Posts Tagged: UBC Press

UBC Press hiring Digital Developmental Editor

There has been another position opening relating to the grant awarded to UBC Press and the University of Washington Press from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation to develop a digital publishing platform in Indigenous studies. They are hiring a Digital Developmental Editor to work in tandem with the Project Development Manager.

UBC Press is seeking an experienced developmental editor with proven interest and talent in digital publishing to play a central role in a new initiative produced in partnership with the University of Washington Press. Working in consultation with authors, Indigenous community members, and in‐house editors at UBC Press and University of Washington Press, the Digital Developmental Editor (DDE) will be responsible for developing prototypes of dynamically enhanced, multi‐path and multimedia books in Indigenous studies.

Major activities include assessing, editing, writing, or soliciting textual or multimedia content; managing the importation of text and media assets; and executing the authors’ and publishers’ vision for the digital book in Scalar, an online platform for writing and publishing. The DDE will have experience in both substantive editing and web editing or writing and will have experience designing and optimizing user interfaces.

For a full job description and skill requirements, visit the UBC HR Careers website and search for Job ID #24218. This position is a 3‐year term appointment, 60% FTE, renewable every twelve months. The closing date is September 6, 2016.

UBC Press hiring for 2 positions

UBC Press is Canada’s leading social sciences publisher, annually releasing 70 new titles in a number of fields, including Aboriginal studies, Asian studies, Canadian history, environmental studies, gender and women’s studies, geography, health and food studies, law, media and communications, military and security studies, planning and urban studies, and political science.

The first position UBC Press is advertising is a Digital Publishing Coordinator, responsible for the distribution and integrity of the Press’s digital assets and metadata.

The coordinator will work closely with editorial, production, and marketing departments to ensure smooth workflow and that all digital systems are up to date and congruent with current market and industry requirements and trends. For a full job description, visit the UBC HR Careers website and search for Job ID #23987.

The second position relates to the grant awarded to UBC Press and the University of Washington Press from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation to develop a digital publishing platform in Indigenous studies. They are hiring a Project Development Manager to head this 3-year initiative.

The incumbent will manage and monitor the overall development and progress of the project, as well as the technical, editorial, administrative, and community groups involved with the project. For a full job description, visit the UBC HR Careers website and search for Job ID #23889.

Unconverted: Outsourcing Ebook Production at a University Press


By Linnet Humble

ABSTRACT: UBC Press has been outsourcing ebook production since it first started publishing its titles in digital form in the late 1990s. At first, outsourcing seemed a sensible way for UBC Press to enter into e-publishing: the practice was convenient, cost effective, and fit with the Press’s freelance-based business model. However, by 2011, it had become evident that outsourcing to large conversion houses had its drawbacks. In addition to problems like error-filled files and delayed distribution, outsourcing en masse may cause greater, industry-wide disadvantages, such as a dependence on cheap overseas labor and missed opportunities for professionalization among Canada’s domestic workforce.

In the face of these problems, individual publishers like UBC Press must put various short-term solutions in place and consider making changes to their own production workflows if they are to achieve greater quality assurance and control over their own epublishing programs.




I would like to thank Rowland Lorimer, who inspired me to study scholarly publishing; Roberto Dosil and Laraine Coates, for their encouragement and careful reading; the hard-working ladies in the Production and Editorial Department at UBC Press, who teach by example; and Jane Hope, whose wit and friendship helped me through my internship and beyond.




List of Figures
List of Acronyms

Introduction: UBC Press Business Profile
+++Editorial Mandate
+++Business Model
+++The Role of Ebooks in a Changing Market
+++Certain Costs, Uncertain Gains

Chapter 1: A History of Outsourcing
+++Early Ebook Deals: Content Aggregators and HTML (1999-2004)
+++A “Homegrown Alternative”: The Canadian Electronic Library and a Shift to +++PDF (2005-2007)
+++The Role of Technology Partners During the Transition Year (2008)
+++A National Strategy: The Association of Canadian Publishers and a Push Toward +++XML (2009-2011)
+++Scanning the Digital Horizon: eBound Canada

Chapter 2: Reasons for Outsourcing
+++Offshoring in Canada’s ICT Sector
+++The Freelance Precedent
+++Reducing Risk and Production Costs

Chapter 3: Problems with Outsourcing
+++An Era of Ebook Errors
+++The Inconvenience of Outsourcing
+++Increasing Risk and Cost
+++What Went Wrong: Outsourcing to Large Conversion Houses
+++The Effects of Outsourcing on Canada’s Publishing Industry

Chapter 4: Solutions to Outsourcing
+++Short-Term Solutions
++++++Proofing Ebooks
++++++Improving Metadata
++++++Using Stylesheets
+++Long-Term Solutions
++++++Finding a More Suitable Technology Partner
++++++Developing an Epublishing Strategy
++++++Producing Ebooks In House
++++++Exploring the Applications of TEI in Scholarly Publishing



Appendix A: Ebook Proofing Instructions



List of Figures

Figure 1: History of Ebook Production at UBC Press

Figure 2: UBC Press Production Flowchart

Figures 3 & 4: Low Resolution Ebook Covers

Figures 5 & 6: Original Image vs. Stretched Ebook Cover Image

Figures 7, 8 & 9: Diacritics Captured as Images in EPUBs

Figures 10 & 11: Captions not Aligned with Images in EPUBs

Figure 12: Images Appearing Mid-Sentence in an EPUB

Figure 13: Example of Forced Line Breaks Appearing in an EPUB

Figures 14 & 15: Examples of Spacing Errors in EPUBs

Figure 16: Example of Index Disclaimer in EPUB

Figure 17: Cover for EPUB Produced by Wild Element

Figure 18: Table of Contents for EPUB Produced by Wild Element

Figure 19: Chapter Opening for EPUB Produced by Wild Element

Figure 20: Image with Caption from EPUB Produced by Wild Element



List of Acronyms

ACP++++++Association of Canadian Publishers

CEL++++++Canadian Electronic Library

CIP++++++Cataloguing in Publication

CNSLP++++++Canadian National Site Licensing Project

CPDS++++++Canadian Publishers’ Digital Services

CRKN++++++Canadian Research Knowledge Network

DAMS++++++Digital Asset Management System

ePDF++++++enhanced portable document format

EPUB++++++electronic publication format

ICT++++++information and communication technology (sector)

PDF++++++portable document format


SSH++++++social sciences and humanities

SSHRC++++++Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council

STM++++++scientific, technical and medical

UP++++++university press

uPDF++++++universal Portable Document Format



Introduction: UBC Press Business Profile

Editorial Mandate

Established in 1971, UBC Press has developed into a scholarly book publisher recognized for its social sciences monographs and edited collections. Considered a “mid-sized” scholarly publisher by Canadian standards, UBC Press produces over 60 new titles a year in the areas of environmental studies, gender studies, military and security studies, geography, Canadian and British Columbian history, law, political science, and Aboriginal and Asian studies. At present, the press also publishes books in 21 different series, several of which are co-published with cultural and professional organizations such as the Osgoode Society for Canadian Legal History, the Canadian War Museum, and the Canadian Council on International Law.


Business Model

Like many other university presses, UBC Press is somewhat of a hybrid entity within its host institution. Because the press helps carry out the research mandate of the university, and because its publications board is made up of faculty members, the press is in some ways considered to be an academic unit. Like faculties and departments, it is therefore housed on campus and receives a modest level of operational funding from the university. The Press also earns income from an endowment whose funds are administered by the university (though this endowment income has decreased significantly over the past ten years).[1]

In other respects, though, UBC Press is treated as an ancillary unit. Ancillary units like Food Services or Land and Building Services exist within the university environment; however, they are expected to be self-sufficient and generate revenue by charging for their services or products. Like many other university presses, UBC Press is thus in the awkward position of having to operate as a for-profit business with a not-for-profit academic agenda.

UBC Press’s revenue model reflects this hybrid status: it is a mix of sales income and direct/indirect institutional support, supplemented by grant funding. According to a recent review conducted by the Strategic Development Support unit of the UBC Treasury, UBC Press receives 54% of its funds from book sales, 21% from agency sales and rights income, and around 18% from granting agencies like the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC). Only 6% of its budget for the 2011-2012 year came from UBC operating funds. Compared to other UPs in Canada, UBC Press is therefore considered to be “relatively financially self-sustaining” (UBC Treasury).[2]

While UBC Press’s diversified revenue stream might seem to protect it from the vagaries of a single-source income, the Press predicts that various industry-related changes expected to take place over the next ten years will threaten the viability of the press. For instance, demand for the agency services that UBC Press provides to US and UK publishers is expected to lessen due to an increase in online, direct-to-consumer marketing and delivery.[3] This loss of agency income, predicted to occur over the next five years, would mean a significant reduction in revenue—roughly one-fifth of the Press’s total income. Furthermore, if UBC Press were to experience a considerable loss in revenue, this loss would be compounded by a decrease in block grant funding from the Department of Canadian Heritage, since block grants are contingent upon positive net income.

Whereas a trade publisher might try to compensate for a loss in revenue by marketing its titles more aggressively in the hopes of selling more copies (and thereby achieving greater economies of scale), there is little potential for growth in monograph sales for social sciences and humanities (SSH) publishers. SSH publishers like UBC Press serve a niche market, with the majority of sales being made to a finite number of academic libraries.[4]
What’s more, these institutional sales have been threatened in recent decades by libraries’ shrinking acquisition budgets and competing commitments to costly periodicals.[5] Even if domestic and foreign sales were to rise 2.5% annually over the next few years as predicted in the UBC Treasury’s financial forecast, this modest increase in sales would not be able to offset the loss of agency income entirely.

In short, printing and selling more books is not an option for UBC Press. In fact, in an attempt to reduce inventory costs, UBC Press has begun to limit its initial print runs. Typically, only 500 copies of a title are produced upon publication, 300 of which are hardcover (for the institutional/library market) and 200 of which are trade paperback (for course adoption and individual academics). UBC Press further anticipates that it may phase out hardcover editions altogether within the next five years in favour of the less expensive paperback format. It is also working to introduce print-on-demand options in England and Australia in order to reduce the number of printed books it has to stock and ship overseas.


The Role of Ebooks in a Changing Market

At the same time that UBC Press is scaling back its print runs, it has been exploring and expanding its digital publishing activities. However, it is unclear at this point whether ebook sales will endanger, augment, or replace print sales.

Since the introduction of ebooks over a decade ago, Canadian publishers like UBC Press have expressed concern over the potential for ebooks to “cannibalize” or detract from the sale of print books (Crawley, “University”). A decrease in print sales and increase in electronic sales is particularly worrisome to publishers because ebooks tend to be priced much lower than print books. In the world of trade publishing, online retailers like Amazon and Apple have exerted a downward pressure on the price of ebooks,[6] so that even if a publisher is able to sell a considerable number of electronic copies, the profitability of ebook publishing is limited. Scholarly publishers stand to lose even more than trade publishers in this shift to the digital format, given that scholarly monographs are often priced three to 10 times higher than trade books. If scholarly publishers are forced to sell their titles in digital form to the same small consumer base, but at a much deeper discount, their profit margins would no longer be razor thin: they would be non-existent.

In an attempt to remain revenue-neutral in the event that ebook sales replace print sales, some university publishers—including UBC Press—have taken an offensive tactic by purposefully pricing their library-bound ebooks slightly higher than the listed price for hardcover editions (a move that, in UBC Press’s case, was approved by ebrary, a content aggregator which supplies ebooks to academic libraries).[7] Although it is unclear at this time what the institutional market will bear in the pricing of electronic monographs, cost certainly seems to be a deciding factor for librarians. In a survey conducted by ebrary in 2007, librarians reported that one of the most important factors they considered when purchasing an electronic title was its price: a consideration that was second only to the content of that title (McKiel, “200” 5).

In addition to pricing library ebooks slightly higher than print print books, UBC Press has taken measures to ensure that its more expensive ebooks destined for the library market are more visible than its cheaper ebook formats. For instance, when submitting Cataloguing in Publication (CIP) data to Library and Archives Canada, the Press only discloses that it will be producing a PDF (portable document format) edition of a title, which will be sold to libraries at 5% higher than the hardcover price—even though it has already obtained an ISBN for the EPUB (electronic publication) version, which will be sold to individual consumers at the paperback price.[8] In its library sales catalogues, the Press advertises these PDFs, but not the EPUBs. UBC Press’s non-competitive pricing of ebooks and its promotion of expensive over inexpensive ebook formats will, in turn, likely lead to a slower rate of ebook adoption by academic libraries.


Certain Costs, Uncertain Gains

To be sure, ebooks are not at present a significant source of revenue for scholarly publishers. Members of the Association of American University Presses report that ebook sales only represent between 2% and 10% of overall sales for 2011. For UBC Press, ebook sales to libraries in Canada are only projected to account for 7% of total sales for 2011-2012 year; likewise, ebook sales to American libraries only account for 15% of US sales. In terms of income, ebooks make up just 3% of UBC Press’s total sales revenue. Small as these figures may seem, they do represent a two-fold increase in percentage of total sales from previous years—an indication that the appetite for ebooks in the academic market may be growing.[9]

However much revenue ebooks may bring to the Press, it is clear that ebooks carry with them certain costs. In a recent financial review, UBC Press estimated that the cost of print books sold accounts for 17% of total sales, while the cost of digital books sold accounted for only slightly less—12% of total sales. Some of these costs (e.g. editorial, design, and permission costs) are shared between the print and digital editions of a title, but others are unique to the electronic format. For example, in order to store, distribute, and market its digital titles effectively, UBC Press will need to update its technological infrastructure in the near future. This upgrade will entail significant one-time investments, including the purchase of a new digital asset management system (which stores and distributes files to vendors); a redesigned website with increased functionality, including the ability to sell ebooks directly to consumers; consultation with a web marketing specialist, who can help the press increase its brand discoverability through search engine optimization; and improvements to the current system for managing bibliographic data.

In addition to these secondary expenses, the Press must bear the principal cost of producing ebooks. Though these production costs have been subsidized over the years by various parties (see Chapter 1), they have come to present a considerable expense and financial risk for the Press.

It is upon these realities—certain costs and uncertain gains—that UBC Press has based its decisions regarding ebook publishing over the last decade. It is not surprising, then, that the Press’s shift toward ebook adoption has been cautious in nature, favoring subsidized initiatives that have allowed the Press to enter the market without significant risk or disruption to its existing print-based workflows.



Chapter 1: A History of Outsourcing


The history of ebook production at UBC Press is a history of outsourcing. This history can roughly be broken down into three phases. Each phase of ebook production was overseen by a different third party, and each marks the adoption of new ebook formats. (See Figure 1.)

Taken together, these phases reflect over a decade of change in the way ebooks have been produced and distributed in Canada; they also reveal a surprising mix of private and public initiatives that have underwritten the creation of scholarly ebooks in this country.


Figure 1. History of Ebook Production at UBC Press

Figure 1

Early Ebook Deals: Content Aggregators and HTML (1999-2004)

UBC Press has been publishing ebooks in one format or another since the late 1990s, but like many other university presses, it has done so with the assistance—and at the insistence—of various external parties, beginning with content aggregators.

Content aggregators are the electronic equivalent of library wholesalers. They acquire and package digital content from publishers, which they then license to institutions for a fee. In the early years of ebook publishing, aggregators not only marketed and distributed ebooks, but they also produced them. These companies would arrange for the creation of ebook files on behalf of the publisher, essentially manufacturing a product for themselves to sell. In this way, content aggregators were not just “middlemen,” but were really the originators of the scholarly ebook market. It was they—not publishers—who digitized scholarly books and built a business around this product. The publishers simply licensed the content to them.

The first content aggregator to convince Canadian publishers to take part in this new venture was an American company named NetLibrary. NetLibrary was formed in Boulder, Colorado, in 1998. Soon thereafter, it began to sublicense rights for select backlist titles from academic publishers and to create ebook editions of those titles. The company produced these ebooks by scanning hardcopy books supplied by the publishers. Using an optical character recognition (OCR) scanner, NetLibrary was able to convert the image of printed type into text. Instead of being contained within a particular file format, these early ebooks were simply rendered in HTML. The text was viewed online by library patrons through a browser using a tethered-access model (Knight 31).[10]

This production and delivery method, made possible by the increasing popularity of the internet (which allowed people to access content remotely), proved to be quite successful. In its first two years of operation, NetLibrary was able to amass a large volume of content from publishers: by November 2000, NetLibrary’s online collection numbered 28,000 titles, ten of which were from UBC Press. The company had also sold ebooks from its digital collection to nine different Canadian university libraries (Crawley, “University”).

On the heels of NetLibrary’s apparent success, other companies emerged to serve this new electronic library market. As the agreement with NetLibrary was non-exclusive, UBC Press began to develop partnerships with these other content aggregators as well. The Press sublicensed around 500 of its titles to Questia, an aggregator that sold subscriptions to both individuals and institutions (Crawley, “University”). At the time of its launch in January 2001, Questia had developed a considerable collection of over 50,000 titles. Shortly thereafter, UBC Press began to sell ebooks through ebrary, NetLibrary’s major competitor (Knight 32).[11] Soon, UBC Press had signed an agreement with Baker & Taylor, which at that time was the largest distributor of library print books, which had started offering HTML-based ebooks using a delivery model similar to NetLibrary’s (Knight).

In this way, UBC Press parceled off licensing rights to various content aggregators during its first five years of ebook publishing.


A “Homegrown” Alternative: The Canadian Electronic Library and a Shift to PDF (2005-2007)

UBC Press continued to enter into concurrent agreements with different content aggregators and to digitize its legacy titles piecemeal until 2005, when the Press signed an exclusive one-year deal with the nascent Canadian Electronic Library (CEL). This business initiative marked the first attempt to foster “homegrown e-books” in Canada (Smith). The CEL had been formed a year prior by Gibson Library Connections, a Canadian content aggregator interested in creating a collection of electronic texts from Canadian publishers. In 2005, CEL’s Vice President Robert Gibson began approaching publishers within the country—particularly scholarly presses—with an offer to create PDFs of their entire catalogues. Gibson would then sell access to this content through the ebrary reading platform to various academic libraries in Canada (Ng-See-Quan). By this time, the PDF had become a universally accepted format for electronic documents, so a shift toward this standard and away from simple HTML encoding was welcomed by publishers.[12]

UBC Press was one of a dozen publishers that first agreed to Gibson’s offer (Smith). After signing on with the CEL, the Press began to digitize nearly all of its titles that had not yet been hand-picked by content aggregators.[13] However, the creation of these files was carried out not by Gibson in Canada, but by a US-owned technology partner named CodeMantra whose conversion facilities were located overseas. With the help of CodeMantra, a mass conversion of UBC Press’s backlist (up to and including those titles published in 2007) was performed within a matter of months. The 500 or so ebooks produced for UBC Press were added to Gibson’s steadily growing collection (“eBound”).

A year or so after its inception, the CEL was comprised of approximately 6,000 scholarly titles in English and French. By June 2006, Gibson had licensed CEL content to 12 academic libraries, mostly within Alberta (Smith). This sale was promising, and presaged an even more lucrative deal that took place two years later in September 2008, when the collection had grown to over 8,000 titles from 47 different Canadian publishers. At that time, Gibson Library Connections brokered a historic deal with the Canadian Research Knowledge Network, or CRKN (Ng-See-Quan).

CRKN had developed out of the Canadian National Site Licensing Project (CNSLP), which began in 2000 as a partnership between 64 Canadian universities. The goal of the CNSLP was to make scholarship widely available to Canadian researchers by building up Canada’s “knowledge infrastructure.” It achieved this in part by leveraging the buying power of its member universities and purchasing large collections of digital content at reduced rates and with more flexible terms of use. Though the CNSLP was initially concerned with acquiring access to online journals from scientific, technical and medical (STM) publishers, it eventually expanded its mandate to include monographs in the social sciences and humanities. This occurred in 2004, when it became officially incorporated as a non-profit organization and was renamed the Canadian Research Knowledge Network. This change in mandate was significant, as it meant that the CRKN would start to acquire electronic content in areas in which Canadian university presses were actually publishing. The budget for the SSH acquisition project was also on a scale heretofore unseen. It garnered 47 million dollars worth of investment from member universities, participating provinces, and the federal government’s Canada Foundation for Innovation.

By 2008, this well-funded Canadian purchasing consortium was on the hunt for a large collection of SSH content, and it found its match in the Canadian Electronic Library. In the end, CRKN spent 11 million dollars of its funding on a three-year deal with Gibson Library Connections (Ng-See-Quan). This landmark sale was profitable not just for Gibson, but for participating publishers as well. Because the CEL’s royalty system was based on the number of titles a publisher had submitted to the collection, the more established UPs—like University of Toronto Press and McGill-Queens University Press, who had volunteered most of their backlists—benefitted greatly from this sale. UBC Press alone earned roughly 1.3 million dollars from the CEL-CRKN deal over the 3-year contract period (UBC Treasury). It was the largest single sale ever realized by the Press, regardless of format.


The Role of Technology Partners During the Transition Year (2008)

At the close of its contract with Canadian Electronic Library, UBC Press did not have any plans in place to produce and distribute ebooks of its forthcoming titles. For the first time since its foray into the world or digital publishing, the Press was left to oversee its own ebook program which had, until that point, been governed by outsider interests.

Though the Press was no longer under the auspices of a content aggregator, it continued to rely on the technology partner whom Gibson had introduced and whose services had proven to be indispensable. In the year following the CEL-CRKN deal, the Press thus used CodeMantra to produce enhanced PDFs (ePDFs) of many of its titles. These ePDFs, which CodeMantra called Universal PDFs© (uPDFs), were produced on a case-by-case basis following a title’s initial publication in print.[14] They contained various “value-added” features, such as

  • properly embedded fonts
  • a bookmarked, linked table of contents
  • linked footnotes, endnotes, and indices
  • working external URLs
  • cropped white space and registration marks, and
  • lower-resolution images, which are preferable for digital display. (CodeMantra)

According to CodeMantra, these features met the minimum file requirements of most libraries and ebook vendors. The uPDF format therefore allowed publishers to distribute their files to multiple sales channels without encountering any technical barriers.

To help deliver this product, CodeMantra also offered publishers subscriptions to Collection Point, a digital asset management system. Collection Point enabled publishers like UBC Press to store their ebooks, apply metadata to these files, and deliver the finished products electronically to various sales channels, including to content aggregators, whose role had really been reduced to that of distributor by this time.[15] By helping publishers to not only create but also manage their ebooks, CodeMantra was attempting to provide an “end-to-end” digital publishing solution for clients like UBC Press, who found themselves in the position of having to produce and mobilize their own ebooks without having the know-how or tools to do so.

Having secured these technical services from CodeMantra, UBC Press began to manage its own ebook publishing program, unassisted, until the next external initiative arose—this time, under the direction of a national trade organization: the Association of Canadian Publishers.


A National Strategy: The Association of Canadian Publishers and a Push Toward XML (2009-2011)

The Association of Canadian Publishers (ACP) represents approximately 135 domestically owned and controlled English-language publishers: among them, eight of Canada’s 13 university presses, including UBC Press. Since it was formed in 1976, the ACP had provided research, marketing, and professional development services to independent publishers in Canada.

At the time of the CEL-CRKN deal, the Association had become aware of its members’ need for assistance in the ebook business. To help its members navigate this new era of publishing, the ACP applied for and received a $109,906 grant from the Department of Canadian Heritage, which it used to fund the formation of the Canadian Publisher Digital Services initiative (CPDS) in May 2009. The CPDS was a suite of services that aimed to provide advice and support to small and mid-sized independent publishers wanting to create and manage ebooks (MacDonald).

An important part of the CPDS program was connecting Canadian publishers with technology partners who could offer conversion services. The first round of ebook conversions organized by the ACP took place in October 2009. For this job, the ACP hired CodeMantra, the same overseas company that had made a name for itself among publishers by converting their files for the Canadian Electronic Library. This was also the same company that UBC Press had been relying upon in the interim period since its dealings with CEL. The ACP’s choice of technology partner was thus particularly convenient for UBC Press: the fact that the Press could continue to use CodeMantra’s services through the CPDS program made it all the more appealing.

Under the ACP’s contract with CodeMantra, UBC Press continued to commission uPDFs from CodeMantra, but it also began to request another set of PDF files intended for Ingram’s Lightning Source. The Press had been in discussion with Lightning Source about producing print-on-demand (POD) copies of select titles in Australia and the UK.[16] As part of this arrangement, UBC Press had to supply Lightning Source with PDFs that differed from the uPDF files already being produced by CodeMantra. Unlike the uPDFs—low resoultion files designed for on-screen reading, which contain interactive features (like bidirectional links)—these POD files had to be static PDFs that could generate a print-quality product. This meant the POD PDFs had to contain high-resolution images (300 dpi) of a book’s full wrap cover and interior text. These files also had to comply with other formatting requirements stipulated by Lightening Source: for example, the interior text had to have one-quarter inch margins, the cover had to have a one-quarter inch bleed on all sides, and the images had to be rendered in CMYK colour.

In addition to the uPDFs and POD PDFs, UBC Press was able to obtain under the ACP’s program cutting-edge ebook formats. Indeed, the ACP’s aim was not just to help Canadian publishers digitize their catalogues, but to assist them in pushing their ebooks beyond the PDF-based library market (which the CEL had so successfully targeted) and into the burgeoning trade ebook market, which hinged upon XML-based formats.[17] To this end, ACP members were able to request pubXML versions of their files, a branded form of XML markup used by CodeMantra. These pubXML files were pitched to publishers as “an archive format used for conversion to various HTML or XHTML formats” (Izma). This marked the first opportunity for many Canadian publishers to store their content in what was considered to be a more durable and flexible form—a form that might allow them to repurpose their tagged content later on.

Of even greater interest to publishers than the pubXML files was CodeMantra’s EPUB conversion option. The EPUB is an “agnostic,” non-proprietary ebook format. Unlike PDFs, which have a fixed layout, the text in EPUBs is reflowable, which makes them amenable to designated ereaders like the Kindle or Kobo, as well as other mobile devices. By enabling presses like UBC to adopt the EPUB format, the ACP was realizing its goal of encouraging publishers like UBC Press to enter into the trade ebook market.

And indeed, UBC Press took full advantage of this opportunity. In 2009, the Press submitted 82 titles to codeMantra for conversion into all four of the formats discussed above: uPDF, POD PDF, XML, and EPUB. Other publishers were equally enthusiastic. 44 different Canadian publishers took part in the first phase of this project (MacDonald). In fact, the level of interest and participation from Canadian publishers in this program was so high that a second round of conversions was organized in 2010. Data conversion companies were invited to bid on a new contract with the ACP; this time, the job was awarded to a different technology partner, Innodata Isogen, whose facilities were also located overseas. UBC Press submitted another 62 of its recently published titles to Innodata for conversion. In total, UBC Press’s files accounted for almost 10% of the more than 2500 titles submitted for conversion during the Canadian Publisher Digital Services program (Coates, MacDonald).


Scanning the Digital Horizon: eBound Canada

The CPDS program was the most recent effort toward large-scale, coordinated ebook production in Canada. By the end of its second round of conversions, the ebook market had become much more firmly established, and the need for conversion services and representation was so great that the ACP announced the CDPS would become a separate entity, eBound Canada, in June 2011 (“Newly Incorporated”). Nic Boshart, Manager of Technology at eBound Canada, confirmed that this newly formed not-for-profit organization will “continue offering bulk and individual conversions” to its members, in addition to providing assistance with retail distribution, research and education about digital publishing (Boshart, “Conversions”).

For his part, UBC Press Director Peter Milroy has expressed a willingness to continue outsourcing ebook production to technology partners through third-party organizations like eBound Canada. It seems, then, that the Press will continue to outsource ebook production—at least, for the immediate future.[18]



UBC Press’s decade-long history of ebook publishing reflects numerous changes in the industry, including a shift from HTML and PDF to XML and EPUB formats; from a program that focuses exclusively on institutional markets to one that includes trade markets; and from private-sector initiatives to publicly-funded programs.

Throughout these changes, the Press’s reliance on outsourcing has remained constant. UBC Press has always depended on an external partner to produce, sell and distribute its ebooks. This is perhaps not surprising, as the ebook business was first created and aggressively developed by external stakeholders (e.g. content aggregators). Yet there are several other reasons why publishers have chosen to outsource ebook production for the last decade. These reasons are explored in detail in the next chapter.



Chapter 2: Reasons for Outsourcing


There are several reasons why UBC Press and other publishers first outsourced, and have continued to outsource, ebook production. This practice is part of a national movement toward offshoring in Canada’s information and communications technology (ICT) sector; it is also indicative of the freelancing model used by many publishers, including UBC Press. More importantly, outsourcing has been a convenient and cost-effective way for UPs to enter into a potentially lucrative but uncertain market.


Offshoring in Canada’s ICT Sector

Outsourcing is a business practice that is not unique to the publishing industry. Indeed, outsourcing has become increasingly popular across the manufacturing and service industries over the past five decades.

As John Baldwin and Wulong Gu point out in a federal report on this issue, Canada has been able to increase its participation in international trade over the last 50 years thanks to “a reduction in trade barriers” and “improved … coordination of dispersed production activities” made possible by conveniences like teleconferencing, email, etc. (7). Among the many goods and services that are now traded internationally are services in the ICT sector (8). In fact, outsourcing has become so common in this sector that by 2003 Canadian companies were offshoring 7.3 billion dollars in business services, including software and computer services (Morissette and Johnson 14, 16).

Though their traditional focus on acquiring, editing and designing once placed publishers squarely outside the realm of these technology-related services, the rise of digital publishing and the concomitant need for large-scale data conversion has made publishers reliant upon the ICT sector. Through their business dealings with content aggregators and conversion houses, Canadian publishers have thus become swept up in this larger movement toward offshoring.


