Archive for the ‘Print on Demand (POD)’ Category

Digital Resources and Ethics

November 19, 2010

While numerous EMOB postings have discussed issues of access and quality surrounding digital resources, we have yet to discuss these issues extensively within the context of ethics. A September 30th post on Barbara Fister’s Library Babel Fish, “The Great Disconnect: Scholars without Libraries”, spurred me to think more about the ethical side of questions that we’ve been raising. Fister’s post was inspired by the Association of College and Research Libraries (ACRL) blog’s post, “Underground Resource Sharing”, that in turn was motivated by other posts, including one by a blogger who, upon graduating, suddenly discovered he lacked access to JStor” (ACRL blog). As the ACRLblog post’s title indicates and Fister’s post explores, there is an underground market for commercial subscription, password-protected databases. The post by the dismayed blogger who found himself without access to JStor generated numerous comments that offered the underground market as an obvious solution to his problem. For instance,

Virtually everyone I know who’s not employed by a top-tier R1 has a bootlegged EEBO account: through friends who are still grad students, advisors, or friends with cushier jobs.”

These comments prompted Fister to respond:

Comments on his post pointed out that, duh, you just get a friend to send articles to you, or you join a Facebook or FriendFeed group dedicated to swapping articles or just get somebody’s login. Too bad we spent so much on EEBO – apparently everyone has a bootleg login.

The notion that “everyone has a bootleg login” as well as the remark, “Too bad we spent so much on EEBO” gave me pause. While I have known a case in which someone shared his login with a few former students (now colleagues elsewhere), I was frankly surprised to hear that this practice is seen to be so widespread. Am I being naive? And, as Fister’s reply suggests, if it is so common, then the practice certainly has financial implications not only for the commercial owners of these resources but also for the institutions that allocate funds (often student technology fees) to purchasing these resources. As Fister also noted, these databases are not free, and it is telling that the surprised blogger could have spent several years if not many earning an advanced degree and remain clueless about the economic issues, costs, and licensing terms associated with these resources.

The exchange also raised questions about sharing an article or a text with a colleague at another institution that lacks access. I have done so on occasion and had considered the gesture a favor to another colleague. I have also performed a quick search and sent title results to a friend. While I can count on my hand the number of times I have done so, this post made me realize that this good-will gesture has another side to it as well if practiced regularly–and perhaps even if practiced only rarely or at all. So, is the use of bootleg logins rampant? What do others on emob think about this underground trafficking, the sharing of passwords and articles or texts? Is the rare sharing of an article or text unethical ultimately? Are these questions of degree? Or are all of these activities equivalent? And how do we view and balance these questions of ethics against those related to the ethics of the digital access divide separating the scholars who have these resources from those that don’t?

On the POD reprint-publishing front, I just discovered this week a new level of ethical low. A student came to me for help in finding a copy of Frederic P. Miller, Agnes F. Vandome, John McBrewster’s Fan Fiction: Fan Labor, List of Fan Fiction Terms, Legal Issues (2010) for a paper she was writing on copyright issues. Well, we couldn’t find the title in WorldCat, etc. though it did come up in Amazon and Google Books. The work was published by Alphascript Publishing, which, as Wikipedia’s Signpost reports, sells free articles as expensive books”, and this title is just one of many they are “publishing.” A general Google search revealed the scam being perpetuated by this outfit:

An book search on 9 June 2009 gives 1009 (6 August, gives 1,859) “books” from Alphascript Publishing.[nan 1] 1003 of the books are described as “by John McBrewster, Frederic P. Miller, and Agnes F. Vandome”. They are called editors in the book listings. It seems the only content of the many books is free Wikipedia articles with no sign that these three people have contributed to them.

The Wikipedia article also notes:

The articles are often poorly printed with features such as missing characters from foreign languages, and numerous images of arrows where Wikipedia had links. It appears much better to read the original articles for free at the Wikipedia website than paying a lot of money for what has been described as a scam or hoax. Advertising for the books at Amazon and elsewhere does not reveal the free source of all the content. It is only revealed inside the books which may satisfy the license requirements for republishing of Wikipedia articles.

The piece concludes by noting that “PrimeHunter has compiled a list of the 1009 titles,” and this list was as of June 2009. The specific title that led to this discovery sells for $49.00 on Amazon.

