The release of art and knowledge from enclosure and hoarding into spirited circulation is punctum books’ great work. It is not just that punctum books refuses to reproduce class inequality by making our work free to the desiring. It is also that it is radically open to collaborative, dynamic, rigorous experiments in genre and thought’s forms.
~ Lauren Berlant, George M. Pullman Distinguished Professor of English, University of Chicago
punctum books is conceptually the bravest and aesthetically the most inspiring publisher in the humanities I have encountered to date … Generosity is what makes their output a constant risk in experimentation that they take together with their authors. So, it is thanks to their generosity that their catalog seems like an incessant intellectual festival one always desires to return to.
~ Katerina Kolozova, Director, Institute in Social Sciences & Humanities, Skopje, Macedonia
Overview: Punctum Books
Punctum Books, founded in Brooklyn, New York in 2011, and now incorporated in Santa Barbara, California as a non-profit, public benefit corporation co-directed by Eileen A. Joy and Vincent W.J. van Gerven Oei, is a scholar-led, peer-reviewed, open-access (OA) book publisher devoted to cultivating trans-disciplinary academic work that takes risks with form and style, and to fostering authors both within and outside the Academy, including thought leaders at prestigious universities, early to mid-career researchers at a wide variety of academic institutions, precarious academics, independent scholars, artists, and others who want to push the boundaries of established disciplines and methodologies and who understand the importance of sharing their work with the Global Commons. Punctum is further dedicated to publishing work that is not only trans-disciplinary in innovative ways (digital poetics, or imaginary materialisms, or auto-theory, for example), but which also helps to bring new fields of thought into being (such as cognitive museum studies, digital capitalism studies, Anthropocene studies, speculative musicology, soft architectures, posthumanisms, medieval disability studies, fan theory, radical pedagogics, queer literary forensics, and more). Finally, Punctum is committed to supporting projects of translation and multilingualism across a wide variety of historical periods.
Unlike other publishers and OA initiatives that charge author-facing fees to publish open books (Book Processing Charges, or BPCs), Punctum believes these fees aggravate deeply entrenched inequities in the scholarly publishing landscape, and we also believe that print editions of scholarly work should not be cost-prohibitive. At the same time, the average cost of making an academic book, according to the majority of well-established university and commercial academic presses, can range from $15,000 up to $30,000 per title, and making digital ebooks available in open-access form, utilizing all of the best practices for the curation and preservation of digital objects and their integration into universal research records, and with no economic barriers to authors and readers worldwide, necessitates rethinking the traditional business models for academic publishing, to include developing new protocols that will assist us in streamlining workflows and reducing costs in ways that are fully transparent to the communities invested in more transformative models of open scholarly communications (the average cost of a Punctum title, with very few exceptions, is $5,000 to $8,000).
It Takes a Community
As of 2019, Punctum is engaged in a 2-year pilot partnership with UCSB Library, in order to develop a non-author-facing fees OA book publishing model that privileges cooperative expertise and knowledge sharing between librarians, knowledge managers, publishers, and scholar-researchers. More specifically, UCSB Library and Punctum are working together to:
- streamline and optimize Punctum’s publishing workflows;
- develop “best practices” technical infrastructure for its digital catalogue;
- re-engineer Punctum’s website to support ADA compliance, ensure stronger privacy protections for users, and enable better technical efficiencies;
- launch a Supporting Library Membership Program to sustain Punctum’s operations (consortial funding model); and
- share expertise and resources (technical, staffing, and otherwise) in order to better support OA books in the Humanities & Social Sciences, while also testing out a new library publishing model.
With the assistance of UCSB Library staff, and in partnership with OAPEN Library, Punctum has retrofitted its entire digital catalog (230+ books and counting) so that it follows all the “best practices” for the curation, discovery, dissemination, and preservation of OA books in the Humanities and Social Sciences. All of Punctum’s e-book editions, with cross-referenced metadata, download directly from OAPEN, who supply open MARC and ONIX records, as well as reader metrics and COUNTER-compliant stats. OAPEN also works with Hypothes.is to provide an open annotation layer on top of the books and chapters in the OAPEN Library. In addition, our titles are available (with chapter-level reader metrics) via Project Muse. All of our titles are also cataloged in the Directory of Open Access Books (DOAB), and long-term preservation of our e-book files and associated metadata are guaranteed by OAPEN working in collaboration with the National Library of the Netherlands. Editions of our titles that have been enhanced for print-disabled readers (such as through braille and audio DAISY editions) are available through RNIB Bookshare (UK). All of our print titles, in affordable paperbound editions, are available from GOBI Library Solutions (EBSCO).
