April 12, 2001


I know I'm late to this, but I just discovered that the National Academy Press (NAP), http://books.nap.edu/, publishes all 1,800 of its books both in print and on the web. The web editions are unabridged and free of charge.

For an example, see the online edition of _The Door in the Dream: Conversations with Eminent Women in Science_, by Elga Wasserman, at http://www.nap.edu/books/0309065682/html/. When you reach the site, you are presented with a hyperlinked table of contents. When you click on a chapter, the first page comes into focus. All the pages are scanned images. This reduces cut-and-paste piracy and, NAP insists, makes its production less expensive, especially for illustrated and highly formatted text. Readers must click to advance each page. It's not as convenient as scrolling, but it's free, it's full-text, it's printable, and even though it's a graphic it's still searchable, both by internal and external search engines.

NAP calls its web publishing interface Open Book, and has a page on its technical details and larger mission here, http://www.nap.edu/info/site.html. This is the page to read if you're interested in free online scholarship. NAP claims that its free web editions stimulate sales of its for-profit print editions. This is what the music industry --and the rest of the academic publishing world-- finds so difficult to believe. But NAP has run the experiment and here reports the results.

Within the next few months NAP plans to make its proprietary Open Book source code open.

NAP is the publishing arm of the National Academies, http://www.nationalacademies.org/, e.g. the National Academy of Sciences, National Academy of Engineering, Institute of Medicine, and National Research Council. I can't tell whether it is officially not-for-profit, but its charge from the National Academies is to pay its own way. It is self-sustaining not despite its dual method of publication, but because of it.



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Peter Suber

Copyright (c) 2001

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