Anna-Maria Sichani – “Long-term business models in dissemination and publishing of digital editions”

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Early days of DiXiT-happiness

Hi folks!

I am Anna-Maria Sichani, originally from Athens, Greece. I’m currently working as a DiXiT Early Stage Research Fellow (ESR10) at Huygens ING in the Hague, under the supervision of Karina van Dalen-Oskam. My education background: BA and MPhil  in Modern Greek Philology at the University of Athens, MA in Digital Humanities at University College London, and PhD -work in progress- in Modern Greek Philology  at the University of Ioannina (Greece). Before landing here, I’ve worked in the UK in the crowdsourcing digital project Transcribe Bentham (UCL), and in Greece for the digital resources of the Center of Greek Language, the National Book Center of Greece and most recently I have been actively involved in the DARIAH-GR.

For the last couple of months, I have been trying to settle in to my new city / life / project and set up basic research questions and professional goals for the next 26 (hooray!) months of my DiXiT fellowship. So, my next two years of research will focus on “Long-term business models in dissemination and publishing of digital editions”. I will embark on an exploration of sustainable models of development, publication and dissemination for digital scholarly editions, while trying to historicize the changing materialities of textual scholarship and scholarly communication and their related economics and practices.

In the book-based era, scholarly edition is considered as an established/fixed point of scholarly reference as well as a key genre of traditional textual scholarship, thus well-situated within the (print) communications circuit. Following the rules of publishing industry, the division of labour and the publishing economics are well-defined in print editing: while the editor’s contribution is (usually) limited to provide their scholarly and intellectual data, it is the publishing house which deals with all their production, publication, marketing and distribution mechanisms (e.g. proof-reading, printing, advertising, expense and cost recovery, revenue streams or even royalties on sales etc.). Obviously, when it comes to the question of longevity, the paper-based scholarly editions are securely documented in bibliographic catalogues and kept together on (our) libraries’ selves, as a dusty parade of chocolate soldiers.

In the digital scholarly editing realm, things are drastically different, mainly because the work of digital editors is – more or less – detached from the publishing sphere and the economics and practices of the latter. Textual scholars have been pioneers on exploring and challenging the changes introduced by the digital technologies in textual production, representation and transmission, resulting to an ever-growing body of research and experimentation with various types of digital editions.

2 ∞ & ↑, courtesy Toy Story

2 ∞ & ↑, courtesy Toy Story

Digital editors now (have to) deal with many other issues they rarely concerned themselves with before, such as data modeling, encoding and layout visualisation, copyright issues, marketing, dissemination and maintenance of the digital edition. Even if the variety of funding models, workflows and partnerships in digital editing projects is widely manifested (from commercial-wise or institutional-based models of production and publication to a grant or limited fund allocation), their financial planning is more or less limited within the funding period, and their sustainability ambition is usually a (modest) declaration that the edition will be “widely and openly accessible” – to temporal-eternity, I guess!

On the other hand, the digital disruption of print publishing informs the agenda of publishing entities by introducing a vast array of digital scholarly resources and endeavours alongside smart and user-friendly formats (eBooks, PDF, ePUB etc.). This would partially explain why despite the fact that the umbrella term ‘digital edition’ is extremely frequent in publishing industry and humanities scholarship, its material instantiations are usually correspond to PDFs, digitized printed edition or digitization projects, publication formats and models that however fail to include the scholarly desiderata of textual editors (i.e. facsimiles, critical apparatus etc.). (Commercial) digital publishing is nevertheless a thriving industry constantly developing promising initiatives, trends and practices (such as open access, digital subscription models, revenue streams, freemium strategies, value-added services etc.) that would help us to rethink entirely scholarly editing and publishing as activity.

So, my DiXiT research for the next two years will attempt to investigate, challenge and overall experiment with various concepts, business models and partnerships that will ensure for the digital edition a well-situated and sustainable future in the ecology of digital scholarly publishing and communication. In other words, I will bring my experience in digital editing and publishing projects alongside my experimental attitude in order to search new ways to remodel the (traditional) practices of these two spheres, the editors and the publishers, in the new territory of digital scholarly editing.

Some initial key questions for me to figure out are the following ones:

  • What are the financial politics of digital scholarly editing?  What are the costs, the financial resources or the avenues for monetizing a digital edition?
  • As the implementation around digital editing and publishing is (and probably will be) constantly in flux, in which ways could we remodel aspects and practices of traditional scholarly editing in order to have more in common with those of an ongoing and open scholarly enterprise than with a static, closed-ended project or fixed product?
  • In which ways such a hybrid concept of a digital edition as process, service and end-product could help us re-define “sustainability” for digital editing?
  • Can we develop a series of “do’s and don’ts” not only about preserving data and creating value from existing digital editions (add-on sustainability), but also about embedding standards and transforming practices in order to endure, repurpose itself and guarantee impact in the long-term (built-in sustainability)?
  • What are the hybrid business models and the new types of partnership in the market of scholarly publishing that will secure the access and the “value” – financial or otherwise – of our digital editions in the long-term?
  • How we could train (ourselves as) digital editors to be more ‘businesslike’ and to adopt more entrepreneurial and business-planning mindsets (e.g. risk assessment, market analysis, product evaluation, user requirements etc) in keeping with high-quality scholarly standards as we run our digital editing projects?

Beyond DiXiT, my research interests mainly revolve around a -sometimes fruitful though always ridden- combination of Modern Greek Literature with a special focus on history of literary culture, cultural and social aspects of transitional media(l) changes in scholarship and scholarly communication, research infrastructures and digital pedagogy.

If you have any questions, ideas or critiques, do not hesitate to contact me by leaving a comment below or via e-mail at anna-maria (dot) sichani (at) huygens (dot) knaw (dot) nl. You can also find me on Twitter: @amsichani

 


Anna-Maria Sichani

Anna-Maria is a Marie Skłodowska-Curie Fellow (DiXiT ITN) at Huygens-KNAW. She holds a BA and an MPhil in Modern Greek Philology (University of Athens) and a MA in Digital Humanities (UCL) and she is currently completing her PhD in Modern Greek Philology at University of Ioannina (Greece). Anna-Maria's research interests, work experience and expertise intersect the changing materialities of literary culture, textual scholarship and scholarly communication with a particular focus on their related practices, politics and economics. She is working on several aspects of digital scholarly editions such as project planning, iterative content design, data management, sustainability planning and publication strategies.

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