As part of our efforts to work as collaboratively as possible across the global landscape with partners who share our values, and to also divest as much as possible from proprietary platforms, our digital operations are now hosted by Cloud68, an open-source-based, privacy-first cloud hosting company based in Tirana, Albania (who have helped us move internal team communications from Slack to Mattermost, our web analytics from Google to Matamo, our file-sharing worktables from Dropbox to Nextcloud, and our invoicing from PayPal to Invoice Ninja). And our COMMS Hub, which is our new platform for enabling more robust forms of community engagement around our titles, has been built on the open-source community publishing platform PubPub with the assistance of MIT’s Knowledge Futures Group. In 2018, Punctum also entered into a partnership with the Coko Foundation to work with them and other publisher partners (such as Univ. of California Press, Stanford Univ. Press, California Digital Library, Michigan Publishing, Manifold Scholarship, etc.) to develop open-source software for making print and digital books (such as Editoria), not only because Punctum is invested in open-source, community-owned infrastructure for OA publishing, but also because we believe in non-competitive collaboration between presses who are jointly committed to transformatively open scholarly communications. This is why Punctum is also one of the founding members of the ScholarLed consortium, which comprises 5 book publishers in Australasia, Europe, the UK, and the US, who are dedicated to developing better capacities for smaller-scale, OA presses in the Humanities and Social Sciences, including working together on infrastructure as well as on reducing costs and streamlining production processes.
In June 2019, Research England awarded £2.2 million to ScholarLed and its partners (Birkbeck, University of London; Coventry University; the Digital Preservation Coalition; Directory of Open Access Books; Jisc Collections; Lancaster University; Loughborough University Library; and UCSB Library) to pilot a £2.8 million, 3-year international initiative to build a community-led ecosytem for open books in the Humanities and Social Sciences. In October of 2019, the Arcadia Fund contributed an additional £800,000, and you can read more about the awards and work involved in the project here:
Punctum is also a signatory, along with ScholarLed, of the Invest in Open Infrastructure initiative, launched by SPARC and other OA organizations to “enable durable, scalable, and long-lasting open scientific and scholarly infrastructure to emerge, thrive, and deliver its benefits on a global scale.” In addition to working directly with UCSB Library, OAPEN Library, the Coko Foundation, and ScholarLed, we are also highly active members of the RadicalOA Collective (Centre for Postdigital Cultures, Coventry University, UK) and the Library Publishing Coalition.
punctum books is the antidote to the Amazonification of publishing that many have been waiting for. But like the actual Amazon forest — and unlike Amazon.com — punctum books is essential for the health of our literary ecosystem. It is the lungs of a certain dispersed, but resonant, creative milieu. And what it lacks in scale, it more than makes up for in energy, enthusiasm, ingenuity, vision, commitment, and — well — joy!
~ Dominic Pettman, Professor of Culture & Media, Eugene Lang College, The New School for Social Research
Why Library Support Matters
When university libraries support Punctum on a revolving annual basis (see Pricing Schedule below), they not only get specific things that are highly meaningful to libraries (such as MARC, ONIX and other records, usage stats, cross-referenced metadata, and the like), but they also help support the operations of a press that shares values with the research library community and wants to work in direct relationships with librarians and other knowledge workers in order to ensure its catalog is fully legible and integrated into universal research systems valued by librarians and other research-intensive organizations, including repositories and digital learning environments, while also ensuring its books are available to a global readership without economic or other barriers. In addition, by supporting Punctum, libraries also invest in a more diverse, scholar-led, community-owned, and not-for-profit publishing ecosystem that we believe is crucial for the cultivation of more creative and diverse modes and forms of scholarship and their open dissemination and preservation as public knowledge. Libraries can also be assured that they are investing in a press that has established its role as a transformative actor in the scholarly communications landscape, as well as its economic and operational sustainability and integrity. Finally, the Supporting Library Membership Program adopts a consortial funding model whereby small annual contributions sourced from a network of libraries across the world form a robust revenue pool that enables an extremely cost-effective method for funding Open Access in which no single institution bears a disproportionate cost, and each institution determines for itself what is an appropriate level of support (more on which below).
What Library Membership Enables
When libraries provide Punctum Books with financial support, they help to subsidize:
- the publication of high-quality open-access books in the Humanities, Social Sciences, Fine Arts, and Architecture & Design, with no publication fees imposed upon authors; and
- the collaborative development and sustainable maintenance of open-source and community-owned infrastructure for open-access books in the Humanities and Social Sciences.
Annual membership fees enable the following benefits (for both individual supporting libraries in particular, but also for the larger public in terms of providing transparency around the “best practices” we have developed around the technical infrastructure and workflows of our catalogue):
- a yearly report detailing Punctum’s book releases (35 titles released per year, on average, with a goal to release 40–50 titles per year starting in 2020) and the ways in which member funds are being spent to underwrite those releases in print and PDF editions (XML and EPUB editions under development) as well as to assist Punctum in its collaborations with other organizations and publishers around the development of community-built infrastructure for OA book publishing;
- MARC and ONIX records (provided by OAPEN Library) for all of the books in Punctum’s catalog (KBART files under development);
- COUNTER-compliant usage statistics & reader metrics (provided by OAPEN and Project Muse) for all of the books in Punctum’s catalog;
- cross-referenced metadata (including DOIs) for all of the books in Punctum’s catalog;
- open annotation layer on all of Punctum’s e-books and e-book chapters (provided by OAPEN Library + Hypothes.is);
- long-term preservation (provided by OAPEN Library + National Library of the Netherlands) of all of Punctum’s e-books and associated metadata;
- acknowledgment and Library’s logo on the Supporting Library Membership webpage on Punctum’s website;
- subscription to e-mail list for library partners and to Punctum’s monthly newsletter;
- the right to use Punctum’s logo in marketing activities;
- a voting position on Punctum’s Library Advisory Board for the term of the Agreement (the Board will meet electronically once a year and Board members will always have a direct channel for communication, at any time, with the Directors of Punctum); and
- a 30% discount on all of Punctum’s print editions purchased directly from Punctum (all of Punctum’s print editions are also available through GOBI Library Solutions).
What Supporting Punctum Entails
Below are links to 2 documents, the Agreement Form for the Library Membership Program (developed with the generous assistance of librarians at KU Leuven Libraries Artes), as well as the Pricing Schedule. Libraries can opt in for one year at a time (and can decide at the end of each year whether or not to continue supporting Punctum) or they can choose to lock in for 3- or 5-year cycles of support, with discounts of 10% and 15%, respectively, off the annual membership fee. The pricing schedule is constructed along a sliding scale tied to certain parameters, such as type of institution (PhD-granting research university versus small liberal arts college, e.g.), size of the institution (faculty + students), geographic region, and national currency, and libraries can choose their own pricing within the sliding scales, and they can even name their own price at a level they feel is fair and appropriate according to their own budgetary circumstances, regardless of how the Pricing Schedule designates their institution. We understand that factors such as the type and size of an institution, the volume of its research output, etc. does not always neatly align with any one library’s collections budget, and therefore we want to ensure that libraries interested in supporting Punctum, and scholar-led, community-built OA book publishing more largely, are able to do so at levels that are fair and tailored to each institution’s special needs and abilities. We therefore welcome and encourage libraries to simply name the figure that they believe best suits their institution’s capacities. In addition, the Supporting Library Membership Agreement Form is iterable and open to revision as each institution sees fit.
Supporting Library Partners
- Academy of Fine Arts Vienna, Austria
- Columbia University Libraries, USA
- Duke University Libraries, USA
- KU Leuven Libraries, Belgium
- McLaughlin Library, University of Guelph, Ottawa, Canada
- University Library, Iowa State University, USA
- University of California, Irvine Libraries, USA
- University of California, Santa Barbara (UCSB) Libraries, USA
- University of Groningen Library, The Netherlands
- Cheryl Ball, Wayne State University Libraries + VEGA, USA
- Sherri Barnes, University of California, Santa Barbara (UCSB) Library, USA
- Johanna Blakley, The Norman Lear Center, Annenberg School for Communication & Journalism, University of Southern California, USA
- Martin Eve, Birkbeck, University of London + Open Library of Humanities, UK
Library Advisory Board
- Nicky Agate, Columbia University Libraries, USA
- Sherri Barnes, University of California, Santa Barbara (UCSB) Library, USA
- Amy Buckland, McLaughlin Library, University of Guelph Library, Ottawa, Canada
- Greg Eow, Center for Research Libraries, USA
- Andreas Ferus, Academy of Fine Arts Vienna, Austria
- Dave Ghamandi, University of Virginia Library, USA
- Arianne Hartsell-Gundy, Duke University Libraries, USA
- Harrison Inefuku, Iowa State University Library, USA
- Peter van Laarhoven, University of Groningen Library, The Netherlands
- John P. Renaud, University of California, Irvine Libraries, USA
- Dolsy Smith, Gelman Library, George Washington University, USA
- Demmy Verbeke, KU Leuven Libraries, Belgium
punctum books is, without any question for many of us, the most important academic and para-academic press operating today. Their mode of radical open-access publishing is the vanguard of rethinking how scholarship matters in the world.
~ Nathan Snaza, author of Animate Literacies: Literature, Affect, and the Politics of Humanism (Duke, 2019)
For more information on the Supporting Library Membership Program, email Eileen Joy: email@example.com