The Freelance Precedent

In addition to being part of a larger trend in the ICT sector, outsourcing is in keeping with the UBC Press’s own business strategy, which includes contracting out skilled work to freelancers (Milroy). During cutbacks in the early 1990s, UBC Press was forced to downsize its staff. As it was less expensive and more convenient to hire workers on short-term contracts, the Press came to rely on freelancers for much of the editorial and production work formerly carried out by employees in house (Brand 58).[19] By the time UBC Press started experimenting with ebooks in the early 2000s, all copywriting, copyediting, proofreading, typesetting, designing, and indexing for print books was being carried out by freelancers.

As most of the work involved with print books was being performed out-of-house, it seemed reasonable that this new facet of production—ebooks—be outsourced as well.


Reducing Risk and Production Costs

Ebooks brought with them the promise of profit. Publishers and aggregators alike saw the electronic format as a way to capitalize upon backlist titles that weren’t generating much revenue.[20] It was also thought that the release of ebooks would encourage libraries who had already purchased a print copy of a book to buy an electronic edition as well, essentially duplicating sales for that title. In addition to generating income through electronic sales, ebooks were expected to boost print sales due to “increased exposure to the press’s list” (Crawley, “University”).

Despite these anticipated financial benefits, university presses were cautious about entering into ebook publishing due to “high technology costs and a questionable market” (Crawley, “University” and “Scholarly”). Outsourcing, however, provided a way for scholarly publishers like UBC Press to experiment with digital publishing while minimizing financial risk, since outsourcing partners offered a series of incentives that either lowered or eliminated production costs.

NetLibrary initially set low-cost expectations by offering to cover the cost of digitization (i.e. the shipping and conversion fees) in exchange for the right to sublicense that digital content. This saved the publisher from having to invest in ebooks upfront. It also effectively protected the publisher from the risk of financial loss, for if the ebooks did not sell well, in the end, the publishers would not have lost any money on production expenses (Crawley, “University”). However, if NetLibrary did manage to sell its ebooks (which were sold at the print cover price), it typically split the proceeds from these sales 50/50 with the publisher (Crawley, “University” and “Online”).[21] Essentially, publishers could profit from this venture, even though they weren’t fronting any financial capital for it.

It was these favourable terms that first tempted publishers like UBC Press to start outsourcing to Netlibrary. It’s not surprising, then, that when the company changed the nature of its offer, several publishers pulled out of the agreement. As a cost-recovery measure, NetLibrary had begun charging publishers hefty conversion fees in September 2000, the price of which could range from one hundred to a few thousand dollars per title, depending on the number of pages and images in the original print book (Crawley, “University”). As a result of these changes, UBC Press chose not to renew its contract with NetLibrary after 2003.

Although NetLibrary’s initial offer had been too good to last, its low-risk approach to ebook deals had been so attractive that Gibson used a similar incentive when trying to recruit publishers for the Canadian Electronic Library. As Alison Knight explains, “CEL offered to scan and generate PDFs from hard copies for UBC Press’s entire backlist without immediate charge (the $90 PDF creation to be instead deducted from royalties)” (42). Under Gibson’s agreement, publishers would only pay for production costs in the event that their ebooks actually turned a profit; in other words, they would never have to pay for production costs out of pocket. Furthermore, the production costs were themselves quite low because Gibsons’ technology partner, codeMantra, had its conversion facilities located in India: a low-wage, non-OECD country where there is a “fast-growing supply of relatively skilled workers” (Morissette and Johnson 9). CodeMantra was therefore able to convert ebooks at a reasonable price, which lowered production costs and increased profit margins for the CEL and its participating publishers.

The cost savings that came from outsourcing to an overseas conversion house were so appealing that UBC Press continued to use codeMantra even after it’s contract with Gibson ended in 2008 and it found itself having to pay a flat fee upfront to convert its ebooks.

Using similar incentives, the Association of Canadian Publishers was also able to lower the cost of producing ebooks for Canadian Publishers, thereby encouraging them to continue outsourcing. When it came time for the ACP to choose its technology partners for the CPDS program, it too hired companies like CodeMantra and Innodata, whose conversion facilities were located in South Asia, and who could therefore offer lower pricing.[22] Under the ACP’s program, these services were obtained at collectively negotiated rates, which were made more advantageous by the volume of files being converted; by guaranteeing the participation of numerous Canadian publishers in the CPDS program, the Association was able to secure conversion services at an even more competitive price.

In addition to using foreign technology partners and securing discount/”bulk” pricing, the ACP was able to further lower the cost of producing ebooks by offering a subsidy to its members. During the first round of conversions in 2009, this subsidy amounted to 30% of the overall cost (30 cents on every dollar’s worth of charges), reducing the cost of conversion anywhere from $60-$240 per title. Instead of having to pay $190-$800 to convert each book, UBC Press only paid $130-$560.[23] During the second round of conversions, the ACP continued to offer publishers a subsidy, although it was lowered from 30% to 19% of the total cost, which amounted to $33-$91 in savings per title. Certain restrictions were also put in place during the second round of conversions to reflect the aims of the ACP’s program: only those titles that were being converted into the new XML and ePub formats would be eligible for the discount. Accordingly, UBC Press was more selective in the titles it chose to convert and in the formats it requested. Of the 74 titles the Press submitted for initial estimates, it processed only 62, choosing those titles that were most affordable to produce. Despite these new restrictions, publishers were still able to enjoy considerable savings: the cost for converting a single title into all four ebooks formats (EPDF, POD PDF, XML and EPUB) during this last round of conversions ranged from $105-$467.

To sum up, the companies and organizations that have facilitated outsourcing over the last ten years have offered a series of incentives, ranging from complete coverage of production costs to cost deferrals and direct subsidies. These incentives have made it more affordable—and therefore less risky—for university presses to start publishing ebooks.



In addition to lowering financial risk and production costs, outsourcing seemed like a convenient way for publishers to enter into the ebook business. The production method used by the early content aggregators was particularly accommodating. Thanks to OCR scanners, companies like NetLibrary only required hardcopies of books in order to generate the text for these first HTML ebooks. This meant that publishers could remain focused on creating their print product while ebook production took place downstream. Outsourcing was essentially tacked on to the end of the Press’s own workflow, which remained unchanged despite the introduction of this additional output format.


Figure 2. UBC Press Production Flowchart[24]

Figure 2


Even with the advent of newer ebook formats, in-house operations continued much the same as they had before. When UBC Press began to commission enhanced PDFs (ePDFs) directly from CodeMantra in 2008, the Press only needed to provide the company with the simple image PDFs of a book’s cover and interior. These files were exported directly from InDesign by the Press’s typesetter who was, conveniently enough, already generating PDFs of a book’s final proofs for the printer, Friesens. In other words, the same PDFs that were used to produce print books could now serve as the basis for the Press’s ebooks. All the Press was required to do was upload these simple PDFs, along with the accompanying front cover images in their native file formats (e.g. JPEGs, TIFFs, and .AI files), to the company’s FTP site. The real work involved in “enhancing” these PDFs was then performed off-site in CodeMantra’s content factories.

Once the simple PDF files had been downloaded by CodeMantra employees, features like internal links and bookmarked tables of contents were added manually to enhance the product and make it more user-friendly. Although applying these features is not an overly complex process, requiring only minimal training and common software applications like Adobe Acrobat Pro, the process can be quite labour intensive, particularly if a PDF contains a lot of index entries or notes which have to be turned into links. Outsourcing therefore saved UBC Press staff the time and effort required to perform these tedious tasks.

Though the method of producing other ebook formats is much more involved, the Press did not have to put forth any extra effort when it started to publish EPUBs and XML files in 2009. This is because conversion houses like CodeMantra and Innodata were able to create these ebooks from the same basic files used to produce the ePDFs. Nic Boshart, Manager of Technology at eBound Canada, explains how this process might be carried out.

Data conversion companies like CodeMantra and Innodata often use custom-made software to produce EPUBs and XML files. Many conversion houses write their own scripts, which they use to extract content from publishers’ PDF or InDesign files. This data is then stored in an intermediate form of XML unique to that company (e.g. CodeMantra’s “pubXML”) and is run through an engine that converts the tagged data into an EPUB. After a rough preliminary conversion, these companies likely run more scripts to reformat portions of the file and to add styling to the ePub. Although Boshart believes that “there is a human element involved somewhere along the line, probably for double-checking (quickly) code and running more scripts,” much of this process is automated, which allows these content factories to convert a large number of files simultaneously. In this way, conversion houses are able to create complex XML ebook formats from the simple PDFs provided by the publisher.

From a production standpoint, outsourcing has therefore been exceptionally convenient: it has allowed UBC Press to adopt various ebook formats that have developed over time without having to drastically alter its own operations. Moreover, in its early agreements with content aggregators, UBC Press was able to outsource not just the production of its ebooks but also their marketing and distribution. As it was in NetLibrary’s and Gibson’s own interests to promote the content that they had licensed from publishers, UBC Press was excused from having to actively advertise its digital titles. This appealed to former Associate Director of UBC Press George Maddison who, as Quill & Quire noted, “prefer[ed] to let others do the work” (Crawley, “University”). Publishers who converted their titles through the CPDS program also had the option of collectively licensing their content through the ACP to ebook vendors like Sony.

Although UBC Press has had to take a more hands-on approach to ebook production in recent years (see Chapter 3), the initial convenience of being able to outsource all manner of work associated with ebooks clearly was a draw for publishers.



At the time UBC Press began publishing ebooks, the outsourcing of technical services had become a common practice within Canada. Outsourcing also seemed to fit with the freelance-based business model already in place at the Press.

Over the years, the different parties that organized ebook production also tended to subsidize it: companies like NetLibrary and industry groups like the ACP have offered various financial incentives to make outsourcing even more attractive to publishers. For publishers, then, outsourcing has minimized any economic risks involved in adopting the digital format. Furthermore, outsourcing has been an incredibly convenient way to enter into the ebook market. Because ebooks have, to date, been produced from the end-product of print publishing (i.e. from a hard copy or PDF of a book), UBC Press hasn’t had to make any changes to its own production workflow—even with the adoption of newer, XML-based ebook formats.

By being both convenient and affordable, this method of production has been beneficial enough to keep publishers outsourcing for over ten years. However, it remains to be seen whether the benefits of outsourcing still outweigh other problems that may have arisen from this practice. The next chapter will therefore take a closer look at UBC Press’s most recent outsourcing experience to determine whether outsourcing remains a convenient, risk-free, and cost-effective way for UBC Press to produce ebooks.


Chapter 3: Problems with Outsourcing


As was established in the previous chapter, UBC Press has been outsourcing ebook production since it first began publishing ebooks in the late 1990s. But whether or not it should continue to do so warrants some consideration. The processes and products that have resulted from over a decade of outsourcing should be examined in order to determine whether outsourcing remains as beneficial a business practice as it once was.

This chapter will begin by reviewing the quality of the ebooks produced for UBC Press through the Association of Canadian Publishers’ CPDS program. In particular, it will catalogue the types of errors that have been found within these files. This chapter will then speculate on the inconvenience, risks, and added costs that may result from poorly converted ebooks. In an effort to understand why—and with such frequency—these errors have occurred, the conversion process used by large overseas companies like CodeMantra and Innodata Isogen will also be examined.

After surveying the fallout from UBC Press’s latest experience, the consequences of Canadian publishers outsourcing en masse will also be considered. Even if outsourcing was an effective way of allowing Canadian publishers to enter the ebook market, outsourcing long-term may have the unfortunate result of reducing the autonomy of Canadian publishers and their participation in the digital economy.


An Era of Ebook Errors

As discussed in Chapter 1, when the ACP first introduced the CPDS program, the initiative was welcomed by most Canadian publishers—including UBC Press—who were looking for assistance in digitizing their recent backlist titles. Like other outsourcing initiatives that had come before it, the CPDS program was seen as a convenient way of producing ebooks. Because the conversions would be performed out-of-house, it was assumed that the Press’s operations would not be affected by them. This outsourcing opportunity also seemed to carry little risk, given that it was overseen by the ACP: a trusted industry representative that was willing to partially fund the process. In short, the CPDS program seemed like an easy, safe, and affordable way for publishers to obtain ebook editions of their backlist titles.

However, UBC press was quite disappointed with the files it received from its conversion partners during this program.[25] The two batches of files produced for the Press under the ACP contracts were not “ready-to-sell” upon receipt, as had been promised (MacDonald): in fact, they were plagued with problems.

Errors were apparent even from the cover pages. The ebook covers were often of poor quality. Some cover images appeared in very low resolution; others were stretched because their proportions had not been maintained during resizing. In one instance, the author’s name and book title had been accidentally dropped from the cover.


Figures 3 & 4. Low Resolution Ebook Covers

Figure 3


Figure 4


Figures 5 & 6. Original Image vs. Stretched Cover Image
Figure 5 & 6


The ebook interiors were just as disappointing. Entire chapters were missing from the ebooks or from the bookmarked tables of contents that had been added to the files manually by the technology partner. The chapter titles that did appear in these tables of contents often contained spelling errors and/or were missing subtitles due to human error. More frequently, the files themselves were incorrectly named, having been labeled with the wrong ISBN number (e.g. the PDF version of a title was assigned the EPUB ISBN, or vice versa).

Such errors were common across all file types, but others were unique to particular ebook formats. In the ePDFs (which are paginated), whole pages were missing or were misnumbered. Preliminary pages in the front matter did not appear in Roman numerals, though the Press had stipulated that they should. Chapter headings were also missing from the tops of some pages. Internal links to/from the notes section and index were either missing or navigated to the wrong page.

In addition, the print-on-demand PDFs included only front covers, instead of the full wrap cover requested by the Press and required by Lightning Source. Instead of listing the softcover ISBNs as requested by the Press, the copyright pages in these POD files listed the hardcover ISBNs.

If the PDFs were disappointing, the EPUBs were in even worse condition. The EPUB errors that were most visible were those pertaining to images. For instance, diacritics which should have been rendered in UTF-8 encoding (as stipulated in the agreement) were instead captured as images during the conversion process. Because they had been rendered as images, these accented characters did not appear to rest on the same line as the rest of the text. What’s more, these and other images were not scalable, so though the ebook’s text could be resized, the images alongside it could not.[26]


Figures 7, 8, & 9. Diacritics Captured as Images in EPUBs Figures 7, 8, & 9


Furthermore, text was not properly “wrapped” around images, and captions (which are usually centered underneath a figure) were not aligned with the images they described. These errors were made all the more visible when the ebooks were viewed on a wide screen.


Figures 10 & 11. Captions not Aligned with Images in EPUBs

Figure 10 Figure 11


Figure 12. Images Appearing Mid-Sentence in an EPUB

Figure 12

Still more problems occurred because of the shift from PDF to EPUB that took place during conversion—in other words, the shift from a fixed page layout to reflowable text. Images that appeared on separate pages in the print editions now seemed to interrupt the text, sometimes appearing mid-sentence. Tables which contained three or more columns in the original files and which should have been rendered as images had been grabbed as text instead; as a result, the contents of these tables often broke across several pages in the EPUB, making them difficult to read. Odd line breaks also occurred within the running text because the print typesetter had either used automatic hyphenation or had inserted forced line breaks in the original InDesign files.


Figure 13. Example of Forced Line Breaks Appearing in an EPUB

Figure 13


Figures 14 & 15. Examples of Spacing Errors in EPUBs

Figures 14 & 15

Some of the errors mentioned above are attributable to the relative complexity of the EPUB format, and the amount of behind-the-scenes encoding required to convert a PDF to and EPUB. However, other mistakes seem to have been made, not because of the complexity of the task at hand, but because of carelessness or disregard for the Press’s instructions. For instance, some external links were broken because neighbouring punctuation had been included with the actual URL when the link’s destination was created. Pages that originally appeared in the front matter and that were supposed to have been relocated to the back of the EPUB so as not to interfere with readability (a common practice in ebook design) had not been moved. Also, a disclaimer stating that the index referred to the print edition of the book should have been included at the back of the EPUBs, but often wasn’t.[27]


Figure 16. Example of Index Disclaimer in EPUB

Figure 16

More seriously, the metadata for these EPUB files was neither robust nor accurate. For instance, an editor’s name was often mistakenly given as an author name. In the case of co-authored works, only the first author’s name would be listed in the metadata. Series information was not included in the .OPF files of the EPUBs; ISBNs didn’t appear within the files’ ID fields, either. Most worrisome of all, many of these files could not be validated against ThreePress Consulting’s epubcheck version 1.2—a free online tool commonly used within the industry to check the integrity of the code and the structure of EPUBs.


The Inconvenience of Outsourcing

Not surprisingly, the error-riddled ebooks that were produced during the last two rounds of conversions created delays and extra work for UBC Press, making outsourcing far less convenient than it seemed at the outset.

During the first round of CPDS conversions in 2009, ebook errors occurred with such frequency that many ACP members complained to the organization about the quality of their files. The sheer scale of the problem prompted the Association to bring in a consultant to negotiate a solution with the technology partner, CodeMantra. In the end, all parties agreed that the company would make certain changes to the files produced during this round of conversions, free of charge. Many publishers decided to resubmit files, but because the changes were applied globally, it took a long time for the corrections to be implemented. As a result, some of the titles that were initially submitted to CodeMantra during the first round of conversions in 2009 were not yet ready by 2011 (Coates). The second round of conversions, which began in 2010 (while the first batch of ebooks were still being corrected), was also fraught with complications. In an attempt to prevent further problems, the ACP had included specific language in the contract with its new conversion partner, Innodata. UBC Press had also included additional instructions along with the titles it submitted for conversion. Unfortunately, this second technology partner also failed to deliver files that met the requirements of the Press and the ACP, so similar delays ensued. Almost all of the 62 files UBC Press submitted to Innodata in July 2010 had to be returned to the company in November and December of that year due to formatting errors. During the second round of proofing in May 2011, errors were still being found in the files. In a sample of 36 ebooks, only 12 of the 25 EPDFs were of acceptable quality (that is, contained few enough errors to be sold in good conscience), and only five of 11 EPUBs would validate.[28] In other words, less than half of the 36 files were properly formatted after two visits to the conversion house: the remainder had to be sent back for further corrections.

Although the technology partners were usually able to turn around files within a matter of months (three months or so, in CodeMantra’s case), each time the Press resubmitted its files, they would be placed at the back of the queue behind those from other publishers who were having similar problems. The substandard files produced during this latest outsourcing experience have therefore caused significant setbacks and pushed forward the release dates of UBC Press’s ebooks.

During this fiasco, Press staff also had to spend a significant amount of time and attention interfacing with its technology partners and the ACP. Once UBC Press became aware of the quality of its files, Press employees also had to intervene and spend time checking each file—not once, but multiple times. This necessarily interrupted regular in-house operations. Though outsourcing may have required little effort on the Press’s part in the early days of NetLibrary, the last two years of outsourcing under the ACP have thus required more time and attention than Press staff had expected or planned for.


Increasing Risk and Cost

On top of being inconvenient, the shoddy conversions performed by the ACP’s technology partners have also resulted in added risks and expense for UBC Press.

Errors such as distorted images or awkward line breaks ruin the appearance and aesthetics of an ebook; other types of errors, like broken links or missing tables of contents, affect an ebook’s functionality and navigability. Collectively, these errors have the effect of lessening the quality and value of UBC Press’s electronic product, which in turn could reinforce the low-price expectations of consumers. At the very least, these errors may affect the Press’s ability to sell its digital editions at a price that is equal to or slightly higher than the print cover price. As the Manager of Marketing points out, UBC Press can hardly expect to charge the same amount for “junky ebooks” as it does for its carefully crafted print books (Coates).

If an ebook is found to have a particularly high number of errors, these errors may affect unit sales for that particular electronic title. However, they could also lower sales for other titles as well, for the following reason. UBC Press’s reputation as an academic publisher is based upon the accuracy and consistency of the research that it publishes. However, recurring formatting errors and sloppy presentation might raise questions about the Press’s overall approach to quality control and, by extension, the reliability of the content it publishes. If these poorly formatted files are released into the supply chain, they endanger UBC Press’s credibility as a scholarly/reference publisher.[29]

Laraine Coates, Marketing Manager and coordinator of the ebook program at UBC Press, has in fact expressed concern over the effect that sloppy ebooks might have on the Press’s reputation. Coates regrets that there are already ebooks in circulation that “do not do justice” to UBC Press’s publishing program. Although the Press is normally quite stringent in its review process (see “Proofing,” Chapter 4), error-filled EPDFs still made it to library market. This is because the Press was not prepared for the state of the files it received through the CPDS program. When UBC Press received its first batch of ebooks back from CodeMantra in 2010, Coates did not suspect that she would need to review each file individually for errors. As the sole staff member responsible for this aspect of production, Coates also lacked the assistance that would have made a thorough review possible. As a result, dozens of botched EPDFs were distributed to libraries through ebook aggregators soon after they were delivered to the Press.[30]

Coates admits that she and many other publishers “dropped the ball” during this first round of conversions organized by the ACP. After the flaws in CodeMantra’s files were brought to light by other ACP members, Coates decided to enlist an intern to help check the second batch of files, which were created by Innodata. At that time, however, publishers were still discovering new types of errors in their files, and because the Press hadn’t yet compiled a comprehensive list of errors to look for, this round of proofreading was rather hit-or-miss. It was also cursory by necessity: due to the volume of files that had to be reviewed, the student intern was only able to spend 10 minutes or so spot-checking each file (Coates). As a result, many of the EPDFs that were put into circulation from the second round of conversions were functional, but still contained minor formatting errors (e.g. low res. or miscoloured cover images).

These ebook errors may have not only lowered the perceived quality of the product and of the Press itself, but they may have ultimately affected the profitability of the ebooks by delaying their distribution. After the Press had to send back files to Innodata for revision in November 2010, libraries and vendors began contacting UBC Press because the ePDF versions of certain titles advertised in the Fall catalogue had not yet been made available to them (Coates). As a result, library orders may have been dropped before these files were ready.

The Press has had even greater difficulty bringing its EPUBs to market. Laraine Coates has expressed concern over the fact that the EPUBs first requested from Innodata in May 2010 were not yet sellable 18 months later, in November 2011. At that time, Coates commented that these ebooks were still in “need [of] a lot of work before we can put them in the market” (“eBound”). A year later, the EPUBs remain in unsellable condition and have yet to be distributed. Consequently, the sale of these ebooks—and revenue from these sales—has been postponed, and may be forfeited altogether if the files cannot be brought to satisfactory standards. In particular, if these EPUB files still contain structural errors and can’t be validated, then they can’t be put into circulation, as many ebook vendors refuse to accept potentially “unstable,” invalidated files. Metadata errors could further depress ebook sales by reducing the visibility of the files in an online environment. If an ebook is missing metadata or contains incorrect metadata, it can’t be properly catalogued by ebook vendors or indexed by search engines. This makes it harder for potential customers to find and purchase that ebook online. Metadata and validation errors therefore affect not just the discoverability of these electronic titles, but also their saleability.

The potential risks and financial losses from this latest outsourcing experience may be largely incalculable, but these poorly formatted ebooks have already resulted in quantifiable costs incurred by the Press. The several rounds of proofing that UBC Press personnel have had to perform on each file has contributed to the overall cost of producing these ebooks. In the summer of 2011 alone, 63 ebooks had to be proofread in-house at the Press. As it took roughly twenty minutes to thoroughly check each ebook (often longer for EPUBS), this amounted to at least 21 hours of employee time. Though a summer intern was able to perform this task at a reduced rate, this one round of proofreading still cost the Press roughly $150.[31] Had this same task been performed by a hired freelancer proofreader at the standard rate of $20per hour, this cost would have escalated to $420 for one round of professional proofreading, or to $1260 for the three rounds of proofreading that have been required on average during the ACP’s program.[32]

If the Press were to continue to outsource ebook production to the same technology partners and receive files of a similar quality, the proofreading required to bring these ebooks up to an acceptable standard would add an extra $7.15-$20 per file, depending on whether the task were performed by an intern or hired proofreader. This amounts to an additional $14.30-$40 per title, as each title is usually converted into two file formats that require proofreading (EPUB and ePDF). For the average book, this proofreading represents as much as a 20% increase in ebook production costs—an increase that is not insignificant, especially when multiplied across large batches of files.

During the CPDS program, UBC Press spent over $30,000 to convert 144 of its titles into various ebook formats. But when one considers the hassle and hidden costs that have come with these conversions, and the untold price paid by publishers whose brands have been compromised by a substandard product, outsourcing through the ACP has turned out to be far more expensive than the official price tag suggests.


What Went Wrong: Outsourcing to Large Conversion Houses

Far from being an isolated incident, UBC Press’s latest experience reveals problems that come from outsourcing to a particular type of technology partner. Under its recent contracts with the Association of Canadian Publishers, UBC Press worked with two different companies, CodeMantra and Innodata: two large conversion houses whose operations are located overseas. The fact that UBC Press had disappointing experiences with both partners suggests that there may be problems not with each individual company, but with the business practices of large conversion houses in general. Although the remote location of their facilities might tempt Canadian publishers to adopt an “out of sight, out of mind” attitude toward these conversion houses, their internal operations should be brought into question in light of the trouble that these technology partners caused during the CPDS program.

In an article written in 2000 for the (now defunct) online publication eBookWeb, an industry insider exposed some systemic problems that were present even among early conversion houses. These problems may account for the recurrence of errors and overall lack of quality control within these organizations today, as was borne out by UBC Press’s experience.

In “A Tale of Two Conversion Houses,” author Dorothea Salo identifies major problems within these companies, including issues with their workforce, workflow, tools, and customer relations. According to Salo, large conversion houses, also known as “content factories,” employ a sizeable workforce of entry-level programmers and “barely-competent HTML jockeys.” As is the case with other types of factories, the mechanical labour performed by these workers is divided along an assembly line. That is to say, the workflow is “divided into segments so small as to be meaningless” (Salo). Trained only to carry out their assigned tasks, the employees perform repetitive functions (e.g. running scripts, manually inserting links, resizing images), unaware of how these tasks relate “to any other, much less how the whole product looks and functions.” This results in a “silo effect,” by which employees within these conversion houses are kept ignorant of the “larger process or end result” that they are working toward. This disunity affects the overall quality of the product and the ability of the ebook to function as a whole.[33]

On a human resource level, this assembly-line approach to conversion leads to low morale and motivation among workers, and a high turn-over rate. Although this results in a “shifting workforce,” conversion houses are able to hire a great number of workers because their operations are located in countries where there is large pool of computer-literate employees who can be paid comparatively low wages.

Although it may seem counterintuitive, hiring low-skill workers (instead of ebook designers or digital publishing professionals) is more desirable for these companies, since their production method is built around tools, not training. As Salo explains, the mostly automated conversions performed by these companies rely heavily on “sophisticated production tools that supposedly reduce the need for employee training.” However, the custom software developed for this purpose also has its drawbacks. Because the workers who rely on this software often operate independently from the programmers who write the scripts, there is seldom any feedback between users of these tools and their creators. This disintegration results in the development of inefficient tools. Moreover, “should the tool fail in some way,” the employees who have no expertise (due to a lack of training) and who have been made dependent upon these tools “are left utterly helpless, and workflows grind to a halt” (Salo).

Another problem endemic to these large companies is the issue of scale itself. As Laraine Coates of UBC Press observed, “Their’s is a numbers game.” In order to attract clients, these companies must offer low bids on contracts; because these low bids reduce the profitability of any given project, the companies must take on more contracts and even larger projects in order to remain profitable. To wit, the ACP contracts show that these conversion houses are often serving multiple clients (in this case, 44 different Canadian publishers) with divergent needs, simultaneously. Though such diversity in projects and clientele would normally warrant customized workflows, these large businesses must instead take a “one-size-fits-all” approach to ebook conversions because they are operating on economies of scale (Salo). In terms of their workflow, this often means that a single DTD or schema is applied to all files, resulting in some ebooks being “shoehorned” into a markup system that isn’t appropriate to the structure or design of the original book (Salo). In UBC Press’s case, this practice is evidenced in the fact that the content of most of the titles it submitted for conversion were classified as either of “moderate” or “complex” difficulty by Innodata. Clearly, the workflow used by the company—which might work well for producing EPUBs of trade fiction titles with fewer textual elements—could not easily accommodate the type of apparatus found in most scholarly books.

The type of markup that results from these cookie-cutter conversions is often of low quality: a fact that, strangely enough, does not seem to hurt business, since the clients of these companies are often more concerned with the appearance of their ebooks than the integrity of their code. In the long term, however, an acceptance of low-grade code on the part of the publisher could affect the use of these ebooks both as archival files and as sellable wares. If the code behind these ebooks does not comply with current best practices, these files may not be forward-compatible when newer versions of the EPUB standard are released. Bad code may also interfere with the ability of future devices to render the files properly. Far from being a safe investment, these poorly made files may in fact have a very short shelf life.

This last point underscores a final problem that Salo warns against in her article: a lack of disclosure about workflow and markup on the part of these companies. This reticence may stem from greater communication problems between these large companies and their clients. Staff at UBC Press, for instance, often complained that although they were assigned an intermediary contact person by the ACP, they could not communicate directly with those who were overseeing or performing their ebook conversions.[34] Laraine Coates admits that if the conversion process had been more consultative, and the channels of communication more open, it may have been easier for the Press and its conversion partners to identify potential problems and prevent them.

