The state of scholarly e-books today and tomorrow: Olaf Ernst, IOP Publishing

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E-books play an increasingly important role in research libraries. We ask people from across the industry for their perspective on scholarly e-books today

Olaf Ernst, commercial director of IOP Publishing, which launched a new e-book programme at the Frankfurt Book Fair

There is a huge demand for e-books. What was missing was a high-quality, major physics society publishing physics books. There was huge demand for this from the community. When I joined IOP in 2011 from Springer, I was asked many times why IOP didn’t publish e-books.

IOP sold its book programme in 2005. Nobody knew where e-books were going then and IOP’s business model was focused on print. Our new programme is different, not popular science but high-quality and high-level books. We really want to focus on authoritative content targeting researchers, like our journals. The titles aim to be must-reads within a very specific field.

We also partner with Morgan & Claypool. Its e-book programme is more focused on researchers who are in the early stages of their research careers or who would like to approach a research field more broadly and across disciplines. The programme gives authors another way to publish with us. The books will be searchable along with journal content on IOP Science. We will provide DOIs on a chapter level.

We want to sell e-books as packages to institutions. We have 35 books planned by the end of 2014 and plan to grow to around 100 front list titles per year.

Our e-books will be born digital and deliver print afterwards using print on demand. Being born digital is very important. We don’t have a legacy print programme. With a print heritage you have to go with what the print looks like but with born digital it can be built differently. This could mean multimedia on top but not necessarily. It’s more about being able to think differently about things like word and page length and how you treat tables.

We will be selling to libraries, the same customers as our journals, with a perpetual-access model and no DRM. We will use full-text XML so that we can exploit all the possibilities of the internet and it gives us full flexibility to, for example, put books into EPUB. The books will also be part of our semantic enrichment programme.

So far we haven’t seen a demand for open-access books. Producing a book is very different and much more costly than a journal article. Books don’t tend to carry primary research and the business models and relationship with the author is very different.