economics of publishing websites

As a follow-up homework assignment to your small-group analysis of companion websites to scholarly/academic books, please research the publishing company of your book/website and leave a group comment in response to this post that summarizes the histories, disciplines (thus audiences), economies, and publishing missions/scope (based on key ideas from our readings so far) that can help contextualize why the companion sites were designed or produced with the features (and flaws) you noted from last week’s analyses. These responses should be more formally written than the previous week’s posts and should be approximately 5-6 paragraphs in length. Post one comment for each group. Due 8am next Wednesday.

8 thoughts on “economics of publishing websites

  1. Katie Ericsson and Ariana Haze

    Bedford/St. Martin Analysis

    Bedford/St. Martin Press is distinct as a publishing firm working for students with real knowledge of the disciplines they publish. The press publishes primarily college textbooks written by teachers who want students to understand they are speaking from experience. The audience, as previously mentioned, consists of college age students, as well as instructors interested in what other experienced professors have to say.

    Bedford/St. Martin’s is part of the Bedford, Freeman, and Worth Publishing group. Bedford, Freeman and Worth publishers are owned by a larger Germany based publisher called Georg von Holtzbrinck Publishing. Bedford/St. Martin’s was founded in 1981 by Charles Christensen as Bedford Books, originally an impress of St. Martin’s Press. Joan Feinberg holds the current position of the President of the press. The press is currently involved in projects centering on eBooks, online course spaces, and eLibraries.

    The publishers have been involved with arguably some of the most successful textbooks in the publishing industry. Their current projects can be bought in print and some found online. Most of them include companion websites, supplementing media, and instructor tools. Projects include A Writer’s Reference by Diana Hacker, Patterns for College Writing, The Bedford Reader, The American Promise and more. Their publications can be found in college courses as well as high school Advanced Placement courses.

    The subjects of these textbooks vary; however, Bedford/St. Martin’s mostly covers the humanities. The editorial staff is particularly large considering they spend time doing their own research and developing the projects they want to publish. Conversely, they admit on their website that they work on fewer projects. The reason behind this is their goal to have a limited focus but a thorough result. Their staff includes retired and current teachers from all areas of the humanities. Their editors reflect their authors in that all come from the field of teaching and have a good background concept of the educational system.

    Upon looking at other companion websites, notably the companion page to Axelrod & Cooper’s Concise Guide to Writing, fifth edition; in comparison to Diana Hacker’s companion website for Research and Documentation, it was obvious that the publishers utilized a house style while still staying true to the intentions and design of each book. The font, specifically, was the same or similar in size, placement, and color on both companion sites as well as the publisher’s webpage. Also, the three pages had different layouts but similar tracking and leading. However, it is possible that the authors were definitely involved in some level of design for their websites.

    All three websites had different concepts behind them. For example, Diana Hacker’s website used a file folder theme to convey the message that her research could be stored for later use. Axelrod & Cooper’s page used color all over to draw attention to important ideas and stay with the theme of being concise. One thing that could be considered a flaw of the web pages is that all three have much white space and text that is not centered on the home page. Although this could be argued against, the publishers might have gone this route so the page could be read like a page in a text book. In other words, the publisher might want to keep consistency with the print book and help readers follow the text. This may not work as well for Diana Hacker’s site because of the file folder concept, but overall seems to be an effective choice.