However, Salo attributes this lack of disclosure to a more pernicious motive. She suspects that many technology partners purposefully do not educate their clients about the conversion process or its products in order to keep publishers “ignorantly dependent” on the conversion house. This theory seems to be supported by companies’ use of a custom form of XML (e.g. codeMantra’s pubXML), which hinders their clients’ ability to directly modify their own converted files. The “end-to-end” publishing services offered by these companies also make it harder for publishers to extricate their files, or reassign control over them to another service provider.[35]


The Effects of Outsourcing on Canada’s Publishing Industry

Whether or not Salo’s suspicions are correct, the result is as she had anticipated: publishers like UBC Press have become increasingly dependent on foreign companies to produce and manage their ebooks. This dependence does not sit well with some who work in the Canadian publishing industry. Even in the early days of NetLibrary, Darren Wershler-Henry—then-editor of Coach House Books and overall electronic publishing advocate—expressed concern over outsourcing the creation/management of electronic titles to foreign companies. “‘Letting an American firm have control over our publishing list just strikes me as a little weird,’” Wershler-Henry was then quoted as saying (Crawley, “Libraries”).

If one considers the ramifications of outsourcing long term, Weshler’s discomfort seems justified. Canadian publishers are not just handing over their money and content to factories overseas; they are also giving up their immediate autonomy, and reducing their chances of achieving some measure of self-sufficiency in the future.

By continuing to rely on external parties to create and manage their ebooks, Canadian publishers are deferring the need to hire or train staff to carry out their digital publishing programs. At present, there is indeed a scarcity of ebook experts among Canadian publishers. This is particularly true of university presses. Of the 13 UPs in Canada, only two have staff whose sole purpose is to oversee their digital publishing programs.[36] The rest have assigned this task to employees who hold positions in other departments and whose skillsets may be only tangentially related to ebooks. According to staff directories, those in charge of ebooks at Canadian UPs have job titles as diverse as Production and Design Manager, Bibliographic Data Coordinator, Computing Systems Administrator, and Sales/Marketing Manager.

In an editorial for The Journal of Electronic Publishing, Kate Wittenburg acknowledges this trend, observing that “[m]any university publishers have tried to meet this [digital] challenge by asking existing staff members to extend their responsibilities.” However, Wittenburg notes that “this strategy had not been effective” because “staff time and creative energy are, understandably, occupied keeping the existing business functioning.” This is certainly the case at UBC Press, where the task of coordinating ebook production has fallen to Laraine Coates, Manager of Marketing. Coates explains that she took on this responsibility in 2009 when another staff member in the Production department was away on maternity leave. Coates assumed this role because of her own personal interest in ebooks, and not her prior training or expertise in ebooks per se. At the time, this responsibility was added to her full-time workload in the Production department, and was later incorporated into her new position in marketing, so the amount of time she can devote to this side of the Press’s operations is necessarily limited. Although Coates is occasionally able to attend workshops and discussion panels on ebooks organized by various professional associations (e.g. the Association of American University Presses), she is afforded few opportunities to increase her knowledge on this subject in her day-to-day activities.

By obviating the need for trained employees, outsourcing thus leads to a lack of in-house expertise, which (as many publishers are coming to realize) only increases a publisher’s reliance on its technology partner. Again, UBC Press’s recent experience is telling in this regard. Because the Press had been outsourcing ebook production from the start, Press staff found themselves without the tools or skills necessary to modify the error-riddled ebooks produced through the CPDS program. As a result, UBC Press had to send back converted files that needed only minor corrections (e.g. typos in the tables of content) and wait for CodeMantra or Innodata to make the necessary adjustments, which led to further delays in the production process. In this way, the decision to outsource has handicapped individual publishers and furthered their dependence on conversion partners by rendering them ill-equipped to handle their own ebooks.

Over time, the tendency to outsource will also affect the self-sufficiency of the industry at large. Low demand for ebook-savvy employees in Canada will only lead to a lack of supply, for if there are few jobs available in digital publishing in this country, there is little incentive for publishing professionals to pursue training in this field, and limited opportunities for them to obtain on-the-job experience. Outsourcing en masse therefore negatively effects the professionalization of Canada’s domestic workforce and the overall level of employment within this emerging field. In the absence of expertise at home, outsourcing abroad appears to be the only viable option for producing ebooks.

Viewed this way, outsourcing threatens to become a self-perpetuating and self-justifying practice—one that leaves publishers without direct control over what has become an essential part of their publishing program.



UBC Press’s most recent experience under the CPDS program has shown outsourcing to be less convenient, more risky, and more expensive than it was under early ebook deals with companies like NetLibrary. The files being produced are of an unacceptable quality due to the batch processing and general business practices used by large conversion houses. Errors within these files have caused unnecessary delays and extra work for Press staff; by lowering the quality of the ebooks, they also threaten UBC Press’s reputation, as well as the overall profitability of its ebook program.

Yet the decision to outsource has consequences not just for the individual publisher, but for the publishing industry as a whole. When practiced by a large number of publishers (as was done under the ACP’s CPDS program), outsourcing negatively impacts the industry by making it dependent on foreign companies, to the neglect of its own domestic workforce. If the industry continues to outsource ebook production instead of developing the skills required to do so in Canada, those who outsource will have no other choice but to continue outsourcing in the future.

In light of these problems, it seems advisable that Canadian publishers now look for practical ways to incorporate ebooks for forthcoming titles into their existing workflows, whether that be at the proofreading or at the production stage. The next chapter will therefore propose various short- and long-term strategies that university presses such as UBC can use to gradually bring ebook production in house. By doing so, these presses can immediately address, and eventually avoid, the problems that have accompanied outsourcing.



Chapter 4: Solutions to Outsourcing


In the last decade, publishers faced the daunting task of converting their extensive backlists into multiple ebook formats whose staying power was somewhat questionable. Now that ebooks have become a standard part of publishing, and the bulk of their backlists have been converted through an outsourcing process that leaves much to be desired, publishers have begun to consider producing ebooks themselves.

In recent years, UBC Press has attempted to move some aspects of ebook production in-house. However, this shift must necessarily be a gradual one. The Press must first put short-term strategies in place to deal with the ebooks that will be produced by its technology partners in the near future. Only then can the Press begin to consider long-term changes to its own operations that would allow for the production of both print and electronic books in house.


Short-Term Solutions

As discussed in the conclusion of Chapter 1, large-scale ebook conversions will continue to take place under the auspices of eBound Canada. And UBC Press seems willing to continue outsourcing its ebook production to large conversion houses through this organization—for the time being. If this current system of outsourcing is to continue, though, there are various measures that publishers like UBC Press can put in place in order to attain a higher level of quality assurance for their ebooks.


Proofing Ebooks

At UBC Press, print books typically undergo several stages of review during production. Typeset text is first reviewed by a professional proofreader, as well as the author. Any corrections to these pageproofs are then collated by staff and entered by the typesetter. The final laser proofs provided by the printer are verified once more by a production editor before being approved for print. However, when the Press began to publish ebooks, these steps—or their digital equivalent—were not being carried out. As a result, ebooks are not subject to the same kind of rigorous review that print books are.

The need for better quality control over ebooks was the topic of a recent roundtable discussion hosted by Digital Book World, an online community forum whose events are sponsored by industry professionals and companies like Aptara and Ingram Publishing Group. During this discussion, Laura Dawson, Digital Managing Editor for Hachette Book Group, recommended that publishers take measures to review their ebooks—even (especially) if these ebooks were produced out of house by a technology partner.

As discussed in Chapter 3, UBC Press had begun to implement a review process during the second round of conversions under the ACP. However, UBC Press would benefit from the standardization of theproofreading process. One way of doing this, Laura Dawson suggests, is to create a central document that outlines the quality control procedures that should be performed by those handling ebooks in-house. Similar documents are already shared among UBC Press employees to ensure that other practices—such as “cleaning up” manuscripts after transmittal—are performed uniformly, regardless of which staff member is carrying out the task. In UBC Press’s case, this procedural document could be as simple as a checklist or set of instructions that is given to each intern who is hired to proofread ebooks. (See Appendix A.)

Ideally, this procedure would also be incorporated into the Press’s production schedule, with the result that production editors would allot a standard amount of time for proofreading ebooks after their anticipated date of delivery. If production staff were to start budgeting time for this activity (and for further rounds of revisions and review, as needed), those in marketing would have a more realistic sense of when an electronic edition of a title will be available for distribution.

Normalizing the proofreading process would also result in ebooks being reviewed in-house on a regular basis, not just when extra help is available from student employees, who are typically hired during the summer months. This may result in the task being reassigned to regular staff in the Production/Editorial Department. Liz Kessler, Publisher of Adams Media, points out that it may, in fact, be more advantageous to have the same publishing staff be responsible for the quality of print books and ebooks. Kessler notes that editors and proofreaders work most closely with a title, and are most familiar with the content and formatting requirements of a particular manuscript. These same staff are therefore best suited to reviewing ebooks, as they will notice irregularities and omissions more easily than an intern or co-op student who has little to no familiarity with that manuscript.

Reassigning proofreading tasks to relevant members of the publishing team may also redress the human resource problem identified in the previous chapter. Instead of making ebooks the sole responsibility of one overburdened staff member, the publisher can draw from the expertise of several employees. By doing so, the publisher would also turn ebooks into a shared concern of the publishing team, as has long been the case with print books.


Improving Metadata

One downside to the ebooks that are currently being produced by large conversion houses is the metadata they contain (or don’t contain). As was mentioned in Chapter 3, the metadata within these files is often incomplete, and this affects the visibility and identifiability of that digital object once it is in the supply chain.

Solving this problem will require cooperation from both publishers and technology partners. Publishers will need to stipulate higher metadata standards within their statements of work, as well as provide more detailed publication information to their technology partners. These technology partners would, in turn, need to respect the standards outlined in their contracts and take the time to embed the provided metadata within the files they produce, even if this means inserting it manually.

Furthermore, it would behoove both publishers and their technology partners to adopt the standards recommended by the International Digital Publishing Forum (IDPF), an industry association that creates and maintains technology standards in order to encourage interoperability within the field of electronic publishing. The IDPF’s protocols would result in richer and more detailed metadata than is currently being used. For instance, instead of simply listing a creator <ds:creator> in the .OPF file,[37] this field could further indicate whether the creator is the author of the work <dc:creator opf:role=”aut”> or the editor <dc:creator opf:role=”edt”>. The publisher and the conversion partner could also supply more detailed information in the “date” field. IDPF standards allow publishers to give both the year of print publication <dc:date opf:event=”original-publication”> and the year in which the EPUB file was created <dc:date opf:event=”epub-publication”>. (It is important to distinguish between the two events because, as was made clear during the ACP’s CPDS program, print and electronic formats may be released years apart.)

The IDPF recommendations would also provide an opportunity for publishers to supply additional information about their titles: for instance, the subject categories listed on the Cataloguing in Publication page within a print book could be included as values for the subject element in an ebook, e.g. <dc:subject>Canada – Foreign relations – United States</dc:subject>. Series information could also be placed within the type element <dc:type>Law and Society series</dc:type>. This granular level of data is helpful for marketing purposes, and it may also make cataloguing easier for institutions or for individuals who use programs like Calibre to store and manage their personal ebook libraries.


Using Stylesheets

One of the main complaints heard from publishers who took part in the ACP’s CPDS conversion program was the appearance of their EPUBs. While most of the eyesores resulted from formatting errors, these ebooks on the whole lacked the styling and attention to design found in their print counterparts, and in the EPDFs, which retained the layout of the original print books.

However, publishers who outsource ebook production can exercise more control over the appearance of their EPUBs by creating (or commissioning) their own stylesheets, a practice that many leading publishers have already adopted. Stylesheets are CSS files that are included within the EPUB file package. These CSS files determine the styling of the content documents and can therefore control certain aspects of the ebook, such as paragraph alignment, typeface, relative font size, line spacing, etc. Though some of these elements may be overridden by certain ereading devices, a well-designed CSS file can still manage to create a unique “look” for an ebook.

From the viewpoint of print production, stylesheets are best seen as the EPUB equivalent to the layout templates used to format and typeset a print book. Just as the Press uses several InDesign templates for most of their print book interiors, so too could the Press develop one or more stylesheets to apply to its ebooks: in fact, these stylesheets can even be based upon the design decisions made by the Press’s typesetter in the creation of the original print templates. (See discussion of Wild Element below.)

Using stylesheets to shape the appearance of content would not only enhance the production value of these ebooks, but it would also provide visual consistency between ebooks, thereby allowing UBC Press to extend its brand to those files being produced by another party. Stylesheets could also reduce the possibility of formatting errors by imposing stylistic uniformity on the text and images.

While a stylesheet can enhance the surface appearance of an ebook, the best solution to sloppy formatting is better-built ebooks. This requires long-term solutions to outsourcing.


Long-Term Solutions

Finding a More Suitable Technology Partner

When faced with a batch of error-filled ebooks, a publisher can choose to improve upon the files produced by its technology partner, or it can improve upon its choice of technology partner.

Given the number of errors found in the converted files and the dissatisfaction reported by clients like UBC Press, the large conversion houses hired by the ACP were not a good “fit” for Canadian publishers, particularly university presses. As stated in Chapter 3, scholarly books contain a number of extra-textual elements that aren’t easily accommodated by the automated workflows used in these conversion houses. Consequently, these scholarly ebooks seem to suffer from an unusually high number of formatting errors. In addition to causing problems during production, the apparatus that comes with academic books also adds to the cost of conversion. This is because, in the fee structures used by large-scale conversion houses, price is often indexed to the length of the text, along with the number of figures and the number of links a given ebook edition will contain. This pricing system effectively penalizes publishers of monographs and reference books, which are typically longer than trade books, and which contain numerous notes and lengthy indices.[38] It’s not surprising, then, that of the 74 UBC Press titles included in Innodata’s initial cost estimate, 40 were considered to be of “moderate” difficulty and 16 were assessed as “complex.” In other words, the assessment criteria used by this company placed three-quarters of UBC Press’s books within the higher price categories.

If the production and pricing methods used by large conversion houses aren’t appropriate for scholarly publishers, then UPs that wish to continue outsourcing should find more suitable technology partners. One alternative to hiring large conversion houses overseas is to hire smaller ebook design firms, which are cropping up in North America. Instead of signing contracts for bulk orders, these companies tend to work on a project-by-project basis with their clients, much like freelancers do. These companies also position themselves as counter to the content-factory model: the Canadian company Wild Element, for instance, promises its clients “no batch processing” and “hand-styled” ebooks on its website.

This difference in production method seems to stem from a fundamentally different approach to ebook conversion. Whereas content factories focus on moving publishers’ data from one file format to another, these firms focus on translating a book’s design from print to electronic editions. To this purpose, Wild Element’s stylesheets often replicate the typography of the original print book in an effort to “preserve the investment” publishers make in typesetting their books and to “deliver the quality you’ve come to expect from the traditional paper book.” This sensitivity to a book’s physical elements and design would be of particular use to publishers like UBC Press.

In fact, UBC Press has already begun to use smaller design companies for specific projects. It chose to hire Wild Element to produce the EPUB version of its lead title for the Fall 2011 season. The Press was particularly concerned that the EPUB edition of this title be attractive, error-free, and ready in time for the launch of the print book, since this title was expected to be a trade crossover with a high-profile publicity campaign.

UBC Press was quite pleased with the EPUB produced by Wild Element. As the figures below show, its layout reflected a consideration for aesthetics as well as an attention to detail that was missing from the ebooks produced by codeMantra and Innodata. As a result, UBC Press is considering using the same company to fix the EPUBs produced under the ACP’s program.


Figure 17. Cover for EPUB produced by Wild Element

Figure 17


Figure 18. Table of Contents for EPUB Produced by Wild Element

Figure 18


Figure 19. Chapter Opening for EPUB Produced by Wild Element

Figure 19


Figure 20. Image with Caption from EPUB Produced by Wild Element

Figure 20

Though the Press was pleased with this one-time, alternative outsourcing experience and with the end product, it is clear that the services offered by a company like WildElement are no replacement for large-scale ebook production. Their emphasis on tailored design and digital craftsmanship seems to align these companies with the letterpress printers, but just like their paper-based counterparts, these companies are restricted in the volume of books they can produce due to the small size of their operations, their attention to detail, and their preference for custom coding. Ebook design firms are thus unable to process large batches of files as conversion houses do. Because they are situated in North America and hire trained professionals, they face higher labour costs, so their services come at a premium. The EPUB featured above, for instance, cost three to four times as much to produce as a comparable title would through a company like Innodata. Publishers who decide to use such companies will therefore need to be choosier about which titles they publish as ebooks. These types of decisions would ideally be based on a long-term epublishing strategy.


Developing an Epublishing Strategy

To date, UBC Press’s efforts at digitization have been determined by volume and price. Since its early deals with NetLibrary and Gibson Publishing, the Press has pursued those opportunities which have allowed it to acquire multiple ebook formats for the greatest number of titles at as little cost as possible. Books that proved too expensive to convert under previous agreements simply were not digitized.

However prudent UBC Press’s past decisions about ebook production may have seemed, this focus on economy alone hasn’t led to better value or experience. In the wake of the latest outsourcing fiasco, Laraine Coates admits that the Press needs to “think less about quantity and more about quality.” This may mean selecting fewer titles for conversion and/or allocating more resources to the production of those titles.

University presses should be particularly selective when deciding which titles to convert to the newer EPUB format. Not only is the EPUB format more difficult and expensive to produce, but also its usefulness for academic publishers has yet to be proven. As was explained in Chapter 1, EPUBs are designed for use on tablets and e-reading devices, and are carried by ebook retailers like Kobo and Apple. The EPUB format is therefore aimed at the trade market. However, UP content is not.[39] Given their highly specialized subject matter, few books published by university presses appeal to a wider general audience. Though the UBC Press book produced by Wild Element (a biography of a political figure) may have been an appropriate choice for an EPUB, a more specialized monograph—say, a treatise on international trade law and domestic policy—wouldn’t be: the investment made in producing an EPUB version of that title would likely not be returned in sales. Furthermore, if EPUBs are unsuccessful in the trade market, they can’t be repurposed in institutional markets, since few academic libraries are able to accept files in the EPUB format at this time, and most are satisfied with enhanced PDFs.[40]

These factors should be taken into account, along with any available ebook sales data, as UPs try to determine which of their titles will work as EPUBs. Ultimately, this format may be found to be unsuitable for scholarly publishers.

If, however, UBC Press decides to adopt the EPUB as a default format for its ebooks, then the Press should consider moving EPUB production in house in the future.


Producing Ebooks In House

UBC Press has already demonstrated some capacity for in-house ebook production by successfully integrating one ebook format into its own workflow. In 2011, the Press’s typesetter agreed to start producing enhanced PDFs for the Press. This is done by inserting links directly into a book’s InDesign file; although these links aren’t expressed in the print book, they add functionality to the PDF later on. At this stage of production, the typesetter also adds an extra table of contents that will appear in the PDF’s bookmark menu. Once exported, the PDF is customized further by the Press’s in-house graphic designer, who checks the file’s links, attaches a low-res version of the cover, and swaps the print copyright page for another which contains the ISBN for digital editions. Although these enhanced PDFs do not have as many features as the uPDFs produced by CodeMantra,[41] they are an affordable and efficient alternative to outsourcing. Since these ePDFs began to be produced in house, there is little delay between the publication of print and electronic editions, as the web-ready ePDFs and the simple PDFs used for printing are produced almost simultaneously.

The successful integration of ePDFs into the Press’s own workflow is encouraging. However, incorporating EPUBs into the Press’s operations would be much more difficult. Where the latter is essentially an image of a print book, the former is a collection of marked-up files in a .zip archive: some of these files are in HTML (the CSS stylesheet), others are in XML (the .OPF or metadata file), and still more are in XHTML (the actual content files). In order for EPUBs to be incorporated into UBC Press’s own workflow efficiently, the Press would have to move ebook production from the end of its publishing workflow (where outsourcing currently takes place) to the beginning, so that tagging can be applied to these documents earlier on.

The Press has considered this prospect in the past. In March 2011, UBC Press asked publishing technology consultant Keith Fahlgren for advice on how to transition into performing EPUB production in house (Coates). At the time, Fahlgren recommended that the Press create a new workflow that uses styles in Word. If implemented, this method would have resulted in a transfer of styled content from Word to InDesign, and eventually into the EPUB format.[42] While Fahlgren’s solution seemed convenient, in that it was based on software programs already in use at the Press, the production and editorial staff found using styles to be “a frustrating experience” and “a lot of work” (Keller). As it turns out, authors, freelancers, and staff members had different versions of Word, which made sharing files under this new system even more cumbersome. Staff discovered that styles would be lost during the transfer, or would reappear in one version of Word after having been deleted in another. This production method also would have required a lot of cleanup along the way, as Microsoft Word is a proprietary software program that produces a lot of idiosyncratic and extraneous code. This code is often brought over when content is imported from Word, and must stripped from the text if one is to create “clean” code in the EPUB.

If content can’t be tagged using styles from the word processor currently used in-house, then it seems the Press would have to create tagged documents using a true XML-editing program like oXygen. Yet staff are understandably skeptical about the prospect of adopting an altogether new mark-up system. Holly Keller, Manager of Production and Editorial Services at UBC Press, points out that staff in this department may not be comfortable or keen on working with tagged documents; she also suspects that none of the freelance proofreaders employed by the Press have a working knowledge of HTML or XML. Presumably, then, both the initial tagging and the proofing of these documents would need to be performed by an additional staff member or a freelancer who possesses these skills. Keller also wonders how adopting EPUB production would affect workload and priorities within her department. She questions whether the incorporation of this new format might shift her department’s focus and resources away from the content of a manuscript and toward its technical requirements.

While Keller’s concerns are valid, textual markup is not so foreign a concept for production editors. In fact, textual markup is an extension of the editorial function, as it involves identifying the elements and structure of a manuscript. Though it may seem that introducing XML tagging would require a radical shift in production, there already exists an opportune stage for this encoding to take place within the Press’s current editorial/production workflow.

Following the transmittal meeting, when a manuscript is first brought in-house, each document undergoes a “clean up” process. (See Figure 1.) During this process, a production editor assesses the contents of an author’s manuscript and inserts typecodes that will later be used by the typesetter to layout the document. Elements that are already being tagged by production editors during this process include block quotations <Q>, epigraphs <E>, heading levels <3>, and lists <begin numbered list>. Though these tags are open (not closed) and are not nested, they are analogous to the types of XML tags used in the content files of an EPUB: both types of tags are a form of semantic markup that describe the different parts of a document so that they can later be expressed or manipulated in a certain way. Were these typesetter codes replaced by a standard XML tag set, UBC Press’s production editors would be well on their way to producing the tagged documents they require to produce EPUBs in house.

Furthermore, other clean up tasks performed at this stage of production which don’t currently involve typecodes could easily be replaced with tasks that do in order to introduce an extra level of tagging. For instance, instead of checking to make sure that the first line of every paragraph is indented, editors could instead make sure each paragraph is labeled <p>. Rather than change emboldened words to italicized words, editors could simply tag these words as emphasized <em>. Section breaks, which often need to be inserted manually into Word documents, could instead be marked by <seg> tags.

In short, a close evaluation of manuscripts and a tagging of textual elements already occurs at the beginning of UBC Press’s production process. With a minimal amount of staff training, this process could be modified to include XML markup. If the Press were to start out with well-tagged content, they could use the same source file to produce both print and electronic versions of a title. This workflow would be much more efficient than the current system, wherein content is first formatted for print only, and must later be stripped and tagged with XML afterward in order to produce an EPUB.[43]


Exploring the Applications of TEI in Scholarly Publishing

If UBC Press were to pursue an XML-based workflow, it would also need to consider the type of XML language it would use.

DocBook is an XML schema commonly used in the production of books. While its “main structures correspond to the general notion of what constitutes a ‘book,’” it is “particularly well suited for books on computer hardware and software,” having been developed in part by O’Reilly & Associates for producing technical manuals (“What is DocBook?”). However, professionals who work within scholarly publishing have found that this book markup language “lacks native markup elements for many structural features common in humanities and social science texts” (Sewell and Reed).

Fortunately, there exists another type of XML markup that is perhaps better equipped to handle UBC Press’s content: TEI, a markup language developed and maintained by the Text Encoding Initiative Consortium. The TEI guidelines, which have been under development since the 1980s, have come to form a standard for the representation of texts in digital form within the humanities. Although TEI has largely been used to digitize those texts used as primary sources within humanities research (i.e. rare manuscripts and historical documents), it would also be appropriate for use in digitizing secondary literature, i.e., scholarly monographs or reference books.

Because the TEI was developed to describe physical manuscripts, it can accommodate the type of textual elements commonly found in scholarly books, like notes and tables. It also contains more specialized element groups that could be used to tag UP texts that are at present rather tricky to produce as ebooks. For example, UBC Press publishes a series of books on First Nations languages, but the heavy use of phonetic symbols in these texts makes them difficult to convert into EPUBs. However, the TEI has a dictionary module and a set of elements that identify language corpora. This comprehensive tag set could help identify these special elements up front and preserve them during conversion.

Members of the digital humanities community have long anticipated the applications of TEI in scholarly publishing. In June 2009, a special interest group on this topic was formed at the Association of American University Presses. Although no university press in North America is currently using a TEI-based workflow, some are already experimenting with TEI (e.g. University of North Carolina). Other academic institutions have also adopted digital publishing workflows based in TEI encoding. For example, the New Zealand Electronic Text Centre has been using TEI in the digitization of full-length works that are later converted into the EPUB format. Sebastian Rahtz of Oxford University Computing Services has also been facilitating TEI-based publishing at his home institution and abroad. He has developed several XSL stylesheets that enable XML->XHTLM transformations, i.e. that help convert TEI documents into EPUBs. Because TEI is developed and maintained by a non-profit organization, these XSL stylesheets are available for use to the public through the TEI website ([44]

Using a TEI-first workflow would therefore allow publishers to export their EPUBs more directly, instead of having to prepare a manuscript for print first and convert it afterward. Yet the addition of this TEI tagging process would not entirely disrupt the print-based production workflow currently used by publishers like UBC Press. Documents tagged in TEI can also be imported into traditional desktop publishing programs like InDesign, where they can then be shaped for the printed page (Reed). In addition to producing print and electronic books more efficiently, TEI would allow university presses to repurpose their content in other ways. In the future, TEI documents could be used to create other academic resources, such as online databases or archives, should a press wish to expand its digital publishing activities to include these types of products.[45]

By choosing to use TEI within an XML-based workflow, university presses like UBC Press may also solve previously identified problems with staffing and a lack of in-house expertise. Because TEI is used primarily by members of the academic community, there may be opportunities for publishers to partner with digital humanists and electronic text centres that already exist within universities. The Journal Incubator at the University of Lethbridge in Alberta provides an inspiring example of for how students may take on support roles in digital scholarly publishing. Students who are placed at the Incubator through graduate assistantships and co-op placements acquire training in editorial and production skills, including XML encoding and processing. These students then apply these skills while working for the Incubator: their services, which are primarily used to publish electronic journals, are offered to departments within their own institution, as well as those from outside the university. Instead of “outsourcing,” this type of arrangement amounts to a kind of “insourcing”—looking to one’s host institution for technical advice and support.[46] This type of arrangement may assist university presses like UBC in transitioning to a digital workflow based in TEI, and may, through a sustainable, ongoing partnership, provide the type of encoding that would be required by a press.

The applications of TEI within scholarly publishing are thus quite promising. Although it may be too risky for an individual press to experiment with TEI-first publishing on its own, this option should certainly be pursued by industry organizations like the Association of Canadian University Presses. Scholarly publishers may just find a long-term solution to their outsourcing woes by looking within their own university communities for expertise and assistance.



There are several ways for publishers to avoid error-filled files and ensure better quality ebooks.Publishers can reduce the number of formatting errors by proofreading their ebooks in-house; they can also enhance the appearance of their EPUBs by applying their own stylesheets. At the same time, by augmenting the metadata contained within these files, publishers can increase the amount of information available on their digital titles and ensure greater discoverability for them once they are in the supply chain.

However, these are short-term solutions to a systemic problem. If publishers wish to avoid error-filled files in the future, they need to consider more fundamental changes to the way they approach ebook production. This could mean finding a partner that will convert ebooks more carefully, which may, in turn, require publishers to be more selective in the number of titles they convert into EPUBs.

If publishers like UBC Press choose to adopt the EPUB as a standard format for their ebooks, it may behoove them to move ebook production in-house entirely. By doing so, publishers could achieve a consistently better end product. More importantly, they could break their decade-long dependence on large conversion houses that have become a liability.

UBC Press has already shown some ability to accomplish this by taking on enhanced PDFs in-house. There is also an opportunity for the typecoding system currently used by production editors to be expanded into the kind of XML tagging that would enable the Press to produce EPUBs. Should UBC Press decide to pursue an XML-first workflow, it should seriously consider TEI as its markup language of choice. A TEI-first workflow would result in better-tagged documents and easier EPUB exports and it would allow the Press to continue using standard design and layout software to create its print books. That TEI has existed in one form or another since the 1980s indicates that this markup language would be a durable way to store a publisher’s source files, regardless of what new ebook formats may arise in the next few years.

Whether they turn to the digital humanities for solutions, shop around for a smaller technology partner, or extend their staff’s expertise to the field of digital publishing, university presses are well positioned to seize control of their epublishing programs, and have sufficient motivation to do so.