On a happier note, this week I received an invitation for a trial subscription to InteLex’s “The Eighteenth Century”, part of its Past Masters English Letters series. InteLex, a corporation located in Charlottesville, VA, publishes “highly accurate full text databases in the humanities.” Its Past Masters English Letters series series, produced in association with Oxford University Press, features “scholarly electronic editions of the correspondence, journals, notebooks, and memoirs of the most important figures in English literature and other fields from 1100-1950.” Although I have yet to arrange for a university trial subscription, what seems encouraging about this series is the following testimony:

In the world of scholarly electronic publishing, InteLex continues to get it right, as they have from the beginning: working closely with scholarly editors, selecting high-quality editions to digitize, marking them up carefully and well according to international standards, and permitting libraries either to rent them over the Internet or to purchase, own and locally house them, as we do print editions–all at reasonable prices. I recommend InteLex databases to libraries wholeheartedly, not only because they are superior publications and a good deal, but also because InteLex is the kind of electronic publisher that academic libraries need most in the 21st century.

—Scott Dennis
Humanities Librarian and Coordinator
Core Electronic Resources
Harlan Hatcher Graduate Library
University of Michigan

As Scott Ennis’s words suggest, resources offering well-chosen texts that are marked up using recognizing standards, produced with scholarly input from start to finish, and sold for a reasonable, fair price are the types of tools we do need for the 21st century. In light of this post’s topic, this list of characteristics also outlines an ethical template that publishers would be wise to follow in making digital products available.

Based on the list of authors (Gay and Swift, both Fieldings, Humphrey Wanley, Humfrey [paleaographer, Anglo-Saxonist, librarian, 1672-1726] and many more figures including late eighteenth-century ones) and its extensiveness (the series contains forty-eight volumes of correspondence) this offering appears to be valuable; in a future report I will report on my experiences using it.


EEBO Editions Now Available Through Amazon

October 10, 2010

In August,  Eleanor posted a piece on ECCO’s print on demand (POD) offerings through various online booksellers.  These POD copies are produced by companies such as Nabu, Bibliolife, BiblioBazaar, and others.

EEBO has also struck a deal with Bibliolife, making about 3,000 EEBO POD titles available through  These can be found by searching Amazon for “EEBO Editions.”  According to Jo-Anne Hogan, Product Manager at ProQuest, this initial offering through Bibliolife is  a trial stage; evaluating the response to and quality of the books will be necessary before ProQuest will expand the title list offered through POD.  It is thus a good  moment to reflect on the nature of the entries.

Neither Gale nor ProQuest flag the status of the books they sell as digital reprints on or near the title line, though both companies include boilerplate marketing blurbs about the nature of digital reprints later in the entry.  A simple flag next to the initial title, something like  [paperback digital reprint] or [paperback digital facsimile], would help all readers understand what these books are.

ECCO’s POD entries provide something like full bibliographical information only inconsistently.   EEBO entries on Amazon provide consistently fuller bibliographical information, though this information appears under “Editorial Reviews” rather than under “Product Details.”  By scrolling down Amazon’s entry for the digital reprint of  a pirated copy of Lily’s Short Introduction to Grammar (1570), for example, we find the following information:

The below data was compiled from various identification fields in the bibliographic record of this title. This data is provided as an additional tool in helping to insure edition identification:

A shorte introduction of grammar generally to be vsed, compiled and sette forth, for the bringyng vp of all those that intende to attaine the knowledge of the Latine tongue.
Lily, William, 1468?-1522.
Colet, John, 1467?-1519.
Robertson, Thomas, fl. 1520-1561.
By William Lily, with contributions by John Colet, Thomas Robertson, and others.
Signatures: A-C D4, A-G H4, A-B4.
In three parts.
Part 2 has a separate title page, without imprint, reading: Brevissima institutio seu ratio grammatices cognoscendae, ad omnium puerorum vtilitatem praescripta, quam solam regia maiestatis in omnibus scholis profitendam praecipit.
Part 3 has a half title, reading: Nominum in regulis generum contentorum, tum heteroclitorum, ac verborum interpretatio aliqua.
Title pages for parts 1 and 2 within ornamental borders.
A pirated edition, probably printed in Holland.–STC.
Another edition of STC 15610.10, first published in 1548.
Some print faded and show-through; some pages marked and stained.
[192] p.
[Holland? : s.n., c. 1570]
STC (2nd ed.) / 15615
Reproduction of the original in the Cambridge University Library