  2. Kristen Urchell, Julia Drauden

    Compose, Design, Advocate is a book published by Longman/Prentice Hall, which is an imprint of Pearson. Longman and Prentice Hall are both within Pearson’s Education group. The company as a whole was started back in 1790 and obtained separate groups including Financial Times Group and Penguin Books. They produce texts for many different audiences and in international markets, as well. To link all this information, their website provides social networking links to Facebook, Twitter, and genre forums.
    According to their website, Pearson’s education group “provides educational materials, technologies, assessments and related services to teachers and students of all ages.” They also publish across many disciplines including English, Math, Anthropology, and more. Whatever it is they do they apparently aspire to be “brave, imaginative, and decent.”
    With such an extensive publishing company, the website is large and relies on links and separate sections for users to easily find information. It appears that the companion website for Compose, Design, Advocate was built with the same framework in mind; however due to the smaller scope and audience the separations become a distraction. The site actually becomes more difficult to use.
    Another coherent aspect of the two websites, the companion website and Pearson’s website, is the blue color scheme. It is obvious that the publisher is taking precedence over the publication in the companion website. In the companion website the user can see Pearson all over the outskirts of the page. So while this may be distracting and awkward it does give the site extra credibility since Pearson is such a large and well-known publishing company.
    While looking for another companion website for a Pearson textbook, we could not find one. However, we noticed that the catalog pages for other textbooks had a “resources” tab, which linked to other texts related to the textbook advertised. Obviously, giving users access to other resources is something Pearson values—which is productive, if done in an effective, orderly way that utilizes a user’s time on the site appropriately.

  3. Alexander Browne, Haley Drucker

    The publishing company of the work we looked at is MIT. The general organization of the is pretty straightforward with the first page dedicated to a short summary of the book and a small number of links to other books by the author, table of contents and sample chapters, and a link to purchase the book among other links. This design serves the commercial purpose of MIT we because it does not spend any unnecessary text on information that does not lead to a person buying the book.
    The majority of the text on the first page is about the book with a small paragraph at the beneath the book summary describing the author’s background and expertise. This works because the book is meant as a scholarly source so establishing the credibility of the author early and clearly encourages people to trust the content of the book and by extension other material published by MIT. Underneath the author’s description, there are a few links to books of similar topics, allowing a user to connect to other texts published by MIT on related topics. This is another marketing device MIT is using to keep users on their website and buying their books by establishing credibility and convenience, essentially MIT is saying, “you already trust what we offer, and you’re interested in this subject, so here are more texts you might want”.
    The audience for this book would be a more academic audience interested in gathering research materials. The website does a good job of targeting that audience through the use of small samples of the larger text, summaries, and a clearly established author credibility that does not waste words on non-academic information. Each page on the site focuses on materials an academic might desire in the course of gathering research.
    The included materials connect Manovich’s book early works in cinema, thereby creating a heritage that can be referenced during a discussion of new media. This connection with a precursor allows discussion of new media to include historic dimension.
    In the case of Lev Manovich’s personal website, there is not a publishing company but a single author behind its design. This limitation is, of course, one reason for the website’s simplicity and awkwardness. The design of the Language of New Media page is stark, unorganized, and unattractive, and many of the links don’t work. Part of this may be because the creator is a professor, with a small academic budget and little time to spend perfecting a website. However, the disorganization also suggests the author has little familiarity with the principles of web design, which is odd considering his background. He has a degree in Visual and Cultural Studies and currently is a professor at a Visual Arts Department, and directs such programs as the “Software Studies Initiative.” His bio even states that “Manovich has been working with computer media as an artist, computer animator, designer, and programmer since 1984.”
    Digging deeper into his biography and book publishing history, though, it looks as though Manovich focuses more on theory than application. He has more experience in traditional art and art history than actual web design. And his books are focused on theories about culture and new media rather than practical application. This focus on content rather than application would explain the fact that his website has a lot of pertinent and useful information, but is organized and designed poorly.
    This speculation is also supported by the fact that the webpages for Manovich’s more recent publications are designed similarly—confusing but with lots of good information. Perhaps his primary audience, other humanities scholars interested mainly in theory, wouldn’t mind the lack of aesthetics and organization so much, because they are most interested in the concrete information. However, I believe that is a misjudgment of Manovich’s audience. Anyone interested in the theories behind new media would expect a website about such theories to be designed in a modern way. In the end, I think Manovich did not fully consider what his audience would expect from such a website, but did at least provide the information that audience would expect to find.

  4. Amber Dinquel, Alison Kough

    Between the two posts on Bedford/St. Martin I feel we’re definitely getting a full view of the publisher.

