in copyright into the public sector is still needed.  Public radio provides a good funding model:

Public radio and ebooks are both expensive.  If we can meet our fixed costs, we can make the signal free.  The funding model relies on library distribution.  Hellman’s vision is to run a crowdfunding pledge drive for every book being offered by a rights holder.  The platform does this.

Here is the recent history of does not see itself as a publisher and is not a gatekeeper.  It doesn’t finance unwritten books and makes sure that the rights holder can deliver the ebook.  Anyone can distribute a book, and it does not allow DRM.  Here is a screenshot of a typical book in the program.

The Library as a publisher at the University of Pittsburgh
Rush Miller, University Librarian

Why should libraries become publishers?  Now we have the opportunity to develop a better system.  Here are some of the ways libraries can make a difference.

The library’s goal is to support scholars in knowledge production by building collaborative partnerships around the world, improving the production and sharing of scholarly research, and support innovative publishing solutions.

The first step was collaboration with the University of Pittsburgh Press.  The backlist was digitized and given away.  Then the library began to publish e-journals, targeting at-risk journals that were in danger of going away. Since 2007, 28 journals have been published, most of which are now open access and electronic only.  Now, the library is a world publisher.

Here are the goals, strategies, and selection policies for the library’s journal publishing program.

The program is sustained by fees for services to all new publishing partners ad incentivizing open access through subidies.  Absorbing the Scholarly Exchange program from Harvard resulted in 40 additional journals being added.  Recently, monograph publishing will be added.  The library has become a leader in advocacy for open access publishing.


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