This is, in fact, a slightly revised version of the EEBO entry for the same pirated edition of Lily’s Short Introduction of Grammar:

Title: A shorte introduction of grammar generally to be vsed, compiled and sette forth, for the bringyng vp of all those that intende to attaine the knowledge of the Latine tongue. Create interaction
Author: Lily, William, 1468?-1522. Create interaction
Other authors: Colet, John, 1467?-1519. Create interaction
Robertson, Thomas, fl. 1520-1561. Create interaction
Imprint: [Holland? : s.n., c. 1570]
Date: 1570
Bib name / number: STC (2nd ed.) / 15615
Physical description: [192] p.
Notes: By William Lily, with contributions by John Colet, Thomas Robertson, and others.
Signatures: A-C D4, A-G H4, A-B4.
In three parts.
Part 2 has a separate title page, without imprint, reading: Brevissima institutio seu ratio grammatices cognoscendae, ad omnium puerorum vtilitatem praescripta, quam solam regia maiestatis in omnibus scholis profitendam praecipit.
Part 3 has a half title, reading: Nominum in regulis generum contentorum, tum heteroclitorum, ac verborum interpretatio aliqua.
Title pages for parts 1 and 2 within ornamental borders.
A pirated edition, probably printed in Holland.–STC.
Another edition of STC 15610.10, first published in 1548.
Some print faded and show-through; some pages marked and stained.
Reproduction of the original in Cambridge University Library.
Copy from: Cambridge University Library
UMI Collection / reel number: STC / 1354:02
Subject: Latin language — Grammar — Early works to 1800.

While this bibliographical information is provided consistently for EEBO editions on Amazon and its affiliate, Abebooks, it does not  get transferred to entries provided by other online booksellers, like Alibris.  It would be interesting to account for this failure to get full bibliographical information transferred.

ProQuest’s decision to make EEBO titles available through POD is a promising new development.  Its attempt to create a template providing fuller bibliographical information than has yet been attempted must be applauded.  Some questions remain:

  • Are the entries as functional as they need to be?  That is, can a scholar looking for a specific edition of an early modern text locate the exact POD copy, given the entries provided?
  • Can the layout be improved?
  • Is there a more efficient template (a different set of fields, for example) for bibliographical information than the fields currently envisioned?

I look forward to hearing readers’ reactions to these new POD offerings.

Gale’s ECCO and BiblioLife: Print-on-Demand Initiatives

August 12, 2010

While recently searching abebooks for works by a particular eighteenth-century publisher whose titles I collect, I discovered a number of ECCO editions of his works available in “BRAND NEW COPIES”. Several titles offered the following additional information:

Brand New Book with Free Worldwide Delivery ***** Print on Demand *****
Editorial Reviews:
The 18th century was a wealth of knowledge, exploration and rapidly growing technology and expanding record-keeping made possible by advances in the printing press. In its determination to preserve the century of revolution, Gale initiated a revolution of its own: digitization of epic proportions to preserve these invaluable works in the largest archive of its kind. Now for the first time these high-quality digital copies of original 18th century manuscripts are available in print, making them highly accessible to libraries, undergraduate students, and independent scholars.
Western literary study flows out of eighteenth-century works by Alexander Pope, Daniel Defoe, Henry Fielding, Frances Burney, Denis Diderot, Johann Gottfried Herder, Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, and others. Experience the birth of the modern novel, or compare the development of language using dictionaries and grammar discourses.


Curious about whether Gale was aware that a company was reproducing and selling their copies, I wrote Scott Dawson. He replied,

We are working with a print-on-demand vendor by the name of BiblioLife in Charleston, SC, to do this work. We have most of the ECCO works loaded into the system if our contract with the source library provides us POD rights. We are looking to add titles from some of our other collections over time. We looked at a number of ‘vendors’ for this work and decided on BiblioLife that specializes in these “long-tail books’ and have been quite happy with them. Note that the cover will not be the same as the actual as we have not captured the actual covers, so it is a graphic that corresponds to the general subject area from which the book came (history, philosophy, religion, etc.) along with a portion of the title.