1 Since 2001, annual endowment income has decreased by 68% (UBC Treasury). RETURN

2 Smaller-scale publishers like University of Alberta Press and University of Calgary Press receive more than twice the amount of direct funding that UBC Press receives, though they produce a half and a quarter as many new titles a year, respectively. Larger UPs in Canada receive an even greater amount of direct support from their host institutions: both the University of Toronto Press and McGill-Queen’s University Press enjoy nearly six times the amount of internal funding that UBC receives. RETURN

3 UBC Press represents a number of presses within the Canadian market, including University of Washington Press, Manchester University Press, University Press of New England, and Island Press. As part of the services it provides, UBC Press represents these publishers at Canadian conferences and hand-sells their books at these events. The Press also handles Canadian orders for these companies (via UTP Distribution) and includes relevant titles from these publishers within the Press’s own subject catalogues. RETURN

4 In 2011-2012, 50% of UBC Press’s Canadian sales and 78% of its US sales were made to libraries (UBC Treasury). RETURN

5 In the United States, the proportion of annual budgets spent on books by academic libraries fell from 44% in 1986 to 28% in 1997; in this same period, the proportion of library budget spent on journals rose inversely from 56%-72% (Gilroy). RETURN

6 Amazon has achieved this, for instance, by offering publishers a higher royalty rate (70%) on ebooks that are priced more competitively (20% lower than the lowest list price for the physical or digital edition of that title). Amazon also sets maximum list prices for publishers. RETURN

7 For instance, in Fall 2011, the hardcover version of a UBC Press title sold for $95, while the PDF of that same title sold for $99. It should be noted, though, that university presses are not alone in charging more for ebooks destined for the library market. Large trade publishers are also experimenting with higher ebook prices in order to offset a perceived loss in sales that may result from unlimited lending of ebooks through libraries. In March 2012, Random House “nearly tripled its ebook prices for libraries” (Albanese). In September 2012, Hachette Book Group also announced an increase in the cost of ebooks sold to libraries: prices rose anywhere from 35% to 63% (e.g. from $14.99 to $37.99) for popular fiction titles (Lovett). RETURN

8 A similar tactic has been used by publishers to promote the hardcover edition over the paperback edition: the hardcover is traditionally released first and is priced significantly higher than the paperback edition, which is only advertised to libraries 6 months after the original release date. By staggering the release of formats in this way, the Press encourages libraries—whose goal is to stock new releases in a timely manner—into purchasing more expensive, cloth-bound versions of titles. RETURN

9 These figures are in keeping with those found in a recent survey of 1350 consumer trade, STM, educational and corporate publishers conduced by Aptara. 90% of respondents reported that ebook sales account for less than 10% of their overall revenue. This survey also estimated that ebook sales rose 40% in 2010. RETURN

10 “Tethered access refers to e-book use provided by an ongoing interaction over the Internet with vendor software to view an e-book that is resident in the vendor’s database” (McKiel, “Download” 2). RETURN

11As Alison Knight points out, ebrary had a competitive edge as a company: it licensed “not only access to its ebook collection but also the use of its platform” (24-5). The ebrary platform is used by other publishers as a way of distributing their ebooks (e.g. Oxford UP, Elsevier, John Wiley & Sons); it is also used by libraries as a neutral platform for relaying electronic content that has been acquired from outside of ebrary’s collection (i.e. electronic theses and dissertations, ebooks purchased direct from publishers). RETURN

12As an added bonus, publishers would be able to use these PDFs as archival files (i.e. for digital preservation in-house). RETURN

13 Although UBC Press digitized most of its remaining backlist at this time, it did not produce PDFs of heavily illustrated books that weren’t well suited to the electronic format, nor did it volunteer books that would require extensive permissions clearance in order to be reproduced electronically. For books that were commonly used in the classroom, UBC Press decided to convert these titles, but withheld the files from the CEL collection so as to protect the print sales that came from course adoptions. RETURN

14 The Universal PDF is not a unique proprietary format, but, rather, is a term used by CodeMantra for its enhanced PDF product. The term itself is protected under copyright. RETURN

15 As of 2011, UBC Press still held distribution contracts with several content aggregators like EBSCO (formerly NetLibrary), ebrary, and MyiLibrary, although these companies no longer produce files for the Press. RETURN

16This new print-on-demand service was arranged to supply print books to individual buyers outside of North America—markets that are particularly expensive to serve, given the low sales figures and high shipping and warehousing costs. RETURN

17 This strategic goal was expressed in the ACP’s 2007-2008 funding application to the Ontario Media Development Corporation. In its application, the ACP (in partnership with the Ontario Book Publishers Organization and Gibson Publishing Connections) put forth a plan to support the “conversion of about 2000 Canadian titles into XML format” for the purpose of “exploiting the converted works beyond the existing scope of institutional markets [emphasis added].” RETURN

18 At the time of publication, Peter Milroy had retired from his position as director and was replaced by Melissa Pitts, former acting marketing manager and senior acquisitions editor for UBC Press. RETURN

19 For more on the role and benefits of using freelancers at UBC Press, see Megan Brand’s 2005 report, “Outsourcing Academia: How Freelancers Facilitate the Scholarly Publishing Process.” RETURN

20 The ability of content producers to leverage existing content and profit from it anew was described by Chris Anderson the “long tail effect” in a 2004 article in Wired magazine. There, Anderson argues that online retailers like iTunes and Netflix—who aren’t bound by the constraints of material storefronts—can stock and sell a wider array of products than bricks-and-mortar retailers. This deep “cybershelf,” coupled with the ability to reach dispersed and underserved customers, increases the ability of those in the entertainment industry—including publishers—to profit from older, low-in-demand content. Erik Brynjolfsson, Yu (Jeffrey) Hu, and Michael D. Smith also discuss this phenomenon as it relates specifically to RETURN

21 At times, publishers may have received as little as 30% of gross sales from its contracts with NetLibrary. Both Questia and ebrary operated on slightly different revenue model than NetLibrary. Instead of selling unlimited access to a whole ebook, these companies charged by usage. Ebrary, for instance, charged a small fee set by the publisher (often $0.25-$0.50) each time that a user copied or printed a page. Publishers would then receive 60-80% of that revenue, depending on their arrangement with the company. Questia also used a “micro-payment scheme,” reimbursing publishers for each page view (Crawley, “University Presses” and “Online”). RETURN

22 Although codeMantra is an American company, “its primary dedicated production, operations and development centers are located in Chennai, India” (codeMantra). Innodata Isogen’s conversion houses are also located in India, Sri Lanka, and the Philippines. RETURN

23 Prices varied according to the length of the book, its complexity level (i.e. number of images and links), and the ebook formats being requested. For instance, the POD PDF, which took less time and effort to produce, was the least expensive ebook format, whereas the EPUB, which required a good deal of additional coding, was the most expensive. RETURN

24 Flowchart provided by Holly Keller. RETURN

25 I have chosen here to focus on UBC Press’s latest outsourcing experience, but as early as 2000, UBC Press had been disappointed with the files it received from content aggregators. For instance, “in NetLibrary’s original iteration, UBC Press found that the HTML format resulted in frequent pagination problems, requiring Press staff to expend significant labour vetting finished books” (Knight 31). RETURN

26 This was a particular problem for books on Asian religion or on Aboriginal language and culture, which contain many foreign language characters. RETURN

27 Without this disclaimer, readers might incorrectly assume that the page numbers found in the index referred to absolute locations within the ebook, when in fact the reflowable text within an EPUB had rendered these page numbers obsolete. RETURN

28 Validation checks the integrity of the code in an ebook file against an XML parser to make sure that the code is well-formed. RETURN

29 The economic fallout of simple errors has been documented in both the publishing world and the world of e-commerce. It has been shown that misspellings in website copy negatively affect online sales, as they raise doubts over the credibility of the website. In one UK study, revenue per visitor doubled after a single typo was fixed (Coughlan). Those who work within the publishing industry have also pointed out to the real cost of errors like typos (see Heffernan). In a recent case, a misprint in a cookbook cost Penguin Group Australia $20,000 dollars in reprint fees (“Cook-book”). RETURN

30 The near-automatic distribution of unchecked files was also made possible by the Press’s use of Collection Point, the digital asset management system developed by CodeMantra. This software, which is designed to deliver digital assets quickly and efficiently, also has an unintended side-effect: it mediates publishers’ interaction with their files in a way that discourages close examination of them. The program does not prompt staff to open or preview the files created by CodeMantra before sending them out to various distribution channels. Because CodeMantra’s end-to-end publishing solution provided an almost seamless, hands-off experience from conversion to distribution, it also enabled staff to circumvent the type of final proofreading that would have been performed were the files produced in house. RETURN

31 In summer 2011, student interns were paid a flat rate of $250 per week. In a 35-hour work week, their pay was equal to $7.14 per hour (less than minimum wage, which at the time was $8.00 per hour). RETURN

32 These estimates are conservative. Given that professional proofreaders are much more thorough, a formal review process would likely cost a great deal more time and money if carried out by a hired freelancer. RETURN

33This may explain the discontinuity and varying quality seen among chapters within the same ebook: if chapters are being divided among employees who aren’t necessarily working together, one chapter may end up with extensively linked notes, while another may not. RETURN

34 Presumably, the geographic distance and difference in time zones—common in offshoring—may have worsened this communication problem. RETURN

35 In support of this point, it should be noted that CodeMantra did not initially offer UBC Press the DTD for its “pubXML”; the Press had to specifically request it in anticipation of this same problem. RETURN

36 University of Ottawa Press has an eBook Coordinator, while Athabasca University Press has a Journals and Digital Coordinator. RETURN

37The .OPF file houses the ebook’s metadata within the EPUB format. In other words, it contains information about the file itself, in addition to containing a manifest of all the other content files in the EPUB package. RETURN

38 In the last round of conversions, the average UBC Press title was 307 pages in length and required 950 links to be inserted. RETURN

39eBOUND reports that the highest-selling ebooks among its members are genre fiction (e.g. romance, thrillers), young adult books, and bestsellers—none of which are published by university presses (“Prioritizing”). RETURN

40 A 2011 ebrary survey found that ebooks loaned by academic libraries are most commonly read on Windows desktops and laptops, or the Apple iPad (McKiel, “Download” 3)—devices which do not require the EPUB format, and to which ePDFs are perhaps better suited. As Peter Milroy points out, PDFs of a trade paperback are almost perfectly sized for the dimensions of an iPad screen: although the text may not be reflowable, the ratio of the original page dimensions (6 by 9 inches) is close enough to the screen’s dimensions (5.8 by 7.75 inches) that the PDF of that original book can be viewed proportionally on the iPad without having to be resized. RETURN

41 For instance, links in the Press’s EPDFs are unidirectional instead of bidirectional: they allow the user to navigate to a location in the text, but not back to the initial position. Unlike the uPDFs produced by CodeMantra, the indexes and tables of contents in these files are not linked to the main text. These features could be achieved in-house, but it would take a considerable amount of time for the staff to implement them. RETURN

42For more on how to prepare documents for EPUB export using styles in Word, see Elizabeth Castro’s EPUB Straight to the Point. RETURN

43 For more on XML-first workflows, see Appendix A: Production and Digital Technology in The Chicago Manual of Style. RETURN

44To see examples of EPUBs produced via this method, visit As is seen here, the TEI community takes a collaborative and transparent approach to textual encoding and digital workflows. This ensures that TEI-based publishing practices are open and accessible. In this way, TEI is perhaps more in keeping with the spirit of information sharing that defines universities and their presses than for-profit technology partners who use “closed” processes and customized forms of XML. RETURN

45 For examples of TEI-based applications and projects, see RETURN

46 Although the University of British Columbia does not have its own digital humanities program, there is a notable institution within the province with whom they could collaborate: the Electronic Textual Cultures Lab at the University of Victoria. RETURN




Appendix A: Ebook Proofing Instructions



Open the file in Adobe Reader or Adobe Acrobat Pro.

File Name

Check that the file name is the ePDF ISBN, not the hardcover, paperback, or EPub ISBN. You can find the assigned ISBNs for any title on the H: drive, in the Departments/Production/CIP ISBN ISSN/ISBN folder.


Check the cover for image quality. Make sure that the image is clear and the type legible. Compare against hard copy of book if necessary (see UBC Press’s Permanent Library located in the Meeting Room, Rm 113).

Make sure that the title and author/editor name(s) are present, and are spelled correctly. Check the spelling against the full title page on the interior, if necessary.

CIP Page

Scroll down to the copyright information page (usually p. iv). Make sure it is the paperback CIP page: i.e., it should list the ISBN numbers for all formats, print and electronic.

Table of Contents (ToC)

Scroll down to the ToC page (usually p. vii).

Make sure the ToC page is linked. Click on a chapter title to go to the opening page of that chapter. Click on the title again to return to the ToC page.

If it isn’t already displayed, open the bookmarked ToC by clicking on the bookmark icon that appears in the lefthand sidebar.

Make sure there is a bookmark for each chapter, and that there are no typos in the chapter titles.

Click on the bookmarks—including the bookmark for the Cover Page—to make sure that they link to the right page.


Scroll down to the List of Illustrations (aka Maps, Figures and Tables, p. ix).

Make sure the name of each illustration/figure/map/table links to those images in the text.

Check the image quality of the illustrations.

Click on the image or image title to link back to the List of Illustrations.


Spotcheck pages throughout the book, checking for odd line breaks.

If the book contains endnotes, click on some of the supernumerals: these should take you to the appropriate chapter in the Notes section. Click on the note number again to return to the main text.

Scroll through the Notes section quickly to make sure the notes in each chapter are linked.

Spotcheck other internal links (e.g. to figures). When checking hyperlinks, make sure the pop-up blocker on your browser is turned off.

Make sure the pages in the PDF file are numbered correctly. The number indicated in the menu bar above should match the number on the page. The prelim pages (for the title page, etc.) should be numbered in roman numerals.


Spotcheck the page numbers in the index to make sure they are linked, and that they take you to the right place. Links for page ranges (p. 88-108) may take you either to the first or last page number in that range.



Validate the File

Before opening the file, you need to validate it—i.e., make sure that its code is well-formed and that the file is formatted properly.

To do this, upload the file to Epubcheck, an online validation tool from Threepress Consulting. Visit Browse to find the location of the EPUB file on the H: drive, then click “validate.”

If the EPUB is valid, a green checkmark will appear. If it is invalid, a red X and an error message will appear.

If the file does not validate, make a note of this, but continue proofing.

Check the File Name

The file name should be the EPUB ISBN for that title — not the hardcover, paperback, or ePDF ISBN. You can find the assigned ISBNs for any title on the H: drive, in the Departments/Production/CIP ISBN ISSN/ISBN folder.

Open the File

Use a free ereading software program like Adobe Digital Editions <http://www.> that can be downloaded from the web and installed locally on your computer. Do not use Sigil to proof these files: in order to open a file within this program, you have to unzip (i.e. dismantle) it, and the linked table of contents will be lost.

Once you have installed such a program, you will usually have to import or add the EPUB file into your “library” in order to view it. To do this, some programs require you to move the file into the program (instead of just viewing the file via the program). If this is the case, make duplicate copies of the files before importing them into the library.

You can also use web-based reading applications, like Ibis Reader, which usually require you to create an account and upload the files to your personal online “library.”

If you have an e-reading device on hand (e.g. data phone or tablet that has an ereader app), you can also use that to check most of the issues below. You can also use a designated ereading device like a Kobo or Nook to view the file; however, at this point in time, Kindles do not read EPUBs and so cannot be used to proof these files. UBC Press has purchased an iPad for this purpose. Check with Laraine or Peter for permission and instructions on how to use this device.

Once the file is open in “reading” mode, check the elements listed below


Check the cover for image quality. Make sure that the image is clear, that the type is legible, and that the cover is not stretched horizantally or is too small. If necessary, compare it against the hard copy of the book (see UBC Press’s Permanent Library located in the Meeting Room, Rm 113).

Make sure that the title and author/editor name(s) are present and are spelled correctly. Check the spelling against the title page, if necessary.

CIP & Series Pages

Make sure that the copyright information page and series page (if used) have been moved from the beginning of the file to the end of the file.

Make sure that the CIP page is the paperback version: i.e. it should list the ISBN numbers for all formats, print and electronic.

Tables of Contents

There are two ToCs to check: the embedded ToC that appears in the body of the text, and the navigational ToC that appears beside it.

To view the embedded ToC, scroll down through the prelimary pages until you reach the Table of Contents. Make sure the items on the ToC page are linked. Click on a chapter title to go to the opening page of that chapter. Click on the title again to return to the ToC page.

If the navigational ToC is “hidden” when you first open the file, look to the lefthand sidebar. There is usually a Bookmark or Contents button that you can click to view the bookmarked ToC. In Adobe Editions, there is also a small arrow that you can click and drag to expand this viewing pane.

Make sure there is a bookmark for each chapter, and that there are no typos in the chapter titles.

Click on the bookmarks—including the bookmark for the Cover Page—to make sure that they link to the right page.


Scroll down to the List of Illustrations (aka Maps, Figures and Tables).

Make sure the name of each illustration/figure/map/table links to those images in the text.

Check the image quality of the illustrations.

Make sure that the titles and captions appear above/below the images, not beside them.

Make sure that the text surrounding the images is well placed and not interrupted by the image.

Check for problems with tables (e.g. misaligned cells or cell contents, tables that have three or more columns and are appearing as text instead of images).

Click on the image or image title to link back to the List of Illustrations.


Scroll/flip through the file, checking for the following problems:

• strange line breaks

• hyphens that appear in odd places, like the middle of a line, or that divide words which shouldn’t be hyphenated

• diacritics/accents that have been captured as images instead of as text. This tends to happen often with Asian characters, but can also happen with accented letters in French words. You will be able to tell if they are images because they will not seem aligned with the rest of the text, and cannot be resized.

Spotcheck internal links. If the book contains endnotes, click on some of the supernumerals: these should take you to the appropriate place in the Notes section. Click on the note number again to return to the main text. If checking hyperlinks, make sure the pop-up blocker on your browser is turned off.

Unlike the ePDF, the text here is reflowable. Don’t worry if it seems like there are odd page breaks (e.g. the title page seems spread across two different pages); the amount of text being displayed adjusts to the size of your screen/window.

Although your reader/browser might display page numbers, these page numbers are not actually a part of the EPUB file. Don’t worry if they aren’t in roman numerals or don’t match the ePDF page count.


Unlike the ePDF, the index in an EPUB is not linked to the main text.

Make sure the following disclaimer is present at the beginning of the index: “The page numbers in this index refer to the print edition of this book.”


The EPUB ISBN should also appear as the ID in the file metadata. Most ereading devices will allow you to view the metadata for an EPUB file, but in order to do this on a computer, you usually need to open up the EPUB file.

One way of doing this is to download and install a free ebook management tool like Calibre < along with a free text editor like Notepad++>.

After adding the EPUB file to the Calibre library, right-click on the title and select “Tweak EPUB.” The select “Explode EPUB.” This will unzip the EPUB so that you can view the files within it.

Look for the .OPF file. It may be contained within the OEBPS folder, and may have a very long name, but it will end with the “.opf” extension.

Right-click on the .OPF file, and choose “Open with” or “Edit with Notepadd++.” This will open the .OPF file, which contains information about the book wrapped in XML tags.

Within the first 20 lines or so, you should see “<dc: identifier,” followed by the EPUB ISBN. If the ISBN number is missing, take note of this.

After checking the metadata, you can exit Notepad++ without saving, and hit “Cancel” on the Calibre “Tweak EPUB” screen.



The Print on Demand (POD) PDF files are essentially print-ready files that are sent to Lightening Source, which prints short runs of softcover books.

Before proofing these files, please consult the LSI File Creation Guide found in Departments/Production/Style Guides and Training/Ebook Proofing, or visit the Lightening Source website to learn more about the specifications for these files <>.

There should be 2 separate PDF files for each title: one for the cover, the other for the book’s interior. Open these files in Adobe Reader or Adobe Acrobat Pro, and check the following:

File Names

Make sure that both file names contain the paperback ISBN — not the hardcover, EPUB or ePDF ISBN. You can find the assigned ISBNs for any title on the H: drive, in the Departments/Production/CIP ISBN ISSN/ISBN folder.

Cover File

Unlike the ePDF and EPUB files, which use lower resolution images, the cover for the POD file should be the high-resolution paperback cover.

This cover should also be the full-wrap cover, with front, back, and spine—not just the front cover.

The back cover should also display the paperback barcode.

Interior File

This PDF should have the paperback copyright information page (CIP page): i.e., it should list the ISBNs for all formats, print and electronic.

Because this file is destined for print, it will not have a linked ToC or any other interactive features contained in the other ebook files.





Books and Articles

Anderson, Chris. “The Long Tail.” Wired (12.10) October 2004.

Albanese, Andrew. “Macmillan Poised to Test Library E-book Model.” Publishers Weekly September 24, 2004.

Castro, Elizabeth. EPUB Straight to the Point: Creating Ebooks for the Apple iPad and Other Readers. Berkeley, CA: Peach Pit Press, 2011.

“Cook-Book Misprint Costs Australian Publishers Dear.” BBC News Online April 17, 2010.

Coughlan, Sean. “Spelling Mistakes ‘Cost Millions’ in Lost Online Sales.” BBC News Online. July 13, 2011.

Crawley, Devon. “Libraries Experiment with E-book Lending,” Quill & Quire June 1, 2000.

Crawley, Devon. “Online E-book Services Struggle to Survive,” Quill & Quire November 1, 2001.

Crawley, Devon. “Scholarly Presses Forgo E-books,” Quill & Quire November 1, 2001.

Crawley, Devon. “University Presses Tread Cautiously with E-books,” Quill & Quire 1 Nov. 2000.

Heffernan, Virginia. “The Price of Typos.” The New York Times [Opinion Pages] July 17, 2011.

MacDonald, Scott. “Heritage Grant Kickstarts E-book Initiative for Indie Publishers,” Quill & Quire, October 20, 2009.

Murray, Chelsea. “Canadian Electronic Library Strikes Potentially Lucrative International Deal for Publishers,” Quill & Quire August 12, 2010.

“Newly Incorporated eBound Canada Offers Digital Solutions to Canadian Publishers,” Quill & Quire June 27, 2011.

Ng-See-Quan, Danielle. “University Libraries Make Canadian Digital Connections,” Quill & Quire November 1, 2008.

Sewell, David and Kenneth Reid. “TEI: Scholarly Publishers Collaborate on XML,” The Exchange, Spring 2010. Association of American University Presses website.

Smith, Briony. “Canadian Firm Pushing Homegrown E-Books to Expanding Academic Market,” Quill & Quire 27 June 2006.

Wittenberg, Kate. “Reimagining the University Press,” Journal of Electronic Publishing 13.2 (Fall 2010).



Coates, Laraine. Interview by author, August 5, 2011.

Keller, Holly. Interview by author, August 5, 2011.

Milroy, Peter. Interview by author, August 5, 2011.



Boshart, Nic. “Question re: Conversion Houses.” July 26, 2011.

Boshart, Nic. “Conversions.” November 17, 2011.

Izma, Steve. “Re: Electronic Publishing at Wilfrid Laurier Press.” March 12, 2011.

Rahtz, Sebastian. “Re: TEI and Ebooks” [TEI-PUB-SIG listserve]. September 22, 2011.

Reed, Kenneth. “Re: TEI and Ebooks” [TEI-PUB-SIG listserve]. September 22 and 26, 2011.


Online Sources

CRKN. “About.” Canadian Research Knowledge Network website. 2011.<>

Digital Book World. “Beyond the Publishing Headlines Roundtable” [webcast]. September 29, 2011. <>

“eBOUND SFU Production Nightmares Round Table”

. eBOUND website. 1 Nov. 2011. 25 Jan. 2011. < >

Lovett, Michael. “Hachette Book Group’s New Library eBook Pricing.” OverDrive Digital Library Blog. September 14, 2012.<>

“Prioritizing Ebook Production: Which Books Should You Convert First?” eBOUND Canada website, April 19, 2012.

Salo, Dorothea. “A Tale of Two Conversion Houses.” Yarineth Blog. 1 April 2000.<>

University of Lethbridge Journal Incubator website.<>

“What is DocBook?” website. <>


MPub Project Reports

Brand, Megan. “Outsourcing Academia: How Freelancers Facilitate the Scholarly Publishing Process.” Master of Publishing Project Report, Simon Fraser University, Vancouver, BC, 2005.

Knight, Alison Elaine. “The Tangled Web: Managing and Confronting Scholarly Ebook Production at UBC Press.” Master of Publishing Project Report, Simon Fraser University, Vancouver, BC, 2007.



Aptara. “Uncovering eBooks’ Real Impact: Aptara’s Third Annual eBook Survey of Publishers.” Falls Church, VA: Aptara, September 2011.

Baldwin, John R. and Wulong Gu. “Basic Trends in Outsourcing and Offshoring in Canada.” Ottawa: Micro-Economic Analysis Division, Statistics Canada, 2008.

Goss Gilroy Inc. “Formative Evaluation of the Aid to Scholarly Publications Program (ASPP) Part II: Context for Scholarly Publishing.” Ottawa: Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council, 22 November, 2004.

McKiel, Allen. “ebrary Download Survey Report.” Monmouth, OR: ebrary, 2011.

—. “200 Global Librarian Ebook Survey.” Tahlequah, OK: ebrary, 2007.

Morissette, René, and Anick Johnson. “Offshoring and Employment in Canada: Some Basic Facts.” Ottawa: Business and Labour Market Development Division, Analytical Studies Branch, Statistics Canada, 2007.

UBC Treasury Strategic and Decision Support. “UBC Press Business Model Review (draft).” Vancouver: UBC Treasury, June 28, 2001.

An Examination of Acquisitions: The Case of University of British Columbia Press


By Murray Chun-Kee Tong

ABSTRACT: Although it is one of the seminal activities in scholarly publishing, acquisition of new manuscripts is little-discussed in either academic or professional literature, or in publishing courses or programs in educational institutions. The creative and entrepreneurial aspects of acquisitions may elude description, but many aspects of the process and its major determinants can be described. This report begins with an examination of acquisitions literature and educational opportunities. It looks at the acquisitions process at a mid-sized Canadian scholarly publisher, University of British Columbia Press, the factors that influence it, and results of these influences, providing practical examples of acquisitions in action. From there, the report describes and analyzes strategies employed by the press’s editors to acquire manuscripts, as well as venues and activities where they seek prospective authors. Lastly, discussion turns to UBC Press’s strategies for dealing with future challenges in the scholarly publishing industry.





Preface: Editorial Acquisitions Strategy at UBC Press

Structure and Function of the Acquisitions Process in Scholarly Publishing
A Brief History of UBC Press
Current Areas and Modes of Acquisition
Scholarly Literature on Scholarly Acquisitions
Professional Literature on Scholarly Acquisitions
Education and Training for Acquisitions Editors

Editorial Acquisitions Processes at UBC Press
Pitching UBC Press to Authors
Editorial and production process
Distribution, sales, and marketing
Where to Acquire Manuscripts
A survey of Canadian scholarly publishers
Other acquisitions activities
Vetting a Book Proposal
Acquisitions Meetings
Factors in Acquiring Manuscripts
Peer Review and the Publications Board
Choosing peer reviewers
The publications board
Editor-Author Relations
Competition for Manuscripts
List-Building, Strategy, and the Importance of Series

The Future of Acquisitions at UBC Press
Challenges and Change at UBC Press
Emerging Areas in UBC Press’s List
Workflow, Integration, and Technology


Appendix 1: Survey of Canadian Scholarly Publishers
Appendix 2: Case Studies
Appendix 3: Standard Printing Estimate




My thanks to Rowland Lorimer and Mary Schendlinger of the Master of Publishing Program faculty for their insight, helpfulness, and patience in supervising this project report. John Maxwell provided a deluge of ideas early in this project’s conception.

My internship at UBC Press has been successful, stimulating, and plain fun thanks to my wonderful colleagues in every department. Their efforts make it joyful and humbling to work at UBC Press. In particular, acquisitions editors Emily Andrew, Darcy Cullen, Melissa Pitts, Randy Schmidt, and Jean Wilson took the time to help me understand their mysterious art. Director Peter Milroy provided much encouragement and gave me numerous opportunities to learn every aspect of the craft of scholarly publishing, and took on the task of reading this report and making valuable suggestions to ensure its integrity.

My friends Darryl, Ian, Kathleen & Darryl, Gord, Dave, Lee-Ann, Elissa, Jeff, John, and countless others understood my compulsion to light out for the West Coast and pursue some amorphous adventure. In particular, Alex always gave me a good laugh and an ear during the busiest parts of the program.

My parents, Justina and Frank Tong, offered constant love and support that I could feel from halfway across Canada. My sister, Tracey, reminded me I wasn’t alone and always made sure I was getting enough to eat.

And finally, my dear Catherine has given me all the love, support, encouragement and stimulation I could ever dream of in a friend and partner. This project truly would not have been possible without her.



Preface: Editorial acquisitions strategy at UBC Press

Many aspects of scholarly publishing – including editing, management, accounting, marketing, distribution, and data tracking – are explored in some depth in peer-reviewed journals and business-to-business publications.[1] Yet, there has been little more than general statements and recommendations on the subject of the acquisitions process – that is, the submission of manuscripts from an author to an acquisitions editor, or the solicitation of a manuscript or book by an acquisitions editor from an author, and the factors that influence decisions to publish. This report takes a closer look at the process of acquiring manuscripts in scholarly publishing, and captures some of the determinants in an editor’s – and a press’s – acquisitions decisions.

The foundation of this report comes from my internship between April and August 2008 at the University of British Columbia Press, or UBC Press, in Vancouver, B.C. The internship gave me the opportunity to closely observe the manuscript acquisition process, through attendance of an introductory meeting between an acquisitions editor and a prospective author; editorial acquisitions meetings, where the press’s editors and director decide which manuscripts to pursue; and a major gathering of social sciences and humanities academics in Canada, where many scholarly manuscripts were pitched, discussed, and acquired. Further information on the acquisitions process and decisions have come from interviews with UBC Press’s acquisitions editors.