    Seeing and Writing, a first year composition text, is published by Bedford/St. Martin. They describe themselves as a small publisher whose focus is on quality rather than quantity. Their publications for college courses include: College Success (guides by subject, college life, test taking, life management skills), Communication (film studies, journalism, mass communication, speech communication), English (business and technical writing, composition, development English, literature and linguistics), History (U.S., European, world, writing and research guides), Music and Theater, Philosophy and Religion, as well as high school textbooks in language arts, math, science, and social studies. Bedford/St. Martin also features a “Trade Up” program where any Macmillan trade paperback can be combined at half price with a text book from Bedford.
    As previously stated, their overall aim is quality. Their website states, “there are more of us, working on fewer books, than at any other publisher.” A unique attribute of this publisher is that its contributors are instructors who have tried their handbooks and other materials on their pupils before publication. Therefore, the audience is not only instructors looking for resources on books they plan to or have already purchased, but writers and designers who are looking to be published. Bedford/St. Martin’s editorial team consists of teachers and researchers who have previously (or currently) are working in the fields which their publications come from. Many also have degrees in those fields. Additionally, they state that the company employs more developmental editors than any of their fellow college publishers. Bedford’s sale representatives also specialize in several particular subjects in order to better serve customers.
    In the digital realm, Bedford/St. Martin’s is rather advanced. In order to lower prices for students and teachers, their website recommends purchasing e-books, which they state often reduces the price by half. They also offer print text in a variety of formats which may include optional media packages. Bedford realizes in this economy that the growing price of textbooks is often a problem so “[they] let you decide whether to adopt a comprehensive media solution—and pay a few extra dollars—or just rely on free and open resources.” Their free and open resources for students and teachers are extensive. For example, there is a toolbar in the homepage which leads the audience to different tools related to their print books such as videos, websites, and tutorials. These resources are available to anyone whether or not they purchase a book. For professors Bedford offers free print and digital resources, classroom materials, instructor manuals, test banks, video presentation CD-ROMs as well as training and workshops.
    One of their more unique and innovative digital aspects includes custom publishing. Currently, instructors in composition and literature can create their own anthologies for classroom use. The database includes over 700 works which can be combined with pedagogy and personal materials to create a unique text. Additionally, Bedford/St. Martin can create a website or e-book to accompany the personalized text and course. They have employees who will work directly with teachers to create these websites. It is no wonder then that, overall, Seeing and Writing’s companion website is easy to navigate and utilize.
    Corporately, Bedford/St. Martin falls under the Bedford, Freeman, and Worth publishing company, which specializes in non-fiction texts for college, high school, government, and corporate realms. Bedford/St. Martins is also among one of the many subsidiaries of the Macmillan publishing company. The website claims that it is, “It is the largest publisher of textbooks for college English courses, as well as a leading publisher in the disciplines of history, communications, business and technical writing, political science, and music.” Because Macmillan is such a large publisher, it can afford to make attractive and functional websites for its users. Much of that functionality exists within the publisher’s commitment to the instructor. It’s clear from these websites that the company is encouraging a discussion among teachers on the most appropriate way to approach the material. This encouragement of free speech isn’t directly making the publisher money, yet it works to create a trust between the creator and the user in a way that the user feels invested with the project and is more likely to return to the same publisher for different tools and resources. In attempts to lower pricing, Bedford/St. Martin is also interested in recycling and re-using desk copies of textbooks. Instead of selling exam copies as “used books” the company asks that these books be passed onto others who are interested or sent back to the company for recycling.

  5. Christina Pallack & Heather Stephenson

    Our site was the Virtualpolitik piece, and the publisher was the MIT Press. To start with MIT is the only press in America that has a list compiled mostly of texts which pertain to science and technology. MIT publishes over 200 books a year and 40 journals. They want their texts to be focused on an ever changing world and the categories of science and technology continually aid the future, and our always topics of change. MIT Press not only has strictly science and technology subjects but also include fields such as architecture, social theory, economics, cognitive science, and computational science. MIT is committed to strive for design excellence and the efficient and creative use of new technologies. In this regard MIT is a publisher which consistently needs to be up to date on the latest theories, practices and discoveries. The typical MIT audience would be those readers who intellects who desire to be in the know about the latest information, science and technology among other areas of study as well. In other words the people who enjoy learning about where the most advanced fields are headed for the future and how those fields will change society. MIT states that their publishing mission is to “create books and journals that are challenging, creative, attractive, and yet affordable to individual readers.” MIT is a very professional press which is concerned with the most current and correct information that is available.
    Looking at the layout of the site for the book “Virtualpolitik” we noted in our previous post that it was a little boring and plain. The site is in a simple two column layout with the navigation bar presented across the top of the page. One design aspect that we thought was a nice feature was the fact that the site provides the readers with a few sample chapters of the book and the table of contents before purchase. After reading a few chapters of Willinsky we saw a correlation from his argument to the MIT site. Willinsky is very much an advocate for open access information, and he strongly wants all journals to be available for free online. Due to the fact that MIT has a few chapters of the book online for free is an example of Willinsky’s ideas. Although the site does not have the whole book, it does offer a decent portion of it which is more than most sites allow readers to view before purchasing the book. In this way MIT is an advocate for allowing the reader to learn a little about the book before buying it in order for the reader to discern whether or not they want to purchase it. MIT, like Willinsky, seems to believe in open access at least enough to allow some viewing of their published works without purchase.
    In our previous post we made claims that the MIT site was not very exciting design wise. The only thing the site seemed to do for the book was sell it, and market it. While the site was functional, it did not seem to have a wow factor that would constitute a good companion site for the book. Now that we know a little more about MIT we can see why there site is designed in this way. The most important thing to a publisher are their readers. Readers insure that the publishing house has a job and the readers are who the publishing house works for. With this in mind we have also found our that the most common MIT reader is a person who is an intellectual who enjoys reading challenging documents about the latest in electronics, science, or other areas of interest. Looking at this fact we saw that MIT is a publisher that is purely for the information. MIT is a content based publisher, and their readers to a large extent are also very content based. In this regard we believe that MIT did not add any extra interesting design details to go along with the book for two reasons. First because they care strictly about information above all else they are going to put their energy and focus into providing the best published document of that information to the best of their ability. Second, and most importantly, we think that MIT did not include any extra design elements because they felt that it may distract their readers during the reading. Understanding that their readers are very content based, MIT does not want any extra elements that may take away from the text. They want their readers to engage with the text as closely as possible without any background elements interfering with the reader’s experience.
    Overall, the MIT website was not the most interesting site, nor a site that would be a very good companion site for the book (except in the case of marketing and selling the book). Now having learned more about the kind of press they are we think that MIT understands the majority of their readers and left their site on the plain side in order to keep their readers engaged in the text without having any distracting elements on the page.

  6. Carly Xagas and Sarah Fasen

    Technological Ecologies and Sustainability

    Computers and Composition Digital Press, an imprint of Utah State University Press, was founded in 2007 by two faculty members from two separate institutions, University of Illinois and Ohio State University. For the first year, several faculty members served at various times as editors during the process of website development, design, and recruiting of eBooks for publication in this venue. Because this press is relatively new and had several faculty members from several institutions working on site maintenance, that is probably why our eBook and the press’ site follows the same template, which appears to be a blog template. It is very simple and easily managed, and with so many busy people working on the site at different times, it was probably best to use a simple design like this.

    In addition, the Utah University seal features the same dark blue that is prominent in the sites’ design, which probably explains (at least partially) the color scheme. The right sidebar that was prominent in the eBook site is also present in the press’ site, with the exception that it is much better utilized in the press’ site. We feel that, in order to keep up with the site design, the designers had to keep the right sidebar on the eBook site, but failed to fill the sidebar with appropriate information (blog reviews for the eBook are listed, which is redundant because blog reviews were listed elsewhere on the site as well).

    The editors state that they invite proposals that “address the use, impact, and study of digital media, spaces, and practices.” Topics include areas like: new media literacies, multimodal literacies, gender and technology, hybrid online course design, web-based pedagogies, online publishing, digital poetics, digital humanities, social networking, virtual worlds, and more. These are the types of disciplines the press specializes in–very broadly, they are interested in publishing projects with a focus on the digital, especially projects that work only digitally.

    The audience of these projects is, therefore, scholars that work primarily with technology. For that reason, it is interesting that this site isn’t better designed. They are aiming to impress scholars that work with the digital, yet the design is subpar. We think this is, again, because so many people from so many institutions work on editing this material, and it is much easier to use a platform (like a blog) that has software that is more accessible to more people than, say, CS DreamWeaver, which is very expensive.

    The goal of the CCDP is to uphold a certain academic standard but to combine that standard with a dedication to digital scholarship. Their mission is to produce and circulate the best scholarly work in digital media. Their commitment is to make this work available on a global scale through digital distribution. Their focus is on multimodal projects as well as eBooks that have the same intellectual heft as a book. Because of their digital commitment they hope to produce work that is accepted by diverse technologies such as mobile devices, etc. This commitment extends to being able to reach out to users who have different ranges of abilities when it comes to technology.

    Because they are trying to be a far-reaching press, that is another reason why their site may not be as fine-tuned as it could be. Their focus may be more on accessibility than the aim to impress viewers. The actual eBook, which we found problematic in a lot of ways, is at the very least straight-forward and its navigation is easy to comprehend. There is a clear table of contents and there are clear links. Because our book is different from the others in that it does not exist in print at all, there is no need to contextualize the need for a “companion” site because it is not a companion. Though the labeling of the files on the actual eBook could have been better, at least it is easy to comprehend the purpose and goal of the site.

    As far as economics go, it was a little difficult to figure out where their funding came from. There is nothing on the website describing if there is an author submission fee or if that is negotiated after submission. While considering the economics of this website we were drawn back to the reading which described the software that could be managed by a journal editor with no extra cost. This website looks like it is run off of a blog template and the only project that is listed is one eBook, so the maintenance does not seem too time consuming. We could not find any other eBook sites produced by the press, so we had nothing to compare it to besides the actual press website, which, as previously mentioned, is very similar in design.

  7. Sean Lewis & Alli Bartus

    We reviewed the companion website for Katherine Hayle’s book, Electronic Literature: New Horizons for the Literary. This book was published by the University of Notre Dame Press, which is, obviously, located at the University of Notre Dame in Indiana. The press was started in 1949 and publishes books written by scholars in a variety of academic disciplines. Being published through a university press is considered quite an honor for any author involved in scholarly writing. The books and journals published at a university press are reviewed and approved by an editorial board of the author’s peers (the top minds) in their particular field.
    Hayle is obviously a well-respected member of her field. It would be safe to assume that someone so entrenched in digital media would have the resources to create an excellent website to accompany her book. In fact, that is exactly what appears to have happened. The two gentlemen credited with designing the companion site are also members of the English department at the University of California, Los Angeles with Professor Hayle. However, even if we assume these men are quite capable of designing an excellent web page, this does not mean that they would do so out of the goodness of their hearts. More likely than not, they were paid rather handsomely to do so.
    University presses are non-profit organizations. They are focused on putting out the very best material they can get their hands on. They aren’t burdened with profits and appealing to the largest audience possible. The institutions they are affiliated with subsidize these presses. The more money the university has, the more it can allocate to the press. From 1987 to 2005, the endowment for the University of Notre Dame went from $350 million to $3 billion. Their annual operating budget went from
    $177 million to over $650 million. It is safe to say that they could afford to pay a couple of web designers a reasonable sum for their efforts. It would also be safe to assume that the quality of the site is due to the fact that the press is more concerned with quality than sales. The site is attractive, intuitive, and isn’t bogged down with advertisements or unnecessary, flashy elements. However, this is not to say that the site is not without its flaws.
    It’s hard to discuss the flaws of this site based on the publishing company because that particular press had nothing to do with the creation of the companion site. Taking this into consideration, however, helps us to understand why the site looks the way it does. The University of Notre Dame Press is the company responsible for printing N. Katherine Hayles’ book, Electronic Literature: New Horizons for the Literary. On the press’ website, it lists a summary of the book, as well as information about the CD-ROM that’s included. In one or two sentences, it also mentions the website and the link to go to that site. After searching through the site, we found that the site was created by two people, a coordinator for the UCLA department of English and an undergraduate student at UCLA, who actually created the site.
    In the “about the press” section of the University of Notre Dame Press website it says,” …it [the press] extends the reach and reputation of the University while fulfilling its charge to advance intellectual exploration and knowledge.” It’s evident that this press has very high expectations and continuously strives for excellence. It’s quite possible that the press saw Hayles’ book and included CD-ROM as enough information, and that a companion website would have taken away from the book itself instead of enhancing it. The fact that Hayles herself, as well as a colleague and student of hers put together this companion site gives some explanation as to why the site is the way it is. I think had University of Notre Dame Press created the site themselves, it would have taken it to a higher caliber of information.
    One of the flaws we saw in this site was that it was unfinished. The blog section only had two entries and the forum was never actually created. In the “about” section of the website, it gives information on the people involved in the site. The coordinator involved has a background in English, and only and interest in New Media. The undergraduate involved was studying American Literature and Culture, with a concentration on the use of digital standards and best practices in electronic literature. While all the people involved have an interest in electronic literature, none seem to have any background in website design. It could be that because of their lack of website creation knowledge, they found creating this companion site was too much work to keep up. As an undergraduate and as a professor, people get busy during the school year. I think because this site was created as purely a companion site, it was put on the back burner . Had University of Notre Dame Press taken on this project with the initial publication of the book, I think it would have been completed in a timely manner and kept up-to-date as well.

  8. Michael Bunce, Drew Whitney

    The Picturing Texts textbook companion site is a part of W. W. Norton & Company, Inc. Norton is an independent publisher of fiction, nonfiction, poetry, college textbooks, cookbooks, art books, and professional books. Beginning in 1923 Norton originally published lectures before moving later into publishing trade books and college textbooks. Over the last few decades Norton has expanded its range of publications, including subjects such as best-selling fiction, economics, psychology, political science, sociology, architecture and design, nature, psychotherapy, and neuroscience. The company has expanded internationally into Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Taiwan, Hong Kong, Japan, Korea, and Latin America.

    The Norton site highlights the company’s founder’s imperative to “publish books not for a single season, but for the years” in fiction, college textbooks, and professional books, most notably. As mentioned within the publisher’s history, Norton publishes for several disciplines under psychology, sociology, nature, economics, science, and others for scholars and students in those fields.

    The home Web site for Norton is massive, involving dozens of links that each lead to substantial content requiring the user to scroll down for some time; however, the immense amount of content does not make the Web site appear crowded or overwhelming. The color scheme of the site further helps in soothing the user in that it showcases natural colors like pewter and soft greens. The site is easy to navigate, and every page appears consistent with the homepage. How this relates to the Picturing Texts textbook companion site, however, is what matters.
    Picturing Texts parallels Norton’s site in that it tries to create comfort using natural-feeling colors, although the actual colors are shades of yellow and shades of blue, very different from the pewter and greens. There is an option in the upper right-hand corner of the site to change color schemes, but it just reloads the same yellow and blue appearance. Unfortunately not a positive commonality, the two sites both contain outdated information; granted, the textbook could be out of circulation, but the outdated elements of the Norton site seem like carelessness for such a large company. Specifically, Picturing Texts notes on the site credits page that Dr. Ball is currently completing her PhD at Michigan Technological University. On the Norton site homepage, there is a spotlight on Michael Lewis’s The Blind Side that recommends its film adaptation coming out on November 20, 2009.
    Perhaps because of Norton’s size, it is difficult to draw more similarities between Norton and Picturing Texts; other than general navigation that allows users to not think to get where they want, the two sites could otherwise be considered unrelated if it were not for the W. W. Norton & Company logo being featured in the top-right corner.


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