Especially for those who lack access to ECCO, this development seems in some ways a welcomed one. The cost of the late eighteenth-century works that my search had yielded seem to average just below $25.00. Yet, more browsing reveal a range from $9.66 to $72.00. The high range prices seemed to be mostly for Bibles, and the same title can range a few dollars more or less depending on the bookseller. There of course is also often shipping charges. Scott’s comments about the cover are also clearly noted in the listing for most of these books. Yet, in the case of the titles I was searching for, it was not clear at all in most listings what volume of the series one would be purchasing or what individual titles were contained in the work being sold. Consider this note:

The below data was compiled from various identification fields in the bibliographic record of this title. This data is provided as an additional tool in helping to insure edition identification:
Bodleian Library (Oxford)


Volume title page, for issues to be bound together when a volume of serialized fiction is completed, follows the wrapper title in the last weekly issue of the novels for that volume. Volume title pages are engraved, with volume numbers, a list of works included in that volume, with a vignette above the imprint. An internal title page for the individual work is bound in the first weekly issue of the novel being serialized, and title page imprint includes year of publication for that novel. Imprints lack date; years of publication from reference sources. Imprints vary slightly. Weekly issue price: six-pence. At head of wrapper title: To be continued weekly. With frontis. plates in each issue for that novel. Some wrappers carry instructions to the binder for placement of plates. Includes serialized novels, histories, romances, or memoirs, including translations of foreign publications. Works are normally completed in three or four issues; volumes apparently appear three or four times a year. Description based on: [Vol. XII.] Number CLXXXIV. [1783]; title from wrapper.

London [England] : printed for Harrison and Co. No. 18, Paternoster- Row, and sold by all other booksellers, stationers and newscarriers, in town and country, . v., plates ; 23 cm (8°)


This note, evidently reproduced from the ESTC description of the series, clearly does not identify a particular volume and could suggest to some the very unlikely possibility that by paying $25.00 one would receive the complete series (that is, 23 volumes, containing over 60 individual novels). These descriptions, I should note, seem to be provided by the bookseller selling the title, and not by Gale.

Also troublesome is the description that accompanies other listings:

This is an EXACT reproduction of a book published before 1923. This IS NOT an OCR’d book with strange characters, introduced typographical errors, and jumbled words. This book may have occasional imperfections such as missing or blurred pages, poor pictures, errant marks, etc. More…that were either part of the original artifact, or were introduced by the scanning process. We believe this work is culturally important, and despite the imperfections, have elected to bring it back into print as part of our continuing commitment to the preservation of printed works worldwide. We appreciate your understanding of the imperfections in the preservation process, and hope you enjoy this valuable book.

Here we have no mention that the copies are twice-removed from the original book, having been digitized from microfilm.

I also investigated BiblioLife. Its home page presents a commendable view of the company as one dedicated to preservation and working with libraries, archivists, and those engaged in digitization projects. There’s also an indication that part of the purchase price would be put toward helping fund digitization efforts: “We have a vision that paying customers can fund the digitization of the world’s books and we think libraries are anchors of any healthy and vibrant community. And in this digital age, they serve an important role as a physical meeting place of culture. We think this program can further that vision.”

Yet, I did not see BiblioLife listed as the publishing partner with Gale in any of the abebook listings I viewed. However, I did see Nabu Press identified as the publisher in a few listings, and a search for this company uncovered an interesting blog post from an information technology professional, Yakov Shafranovich that indicates that Nabu Press is BiblioLife:

I took some time to check various state corporation databases and actually managed to find who Nabu Press is. They are … BiblioBazaar / BiblioLife, a company started by former BookSurge partners after they sold their POD company to Amazon. It is no surprise that they print their POD books through Amazon.
How do I know this – take a look at the SC filing for Nabu Press LLC…Nabu Press = BiblioBazaar

Shafranovich’s sleuthing is further confirmed by an April 2010 Publisher’s Weekly article“BiblioBazaar: How a Company Produces 272,930 Books A Year”. The article reinforces aspects of BiblioLife’s website description of its efforts and philosophy:

While e-books, iPads and Kindles have dominated the headlines, BiblioLife is one of a handful of smart, new, technology-enabled companies driving an exciting trend in the publishing world. Working closely with libraries, archives and aggregators, the company puts out-of-copyright books back into good old-fashioned print, one copy at a time, using print-on-demand technology.