This report is divided into three chapters. The first chapter provides an overview of UBC Press’s operations as related to acquisitions, a review of scholarly and professional literature on acquisitions, and an examination of the training and education available to acquisitions editors. First, a brief history of the press, its areas of specialization, and the skills and backgrounds of the acquisitions team provide context to decisions about which proposals are pursued. Next, a review of literature on scholarly acquisitions and a consideration of the extent to which theory informs practice aims to give insight into publishing strategy and reasons for acquisitions decisions. This literature cuts a wide swath through some acquisitions-related subjects, including publishing fashions, technology, the scholarly book market, and academic trends, although funding – a major factor in acquisitions decisions – is under-discussed. Finally, the chapter examines the current training and education offered to acquisitions editors, and where acquisitions knowledge resides in the industry. Together, these elements provide the framework within which acquisitions editors learn their craft.

The second chapter gives a detailed description and analysis of the current editorial acquisitions process at UBC Press, based on observations of acquisitions meetings and qualitative interviews with acquisitions editors, to illuminate what factors inform their decisions. Specifically, this chapter describes the venues at which editors seek manuscripts and proposals, and the methods they employ to persuade scholars to publish with UBC Press. From there, the determining factors in accepting a proposal, and then a manuscript, as well as the general relative importance of these factors, are explored. The chapter goes on to discuss forces outside the immediate control of the acquisitions editor, such as funding and decisions of peer reviewers, and ways in which editors can nevertheless influence these factors.

The third chapter identifies some of the challenges facing UBC Press’s acquisitions activities, and suggests ways the press can meet these challenges to enhance future prospects. The press has already employed some of these methods, including the building of new series and collaborations with multi-collaborator research initiatives, with some success. Others, such as increasing integration of departments, have been explored but not yet implemented fully. This chapter also examines some tools, information, and strategic changes that could aid UBC Press’s acquisitions editors in performing their duties more effectively.



Chapter 1: Structure and Function of the Acquisitions Process in Scholarly Publishing

A Brief History of UBC Press

Established in 1971, UBC Press is Canada’s third-largest university press and one of the country’s largest publishers west of Toronto. UBC Press publishes fifty to sixty scholarly monographs and collections in the social sciences and humanities, enjoying a sterling reputation in numerous disciplines. Its large and varied lists in political science, law, western Canadian history, and Asian studies are unparalleled among Canadian university presses, and its titles have won many prestigious awards for scholarly works in the social sciences and humanities, including the Raymond Klibansky and Harold Adams Innis Prizes from the Aid to Scholarly Publications Program, the Donner Prize, and numerous other discipline-specific awards. UBC Press was recently recognized by the Association of Book Publishers of British Columbia (ABPBC) as 2008 Publisher of the Year.

UBC Press’s success and stature among university presses in North America, however, is relatively recent. The press endured a near-death and resurrection in the late 1980s and early 1990s that has been documented by academic studies such as Simon Fraser University Master of Publishing project reports, and internally prepared reports such as the UBC Press Review: 2007 Self-Study. This change was so dramatic that the self-study divides the press’s history into pre- and post-1990 periods.

Pre-1990, UBC Press had been struggling financially for years and was publishing ten to fifteen books a year in a wide array of disciplines. The press’s transformation began in 1990 with the appointment of Peter Milroy, a book publisher with 20 years of experience in trade, scholarly, college, and legal publishing – and arguably Canada’s most experienced acquisitions editor in social sciences at the time – as director. Spearheaded by Milroy, the press underwent a wholesale restructuring that included dismissal of staff members, increased technology use, and expansion into marketing and distributing services for other publishers.[2]

UBC Press also refocused its areas of publication. After the restructuring, Milroy developed the editorial program to more aggressively acquire manuscripts in the press’s more consistent areas of strength, such as western Canadian history and First Nations studies, while cutting acquisitions in areas that were already being pursued by more prestigious and better-financed publishers, such as literary criticism and literary history.[3] Despite complaints from scholars in these disciplines, this strategy allowed Wilson, who was the only acquisitions editor on staff from 1990 to 1993, to focus on areas of strength and build UBC Press’s reputation, rather than spreading her efforts thinly across many disciplines.[4]

The hiring of Laura Macleod in 1993 as the press’s second acquisitions editor was fortuitous, says Wilson. Macleod, who lived in Toronto, became UBC Press’s de facto central Canadian office, raising its national profile while giving her the opportunity to pursue manuscripts and scholars in central Canada. Macleod’s hiring precipitated UBC Press’s expansion into other disciplines, particularly political science.[5] In 1998, Emily Andrew was hired to succeed Macleod, and developed Macleod’s early acquisitions efforts into Canada’s pre-eminent scholarly list in political science, as borne out by the press’s large and varied list, number of awards, and her own prestige in the country’s political science community. She also developed major lists in military history and Asian studies during this time.[6] In the same year, the press hired Randy Schmidt, who had been working in the editorial-production department, to acquire manuscripts in environmental and resource studies, which flourished under his command. Schmidt later developed the country’s dominant list in legal studies and the environment. Melissa Pitts of Toronto joined the press as assistant director and eastern Canada manager in 2005; in addition to managerial duties, she acquires (on a part-time basis) manuscripts in Canadian history and urban planning.[7]

Jean Wilson retired in July 2008. She was succeeded by Darcy Cullen, also formerly of the editorial-production department, who took over Wilson’s files in regional history, First Nations studies, northern studies, and education, among other disciplines.


Current Areas and Modes of Acquisition

At present, these are the acquisitions editors and the subject areas in which they acquire manuscripts:

Emily Andrew: Asian Studies, Political Science and Political Philosophy, Military History, Transnational and Multicultural Studies, Communications

Darcy Cullen: Canadian History, Regional History (i.e., B.C. and other regions), Native Studies, Sexuality Studies, Northern and Arctic Studies, Health Studies, Education

Melissa Pitts: Canadian History, Sociology, Urban Studies and Planning

Randy Schmidt: Forestry, Environmental Studies, Sustainable Development, Geography, Law and Society[8]

While these are the mandated core fields where most editorial activity takes place, the press occasionally publishes books in other areas. In highly specialized projects, Milroy may handle acquisitions duties, as he has in the past with large projects such as the four-volume reference The Birds of British Columbia, and complex, heavily illustrated books such as Chinese Opera: Images and Stories and Vanishing British Columbia.

Several common threads run through the press’s acquisitions team. Each of the four acquisitions editors, as well as the recently retired Wilson, holds a graduate degree related to his or her areas of acquisitions among their qualifications. As will be noted in “Scholarly Literature on Scholarly Acquisitions” (page 6), an advanced degree is often considered a basic qualification for scholarly acquisitions editors, so that they speak the language of academics and understand the scholarly environment. Moreover, Cullen and Schmidt both began at UBC Press in editorial-production, and have manuscript editing experience at the press as well as knowledge of its publishing process. This serves as a major advantage in communicating with authors; Schmidt notes that he can articulate the entire production process clearly to authors writing their first book, or a first book with UBC Press.[9]

Both Andrew and Pitts also have extensive experience in publishing outside of acquisitions, giving them extra insight into the business side of the industry. Andrew has worked in rights at HarperCollins Publishers, and sales and marketing at University of Toronto Press and at a major literary agency, and Pitts’s experience includes sales and marketing management at University of Toronto Press. With these backgrounds, Andrew and Pitts have a deeper understanding of the selling points and challenges of marketing and selling a book while it is still a manuscript or even a proposal, giving them a wider perspective and sense of publishing strategy.[10] The acquisitions editors’ diverse skill sets and experience provide great benefit to UBC Press by covering the spectrum of the publishing process and the Canadian publishing industry.

The foregoing sections examined the context of UBC Press’s list. To understand how the press’s challenges and strengths fit into the wider context of acquisitions in scholarly publishing, this report will next examine literature, education, and training for acquisitions editors to determine how they reflect – or rather, how well they reflect – acquisitions practices at UBC Press.


Scholarly Literature on Scholarly Acquisitions

Despite the “scholarly” adjective in reference to “literature,” there is little academic discussion of the scholarly publishing process, particularly on the subject of acquiring new manuscripts. A survey of recent literature on editorial acquisitions shows that most scholarly articles about acquisitions editing are general and unsystematized, with titles such as “Five Movie Scenes from the Author/Acquisitions Editor Relationship”[11] and “If You Plan It, They Will Come: Editors as Architects.”[12] These articles chiefly discuss the general nature of acquisitions, provide portraits of a “perfect” acquisitions editor, and remind readers of an editor’s mandate to find solid scholarship without regard for profitability.

A number of articles, including many in Chronicle of Higher Education, attempt to demystify the process of manuscript submission, editing, publishing, and marketing.[13] This perhaps reflects academics’ general lack of awareness of the scholarly publishing process, and the role of the editor and publisher in that process; on the flipside, it may also reflect the continuous need for scholarly publishers to educate junior scholars on publishing opportunities as membership in the academy changes. Indeed, Sanford Thatcher writes in the Journal of Scholarly Publishing, “In the new electronic age, when more and more scholars think they need only a computer and the latest version of QuarkXPress to be their own publishers, there is a greater need than ever for us to define what we as publishers bring to the process of scholarly communication.”[14] His subsequent explanations of an acquisitions editor’s functions are intended to help readers – that is, people in scholarly publishing – expound the benefits of the university press. To acquire appropriate manuscripts for publication, it appears that editors at scholarly presses must explain what it is they do with manuscripts and why. Some of the activities UBC Press acquisitions editors engage in to raise awareness of scholarly publishing in general, and of their press in particular, are addressed on page30.

The dearth of scholarly literature is not surprising, given that acquiring new books is considered the most mysterious and subjective process in publishing. Editor Mary Schendlinger has asserted that acquisitions “is the most entrepreneurial part of the publishing business,”[15] the most personal, and the most creative. Director of University of Pennsylvania Press Eric Halpern calls acquisitions editors “the impresarios of a publishing house,” adding that “they must rely on their own inner qualities and motivations, their own judgment, ambition, and, it has to be added, charm … the press can only be as good as what their editors bring in.”[16] The personal and creative nature of acquisitions editing is undoubtedly one of the reasons it is rarely taught explicitly or singly, as will be discussed in “Education and Training of Acquisitions Editors” on page 14.

Another reason for the lack of literature may be related to two characteristics of the scholarly publishing industry: it is collegial, and it is slow. For the most part, acquisitions editors are too busy to keep up with academic musings on acquisitions strategy; instead, they confer with colleagues at both their own and other presses to compare strategy and practice – often in ways that other industries, gagged by competition and proprietary interests, cannot.[17] In addition, the nature of acquisitions is slow and multi-faceted. The success of an acquisitions program – and the acquisitions editors who perform its functions – can be measured in several ways: cohesiveness of manuscripts found, rejection rate, and number of desired manuscripts acquired in competition with other presses. Further in the process, author satisfaction and quickness of turnaround can be linked to the efficacy of acquisitions processes. The measure of a successful acquisition, asserts Doug Armato, director of University of Minnesota Press, does not begin until transmittal, when a manuscript officially moves into production.[18] A major part of acquisitions success is gauged by audience response – strength of reviews, course adoptions, sales, and awards. Even further in the future, success can be measured by number of reprints, demand for updated editions, and influence on future scholarship. Because these many measures of success often stretch into years, there can be little scrutiny of the acquisitions process in the early stages. On hiring a new acquisitions editor, Eric Halpern asserts that “when you’re hiring an editor as a junior editor, it will take, say, five years to build a head of steam in a new field, and almost as long to determine that things aren’t working as you hoped.”[19] This statement easily applies to assessing the effectiveness of an acquisitions program. If it takes years at a minimum to determine the success or failure of an acquisitions program, drawing assertions across several different presses would be an immense labour for any scholarly study, on top of other variables.

The financial factors that influence acquisitions editing are little discussed in the literature, possibly because the mandate of scholarly publishing is to disseminate knowledge in important academic areas where book publishing may not be profitable. Although scholarly publishers are supposed to produce works of worthwhile scholarship with little to no regard for profitability, if not financial viability, the fact is that they do make decisions based on sales potential and funding availability as well as scholarly merit. This phenomenon is more readily acknowledged in professional literature on publishing, such as Quill and Quire, where the majority of articles on scholarly publishing from 1993 to 2008 deal with publishers’ financial difficulties and various efforts to publish more profitable books. Financial influences on acquisitions decisions are further discussed in chapter 2.

There are some exceptions to the dearth of scholarly literature on the influence of financial planning on acquisitions. In a 1999 article, Mike Shatzkin asserts that financial tools such as profit-and-loss (P&L) statements would be more useful if they attempted to quantify factors related to profitability. For example, variables such as price points for books in various formats and subjects, and level of funding for particular academic fields, could be applied to financial estimates of a book’s cost and reward. Taking many such variables into account is no guarantee of an accurate estimate; however, the acquisitions process at many publishers does not even “make any attempt to measure the different degrees of risk associated with different acquisition decisions … almost all acquisition decisions are made with one set of sales assumptions, an idea as hard to defend as it is ubiquitous.”[20] Shatzkin recommends that publishers consider the best, worst, and most likely scenarios when drawing up P&L statements and making sales assumptions.

An article in the Journal of Scholarly Publishing, entitled “The Characteristics of the Ideal Acquisition Editor,” summarizes the model and content of most scholarly literature on the subject. Noting that “a good acquisition editor is the heart and soul of a list and the reason authors come back to a press after their first book,”[21] it suggests several universal qualities in a model acquisitions editor that can optimize a press’s list and retain successful authors. A number of similar articles suggest attributes of the ideal acquisitions editor. Obviously, traits can be manifested in different ways, and some attributes are not appropriate for some editors or their acquisitions strategies, or for some university presses. The table below summarizes selected characteristics from scholarly literature, how they can work to a press’s advantage, and disadvantages they may carry:

Characteristic How it can be applied Disadvantages
Competitiveness with other presses

Can concentrate on developing and improving manuscript ideas, meeting “the highest standards of scholarship and literary quality”[22]

Can lead to “shortcircuiting of regular procedures, the too liberal use of advance contracts, the questionable resort to ‘package deals’” – in short, to dilution of scholarship[23]
Skill and experience in manuscript editing (substantive, stylistic, copy editing, etc.) Can give their manuscripts additional editorial insight, adding a layer of scrutiny to the process; strong understanding of “structure, narrative, style and synthesis”[24] Strong focus on editing may downplay importance of research content; “many publishers have acquisition editors whose sole task is to acquire books, and who have no experience in hands-on editing at all … there is little opportunity to do any substantive work”[25]
Have PhD or advanced degree in field of acquisition Can facilitate better understanding of the practices and lingo of the scholarly research process; recognize strong scholarship May have tendency to focus too strongly on their area of study, losing acquisitions opportunities in other areas
Strong individual vision and confidence Can strengthen personal involvement and commitment to the strength of their list; can help to “serve as activist in using our lists to communicate our message to the public”[26] Must maintain balance of other perspectives from other members of the publishing chain;[27]
“Must remain modest enough to learn from the advice of knowledgeable others”[28]
Good contacts in field of acquisition May be knowledgeable about their subjects; broad scope of knowledge; may be able to acquire desirable manuscripts; more likely to find appropriate peer reviewers May pursue books they want instead of strengthening and diversifying the press’s list; “editors may think the best authors in a field are the ones they happen to know”[29]
Knowledge of emerging trends Up-to-date knowledge of field can help sell more books and influence scholarship[30] May constantly be seeking the next big trend instead of focusing on bread-and-butter manuscripts
Understanding of academic market “Mastering the terrain and culture” of academic readership may be result in higher sales[31] May search for guaranteed sales rather than groundbreaking, controversial manuscripts
Imagine successful books before they approach May help conceptualize success through strong vision May discard too many potentially successful proposals that don’t fit the mould of an ideal book[32]

As the table shows, many characteristics of an ideal acquisitions editor can be contradicted – and are, in the literature itself. This suggests that these qualities are identified subjectively and are highly dependent on factors such as the size of the university press, the breadth of the press’s list, the fields in which the editor acquires, the publishing process at the press, and the qualities of the production, marketing, and distribution departments that work with the editor. Milroy, a 40-year veteran of the publishing industry and a former acquisitions editor, notes that many publishing companies in Canada were started or developed by amateurs who made up strategies as they went along. There may be some generalities to choosing what books to publish, or what characteristics in an editor secures the most desirable books, but “every situation is different and every book is different.”[33]


Professional Literature on Scholarly Acquisitions

In addition to scholarly literature, there is a variety of professional literature on the Canadian publishing industry to be found in periodicals such as Quill and Quire, and newsletters and periodicals from publishing associations, including the Association of American University Presses (AAUP), the ABPBC, the Association of Canadian Publishers (ACP), and the Association of Canadian University Presses (ACUP). Articles in these and other similar periodicals focus on the practical aspects of scholarly publishing and are probably more widely read; at UBC Press, for example, Quill and Quire is circulated as a hard and electronic copy, and association e-newsletters are routinely sent to all staff members. However, like the scholarly literature, the professional literature contains little discussion of acquisitions editing in any form, particularly when it comes to scholarly publishing.

An oft-discussed issue at UBC Press meetings is the shrinking market of individuals purchasing scholarly monographs, the raison d’être of university presses. This is similarly reflected in the pages of Quill and Quire, which published seven articles in the last ten years on various strategies employed by Canadian university presses to raise readership. As early as 1997, Quill and Quire suggested that because “most scholarly books in Canada do not sell more than 500 copies … why not simply make bibliographic records and abstracts available electronically and let libraries print copies of the book – utilitarian ones, admittedly – if and when clients demand them?”[34] This phenomenon has been attributed to shrinking budgets for libraries, once reliable buyers of monographs, and will be further explored in chapter 2.

Professional literature in the 1990s also indicated a trend toward awareness of competition from other scholarly presses as well as trade publishers. At the same time, trade publishing by university presses was being vigorously pursued. Quill and Quire has examined in detail the shift of Canadian university presses to seeking out titles with trade appeal and buttressing them with higher publicity budgets and inventive marketing schemes.[35] However, American university presses that have dipped into trade publishing “have seen mounting deficits due to heavy returns,” and have even abandoned marginal academic fields, in some cases jeopardizing their scholarly mandates, to keep their dubious trade programs afloat.[36] Tracking these trends has allowed university presses and interested scholars to see how colleagues across North America are dealing with industry-wide problems related to lists, if not individual acquisitions.


Education and Training for Acquisitions Editors

In addition to literature, publishing professionals’ training and education informs theory and practice in scholarly publishing. Jean Wilson notes a generational divide in the way new acquisitions editors are trained. When she began her editing career at University of Toronto Press in 1968, she received two years of apprenticeship as a copy editor while on the job, with senior editors going over her work. This practice, she says, has become less commonplace, replaced by publishing program internships and increased use of specialist freelance editors.[37] Laura Macleod agrees, noting that “there’s no time for young editors to apprentice anymore.”[38]

A relatively new phenomenon, publishing programs and courses, are growing in number, and are becoming an important avenue in influencing publishing practices by producing many qualified and motivated – if not experienced – individuals who are entering the industry. Notable publishing programs in Canada include Simon Fraser University’s Master of Publishing Program and Summer Publishing Workshops, Centennial College’s Book and Magazine Publishing Program, Humber College’s Creative Book Publishing Certificate, and Ryerson University’s Publishing Certificate Program. Internationally, prestigious publishing programs and courses are offered at Oxford Brookes University and the University of Reading in the United Kingdom; the National University of Ireland; the University of Stirling in Scotland; and Columbia College, New York University, and Stanford University in the United States. Publishing programs can also be found in Australia, Germany, India, Kenya, Malaysia, and the Netherlands, among other countries. In examining the websites for these programs, I found that none offers any formal course in acquisitions, and few even include it on a list of expected outcomes or skills acquired.[39]

Wilson also noted that she received much benefit and training from meeting industry colleagues in provincial and national associations. Since her career began, the number of these industry organizations has grown, and they have figured more significantly in the publishing industry, continuing to offer education and training for both freelance and staff editors of all types.[40] Some of Canada’s industry organizations include the Editors’ Association of Canada (formerly the Freelance Editors’ Association of Canada, which Wilson helped to found in 1979), ACP (1976), ACUP (1972), and, more locally, the ABPBC (1974).

Macleod noted these absences more than ten years ago when she wrote that higher education publishing programs and editors’ associations offer training in copy editing, managing editing, structural editing, and proofreading, but “very little for acquisitions beyond an introductory lecture or two.” She further argues that, “contrary to the opinion that acquisitions editors are born, not made, many acquisitions skills can in fact be taught.”[41] Her own “wish list” of teachable acquisitions-related topics includes:

  • effective presentation of prospective projects to other members of the publishing team, including both press staff and editorial board members
  • retention of good authors
  • research methods to recognize market trends and indicators
  • contract negotiation and development[42]

In fact, many of these skills are being taught; the latter three, for example, are discussed in detail in Simon Fraser University’s Master of Publishing Program, albeit not as major concepts, and not under the rubric of acquisitions editing. The AAUP, the foremost scholarly press organization in North America, has many educational resources, expert lists, regional and national conferences, and workshops where publishing staff can exchange information and industry wisdom on many publishing subjects, but similarly has relatively few resources on acquisitions editing. One of those resources was a two-day program in 2008 aimed at new and early-career acquisitions editors that explored:

  • list building (defining your niche, building in new areas quickly, pb reprints and co-pubs, and book series)
  • title budgets (from the P&L to the pub plan)
  • contracts (royalties & advances, subsidiary rights, and digital rights issues)
  • the publishing process (peer review, working with support staff, the editorial board)
  • ethics and competition with other presses
  • communications with in-house colleagues (especially working with marketing)
  • managing authors in the publishing partnership process[43]

Again, several of these subjects are explored in publishing programs and courses, including the Simon Fraser University Master of Publishing Program. It appears that many acquisition-related topics are covered in the educational initiatives, but there is no curriculum model for what areas should be covered when teaching acquisitions editing.

Milroy calls publishing “anarchistic,” with a history of entrepreneurs reinventing the rules of the trade with each new venture. While there are certain pervasive industrial models that approach the status of accepted industry wisdom – for example, he says that many financial parameters for scholarly publishing emerged from the model of McGraw-Hill – most publishers had to invent their strategies on the fly.[44] This is borne out by a 2008 AAUP panel session entitled “Finding and Training Acquisitions Editors,” in which three senior members of U.S. scholarly presses discussed strategies for hiring and teaching acquisitions editors. Some general principles were trotted out, but the session mostly demonstrated that even experienced professionals at prestigious university presses do not have systematic practices when it comes to hiring or training new acquisitions editors. For example, University of Pennsylvania Press has no training process; new acquisitions editors are copied on all memos, and attend board meetings and formal seminars for interns – including a new acquisitions editor with no previous scholarly publishing experience.[45]

Because different presses have achieved success in their particular areas of publishing through myriad acquisitions strategies, there is no accepted paradigm for acquisitions success. What may therefore be valuable to educational and training programs in the future is an overview of acquisitions editing strategy with case studies, which looks at strategies employed at different presses, and benchmarking of their results. This would be more easily accomplished with scholarly presses than with trade, as scholarly presses are more structured and generally pursue manuscripts in the same fields.

Generally, publishers think of basic editing as the foundation upon which to build editorial skills, and acquisitions as the cornerstone of creating good books – the decision-making on which manuscripts are worthy of editing in the first place. In a 1991 article, former University of Washington Press editor-in-chief Naomi Pascal demanded that acquisitions editors demonstrate competence in foundational editing skills – such as substantive, stylistic, and copy editing – even if they won’t be doing the actual work: “Very few acquiring editors, it is true, have the time to carry out meticulous line editing of every manuscript they bring in. But shouldn’t all dentists know how to clean teeth, even if they usually leave the actual performance to others?”[46] Milroy adds that experience and knowledge in publishing areas such as marketing and sales provide valuable background for acquisitions editors, as it has for Emily Andrew and Melissa Pitts. Formal curricular programs, he says, help students develop the “vocabulary” of publishing and learn the basic structure and function of the industry, but students don’t graduate with industry-ready skills – only experience in the workplace can equip them with those.[47]

Macleod recommends that university presses “place more emphasis not only on developing formal training opportunities for beginning acquisitions editors, but also on education for those in mid-career.”[48] Milroy agrees, citing short, intensive workshops – such as the aforementioned AAUP workshops – as excellent training opportunities.[49] In practice, however, scholarly publishing staff are already severely taxed on time and forced to operate on skimpy budgets, making mid-career educational activities a challenge to accomplish. At UBC Press, for example, “the level of activity makes if difficult to allow for consistent staff training and professional development”[50] in all editorial activities, including acquisitions.



While many generalizations can be made about scholarly publishing, the unique history, staffing, areas of focus, and strategies of each university press are so varied that one cannot broadly apply a conclusion about one press to another. For this reason, because the nature of acquisitions is itself slow and multi-faceted, and because publishers discuss such acquisitions theory outside the confines of the journal, scholarly literature chiefly offers generalizations that may outline the ideal for acquisitions but often bear little resemblance to reality. Professional literature, on the other hand, tends to be case-specific and to focus on news and market trends. Publishing programs and courses offered by higher learning institutions and professional associations concentrate on bricks-and-mortar subjects in publishing while appearing to teach little about acquisitions, but in fact do touch upon numerous aspects; rather, they lack a cohesive curriculum plan on acquisitions editing because there is no pervasive industry model or strategy. Training opportunities exist for early- and mid-career acquisitions editors, however, and these educational and training avenues may mature and mingle with the apprenticeship model that has been prevalent in “traditional” acquisitions training of the previous generation of editors.

The incomplete picture of acquisitions gleaned from these sources points to a strong focus on the practical aspect – the actual acquiring of manuscripts. As noted previously, despite the valuable lessons that can be learned in an academic environment, being an acquisitions editor is a vocation that requires a great deal of entrepreneurship, on-the-fly learning, and multi-tasking, qualities that are more effectively acquired and honed in the workplace than in the classroom. Chapter 2 will explore the acquisitions process in detail, based on observation and analysis of practices at UBC Press.



Chapter 2: Editorial Acquisitions Processes at UBC Press

Whilechapter 1 examined theoretical constructs around acquisitions, this chapter will look at acquisitions practice at UBC Press. Specifically, I will explore how numerous factors both inside and outside the press influence the decision to publish, examine how the press attracts prospective authors, and look at some strategic concerns related to acquisitions, such as list-building and series creation.

The acquisitions process in scholarly publishing is markedly different from that of trade publishing, with a highly regimented system in place to ensure a work’s academic integrity. After a manuscript proposal is approved for possible publication by the press director (usually seeking consensus of the acquisitions editors), peer reviewers scrutinize the manuscript and offer their assessments. The author then has a chance to respond to any criticisms of or questions about the manuscript. From there, the press’s publications board, composed of scholars independent of the press’s staff, approves publication under the university imprint based on the reviewers’ assessments, the author’s responses, and further input from the editorial staff. The final decision to publish, however, rests with the director.

Acquisitions editors and publishers look for certain things in a book, readers look for others, and board members still others. While these attributes may not be mutually exclusive, the differences often influence decisions on whether a book will be published. Factors outside the direct publishing process, such as maintenance of good relations with the scholarly community at large and competition from other presses for the manuscript, can also affect the publishing decision. Lastly, thinking about an overall strategy for acquisitions will be explored.


Pitching UBC Press to Authors

An acquisitions meeting between senior editor Emily Andrew and Dr. Karen Flynn, a professor of African-American Studies at the University of Illinois, is the foundation for the following discussion. The two discussed Flynn’s proposal for a manuscript that explores the history of the Afro-Caribbean diaspora, focusing on women who have migrated to Canada.

The meeting took place in Vancouver, where Flynn was attending the Congress of the Humanities and Social Sciences, or simply “Congress” (a major scholarly meeting that will be discussed in detail in “Where to Acquire Manuscripts” on page 27). During this meeting, Andrew noted the reasons she was interested in the manuscript: the research explores new terrain in the history and sociology of Caribbean-born women in Canada. Furthermore, the proposed book would fit into several of UBC Press’s traditional areas of strength – Canadian history, gender studies, and transnational and migration studies. The fact that the manuscript has a secondary focus on nursing was of interest; UBC Press, Andrew noted, has recently developed a sub-list in Canadian nursing history with books such as An Officer and a Lady: Canadian Military Nursing and the Second World War, Healing Henan: Canadian Nurses at the North China Mission, 1888–1947, and Place and Practice in Canadian Nursing History. The synergy created by these books, Andrew suggested, could help get Flynn’s book read by more scholars.

In pitching UBC Press to a prospective author, Andrew discusses sales points that can be divided into two parts: creating the best possible book out of the author’s scholarship, and getting the finished book into the hands of as many readers as possible – in other words, the editorial and production process, and marketing, sales, and distribution. Both of these aspects of the prospective author sales pitch will be described below.


Editorial and production process

Andrew cited UBC Press’s record of author satisfaction and high number of repeat authors as credentials of its strong editorial and production staff. She made especial note of the expediency of the publishing process thanks to the press’s better use of technology, greater selectivity, and commitment to a high level of service to authors. If all processes go smoothly, the release of a scholarly monograph can take as little as nine months from the receipt of the author’s final manuscript submission (although ten to twelve months is a more typical time frame). This makes UBC Press twice as fast as other major Canadian university presses at publishing a book – a quality that, while not important to the press in itself, is viewed as important by authors. Furthermore, Andrew said, the press’s acquisitions editors are committed to reading significant portions of a manuscript before the review process, giving the author greater confidence in the work before it is submitted for peer review. (It is an open secret that few acquisitions editors read much of an author’s manuscript at all.) This means that, along with the copy editor, at least two editors – the acquisitions editor and the production editor – will read most or all of the manuscript during the publishing process.

Andrew also detailed the major areas where she could be helpful in making suggestions to the author. These include:

  • smoothing transitions between chapters;
  • identifying opportunities to push scholarship into new directions. For example, Andrew noted that the history and sociology of black Canadians from the 1920s to the 1950s has been little studied. This is an area of focus this book could pioneer if Flynn wishes to examine this time period;
  • pointing out emerging scholarly trends, which could help the author tailor a manuscript for higher readership or course adoption potential.

As the latter two points indicate, Andrew is professionally interested in having a solid overview of an academic field, which can provide helpful counterpoint to a scholar’s specialization.

An important part of a press’s ability to publish any manuscript is available funding. (While presented as a given during the meeting, funding is an under-discussed if not ignored area in scholarly literature. For further discussion, see “Funding” on page 47.) Andrew told Flynn about several major funding sources for scholarly books for which her book is eligible. While Flynn was encouraged to seek out possible funding sources to support publication from her home institution or from research organizations in related fields, Andrew assured her that UBC Press would apply for funding on her behalf to raise the likelihood of publication should the work be accepted.

When an accepted manuscript passes to production, Andrew said, UBC Press employs professional proofreaders, a practice that is becoming less prevalent among university presses due to cost. Attention is also paid to a book’s design; the press employs prestigious freelance designers to give each book a distinctive cover, and many have won design awards. The interiors of many books are designed and typeset using templates created by award-winning book designers, which makes the finished book attractive but still takes advantage of production efficiencies, expediting the production process. Finally, the press’s books have been recognized with excellent reviews and numerous awards in all fields in which it publishes.

Above all, Andrew further encouraged Flynn to find a press that was a good fit for her needs, and, as she noted to me after the meetings, she refrained from speaking of the disadvantages of other presses, such as lack of personal attention. In a small and collegial industry such as scholarly publishing, it is usually counterproductive to berate the competition, even if a press tacitly defines its strengths in comparison with others.


Distribution, sales, and marketing

During the meeting, Andrew emphasized the reach of UBC Press’s distribution network. UBC Press has a distribution agreement with University of Washington Press (UWP), which lists UBC Press books in its catalogue and sells them to U.S. bookstores and book-buying venues. UWP also displays, promotes, and sells UBC Press books at selected U.S. learned society conferences it attends. While many U.S. academics and booksellers view Canadian scholarly books with suspicion, Andrew said UBC Press is expert at getting its books sold south of the border. In addition, Peter Milroy attends major international rights events, including the Frankfurt and London Book Fairs, the AAUP annual general meeting, and BookExpo America, maximizing opportunities for subsidiary rights sales.

Additionally, while it is common practice among university presses to release hardcover and paperback editions simultaneously to facilitate course adoptions, UBC Press releases paperbacks at least six months after the hardcover release. This allows the press to maximize hardcover sales, chiefly to libraries. The delayed paperback release also affords a book a second chance at being highlighted in the press’s catalogue, prolonging its life in the frontlist.

Finally, UBC Press is highly conscious of the timing of book releases. Fall books are aggressively marketed for higher education course adoptions in both the fall and winter semesters, while spring books gain a central presence at the annual Congress of the Humanities and Social Sciences in late May and early June. In fact, books are often rushed through production and printing with an eye to Congress; as noted in the following section, Congress is the most important venue in Canada to launch and display new scholarly works in the social sciences and humanities, and many authors enjoy launching books there to show their colleagues across the country. It is also the major venue to court prospective authors – one of those, of course, being Karen Flynn.

Where to Acquire Manuscripts

Because there are always opportunities to find a manuscript, most editors never really get out of “acquisitions mode.” However, academic and learned society meetings are one of the most effective places to acquire; the critical mass of academics in attendance, the general atmosphere of scholarly enthusiasm, and the myriad papers and presentations prepared for these meetings make them ideal venues at which to hear about cutting-edge scholarship and scoop up manuscript ideas. In turn, scholars expect publishers to attend (or at least send representatives to) these meetings, so they often arrive armed with questions and book proposals to shop around. University presses always showcase their titles at such events, but Milroy notes that book sales don’t make attendance worthwhile at most conferences, especially those in the U.S. Rather, the acquisitions opportunities and goodwill generated for press authors are the chief reasons to attend academic meetings.[51]

In 2008, the University of British Columbia hosted the largest-ever Congress, with over 10,000 delegates in attendance representing sixty-eight learned societies and seventy-two universities, colleges, and academic institutions from across North America. The hub of university press activity is the Congress book fair. Here, publishers display recently published books in hopes of sales and course adoptions, while acquisitions editors meet their existing authors and hunt for new authors and projects. In turn, academics come with papers, presentations and seminars, trying to generate interest in their research among publishers as well as colleagues. There is even a perennial Congress-sponsored session about how to get published, featuring a panel of Canadian university press editors and managers, that is usually well attended.

The 2008 Congress hosted thirty-one scholarly presses, including every established university press in Canada, the international conglomerates Oxford University Press and Cambridge University Press, major U.S. scholarly presses – Harvard, Yale, and the University of Chicago among them – represented by one distributor, the scholarly vanity press The Edwin Mellen Press, and the commercial academic presses Fernwood and Between the Lines Press. Several trade publishers were also present, including the multinationals Penguin and Random House, and the independent B.C. presses Arsenal Pulp Press, Anvil Press, and Talon Books.


A survey of Canadian scholarly publishers

To gain a big picture of acquisitions activities at Congress, I gathered information from representatives of eleven Canadian scholarly publishers.[52] The presses came from six provinces and had publishing programs ranging in output from under ten books per year to over 160. All presses had at least one acquiring editor present: five had one acquisitions editor attempting to acquire manuscripts, three had two editors, and three had three or more.[53] (Even trade presses were trolling for manuscripts; Soucouyant, the acclaimed novel by Simon Fraser University professor David Chariandy, was acquired at Congress several years before by Arsenal Pulp Press.) Furthermore, all presses distributed take-home material encouraging prospective authors to consider them when submitting proposals, usually by referring them to their web site. Only four presses, however – University of Toronto Press, McGill-Queen’s University Press, UBC Press, and Black Rose Books, the three largest and the smallest of the eleven presses – provided hard-copy submission guidelines for authors.

Representatives from all presses were also asked how many meetings they had had with authors (scheduled or unscheduled, with at least one manuscript idea discussed) and the approximate proportion of these meetings that were author-initiated. By the fifth day of Congress, each press had met with between five and fifty academic authors. Among both large and small presses, authors were responsible for initiating a substantial proportion of these meetings; according to the editors interviewed, authors were considered “mostly” the initiators of manuscript pitches at University of Toronto Press (Canada’s largest scholarly press), Broadview Press (a medium-sized press), and the press of the Canadian Plains Research Center (a small press). This information only reflects a portion of the Congress period, and most editors did not keep track of numbers of meetings or who initiated them, but it is clear that both scholarly presses and scholars consider Congress an important venue for acquisitions activity: both initiate meetings that may lead to manuscript submission and publication. And because presses of all sizes are engaged in author-initiated meetings, it appears that a large part of acquiring is making one’s press visible at key events and oneself available to prospective authors.


Other acquisitions activities

Acquisitions editors also actively solicit manuscripts outside of Congress and other learned society meetings. To attract as many interested scholars as possible, the editors tour a cluster of universities – up to five per week for two or more weeks – to give academic book publishing workshops. These workshops ostensibly provide general information for scholars who are interested in publishing, such as characteristics to look for when choosing a publisher, converting a dissertation to book form, and writing an appealing proposal.[54] However, workshops also raise the press’s profile to scholars, particularly those based in central or eastern Canada, and act as fact-finding missions to determine what scholars are working on and whether it might be of interest to the press.[55]

Some authors sign on to UBC Press after making first contact at these workshops, but given the length of the publishing process, these meetings often do not bear fruit for quite some time. As the UBC Press Self-Study states, “this is a long-term investment, and manuscripts rising from these meetings can appear anywhere from several months to several years after our visit.”[56]

Lastly, acquisitions editors read scholarly journals to keep abreast of interesting research and see emerging trends in particular disciplines. Interesting articles often lead to a follow-up cold call to a scholar to express interest in their work. This is obviously a scattershot strategy, and very often a scholar is far from having enough material to complete a manuscript, but a simple phone call can be flattering and remind a scholar of his or her options of where to publish.

The methods and venues for UBC Press acquisitions editors to find prospective authors are varied, as seen in this chapter so far. However, the process of moulding ideas into a fully approved and reviewed manuscript is much more structured.


Vetting a Book Proposal

As stated in “Getting Your Manuscript Accepted” on the UBC Press website, a proposal must contain “a physical description of the manuscript (length, rough number of illustrations, tables, and figures), a table of contents, abstract, and chapter-by-chapter description. The place of the work in the context of other literature in the field should be indicated, as should the level of audience.”[57] Despite the specificity of these guidelines, the level of detail in submitted proposals varies greatly. This affects an editor’s assessment of the prospective manuscript’s level of interest, fitness for publication, and appropriateness for the press’s list. (I will elaborate on this point in “Factors in Acquiring Manuscripts” on page 33.) In some cases, the acquisitions editor may ask the submitting author to revise a proposal – sometimes more than once – to increase the likelihood of smooth acceptance at a subsequent acquisitions meeting. Such a strategy can help the author more clearly articulate his or her work, says Milroy. It forces the author to develop a plan and coherent outline for his or her manuscript on paper, conceptualize an audience, and demonstrate ways in which the manuscript differs from published works and contributes to scholarship.[58]

A proposal is also useful as a preliminary assessment of the author’s writing ability. By judging the author’s ability to articulate and organize ideas, present a compelling argument, and demonstrate competence in grammar and other mechanics, the editor can gauge how much work might be required on a forthcoming manuscript.

Acquisitions Meetings

Any proposals deemed ready for the next step are brought to the bi-weekly acquisitions meeting, attended by the acquisitions editor and the director. In general, all proposals that meet a minimum standard of interest or quality of writing are brought to the acquisitions meeting; this gives other editors a chance to vet a title on its own merits, and see if a questionable proposal could be developed to fill some niche. It is not unusual for an acquisitions editor to bring forward a proposal he or she has some doubt about, as UBC Press is attempting to grow its list. However, the editor should only bring proposals that are sufficiently complete for the other editors and the director to make an informed decision.

While an editor may outline strong reasons to accept a manuscript and advocate its publication at the acquisitions meeting, he or she will also note the faults inherent in the proposal and express his or her reservations about it. From there, the other editors and the director discuss the work informally to decide whether they want to see a completed manuscript.

In the meetings I attended, there was little controversy about proposals. After some initial discussion, the decision to proceed or not is usually heavily weighted in one direction, if not unanimous, and nearly all decisions are reached by consensus. Furthermore, most proposals are accepted, probably because they have already been vetted by the acquiring editor.


Factors in Acquiring Manuscripts

Based on acquisitions meetings attended from May to October 2008, here is a description of the factors mentioned in decisions on which proposals to accept:

Fit into UBC Press list. This is the most commonly mentioned factor in deciding whether to pursue a manuscript. If a book proposal about unsuitable subject matter arrives over the transom, it is usually rejected and referred to a more appropriate press. (Such, as mentioned in chapter 1, is the collegiality of the scholarly publishing industry.) A book’s subject matter is also a major factor in projecting its sales (see “Sales and course adoption potential” on page 35). When discussing a prospective manuscript’s fit in the press’s list, editors frequently compare it to previous books, using them as case studies of sorts to predict the success of the present proposal. Series in which the proposed book may fit are always suggested.

Acquiring in familiar fields also makes future work easier in other departments. Production, sales, and marketing data on previous books in the field can be used to estimate future parameters, such as production cost, number of course adoptions, and library sales, and help inform decisions such as print run and markets to target.

Funding availability and eligibility. As Canadian university presses are not-for-profit organizations, they depend heavily on subsidies to publish. The most important criterion for any piece of work remains good scholarship. However, without any potential source of funding, there is a good chance that a manuscript will not make it to peer review. (Funding is discussed further on page 47.) Exceptions have been made for works where funding is unavailable; a recent example is The Big Red Machine: How the Liberal Party Dominates Politics by Stephen Clarkson, one of Canada’s most famous political scientists and a Governor General’s Award winner for co-authoring Trudeau and Our Times. Clarkson’s fame combined with subject matter that has wide appeal while still fitting into UBC Press’s list made The Big Red Machine viable to publish even without outside funding. (The book has sold 4,000 copies.)[59] Another example, says Schmidt, is the upcoming title Multi-Party Litigation: The Strategic Context by Wayne V. McIntosh and Cynthia L. Cates, a study of class action lawsuits that is expected to do well in reviews and sales. He notes that such a book must be either a work of groundbreaking scholarship, a significant book in a subject area where the press hopes to raise its profile or “break in,” or a book that fills an important niche and is likely to yield high sales.[60]

That being said, notes Cullen, UBC Press often publishes works written by Canadian scholars, which makes many of them eligible for support from the Aid to Scholarly Publications Program (ASPP), the principal source of funding for Canadian scholarly books (further discussed on page 48).[61] Authors are also asked to pursue or provide information on funding opportunities specific to their fields.

Sales and course adoption potential. Despite the scholarly literature and innumerable university press mission statements that claim otherwise, sales play a role in the decision to publish. Books expected to sell well or have many course adoptions are often published more quickly, where possible, to realize greater profits. Sales usually depend most heavily on a book’s subject. Sales also inform other criteria; for example, monographs generally sell better than edited collections (see next item). As noted in “Fit into UBC Press list,” sales and adoption potential are often estimated by looking at how previous books in the same subject areas have fared.

Subsidiary rights are considered a minor factor when acquiring a book, given the narrow focus of many scholarly monographs. Books about the U.S. or Asia have sold successfully in the past in those territories, but subsidiary rights sales generally are no substitute for funding or other criteria when deciding whether to accept a proposal.

Monograph or collection? Monographs tend to sell in higher numbers and pick up more course adoptions, and are less time-consuming and more straightforward for the acquisitions editor (and for production editors and marketing staff). The editor need only deal with one author – or several authors in a multi-authored work – and one set of revisions, instead of multiple versions from different contributors. There are usually fewer concerns about inconsistency, unity, varying levels of scholarship in individual contributions, and authors meeting deadlines. Alison Cairns noted the monograph’s advantages in her Master of Publishing project report, asserting that “UBC Press is becoming more and more adamant that collections must be outstanding before it publishes them.”[62]

Crossover potential in other disciplines. Sanford Thatcher noted in a 1999 article that, “because of their broad view of the scholarly horizon, editors often have a special fondness for interdisciplinary writing, and it is no accident that university presses publish a great deal of it.”[63] In the last decade, there have also been increasing numbers of multi-collaborator research initiatives – such as the Network of Centres of Excellence program – that fund interdisciplinary studies and encourage publication in these areas. Whatever the reason, research with a high degree of interdisciplinarity is fashionable among scholars. From a publishing point of view, an interdisciplinary book can target more than one scholarly audience, which may make it more attractive to publish.

Milroy notes, however, that some disciplines are quite parochial, with scholars gravitating toward “pure” explorations of those disciplines. For example, history and political science do not generally mix well. Interdisciplinary books may also have lower course adoption potential, since most undergraduate courses focus on a single subject area.[64]

Crossover potential in trade. UBC Press’s publishing program is not trade-focused, but the editors and director are conscious of opportunities for particular books to sell well among general readers. In past meetings, however, it is clear that trade crossover potential is not usually a deciding factor in the publishing decision, but merely a consideration when estimating sales potential.

Length. UBC Press tends to publish books consisting of 80,000 to 110,000 words, or 220 to 300 typeset pages. Shorter books may be perceived as having less value for the retail price, whereas longer books take more time and resources to produce, although there can be a certain “economy of scale” associated with large books, since a production editor must devote some time to becoming acquainted with a subject, no matter what the length. Large scholarly monographs are also less likely to be used in course adoptions, as instructors may be reluctant to read, evaluate, or assign them. The optimal length for UBC Press books is only a guideline, but accepted book proposals that are far above or below the suggested word count usually come with a recommendation to the author to adjust length accordingly.

Timeliness. Many scholarly books are necessarily written in retrospect to issues and events. However, whether a manuscript’s subject is in the news, is an ongoing issue, or represents the latest academic fashions, books that connect to ongoing issues are more hotly pursued.

Originality. Books that are the first of their kind, present a unique or pioneering argument, or synthesize areas in new ways, are noted by acquisitions editors. An indicator of the importance of originality is in the marketing of the finished book; many a UBC Press volume will advertise itself as “the first full-length study” on a particular subject.

Organization and structure of book’s argument.In most scholarly books, readers look for an overarching argument, purpose, or observation. This process may be helped along with the book information form, which asks the author to provide a one-sentence summary of the work. The editor evaluates the scholarly strength of a book based on the presentation of evidence and argument in the rest of the text.

Strength of proposal. The author’s success in presenting a convincing proposal can be a litmus test for his or her ability to express ideas. A disorganized, overly general, or poorly written proposal can cast a promising project in doubt. In one case, the director and editors agreed to request a completed introduction or sample chapter of the prospective manuscript because the quality of the proposal raised concerns about the author’s ability to clearly articulate arguments over an entire book.

Completeness and balance of argument, scholarship, and perspectives. Editors are quick to point out a seeming gap, missing perspective, or otherwise absent consideration in a book’s line of inquiry. For example, a recent proposal exploring Canadian infrastructure projects’ effects on local residents explored United Empire Loyalist traditions, but made no mention of First Nations or Acadian traditions despite their importance in the region. The proposal was accepted for review, but the editor was asked to note these omissions to the author.

The balance of theoretical and practical material is also a consideration. While every book approaches its subject differently, and different disciplines have varying general approaches, it is up to the editors to determine whether a submitted proposal has covered enough ground in each area.

Reputation of author. Senior or respected scholars, as well as those with a public profile, may have their reputations counted more heavily. Because their names have some caché, they are usually able to achieve higher sales than a new author. For this reason, a renowned scholar, or one with a saleable name, may be published even without financial support. Stephen Clarkson, who wrote The Big Red Machine, is an example; another is Desmond Morton, a renowned Canadian historian and author of Fight or Pay. Given its tight budget, however, the press will almost never get involved in a manuscript bidding war.[65]

Previous experience with author. Authors who have previously published with UBC Press are noted. For example, Rod Preece has written a number of books on the history and philosophy of animal ethics, creating a one-author mini-list at the press. The level of scholarship in his work is consistently high, and he has been loyal to the press when he could publish with larger, more lucrative presses (one of his UBC Press books was co-published with Routledge). For these reasons, when ASPP funding for one of his books was in doubt, the editors and director decided to publish it even without funding. (The ASPP grant later came through.)[66]
In another case, an author who had previously published with the press submitted a strong second proposal. Although the first book was reviewed well and the author’s reputation in his field is sterling, the experience of working with him was so negative that the press was reluctant to accept this proposal.

These are among the factors that have been discussed when taking proposals into consideration at UBC Press acquisitions meetings. However, they are only the ones I have observed, and many more can factor in the publishing decision.

From acceptance at an editorial acquisitions meeting, it may take months or even years to receive the completed manuscript from the author. During this time, the ideas that were brought forth in the proposal have changed as the author has made progress. This, says Milroy, may lead to an unsatisfactory or inappropriate submission that requires major reworking, or may even face rejection. Communicating with the author between acceptance of a proposal for review and submission of a draft manuscript, he adds, can save time and effort on the part of both the author and the press.[67] This suggestion will be further explored in chapter 3.



A significant proportion of proposals, either complete submissions or casual inquiries, are rejected out of hand. Jean Wilson estimated that one-third of all inquiries result in immediate rejection, due chiefly to inappropriate subject matter, including inquiries about poetry and literary fiction.[68] The earlier a proposal is rejected in the acquisitions process, Wilson notes, the better, because this reserves the staff’s valuable time and effort for accepted manuscripts. As noted earlier in this chapter, UBC Press places great emphasis on getting manuscripts published promptly, which requires all acquisitions and editorial-production staff to maximize the use of their time and resources.

In all rejections, the acquiring editor or director sends a letter politely declining to publish and usually recommending another publisher to approach. This helps maintain good editor-author relations, the importance of which is discussed on page 45.


Peer Review and the Publications Board

When the manuscript is submitted, it is read by three people: the acquisitions editor and two peer reviewers, or readers, who assess it for scholarly value, current relevance of the scholarship, and general fitness for publication. The mandated evaluation period of six weeks is shorter than in other presses because, as noted in “Pitching UBC Press to Authors” (page 23), the truncated publication timeline is part of UBC Press’s strategy to attract authors; commitment to punctuality seems to express to authors that the press cares about the book, says Milroy. In practice, few reviewers meet the six-week limit for reading and commenting on a manuscript; a more typical turnaround is eleven to twelve weeks.[69] However, the acquisitions editor is choosy about which peer reviewers he or she uses, and monitors the peer review period rigorously. A prestigious reader who consistently fails to meet deadlines would be unacceptable at UBC Press because of the time element.[70]

What peer reviewers have to say about a manuscript is a major determinant in whether it is accepted for publication. Their assessments are recorded and used to determine a manuscript’s fitness for publication, forming the core of the dossier that is submitted to both the UBC Press publications board, which approves all manuscripts for publication, and the CFHSS, which considers books for ASPP funding. Books with ecstatic reviews that are considered to incorporate groundbreaking scholarship are given higher precedence in most funding competitions. Thus, peer reviewer selection can make or break a book.


Choosing peer reviewers

Acquisitions editors generally take two weeks to seek out and reach agreements with reviewers to read a manuscript. Reviewers must be free of conflict of interest, and should have some reputation in the area of the manuscript they are evaluating. Moreover, a reader must maintain intellectual rigour but still be open to a manuscript’s ideas; a known climate change skeptic would not be called upon to review a book that takes climate change as fact, for example. Some scholars simply do not make appropriate readers in any case, Wilson notes, for reasons such as mean-spiritedness, tardiness with deadlines, or unhelpful comments, among others.[71] For her successor, Darcy Cullen, Wilson even compiled a list of reviewers in her fields of acquisitions whom she doesn’t recommend approaching. The practice of flagging readers whom experience has shown are inappropriate for particular manuscripts (or any manuscript) is commonplace, as noted by Judy Metro, formerly a Yale University Press editor.[72]

One resource for potential peer reviewers is the author. The editor often asks the author to suggest reviewers, to give a sense of the types of scholars to use, as well as to identify scholars who have a conflict of interest or are otherwise unsuitable. Upon receipt, the editor vets these names for appropriateness and decides upon two reviewers.

Peer review feedback is based on the following questions:

  1. What are the objectives and content of the manuscript? Are the objectives clear?
  2. Is the scholarship sound? Is the author thoroughly acquainted with the literature on the subject? Does the manuscript as it stands make a significant original contribution to its field? How important is the subject?
  3. To what audience is the manuscript directed? Would it serve only specialists in the field? Would you want this work in your personal library?
  4. Do you have any suggestions for the improvement of the manuscript relating to style, inaccuracies, omissions, or any other points, either substantive or editorial? Would this manuscript benefit by being shortened or lengthened? If so, please suggest what might be condensed or expanded.
  5. Is the organization of the manuscript sound and presented in a readable style? Are the author’s techniques for handling notes, systems of citation, and bibliography sound? If included, do the illustrations, tables, graphs, charts, maps, photos, and appendices add to the manuscript?
  6. Is the manuscript as it stands acceptable for publication? Please comment in detail, stating specifically yes, no, or not in its present form. If a revised manuscript may be publishable, please indicate clearly the nature of the revisions required.
  7. How important is it that this work be published? Does this work duplicate or substantially recapitulate other works? Does it add to the scholarly debate in the field?
  8. What is your overall recommendation? Is the manuscript:
    ++(a) a very strong contribution to scholarship that should be published
    ++(b) a strong contribution to scholarship that should be published, with the request that my suggestions for revision be considered
    ++(c) a contribution which, while modest, is interesting, and which can be recommended for publication
    ++(d) the manuscript should be revised and re-evaluated (along the lines of question 6 above)
    ++(e) no contribution to the field; not recommended for publication.[73]

As noted in “Factors in Acquisitions Decisions” (page 33), UBC Press places strong emphasis on originality (#2, #7, #8), strength of scholarship (#2, #8), and organization and clarity (#1, #5). In addition, the breadth of the audience is considered (#3); this can help the editor determine the book’s sales and crossover potential. This list of questions also requests suggestions to improve the manuscript (#4, #6), emphasizing process. These questions are never changed from manuscript to manuscript. Such a practice may seem obvious, but this is not the case with, for example, Metro of Yale University Press, who tailors questions to get a desired response from a reader: “It is appropriate for the editor to voice his or her own agenda with the reader. For example, if I think the manuscript has course-book potential, I might ask the reader in my covering letter on comment on what, if anything would make it more valuable as a classroom text … If the author’s notes seem excessive, I will ask the reader to comment on the balance of notes and text.”[74] One could call UBC Press’s procedures more “fair” that those at other presses, but the Yale example of how an editor’s choice of readers, among other decisions, can dramatically affect the fate of a manuscript.

After receiving peer review feedback, the author, with the acquisitions editor’s assistance, writes a formal response in which he or she addresses any difficulties, criticism, clarifications, or questions in the manuscript, or provides justifications or reasons why the manuscript should be left so. The press’s basic strategy to request clear, cohesive revisions before resubmitting a manuscript is outlined in an internal document, “Main Steps to the Acquisitions Process”: “Ask the author for an informal response. This will help you guide her/him in revisions … When the revised [manuscript] is ready, ASK THE author to email a statement detailing revisions made – paying PARTICULAR attention to the points of intersection between reports [emphasis in original].”[75] A convincing response to one reader’s criticisms may be sufficient to allow a strong manuscript to pass without revision, but if both readers point out the same issues, revisions are strongly suggested.

All manuscripts require two strong reports – at least two “B” ratings, from question #8 – to be accepted for publication. To give an author the opportunity to respond to criticisms and revise the manuscript, the two supporting readers’ responses can come from one or two rounds of peer review. This document then becomes part of the manuscript’s dossier, and the next step cedes control of the manuscript to the publications board.


The publications board

The board, which is currently made up of eleven scholars in the social sciences and humanities, and one in the sciences, gives final approval on whether to proceed with publication. (In general, says Milroy, UBC Press attempts to have at least one scholar on the board who does not work in the social sciences and humanities.)As the UBC Press self-study states, the publications board “authorizes but does not mandate publication, a role left to the discretion of the Press management so that it can consider financial and strategic factors before committing resources.”[76] In theory, this means that manuscripts receiving board approval can still be rejected; in practice, with the time and energy that has already been invested in the project, the director will almost always decide to publish. The most common reason for not publishing even after board approval is financial unviability, says Milroy.[77]
The publications board itself is not expected to determine the financial implications of any project, or comment on its eligibility for funding.

Acquisitions editors attend board meetings but do not usually comment except to clarify any issues or answer questions. Their influence can be seen in the preparation of the manuscript’s dossier and assistance with the author in writing readers’ responses, but the decision is solely the board’s.


Editor-Author Relations

In large part, good acquisitions comes down to the quality of editorial experience that a press can offer its prospective authors. The first point of contact is the acquisitions editor, and, as noted in “Pitching UBC Press to Authors” on page 23, there is a strong emphasis on establishing good rapport with authors and assuring them of a good editorial experience.

Editor Gladys Topkis writes that “the cottage industry aspect of publishing – personal attention to books and authors and the involvement of the whole staff in the whole list – is most likely to be preserved in a professional/scholarly house, where the contribution of each book to the success of the list over time is significant and where relations with authors must be continually nurtured.”[78] Maintaining good editor-author relations in scholarly publishing, she argues, is more important than in trade publishing, even if that author isn’t published by the press. This is because “scholars have a network of their own, more tightly organized than the editors’. Just as a happy author or correspondent may produce leads to publishable manuscripts by others, so an unhappy one may discourage his friends from sending an editor their work or even from adopting a textbook published by the house.”[79] An acquisitions editor cannot work at the top of his or her profession, no matter how talented, if authors simply do not think to submit their manuscripts, or worse, avoid submitting them.

In addition, having special connections in a particular scholarly field gives an editor access to the zeitgeist and trends within that field. As noted in the section “Peer Review and the Publications Board” on page 40, an editor can later use these contacts as peer reviewers for a submitted manuscript – and a positive relationship with a reviewer can lead to a proposal submission. Editor-author relations could be more accurately termed editor-scholar relations to encompass the role of academics who are not writing books but who participate in the publishing process in other ways: as readers, as referrers of manuscripts from their colleagues, as customers and adopters, and as general champions of the press.

These relations can extend beyond editorial functions. Friendly contacts in the scholarly sphere can improve the reach of marketing efforts; they can even suggest new target markets and encourage course adoptions, improving sales figures. Because these contacts are often initiated at the acquisitions level, the efforts of acquisitions editors to build good editor-author relations resonate through a press’s entire operations, influencing its success in both scholarly and financial realms.



Reports of the demise of the scholarly book may be greatly exaggerated, but sales have declined, causing many university presses to pursue the trade market.[80]
UBC Press, however, is committed to its mandate to publish scholarly books. In addition, successful publishing of trade books generally involves financial costs, human resources, and industry contacts that the press does not possess. The UBC Press self-studyindicates that it has not found trade publishing particular profitable, for various reasons including lower pricing, skyrocketing return rates, consumer advertising costs, and author travel, which can easily outweigh revenue:

Publishing popular books aimed primarily at trade markets, while often interesting and enjoyable for staff, has not been particular rewarding for us financially. We watch our trade colleagues and fellow university presses that have strong trade orientations struggle to survive and realize this is not a magic bullet … While we promote to the trade titles that have potential for broader audiences, … we know that our strengths, editorially and promotionally, are in the academic sphere, and we choose what we publish with that clearly in mind. We believe that the primary raison d’être of a university press is to be a publisher of outstanding scholarly research.[81]

However, numerous scholarly books in UBC Press’s list have successfully crossed over into the trade market. The recently published Renegades: Canadians in the Spanish Civil War by Michael Petrou, the lead title for fall 2007, has sold 1,900 copies. Robert J. Muckle’s First Nations of British Columbia: An Anthropological Survey has been successful in both course adoptions and as an introduction for general readers, with 6,200 copies sold. With scholarly integrity and peer oversight firmly in place, the press has accepted a proposal for a manuscript on indigenous peoples in Atlantic Canada that is modelled after Muckle’s book.

University presses need to know that they can actually afford to publish a book they want to publish. At UBC Press, an average scholarly book costs $34,000 CAD to produce from acquisition to production to marketing and distribution.[82] As noted, a book without some supplementary funding has a far slimmer chance of being published. The UBC Press website acknowledges, in its “Publishing with UBC Press” section, that “few scholarly books in Canada can be published without financial assistance … detailed cost-benefit analysis is done for all manuscripts under consideration … to decide whether sufficient resources are available to take on the project.” The site goes on to note that manuscripts containing previously published material, conference proceedings, and unrevised dissertations are ineligible for ASPP, and that “if ASPP is not involved, usually another source of funds in aid of publication is required.”[83] Right up front, these guidelines indicate that money does indeed matter when publishing with a scholarly press.

UBC Press derives approximately 75 percent of its revenues from book sales. The remaining funds come from the Canadian Federation for the Humanities and Social Sciences (CFHSS, the organizers of Congress); specialized academic societies and organizations; the Department of Canadian Heritage (DCH); the Association for the Export of Canadian Books (AECB); the Canada Council for the Arts; and the British Columbia Arts Council. Of these, DCH (through its Book Publishing Industry Development Program, or BPIDP) and AECB contribute block grants toward the overall operation of the press, rather than supporting individual titles, although both demand that UBC Press meet rigorous criteria to be eligible for these funds.

BPIDP has funded the large majority of Canadian publishers, and contributes greatly to UBC Press’s operations. Year after year, it is a reliable source of funding, but the amounts it contributes fluctuate greatly. In 2002–03, it gave the press $149,565; in 2003–04, it was up to $123,778; in 2004–05, that amount again increased to $145,443. While significant, this funding only makes up the overhead and direct costs of publishing for fewer than five books. Furthermore, while funding for distribution assistance was $7 million for all publishers in 1993–94 (through the now-defunct Publications Distribution Assistance Program), it dwindled to zero in the mid-1990s before rising back up to $4.1 million in 2002-03. This figure is not only significantly lower than it was a decade before, it is also distributed among a larger number of publishers.[84]

The main source of external funding for individual titles is the CFHSS-administered ASPP, which is funded by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC), and is essentially the default place to start the quest for funding for any Canadian work of scholarship. Since April 2006, the ASPP has provided UBC Press with a fixed grant of $8,000 per eligible title. This is an increase over the $7,000 mandated beforehand; however, ASPP funding was as high as $9,000 in 1991, and was based on a variable model (so that more expensive books were eligible to receive more money) until federal government cuts in the mid- to late 1990s severely trimmed back the program budget.

In 2005, the ASPP budget was $1 million distributed among 145 books, and it was still receiving around 300 applications each year; by 2007, it provided $1.5 million to help fund 185 books (with 40 slots set aside for first-time authors), although the number of applications has also swelled in that time.[85] In cases where there is insufficient funding (which is essentially always), the ASPP will subject applications to competitive adjudication.

If UBC Press books do not secure ASPP funding, there are several other options. Scholars with SSHRC funding may be allocated a certain percentage that provides for communication or publication initiatives of their research. This money can be used toward publication of a scholarly monograph or edited volume; however, Milroy notes that many scholars use significant portions of these funds for other communications activities, such as attending conferences, before publication.[86]
In addition, some universities, such as Simon Fraser University and the University of Western Ontario, provide a modicum of support for faculty members’ publishing efforts. Such funds are more common in U.S. universities, which can help UBC Press publish American authors ineligible for ASPP funding. Other sources of funding are generally subject-dependent, such as funds from the Chiang Ching-Kuo Foundation (books on Chinese Studies in the social sciences and humanities), the Japan Foundation (Japanese studies), the International Centre for Canadian Studies (Canadian Studies), and the College Art Association (history of art and related subjects). In other words, aid for Canadian publishers is available, but it varies from year to year based on title output for the year.

In 1995, the University of British Columbia ceased its $200,000 yearly endowment to UBC Press, and stopped funding its warehousing operations, worth an additional $60,000 per year. In its place, UBC Press began receiving an annual grant from its parent institution in the name of K.D. Srivastava, former UBC Vice-President (Student and Academic Services) and member of the press’s publications board. The grant of $49,500 helps publish books by authors or volume editors who have completed a large proportion of their to-be-published research at UBC as faculty members, post-doctoral researchers, or graduate students. This funding is technically a scholarly book prize, but in practice it is used more as an operating fund for books originating in UBC research.[87]

UBC Press has continued to pursue funding from its host university, much in the style of American university presses, or other Canadian university presses. (This was, in fact, one of the motivations for writing the UBC Press Review: Self-Study 2007.) Of its two main competitors, University of Toronto Press exists as a separate entity and owns the U of T Bookstore, which provides minimum transfers of $750,000 to its publishing operations, and McGill-Queen’s receives $350,000 annually from its parent universities. UBC Press received no operating grant of equivalent magnitude until 2008, when the press competed successfully for a $150,000 grant from the University of British Columbia, renewable annually subject to the university’s budget.[88]


Competition for Manuscripts

Most university presses across North America have staked out territories of specialization and acquire most vigorously in those areas. As a leading publisher in numerous areas of social science and humanities scholarship, UBC Press is often the first stop for scholars wanting to publish in subject areas such as political science, law, environmental studies, and military history. Competition still exists for manuscripts in popular, lucrative disciplines such as Canadian history, First Nations studies, and anthropology, and for proposed series based on research from multi-collaborator initiatives.

Not surprisingly, larger university presses are more inclined to offer special inducements to gain the manuscripts they want, according to a 1999 survey of American university presses.[89] Such inducements may take the form of generous advances or fewer initial requirements from the proposal. Canadian scholarly presses are generally not in a position to financially sweeten any acquisitions deals; for UBC Press editors, competing for manuscripts means quickening response time, improving their level of service to authors, and broadcasting the press’s long-term advantages to authors. A high level of scholarship is still required at all university presses and will not be sacrificed in the name of winning competitions; this would be counterproductive if it results in an inferior book.


List-Building, Strategy, and the Importance of Series

Every book acquired by UBC Press editors is considered not only on its own merits, but also for the way it complements UBC Press’s list. Whether by strategy or by chance, acquisitions editing is an activity that builds upon itself. As a press builds a critical mass of books in particular areas, it may develop a reputation in those areas, leading to more submissions. Strategic acquisition is of especial concern to UBC Press, which was reborn by focusing on areas of strength while dropping other fields in which it had traditionally published. It is only natural for university presses to develop series to further boost their reputations in particular fields.

As noted in chapter 1, university presses develop and maintain book series because of their inherent list-building potential: quality acquisitions, showcased in a series, can attract exciting scholarship and respected authors. Lesley Erickson discusses series at UBC Press thoroughly in her Master of Publishing project report, “One Thing After Another,” and I will discuss series only as they pertain to acquisitions.

In developing a long-lasting and respected series at a university press, a good general editor is desirable, particularly in the beginning stages. The general editor represents the series, recruits colleagues old and new as potential authors, and consults on quality of scholarship and subareas in the series, depending on their level of involvement. As Erickson notes, “Unlike an established scholar who can tap into that network of contacts built over the span of a career to acquire manuscripts, it can take a number of years for an acquisitions editor to make themselves known to scholars in a discipline and convince them to entrust their manuscripts to a new series at a Press without an established list in the subject area.”[90] The general editor’s prestige can rub off on an associated acquisitions editor. For example, Peter Milroy persuaded W. Wesley Pue, a respected law scholar who had written the UBC Press-published Pepper In Our Eyes, to act as general editor for the Law and Society series, and Pue became one of the driving forces in building the press’s law list. Randy Schmidt, the law acquisitions editor, has taken advantage of Pue’s influence and vast network of contacts, and is now a leading acquisitions editor in that field in Canada with his own network and reputation among scholars, even as Pue’s role in the series has diminished in recent years.[91]

Although it was Milroy and then Schmidt who developed the Law and Society series, in other cases it is the general editor who envisions the shape of a series. For example, Graeme Wynn, a University of British Columbia environmental historian and UBC Press board member, proposed that the press create its own environmental history series, modelled after University of Washington Press’s Weyerhaeuser Environmental Books. The press accepted his proposal, and the result was the Nature | History | Society series, with Schmidt as acquiring editor, which includes the award winners The Archive of Place, Hunters at the Margin, and States of Nature. Wynn is active in the editing process of this series, and he writes the foreword for each volume.

Series also present opportunities to partner with other organizations, which not only have the reach to attract manuscripts, but may provide monetary support. For example, Emily Andrew’s acquisition of several successful military history titles led her to propose a collaboration with the Canadian War Museum on a series on military history in Canada, a field in which no scholarly press has published significantly. The result was the Studies in Canadian Military History series, co-published by the Canadian War Museum, with Dean Oliver, the museum’s director of research and exhibitions, serving as general editor. This collaboration also secured funding for books in the series: each volume receives $5,000 in co-financing from the museum, in addition to other grants.[92]

As was the case with Schmidt and the Law and Society series, Andrew’s acquisitions skills opened the door to creating a series on military history. Her acquisition of a respected general editor with public clout did much of the heavy lifting in attracting promising new manuscripts in that area.

Another model for series production is to collaborate with another institution on publishing a set number of books. These are usually proposed by the prospective series editor or editors, whose aim is to publish research results from a multi-collaborator initiative. Because these series often have respected scholars attached to the initiative, and because funding for communication projects is built into the proposal, there is greater incentive for a press to collaborate on publishing a series with them. Former Princeton University Press editorial board member Robert Darnton observed this phenomenon a quarter-century ago when he wrote, “Don’t submit a book. Submit a series … as far as I know we have never turned down a series, and we took on a half dozen during my four years on the board.”[93]Such “submitted” series at UBC Press include the Canadian Democratic Audit (nine volumes, from research at the project of the same name at Mount Allison University), Equality | Security | Community (three volumes, from the Equality, Security and Community Project), and the ongoing Globalization and Autonomy series (ten planned volumes, from McMaster University’s eponymous initiative). Not only have books in these series sold well thanks to their origins in prestigious initiatives, but they have also “received substantial series funding that obviates the need to depend on or even apply to ASPP.”[94]

In other cases, series have not paid dividends proportional to the effort required to create and maintain them. For example, Laura Macleod helped develop a Sexuality Studies series, but after much initial interest, few proposals were submitted. Furthermore, previous books in the series have dealt partly with comparative literature, a moribund area in UBC Press’s complement, and manuscripts in that area may have been acquired by more literature-oriented presses.[95] Still, recent acquisitions in sexuality studies may revive the series over the next few years. As Wilson notes, series can help direct and develop a press’s list, but they add a layer of complexity to the publishing process and are not always worth doing.[96]



Stripped to the bare bones, acquisitions editing in scholarly publishing is a highly structured process. A proposal must meet an invisible list of requirements for the editorial team to pursue it further. Although the acquisitions editors and the director comment on different aspects of each proposal before them, common concerns on scholarly integrity, available funding, originality, manuscript length, and crossover into different disciplines and markets, among other things, tend to emerge. For the most significant criteria – compatibility with UBC Press’s list, strength of scholarship, funding – there is little room for negotiation. Peer reviewers are given the same benchmarking questions to evaluate the level of scholarship in each manuscript, which must find approval with both them and the publications board.

Within this rigid framework, however, there is ample room for creativity and entrepreneurship. Acquisitions editors at UBC Press go to the same academic conferences every year, including the Congress of the Humanities and Social Sciences, but they also find manuscripts through cold calls and scholarly publishing informational tours through Canadian universities. The selection of the right peer reviewers requires resourcefulness and perceptiveness, and employs an editor’s knowledge of the field as well as effective use of professional networks. Competition for manuscripts requires editors to deploy tenacity, tact, and persuasive abilities not only to acquire the manuscripts they want, but also to maintain good relations with colleagues at competing university presses and the scholarly community at large. And finally, building the list and developing a robust publishing strategy help the entire press strike the right balance between breadth and depth in areas in which it publishes.

Among Canadian scholarly presses, there are significant gulfs between the conclusions in literature and in practice – particularly in the area of funding and title subventions, which are hardly mentioned in scholarly literature – but the entrepreneurial and personal aspects of acquisitions editing do stymie attempts to package it into convenient theory or a course. Education, analysis, and reporting in the literature are useful, but acquisitions editing is chiefly informed by practice and experience. How these elements can be combined into a useful framework to build upon UBC Press’s strengths and improve upon its weaknesses will be examined in chapter 3.



Chapter 3: The Future of Acquisitions at UBC Press

With firm footing in the context of acquisitions editing in scholarly publishing obtained from literature and educational materials, and knowledge of UBC Press’s operations as they pertain to acquisitions, one can develop strategies to meet present and future challenges. The press’s 2007 self-study identifies several areas that require extra attention or may pose threats in the future. This chapter explores numerous areas that may have a significant impact on UBC Press’s future, and the chapter addresses possible solutions and strategies to deal with challenges and assist in achieving goals.

As an industry, scholarly publishing in the social sciences and humanities has been declared to be in a state of emergency for the last twenty years. Factors such as shrinking library budgets, changing audiences for scholarly books, the rise of the mega-bookstore oligopoly in Canada, and an increasingly influential medium of internet-based commerce and information access pose continuing challenges for all university presses. These non-specific challenges and threats will be addressed as they relate to UBC Press’s goals, but will not be discussed on their own.


Challenges and Change at UBC Press

The size of UBC Press’s list, number of staff, prestige of the imprint, areas of strength and specialization, and general strategy have undergone revolutionary changes – virtually all for the better – in the less than two decades since the 1990 overhaul. Although few current staff members were employed by the press in 1990, the overhaul and refocus still informs the press’s continued efforts toward improvement. This spirit has manifested itself in internal working documents such as the UBC Press Review: Self-Study 2007, a comprehensive analysis of the press’s activities and a steering document in formulating future strategy for the press.

It is instructive to examine the press’s major challenges in the editorial-acquisitions department as articulated in the self-study. The first three are:

  1. We confront daily the difficulties involved in trying to increase the number of titles that we have set as our goal. We are limited financially in our ability to add new staff, which means that individual editors face ever-increasing pressure to bring in more books. Yet the attributes that have led to our growth over the past seventeen years – our personal touch and commitment to timeliness, our sharply focused list, our community outreach activities – are clearly threatened by the imperative to produce more books with the same number of staff.
  2. Our ability to acquire more books in our main areas is declining. For the Press to increase its title output significantly, new areas of publication will have to be pursued. Yet it is unlikely that an untapped area akin to law and society exists, which means that we will probably be competing directly with other Canadian university presses over the same books. Careful research and a well-thought-out strategy are essential for success.
  3. Resource constraints inhibit our ability to commission textbooks, do market analysis of sales in different disciplines, and analyze our own processes to see where things are working and where they are not. Indeed, the limited editorial assistance available means that valuable acquisitions time is lost doing clerical work that could easily be done by an assistant editor.[97]

As pointed out earlier in this project report, the “personal touch and commitment to timeliness” that the press’s acquisitions team brings to its authors are among its major selling points. These personal benefits are always raised with prospective authors in making a case to publish with UBC Press. The point at which growth becomes a liability no doubt describes a fine balance, and the question has become even more difficult to resolve since the writing of this report began: Darcy Cullen has succeeded Jean Wilson, and Emily Andrew has gone on leave and Randy Schmidt is handling her acquisitions files and in-process manuscripts in addition to his regular files.

One suggested solution, noted in #3, would be to increase the “limited editorial assistance” by adding human or technological resources, such as an editorial assistant, a common position at both scholarly and trade publishers. Added resources to perform clerical work, manage author relations, analyze sales data, apply for funding and grants, and track and manage information would free up acquisitions editors to turn their attentions to their files as well as to set goals and develop publishing strategy, components of challenge #2. If these resources took the form of an editorial assistant, some succession planning could also be undertaken. This is, in fact, an issue identified in challenge #4 in the self-study:

  1. The department needs to plan carefully for the imminent departure of the senior member of the department – Jean Wilson who will retire in July 2008. A replacement strategy needs to be developed over the next twelve months to ensure that this retirement does not cause any loss of momentum.[98]

Although Wilson’s succession by Darcy Cullen in August 2008 has been successful, an editorial assistant position would provide another avenue for on-the-job training for a future acquisitions editor.

The other challenges identified in the self-study are:

  1. Our dependence on external sources of funding (primarily the ASPP) also impacts our ability to increase the number of titles published. We are continually competing with other presses over scarce subsidy resources, with the inevitable result that some worthy scholarly books are not being published. A separate, discretionary avenue of funding would almost certainly result in the Press publishing an additional five to ten books a year.
  2. Though this becomes less significant with each passing year, our geographic location on the West Coast and our poor pre-1990 reputation also affect our ability to acquire new titles. The two main presses in central Canada – University of Toronto Press and McGill-Queen’s University Press – remain “default” options for many scholars. We have made significant strides to overcome this difficulty and to raise the profile of the “new” UBC Press, but additional resources need to be committed to this task.

Challenge #5, funding for scholarly books, is common to all Canadian university presses, particularly smaller ones. Discretionary funds would likely come from a press’s home institution, although universities often need corporate partnerships and sponsorships to accomplish their infrastructural goals. As UBC Press is already short-staffed, there would hardly be the human resources or budget to take on a major independent fundraising effort. However, such an effort may be feasible if the press were to utilize the fundraising infrastructure already in place at its home institution, such as its alumni affairs and development office. The press would undoubtedly have to justify the scholarly value it adds to the University of British Columbia’s reputation; it could make a case that publishing in the academic areas in which the university is known would be symbiotic. UBC Press has strong lists in First Nations studies, law, and political science, disciplines in which the university also excels.

Such an effort to boost funding would help tackle challenge #6, the press’s acquisitions ability as compared to its larger competitors. UBC Press has its strengths, but it is doubtful that it can ever challenge the supremacy of presses that publish so many more titles every year. (Toronto puts out 150 to 160, and McGill-Queen’s 110, compared to UBC Press’s 60.) At the same time, efforts to “catch up” for the sake of catching up run counter to the press’s strategy of focused acquisitions and controlled growth in key areas. Future assessments could be revised to reflect a more balanced approach, as acquisitions activity increases in selected new fields as well as in the press’s areas of specialization.

As for the aforementioned problem of geography, having a Toronto presence in Melissa Pitts has already boosted the press’s visibility and ability to acquire significantly. However, as she is only a half-time editor, the press’s list may benefit further by expanding its acquisitions activities in central Canada, either by transferring Pitts’s other duties to a new staff member, or by creating another position in Toronto – both of which, of course, require greater funds. Furthermore, any growth in acquisitions must not come at the cost of UBC Press’s traditional strengths in the editorial process, which could compromise editor-author relations and hurt the press’s reputation among scholars.

The press’s goals for the editorial-acquisitions department for 2007 to 2010 are to:

  1. Continue to work toward increasing the number of books published to seventy to seventy-five titles by 2010. This increase will be accomplished through further expansion in our current areas of strength and incursions into new, carefully selected and researched areas.
  2. Consider adding staff resources (such as an editorial assistant), which would increase the per-title productivity of acquisitions editors.
  3. Continue to increase the profile of UBC Press in other parts of the country through outreach activities.[99]

The first two challenges have been addressed in this chapter. The third is only partially addressed by Pitts’s presence in Toronto. A relatively inexpensive way to reach scholars and audiences in remote areas could be via the internet, a medium that UBC Press has not used very effectively so far: the press’s website is set up for e-commerce but is old-fashioned, contains dead links, and lacks so-called Web 2.0 technologies such as RSS feeds. Bringing some outreach activities to the internet could raise the press’s profile at relatively low cost.

For example, as noted in chapter 2, one of UBC Press’s outreach activities is the travelling informational session on the scholarly publishing process given by acquisitions editors. This multi-university tour has fallen by the wayside in recent years because of increased acquisitions loads. The press could produce a video of these informational sessions at relatively low cost and post it on the web, potentially reaching scholars who cannot attend the real-life sessions. A video could be produced and optimized for search engines, and would provide website visitors with a more memorable experience of the UBC Press website, making them more likely to keep the press top of mind in the future. This is only one example of ways in which internet use can enhance UBC Press’s outreach efforts.


Emerging Areas in UBC Press’s List

The press’s second challenge, to acquire more books per year and to choose the fields in which to acquire them, is faced by all Canadian presses. Publishers face some degree of competition in all major disciplines, so UBC Press must carefully choose the fields where it will build or rebuild a list.

The press has made some headway in various subject areas. Among these, transnationalism and environmental history are touted as emerging areas of scholarship that could grow in scope. UBC Press already has an excellent start in environmental history with its acclaimed Nature | History | Society series, which has featured numerous award-winning titles. Narrower niche areas, such as the aforementioned history of nursing, may seem too focused to be formally pursued, but this can depend on the acquisitions editor’s feel for scholarly fashions and the level of scholarship in that area.

As with the Studies in Canadian Military History series, it is likely that an area of specialization would emerge organically, after the press publishes a critical mass of books in the same field over several seasons, editors link proposed manuscripts to the published works in that field, and scholars submit related proposals to the press based on its burgeoning reputation.

In chapter 2, this report examined the “submitted” series model, in which UBC Press essentially becomes the publishing partner for a preplanned number of volumes. This model is attractive for having built-in funding and production consistencies that can make the publishing process more efficient. For example, the Canadian Democratic Audit has cemented UBC Press’s reputation in one of its strength areas, political science. It could also be a worthwhile risk to pursue submitted series in the press’s areas of emerging rather than established strength, as is the case with the Globalization and Autonomy series, which contains elements of political science but encompasses numerous other fields in its interdisciplinary approach. Such a practice is dependent on whether these initiatives continue to receive funding for book publishing activities, and whether they employ any senior scholars who can serve as appropriate series editors or advocates of communicating their research.


Workflow, Integration, and Technology

UBC Press has already expressed its aversion to dipping fully into trade publishing. However, Kate Wittenberg, Ithaka project director and former Columbia University Press editor-in-chief, argues that the scholarly monograph in its current form is endangered, partly because scholars are getting their information in different ways. Increasingly, students and scholars use technology that not only cuts down the need for multiple copies of the same book, but also moulds the way information is presented.

UBC Press must ensure that the scholarly monograph, its bread and butter, continues to fulfil the needs of scholars and interested readers while still maintaining the depth, logic, and art of sustained argument that characterizes the form. Publishers themselves are in no danger, Wittenberg asserts, unless they remain stuck in the paradigms of the past:

The traditional skills that scholarly-book editors have brought to their work remain as valuable as ever. Identifying, reviewing, and editing the best scholarly work are still very much needed. However, because the traditional forms in which we have published that material may no longer be as relevant as they were in the past, editors must learn as much as possible about our users – how scholars now do their research; read content; use archives, images, data, and technology; and exercise their preferences for gaining access to their materials.[100]

Wittenberg goes on to argue for a more integrated publishing model, where departments cross-pollinate to come up with fresh ideas to appeal more strongly to the end user:

In the new organizational model, editors will develop content for publication in both print and digital form and will play a role in its organization and design; technologists will participate in planning the navigation of content and in designing products that fit users’ needs; production and design staff members will collaborate with authors and provide expertise on content organization and narrative structure. And marketing and sales departments will be involved in all decisions regarding content organization, functionality, product design, and access-and-dissemination mechanisms, so that they can work closely in developing effective relationships with customers.[101]

Readers of Wittenberg’s prescriptions undoubtedly have many reservations about them. Marketing and sales influencing content could dilute or even endanger scholarship, for example, or production and design staff may be more concerned with aesthetics than depth and organization. However, a clear strategy to integrate the university press’s departments can create a final product that is better suited to a scholarly audience in transition. For example, an acquisitions editor may see something distinctive in a manuscript that may appeal to scholars in a particular field, but if this knowledge is not transferred to other departments, an opportunity to more effectively market the book may be lost.

As Milroy notes, the publishing profession is naturally compartmentalized; most people who work in publishing are drawn to one area of specialization, and this pattern resists smooth integration.[102] At UBC Press, there has been some interdepartmental integration. For example, marketing staff members are invited to transmittal meetings – where a manuscript is transferred from editorial-acquisitions to editorial-production – to begin building ideas for a more strategic marketing plan. In addition, editorial-production and marketing staff have collaborated on a copy form that transforms inputted information into tagged XML text and file links. This facilitates the transfer of book-related data (including title, ISBN, price, jacket copy, and cover images) from acquisitions to production to marketing, where they can easily be used to create catalogues, library notices, web pages, and other marketing materials. While such activities can increase efficiency, there is currently little managerial oversight to ensure they are followed up properly; for example, one of the creators of the copy form noted that she did not know when information in the form would be posted to the web, or how exactly it would be used. More discussion will help ensure that further strategic integration of departments will work to the press’s advantage.

All authors approached, and manuscripts and proposals at any stage are tracked through a database maintained by the assistant to the director. This can be a useful tool to develop a future editorial program, allowing acquiring editors, the director, and other staff to see what books may be forthcoming. In practice, however, few staff look at this information; there is no mandate to do so, and delivery dates for proposals and manuscripts are so unpredictable that it is impossible to say whether a manuscript will be accepted, much less arrive on time, much less mesh with other books in UBC Press’s list. However, Milroy says that integrating all data about proposals and manuscripts – including those in review and pre-review stages – into a centralized information package could facilitate smoother workflow and better planning. Further, he notes, many manuscripts drastically change shape between acceptance of a proposal and submission of a first draft – often becoming a text far removed from the press’s expectations. This poses many problems if the manuscript is no longer appropriate for publication. Tracking authors and their progress during this “in-between” stage may help acquisitions editors keep a tighter rein on their projects, saving valuable time and resources for both the press and the author. Over time, Milroy adds, information about how many proposals or manuscripts are at each stage can be used to estimate how many books will be ready for publication at any given time, helping to set acquisitions and transmittal goals.[103]

Both interdepartmental integration and acquisitions workflow can be addressed with some technological tools being implemented at UBC Press. A central database system created by the publishing software company Klopotek, while mainly focused on editorial-production, could benefit other aspects of the publishing process. The system features an “enter once, propagate everywhere” functionality that facilitates the flow of information from editorial-acquisitions to other departments. The setup of this information system also affords the entire press the opportunity to further integrate departments for more efficient information flow. The searchability feature would help make files easier to find, and the system’s centralized nature would make data available to all staff members – especially important for the editorial-acquisitions department, as three of the four editors work off-site.

The Klopotek system also includes a scheduling module that can be applied to acquisitions. This module could help editors keep track of the status of manuscript proposals, deadlines for peer reviewers, and grant applications. Furthermore, learning a new system may encourage editors – and the staff at large – to keep the press’s larger strategic concerns front of mind, and make better overall sense of UBC Press’s workflow. Because all the data is already entered into the system, benchmarking and goal tracking would be easier to accomplish.

Another tool, a dynamic sales database, which was previously suggested by Randy Schmidt and Jean Wilson, is now in place. As a UBC Press intern, one of my first tasks was to develop an interim static sales database of books published in the last five years. The end product had severe limitations in both temporal scope (the available data ended in early 2008) and its static nature. However, a more recent database, with information provided directly by UBC Press’s distributor, University of Toronto Press, gives dynamic sales data over a lifetime, broken down by month. This provides not only a more complete picture of a particular book’s life cycle, but can also capture the re-emergence of any backlist books into the frontlist, and take advantage of “long tail” sales. The database can also help determine emerging scholarly trends, guiding editors toward manuscripts with greater sales and course adoptions. While still in its infancy, it has the potential to make the acquisitions process smoother and allow editors to concentrate on the more creative duties in the publishing process.



While threatened by declining sales of scholarly monographs and increasing costs, the press continues to attract authors based on a sterling reputation for good editor-scholar relations and a high level of service and scholarship, characteristics that will likely help the press weather the storm of technology and a changing readership.

As can be seen in its self-study, UBC Press is very aware of the challenges it faces, particularly those related to resource constraints. It recognizes that its strengths in personal relationships with authors and a focused editorial-acquisitions team could be threatened by the imperative to publish more books and devote resources to sales and strategic analysis. Suggested solutions to these challenges – more human and technological resources dedicated to assisting acquisitions editors, utilization of university fundraising infrastructure, development of a greater presence in central Canada to boost acquisitions, expansion of internet-based communication and outreach activities – are all contingent upon the availability of greater financial and human resources, itself a central challenge to the press.

Other avenues to making greater use of existing resources, such as sharpened focus on emerging disciplines, must be examined with a critical eye. However, UBC Press has already worked toward a more organized workflow and increased interdepartmental integration. The development of a sales database and continuing implementation of the Klopotek database system could help streamline acquisitions and other processes, and reframe the press’s activities in a more integrated context. Despite its many challenges and uncertainty both within the organization and in the industry at large, UBC Press is a forward-thinking institution whose main strengths – rigorous scholarship and editorial quality, excellent editor-scholar relations, and high production values – will carry it far into the publishing future.




1 Chronicle of Higher Education, Journal of Scholarly Publishing, and Publishing Research Quarterly are among the scholarly journals with articles on acquisitions editing. Among business-to-business or professional publications, Quill and Quire and Publishers Weekly also discuss acquisitions. For an analysis of how the literature addresses acquisitions editing issues, see pages 17–25. RETURN

2 UBC Press Review: Self-Study 2007, UBC Press and the University of British Columbia, March 2007, 2; Peter Milroy, interview by author, March 6, 2009. RETURN

3 UBC Press Review, 2. RETURN

4 Jean Wilson, interview by author, October 30, 2008. RETURN

5 Ibid. RETURN

6 Milroy, interview. RETURN

7 UBC Press Review, 3; Wilson, interview. RETURN

8 “Staff directory,” UBC Press :: University of British Columbia Press. RETURN

9Randy Schmidt, interview by author, November 10, 2008. RETURN

10 Milroy, interview. RETURN

11 Edward Dimendberg, “Five Movie Scenes from the Author/Acquisitions Editor Relationship,” Journal of Scholarly Publishing 28, 1 (October 1996), RETURN

12 Peter J. Dougherty, “If You Plan It, They Will Come: Editors as Architects,” Journal of Scholarly Publishing 31, 4 (July 2000), RETURN

13 Some of these articles include: Elizabeth Demers, “Getting a Real Job in Publishing: a Ph.D. in History Finds Her Dream Job as an Acquisitions Editor,” Chronicle of Higher Education 50, 32 (April 16, 2004),; Rachel Toor, “The Book Editor: Midwife, Handmaiden, Groupie,” Chronicle of Higher Education 43, 46 (June 13, 1997),; Clement Vincent, “Don’t Judge a Book By Its Editor,” Chronicle of Higher Education 54, 9 (April 16, 2008), RETURN

14 Sanford G. Thatcher, “The Value-Added in Editorial Acquisitions,” Journal of Scholarly Publishing 30, 2 (January 1999), RETURN

15 Mary Schendlinger, in discussion with author, September 14, 2008. RETURN

16 “Finding and Training Acquisitions Editors,” audio recording of seminar by Doug Armato, Eric Halpern, and Philip Pochoda, presented at Association of American University Presses 2008 Annual General Meeting. July 18, 2008. RETURN

17 Schmidt, interview. RETURN

18 Armato, quoted in “Finding and Training Acquisitions Editors,” July 18, 2008. RETURN

19Halpern, quoted in “Finding and Training Acquisitions Editors,” July 18, 2008. RETURN

20 Mike Shatzkin, “Editorial Decision-Making: Risk and Reward,” Publishing Research Quarterly 15, 3 (Fall 1999): 55–62. RETURN

21Bill Harnum, “The Characteristics of the Ideal Acquisition Editor,” Journal of Scholarly Publishing 32, 4 (July 2001), RETURN

22Ibid. RETURN

23Sanford Thatcher, “Competitive Practices in Acquiring Manuscripts,” Scholarly Publishing (January 1980): 112–32. RETURN

24 Demers. RETURN

25 Rosemary Shipton, “Value Added: Professional Editors and Publishers,” Journal of Scholarly Publishing 27, 4 (July 1996), RETURN

26 Dougherty. RETURN

27 As Shipton argues in “Value added,” “publishers should set up a system that encourages people involved in a book project to talk to one another.” RETURN

28Halpern, quoted in “Finding and Training Acquisitions Editors,” July 18, 2008. RETURN

29 Ibid. RETURN

30 Ibid. RETURN

31 Philip Pochoda, quoted in “Finding and Training Acquisitions Editors,” July 18, 2008. RETURN

32 Ibid. RETURN

33 Milroy, interview. RETURN

34 Scott Anderson, “Publishable or Perishable?” Quill and Quire (November 1, 1997), RETURN

35 Nadia Halim, “The New-Look Scholarly Press,” Quill and Quire (November 1, 1998), RETURN

36 Paul Spendlove, “Pop Appeal: Most University Presses Want It – But at What Price?” Quill and Quire (November 1, 2002), RETURN

37 Wilson, interview. RETURN

38 Laura Macleod, “Education for Acquisitions,” Journal of Scholarly Publishing 28, 4 (July 1997), RETURN

39 An exhaustive list of publishing programs would be lengthy, but some of the university websites explored were: Centennial College Book and Magazine Publishing program, Toronto ON (; University of the Witwatersrand BA in Publishing Studies, South Africa (; Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology BA in Publishing Studies, Ghana (; University of South Queensland Master of Editing and Publishing, Australia (; Oxford Brookes University MA Publishing (; Pace University MS in Publishing (; and New York University MS in Publishing ( Other publishing programs are listed at “SFU Library – Publishing Programs,” Simon Fraser University, RETURN

40 Wilson, interview. RETURN

41 Macleod. RETURN

42 Ibid. RETURN

43 “Annual Meeting: Workshops,” program for acquisitions workshop, AAUP Annual Meeting, June 25–26, 2008. RETURN

44 Milroy, interview. RETURN

45 “Finding and Training Acquisitions Editors,” July 18, 2008. RETURN

46 Naomi B. Pascal, “The Editor: In Search of a Metaphor,” Publishing Research Quarterly 7, 2 (Summer 1991): 53–57. RETURN

47 Milroy, interview. RETURN

48 Macleod. RETURN

49 Milroy, interview. RETURN

50 UBC Press Review, 50. RETURN

51 Peter Milroy, interview by author, March 6, 2009. RETURN

52 The presses were: Canadian Scholars’ Press Inc. and Women’s Press (Toronto); Wilfrid Laurier University Press (Waterloo), Athabasca University Press (Athabasca), University of Alberta Press (Edmonton), Canadian Plains Research Center at the University of Regina (Regina), McGill-Queen’s University Press (Montreal and Kingston, University of Toronto Press (Toronto), UBC Press (Vancouver), Black Rose Press (Montreal), Broadview Press (Peterborough), and Emond Montgomery Publications (Toronto). For survey results, see page Appendix I: Survey of Canadian Scholarly Publishers, page 75. RETURN

53 Not surprisingly, they were the three largest university presses in Canada: University of Toronto Press, McGill-Queen’s University Press, and UBC Press. RETURN

54 Jean Wilson, interview by author, October 30, 2008; Randy Schmidt, interview by author, November 10, 2008. RETURN

55 Schmidt, interview; Darcy Cullen, interview by author, November 10, 2008. RETURN

56 UBC Press Review: Self-Study 2007, UBC Press and the University of British Columbia, March 2007, 24. RETURN

57 “Publishing with UBC Press:Getting Your Manuscript Accepted,” UBC Press :: University of British Columbia Press. RETURN

58 Milroy, interview. RETURN

59 All numbers of copies sold taken from UBC Press Cognos Sales History Database, accessed November 20, 2008. RETURN

60 Schmidt, interview. RETURN

61 Cullen, interview. RETURN

62 Alison Cairns, “An Analysis of the Operation of the University of British Columbia Press with an Emphasis on Scholarly Editing,” Master of Publishing project report, Simon Fraser University (Spring 2005): 31. RETURN

63 Sanford G. Thatcher, “The Value-Added in Editorial Acquisitions,” Journal of Scholarly Publishing 30, 2 (January 1999), RETURN

64 Milroy, interview. RETURN

65 Cullen, interview; Schmidt, interview. RETURN

66 Schmidt, interview. RETURN

67 Milroy, interview. RETURN

68 Wilson, interview. RETURN

69 Milroy, interview. RETURN

70 Wilson, interview. RETURN

71 Ibid. RETURN

72 Judy Metro, “Is It Publishable? The Importance of the Editorial Review,” Journal of Scholarly Publishing 26, 3 (April 1995), RETURN

73 “Questions for Peer Review,” internal document, UBC Press. RETURN

74 Metro. According to the same article, Yale University Press also requires only one reader’s report. RETURN

75 “Main Steps to the Acquisitions Process,” internal document, UBC Press. RETURN

76 UBC Press Review, 18. RETURN

77 Milroy, interview. RETURN

78 Gladys S. Topkis, “The Editor’s Job in Professional/Scholarly Publishing,” in Elizabeth A. Geiser, Arnold Dolin and Gladys S. Topkis (eds.), The Business of Book Publishing: Papers by Practitioners (Boulder, CO: Westview Press, 1985), 79. RETURN

79 Ibid., 74. RETURN

80 Nadia Halim, “The New-Look Scholarly Press,” Quill and Quire (November 1, 1998), RETURN

81 UBC Press Review, 12. RETURN

82 This is based on an overhead cost of $22,000 per book (in turn, based on the press’s yearly budget divided by number of books published per year), $6,000 for prepress costs (including copy editing, typesetting, proofreading, and cover design), and $6,300 for printing costs (based on an estimate from UBC Press’s usual printer, Friesens, for a book with typical page count and print run). For more parameters of the printing costs, see Appendix III, page 89. RETURN

83 “Publishing with UBC Press:Getting Your Manuscript Accepted.RETURN

84 Printed Matters: Book Publishing Industry Development Annual Report 2002–03, 2003–04, and 2004–05, Book Publishing Policy and Program, (Ottawa: Canadian Heritage); The Book Report: Book Publishing Industry Development Program Data, 1993.1994 to 2002.2003, (Ottawa: Canadian Heritage, 2004). RETURN

85 Scott Wilson, “ASPP Gets Budget Boost: More Scholarly Books to be Funded, and More Money Given to Each,” Quill and Quire (November 1, 2005), RETURN

86 Milroy, interview. RETURN

87 UBC Press Review, 62; Cairns, 16–17. RETURN

88 UBC Press Review, 62; Milroy, interview. RETURN

89 Barbara Jones, “Changing Author Relationships and Competitive Strategies of University Publishers,” Journal of Scholarly Publishing 31, 1 (January 1999): 3–19. RETURN

90 Lesley Erickson, “One Thing After Another: Book Series and Navigating the Crisis in Scholarly Publishing – A Case Study,” Master of Publishing project report, Simon Fraser University (2007): 38. RETURN

91 Erickson, 36; Schmidt, interview. RETURN

92 Erickson, 32. RETURN

93 Robert Darnton, “A Survival Strategy for Academic Authors,” American Scholar 54, 4 (Autumn 1983): 533–37. RETURN

94 UBC Press Review, 62. RETURN

95 Erickson, 28. RETURN

96 Wilson, interview. RETURN

97 UBC Press Review: Self-Study 2007. UBC Press and the University of British Columbia, March 2007, 28-29. Numbers have been added to facilitate referencing to each challenge. RETURN

98 UBC Press Review, 29. RETURN

99 UBC Press Review, 30. RETURN

100 Kate Wittenberg, “Scholarly Editing in the Digital Age,” Chronicle of Higher Education 49, 41 (June 20, 2003), RETURN

101 Ibid. RETURN

102 Peter Milroy, interview by author, March 6, 2009. RETURN

103 Ibid. RETURN

104 All numbers of copies sold taken from UBC Press Cognos Sales History Database, accessed October 8, 2008. RETURN





Interviews and Personal Communications

Cullen, Darcy (acquisitions editor, UBC Press). Interview by author. Notes. Vancouver: November 10, 2008.

Milroy, R. Peter (director, UBC Press). Interview by author. Notes. Vancouver: March 6, 2009.

Schendlinger, Mary. Personal communication with author. Vancouver: September 14, 2008.

Schmidt, Randy (acquisitions editor, UBC Press). Interview by author. Notes. Vancouver: November 10, 2008.

Wilson, Jean (acquisitions editor, UBC Press). Interview by author. Notes. Vancouver: October 30, 2008.


Internal Documents and Resources

“Main Steps to the Acquisitions Process,” internal document, UBC Press.

“Questions for Peer Review,” internal document, UBC Press.

UBC Press Cognos Sales History Database.


Books, Articles, and Websites

Anderson, Scott. “Publishable or Perishable?” Quill and Quire (November 1, 1997).

“Annual Meeting: Workshops.” Program for acquisitions workshop, AAUP Annual Meeting, June 25–26, 2008.

Cairns, Alison. “An Analysis of the Operation of the University of British Columbia Press with an Emphasis on Scholarly Editing.” Master of Publishing project report, Simon Fraser University, 2005.

“Canadian Federation for the Humanities and Social Sciences, Aid to Scholarly Publications Program: Guidelines, Eligibility Criteria and Procedure.” (Accessed Sept. 10, 2008.)

Dalton, Margaret Steig. “A System Destabilized: Scholarly Books Today.” Journal of Scholarly Publishing 38, 4 (July 2006).

Darnton, Robert. “A Survival Strategy for Academic Authors.” American Scholar 54, 4 (Autumn 1983): 533–37.

Demers, Elizabeth. “Getting a Real Job in Publishing: A Ph.D. in History Finds Her Dream Job as an Acquisitions Editor,” Chronicle of Higher Education 50, 32 (April 16, 2004).

Department of Canadian Heritage. The Book Report: Book Publishing Industry Development Program Data, 1993.1994 to 2002.2003. Ottawa: Canadian Heritage, 2004.

———. Printed Matters: Book Publishing Industry Development Annual Reports. 2002–03. 2003–04. 2004–05.Book Publishing Policy and Programs. Ottawa: Canadian Heritage, 2004–2006.

Dimendberg, Edward. “Five Movie Scenes From the Author/Acquisitions Editor Relationship.” Journal of Scholarly Publishing 28, 1 (October 1996).

Dougherty, Peter J. “If You Plan It, They Will Come: Editors as Architects.” Journal of Scholarly Publishing 31, 4 (July 2000).

Erickson, Lesley. “One Thing After Another: Book Series and Navigating the Crisis in Scholarly Publishing – A Case Study.” Master of Publishing project report, Simon Fraser University, 2007.

“Finding and Training Acquisitions Editors.” Audio recording of seminar by Doug Armato, Eric Halpern, and Philip Pochoda, presented at Association of American University Presses 2008 Annual General Meeting. July 18, 2008.

Halim, Nadia. “The New-Look Scholarly Press.” Quill and Quire (November 1, 1998).

Harnum, Bill. “The Characteristics of the Ideal Acquisition Editor.” Journal of Scholarly Publishing 32, 4 (July 2001).

Jones, Barbara. “Changing Author Relationships and Competitive Strategies of University Publishers.” Journal of Scholarly Publishing 31, 1 (January 1999).

Macleod, Laura. “Education for Acquisitions.” Journal of Scholarly Publishing 28, 4 (July 1997).

Metro, Judy. “Is It Publishable? The Importance of the Editorial Review.” Journal of Scholarly Publishing 26, 3 (April 1995).

Parsons, Paul. Getting Published: The Acquisition Process at University Presses. Knoxville: University of Tennessee Press, 1989.

Pascal, Naomi B. “The Editor: In Search of a Metaphor,” Publishing Research Quarterly 7, 2 (Summer 1991): 53–57.

Schiffrin, André. The Business of Books: How International Conglomerates Took Over Publishing and Changed the Way We Read. New York: Verso, 2000.

Shatzkin, Mike. “Editorial Decision-Making: Risk and Reward. Publishing Research Quarterly 15, 3 (Fall 1999): 55–62.

Shipton, Rosemary. “Value Added: Professional Editors and Publishers.” Journal of Scholarly Publishing 27, 4 (July 1996).

Spendlove, Paul. “Pop Appeal: Most University Presses Want It – But at What Price?” Quill and Quire (November 1, 2002).

Thatcher, Sanford. “Competitive Practices in Acquiring Manuscripts.” Scholarly Publishing (January 1980): 112–32.

Thatcher, Sanford G. “The Value-Added in Editorial Acquisitions.” Journal of Scholarly Publishing 30, 2 (January 1999):

Toor, Rachel. “The Book Editor: Midwife, Handmaiden, Groupie,” Chronicle of Higher Education 43, 46 (June 13, 1997).

Topkis, Gladys S. “The Editor’s Job in Professional/Scholarly Publishing.” In Geiser, Elizabeth A., Arnold Dolin, and Gladys S. Topkis (eds.), The Business of Book Publishing: Papers by Practitioners. Boulder, CO: Westview Press, 1985.

UBC Press Review: Self-Study 2007. Vancouver: UBC Press and the University of British Columbia, March 2007.

UBC Press :: University of British Columbia Press.

“Publishing with UBC Press:Getting Your Manuscript Accepted.”

“Staff directory.”

Vincent, Clement. “Don’t Judge a Book By Its Editor.” Chronicle of Higher Education 54, 9 (April 16, 2008).

Wilson, Scott. “ASPP Gets Budget Boost: More Scholarly Books to be Funded, and More Money Given to Each,” Quill and Quire (November 1, 2005).

Wittenberg, Kate. “Managing an Acquisitions Program: Defining, Creating and Implementing the Job.” Journal of Scholarly Publishing 28, 1 (October 1996).

———. “Scholarly Editing in the Digital Age.” Chronicle of Higher Education 49, 41 (June 20, 2003).



Appendix 1: Survey of Canadian Scholarly Publishers

Questions and results of an informal survey of acquisitions editors for Canadian scholarly publishers attending the Congress of the Humanities and Social Sciences

Appendix 1.1


Appendix 1.2



Appendix 2: Case Studies

Descriptions of manuscript acquisitions meetings attended between June and November 2008

A recent submission was an edited volume of more than ten articles about the physical geography of Ontario and the paleontology of prehistoric Aboriginal peoples. The volume was viewed as too general, more of a museum handbook or popular introduction to the archaeology of a particular area than a scholarly work. Thus, it was not viewed as original research and would probably fail to qualify for ASPP funding. The project was also unattached to other funding sources such as a museum. In addition, its main subject, archaeology, has not been one of UBC Press’s traditional strength areas; a previous series, Pacific Rim Archaeology, had realized mediocre sales and was deemed too technical to cross over as a trade book, leading to the general assertion that “archaeology books don’t sell.” This proposal was therefore rejected.

A submitted proposal concerns the challenges of Aboriginal-state relations in Canada. Examining governance at various levels, it compares intergovernmental relations to current theoretical frameworks on Aboriginal federalism. UBC Press has published successfully and abundantly in this field, with titles such as Navigating Neoliberalism, Aboriginal Autonomy and Development in Northern Quebec and Labrador, Hunters and Bureaucrats (which has sold nearly 1,000 copies and won the Julian Steward Book Prize from the American Anthropological Association), and Citizens Plus (which was shortlisted for two prizes and sold over 1,200 copies).[104] As a result, UBC Press has developed an excellent reputation in the field of Canadian Aboriginal-state relations and governance. In addition, the book is based on a PhD dissertation supervised by three professors who had recently co-edited a well-received volume on comparative Canadian politics; their approval offered some assurance that the submitted manuscript would contain substantial, high-quality scholarship. The proposal was accepted.

A recent acquisition looks at the interrelationships among outdoor recreation, the environment and ecopolitics. As the author is a Canadian citizen and his proposed manuscript is based on a PhD dissertation undertaken at UBC, the project is eligible for both ASPP and K.D. Srivastava funding, making it more financially appealing to publish. In addition, the author noted in his submission that the proposed book would be a natural fit for UBC Press’s Nature | History | Society series, which comprises several award-winning books – including Hunters and Bureaucrats – and is establishing the press as a leader in the burgeoning field of environmental history. This field is also growing in the U.S., expanding the book’s potential market. The book additionally crosses over into the growing discipline of the history and sociology of sport, and could hold local interest, as the research is based in BC and taps into the province’s outdoor recreation culture. The proposal was accepted.

A manuscript was proposed about Canadian foresting policy from the 1960s to 1990s, co-authored by several Canadian senior scholars. The proposal noted that no comprehensive nationwide study of provincial forest policies has ever been published, and that it would be the first book to explore its subject since 1990. The book would complement UBC Press’s significant backlist on forestry policy, environmental policy and resource management, which includes Canadian Natural Resource and Environmental Policy, a bestselling book that has been adopted into several courses and has gone into a second edition. The book is also eligible for both ASPP and K.D. Srivastava funding. The major concern with the book is that the main text of the manuscript is only 57,000 words, which is very short and could be seen as a poor value for the typical monograph prices of $85 for a hardcover or $29.95 for a paperback. However, it was noted that a short book is easier to sell than a very long one, and it would be more likely to be adopted in a graduate or senior undergraduate course. The proposal was accepted, with a caveat to review the length of the manuscript when it is submitted.

A proposed manuscript about the Sri Lankan diaspora and its cultural and political manifestations in Canada, in particular on how the nation’s post-9/11 security measures affect the Sri Lankan-Canadian community. It is a co-authored volume that will total 100,000 words and is explicitly aimed at a multidisciplinary audience with interests in transnationalism, migration, and security studies. Despite some difficulties in understanding the rationale behind the structure of the book’s main argument, it was praised for its timeliness, for exploring the little-studied Sri Lankan community in Canada, and because transnationalism is becoming a fashionable and cutting-edge sub-discipline in sociology and anthropology. The book was recommended for acquisition.

A proposal for a manuscript about governing Canada in the “Age of Terror” was submitted. The manuscript examines post-9/11 security arrangements in Canada through the lens of the politics of security in western liberal democracies, particularly in Europe, and to what extent this framework has come to govern citizens. The subject is timely, but the book was also flagged for its short length and, based on its proposal, for its emphasis on theory where; the editors believe that a practical, real-world analysis would prove more interesting to the target audience. The proposal was approved.

A manuscript about the ties between land and identity of indigenous peoples of British Columbia was proposed. The book would appeal to legal scholars, particularly those dealing with Aboriginal lands in Canada or elsewhere, and could have adoption potential in advanced undergraduate courses on First Nations in BC. The proposal itself was short and somewhat unfocused, about one-quarter of the typical proposal length, and only indicated the titles of its six chapters, not the contents. While it deals with an important subject that would fit naturally into UBC Press’s list, there is already ample scholarly literature on B.C.’s Aboriginal peoples, and specifically how Native beliefs have clashed with western “rational” models in the context of treaty processes and Aboriginal rights. Furthermore, the book’s proposed length was on the short side at only 75,000 words. It was suggested that this could be a “big” book on B.C. First Nations, unifying theory and case studies into a larger picture. Its complementarity with UBC Press’s list, it was decided, outweighed some of the weaknesses. Therefore, it was decided that the acquisitions editor would request a more directed proposal that elaborated on chapter contents before acceptance.

A proposed manuscript would examine how twentieth-century infrastructure “megaprojects” in Canada, such as the St. Lawrence Seaway and nuclear generating stations, have affected local residents and the environments around them. The manuscript consists of six case studies, including reworked versions of previously published journal articles, with a framing introduction and conclusion. The author is a well-regarded scholar in geography and the proposed book would fit well into UBC Press’s environmental history list, possibly in its Nature | History | Society series. Two minor reservations were raised. First, the case studies seem disparate and may make unification into one book problematic. Second, the author’s analyses seemed to place undue emphasis on United Empire Loyalist traditions in certain areas, disregarding, for example, the First Nations and Acadian historical influences. Both concerns were to be noted to the author to ensure that the scholarship in this area is complete. The proposal was accepted.

An edited volume about university education in Canada was proposed. Somewhat unusual for a proposal, the entire draft manuscript was submitted. Also unusual was the breadth of contributions: nearly thirty essays, written by scholars in fields ranging from chemistry to cultural theory, all discussing how the university vision has changed over time. Although UBC Press has published numerous studies on higher education that have been well-received – including Reshaping the University and Multicultural Education Policies in Canada and the United States, which have proven successful in course adoptions – this collection does not have an overarching argument or direction, as shown in its brief introduction. Furthermore, there are too many contributors in the volume (fourteen is an unofficial maximum), which could make for time-consuming logistical difficulties in getting all the pieces assembled. The fact, too, that the manuscript was already completed, albeit in rough form, made the editors especially reluctant to accept it. The book seems more appropriate to a trade publisher than a scholarly one, and the proposal was rejected.

A proposed edited volume of papers about military oral history was put forth. The book would take the best papers presented at a recent conference on oral histories in the military, covering a wide range of topics on various historical conflicts. As noted by the acquisitions editor, it is a natural fit for UBC Press’s expertise in military history, and oral memory and history is currently a big issue in that field. In addition, the editor suggested she correspond with the general editor of the Studies in Canadian Military History series, which would unify the proposed volume with other books in UBC Press’s backlist, and provide $5,000 in funding for production of the volume – not to mention raising potential sales at the Canadian War Museum and other venues. However, there was some reservation about the fact that this collection came out of a conference, since UBC Press generally does not publish conference proceedings, even though the volume would not be presented as such. Furthermore, the tentative table of contents indicated that the articles were to be organized in too many different ways – chronologically and thematically, for example. In the end, the importance of oral military history as a sub-field with little scholarly literature, it was agreed, outweighed the conference proceedings concerns. It was decided that the acquisitions editor should pursue this book.

A proposal for a collection of essays about critical issues and ethics in science journalism was brought forth. The acquiring editor noted that science journalism is currently an unknown quantity but can often be highly distorted, with most lay readers lacking the knowledge to think critically about this. The proposed book, one editor noted, had “curious framing,” with little balance and no overall argument or thrust to the collection. In addition, it is not a “true” collection, most of the essays being written by the volume editor and one other author, and several other contributors seemingly used as padding. Another editor noted that the book’s intent to link science journalism to democracy was intriguing, but found the brief proposal unhelpful in elaborating this point. The acquiring editor agreed, but believed the collection had potential for being intriguing in its critique of a little-examined area, and compared it to another UBC Press book, Morals and the Media, which has sold over 2,000 copies and had some crossover trade appeal. The proposal was accepted, with a caveat that the shape of the essays and framing introduction and conclusion be re-examined once the manuscript was submitted.

A manuscript proposal was submitted about Russians and Ukrainians in the Canadian Expeditionary Force during the First World War. The proposal was scanty, but was presented anyway for timing and approval reasons. The book would be a chronological study of the barriers to enlistment as well as interesting vignettes on how they contributed to the overall war effort. The book was compared by the acquiring editor to Renegades, a successful recent history of Canadians in the Spanish Civil War that has sold more than 2,000 copies. While the intended audience of persons interested in the socio-cultural impact of military service and general genealogical research does not fall into the overall UBC Press mandate, the book was deemed intriguing enough to pursue. However, the publisher requested that the author submit an introduction or first chapter before an agreement would be struck – something of an exceptional case – because the proposal was not wellwritten. Another factor in the book’s favour was is good fit with the press’s military history list. An inquiry was to be made to the general editor of the Studies in Canadian Military History series. If accepted for that series, the book would receive $5,000 in funding from the Canadian War Museum, providing further incentive for publishing. In the meantime, the proposal was tentatively accepted, and would be reviewed upon seeing an introduction or writing sample.

A submitted proposal purporting to be the first comprehensive study of the Canadian homefront during World War II was discussed. The proposal was specific and well written, and the book itself would be an ideal fit for UBC Press’s list, linking with Fighting From Home by Serge Durflinger and Saints, Sinners and Soldiers by Jeffrey Keshen, both acclaimed and successful books. Additionally, the proposed manuscript crossed over into other areas, including social history and the growing field of material history and culture, and came to interesting and surprising conclusions about life at home during wartime. The final push was that the book would be an ideal addition to the Studies in Canadian Military History series, which would provide extra funding for publication. The proposal was approved.

A proposal for an edited volume examining links among health, community development, and the environment was submitted. The collection of essays by an interdisciplinary team of international scholars would look at the tension between science-based and community-based solutions, an under-researched area. There were concerns about the cohesiveness of the disparate topics explored in these essays, and reservations about the expertise of the authors; for example, there was only one political scientist contributing to a policy-heavy collection. These concerns weren’t severe enough to warrant requesting sample essays or an introduction, however, and the proposal was accepted.

A submitted proposal described an edited collection about how community makeup, geography, gender, and economic status can affect health in Canada. The proposal posits a new methodology for understanding how these factors affect health care, which could appeal to practitioners and policy makers as well as academics. The essays are written by a mix of senior scholars, graduate students, and community health practitioners and workers. The editor is a respected scholar holding a research chair, and has worked with UBC Press on a previous edited volume, with an acclaimed book that had decent sales. At present, with a proposed eighteen chapters at approximately 8,000 words each, the collection would be quite long; editors suggested that perhaps two of the selections could be cut, and the remainder pared down to 6,000 words each. However, as the publisher noted, the collection has a strong medical health orientation, and could qualify for health-oriented funding, which is more abundant and lucrative than social sciences or humanities grants, as well as an ASPP grant. Although the length of each essay would still be monitored, potential for more funding would alleviate some of the pressure to pare the book down to size. The proposal was accepted.

An edited collection exploring the cosmopolitanism of Canada, and its status as a prosperous but small middle power was proposed. Most prominently noted was one of the two co-editors, an internationally known author and scholar on multiculturalism who has published numerous books with the largest university presses and been translated into several languages. The editors have also attracted numerous “celebrity” authors (those who have published with trade) to the volume. The book was also determined to be a good fit for UBC Press’s list, complementing such titles as Multicultural Nationalism, Diversity and Equality, and Multiculturalism and the Canadian Constitution. The major concern voiced was that the proposal seemed to emphasize that many of the essays are adapted from other sources, raising concerns that the essays would not be original, or worse, be abridged version of previously published works, posing a logistical nightmare for permissions. The proposal was approved, with a note to the editor to make sure that the proposed essays are original.



Appendix 3: Standard Printing Estimate

Estimate from Friesens printing company for a standard UBC Press book