And it also helps explain why we have not heard of the firm before:

So how has Bibliolife, despite its major production, flown under the radar until this year’s Bowker stats came out? For one, Davis says, the company simply isn’t seeking publicity as much as good solid relationships and content partnerships. “We aren’t a press release-centric company, and we are really focused on unique materials that are not part of mass digitization projects,” he said. “Who has that content and how we are getting it is something that is a competitive advantage.”

As Scott’s comments about POD rights and BiblioLife president Mitchell Davis’s remarks about content indicate, there’s much food for thought here about access and control of these reproductions of reproductions…of reproductions. Moreover, the listings offered again point to the importance of understanding what is really being offered and sold.

Publishing, Reviewing, and Digital Culture

July 5, 2010

In a recent post we examined and debated the potential effects that the Net is having on reading, thinking, and forms of literacy. Shifting from the cognitive effects of digital culture, this post will explore material aspects of electronic transformations. The discussion will consider the effects that digital culture is exercising on certain facets of the publishing industry—particularly reviewing and book promotion/publicity. A follow-up post later this week will explore what the release of Google editions portends for publishers, readers, and the state of e-books.

Book Expo America, the foremost trade event for the North American book industry, offers an annual window on developments and trends in publishing. Although focusing on book culture at large, the publishing industry’s bent toward conservatism in certain aspects of its practices has parallels with a similar tendency in academia. Such parallels are worth keeping in mind as we consider the discussion that ensued at the following BEA 2010 panel.

The 2010 BEA panel, The Next Decade in Book Culture: Effects of E-Book Reading Devices, offered insights about the business of books that extend beyond the subject matter intimated by the panel’s title. While not signaled by the title, the panel’s key focus was on reviewing, not surprising given that the National Book Circle sponsored the session. Participating on the panel were Carolyn Kellogg (book blogger, The Los Angeles Times), Denise Oswald (editorial director, Soft Skull Press), Nicholas Latimer (director of publicity, Knopf) and Ed Nawotka (founder and editor-in-chief,, and Kate Travers (marketing and media consultant).

The opening question by moderator John Reed (books editor, Brooklyn Rail) asked about the general mood at this year’s event and the response was telling:

there’s a lot less angst out there today than there has been in several years … and that’s very encouraging. … People…are starting come to terms with the digital question and find answers that fit their own publishing models…the whole idea that publishing will fall into a digital sinkhole…has not come to pass and they are recognizing that rather than a sinkhole, it offers a portal.

This move from publishers’ conceiving digital culture as a sinkhole to portal is promising and should encourage initiatives in efforts to connect books and readers. That such changes are still in the developmental stages were evident, however, from the ensuing discussion about reviewing. Although economically highly desirable, PDF galleys have not yet caught on among critics. One reason offered was the need for better technology that would cut down on the time involved in downloading, and others noted issues related to reading files on one’s phone and other devices and the inability to manipulate the screen and e-texts in the same ways that reviewers manipulate the page and print formats. A general sense emerged that resistance would fade as advances were made coincided with the recognition of the convenience that PDFs galleys were already providing in certain situation. Economics are often necessitating small presses to rely on electronic galleys,, and reviewers are often willing to accept this format. While none felt that PDF galleys presented any new security concerns, all understandably rejected the usefulness of email blasts to deliver unsolicited copies.

Among the most interesting remarks were those addressing the changing nature of reviews. A query about the fate of the long review today spurred several reflections. Noting the tendency toward shorter reviewers, one panelist remarked that many don’t have the patience today for reading lengthy reviews online. This trend to the shorter review, given the lack of constraints on length that the Web offers, is somewhat ironic. Other panelists rightly noted that if we consider the comments that frequently accompany online reviews, then the long review is very much alive albeit transformed. Such collaboratively produced reviews both signal and participate in the more conversational bent our culture has taken. Moreover, just as the digital world is affording new opportunities for authors and, in turn, for the production of works that harness the capabilities of the electronic medium, so too is this environment presenting potentially exciting yet still untapped opportunities for transforming the review. As an example, one panelist mentioned the review work of Ward Sutton for Barnes & Noble online. The collaborative readings found on The Long Eighteenth Century and this blog arguably offer reviews adapted to take advantage of the online environment. By offering review discussions of that unfold at the chapter level of a given title, with each chapter being reviewed by a different scholar, and by featuring additional commentary by other scholars and often the author, too, these collaborative readings are reinventing the review in fruitful ways. At the onset of the discussion, one panelist mentioned the review essays that The New York Review of Books has embraced as a case of the persistence of the long review. Adapting this review form for the online world also seems to invite some intriguing possibilities for reinventing the review. For example, it might be interesting to take the chapter model and adapt it to reviewing the introductions and conclusions of multiple titles—if not hosting a successive series of collaborative readings that taken collectively add up to a review of current work in a given area. The latter possibility, however, would seem to require a sufficient number of willing participants.

The panel also raised a number of other interesting topics ranging from the growing presence of non-professional reviewers to questions about images and other forms of multimedia in e-books. The participants appeared to be in agreement that aspects of traditional bookmaking—attention to paper, type, and even deckle-edges—would still have a place in publishing. And several noted that in considering book production, each title should receive individual attention in terms of whether it and its projected audience made it more or less suited for issuing in print, e-format, or both. In discussing how books are advertised, one participant noted that the challenges affecting placement as our culture shifts from one that “browses” to one in which users “target” their media. Given Nick Carr’s comments about the Web’s encouragement of endless browsing, the choice of language here was striking.

As the panel noted, the publishing industry and book culture are very much in flux today. The relative slowness with which the publishing industry has responded to the digital developments has its own manifestations in the scholarly world. An October 1988 article, “The Electronic Journal” written by Daniel Eisenberg and appearing in the Journal of Scholarly Publishing is telling in its predictions and concerns. Advocating the benefits of electronic publication (including CD-Rom databases of say all the full texts of books in Wing), Eisenberg discusses what the shift to this publication will entail. Interestingly, while he suggests that such a shift will cause little disruption to the academic reward system of tenure, promotion, and the like, the acceptance of electronic projects, articles, and books seems to be far slower than he foretells. Yet, his remarks that “the most serious problem concerning electronic publication is less obvious: the absence from the system of those who cannot afford to participate in it” (55) were prophetic. The lack of access to commercial databases is no longer an obscure problem, yet it still remains arguably the most serious. As for the reward system, its continued heavy investment in print hinders many from becoming more involved in harnessing the capabilities of digital culture to adapt and create new forms of scholarship.

New! Espresso Book Machine 2.0

November 30, 2009

Anyone who has seen the Espresso Book Machine 2.0 designed by On Demand Books is likely to be impressed by its efficiency in producing a printed book from one of more than 2 million public domain digital books offered by Google Books. At the Harvard Book Store in Cambridge, a terminal at the store’s entrance allows one to browse titles. Once a book is identified as available, an assistant reviews the electronic images to make sure that the book has been adequately filmed.

The next step is to walk to the back of the store, where the “Espresso Book Machine” (or, as the Harvard Book Store calls it, “Paige M. Gutenborg”) abides. This looks like a fancy photocopier with binding accessories (see below). The assistant types a number into the machine; the machine does the rest. A cover is produced in color and lowered face-side down onto a binding table. Copies of pages (recto and verso) shoot onto a tray above the binding table. Once the pages are printed, they are clamped, producing a bookblock, which is turned vertically, spine downward, so that the spine can be milled. A glue bar applies a coat of glue to the spine. The pages are then lowered onto the cover, which is lifted flush against the bookblock and clamped in order to allow the glue to set. The “book” is then cropped on three sides, and sent down a chute. It arrives still warm from being photocopied and smelling of glue. The paper quality is acid-free and superior to the paper most photocopying machines provide. The entire printing process for a 400-page book takes about 8 minutes. The books cost $8.

Versions of these machines exist, have been exhibited, or are coming to about 26 locations in North America, Australia, Egypt, and the U.K. Their most obvious use is in libraries. Instead of photocopying (and damaging) books, one can now use this machine to produce far better working copies of texts than most photocopiers provide. The machine costs $100,000, which will limit its purchase by university libraries undergoing severe budget cuts. Nevertheless, its potential is promising.

The press release regarding Google Books’ agreement with On Demand Books can be accessed by clicking here. See also On Demand Books’ web site by clicking here.

The following YouTube video is offered by On Demand Books: