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 public benefit corporation co-directed by Eileen A. Fradenburg Joy and Vincent W.J. van Gerven Oei, is a scholar-led, queer-led, and peer-reviewed diamond open-access (OA) academic book publisher devoted to academic and para-academic authors working in any field in the humanities, social sciences, fine arts, and architecture & design who want to publish books that are genre-bending and which take experimental risks with the forms and styles of intellectual writing. Our authors understand that where they publish is just as important as the content of their work, and that sharing their work with the global commons is vital and necessary. Three primary concentrations for us are (1) books that shift the paradigm in established disciplines; (2) books that help to create new, transdisciplinary fields; and (3) books that play in the fields of creatively speculative thought. Punctum is also committed to supporting projects of translation and multilingualism across a wide variety of historical periods, geographies, and languages. All of our editorial, production, and post-production work is conducted in-house in Punctum’s offices in Santa Barbara, California and Tirana, Albania with everyone having the opportunity to work remotely (no subcontracting for cheaper labor and equitable working conditions). Punctum’s commitments to and care for Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion are evidenced in our Directorship, our catalog and also in our Editorial Advisory Board.
Unlike other publishers and OA initiatives that charge author-facing fees to publish OA books (Book Processing Charges, or BPCs), Punctum believes these fees are not sustainable and also aggravate deeply entrenched inequities in the scholarly publishing landscape. Related to this, 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 (on average), 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 global knowledge systems, and with no economic or technical 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 and overheads in ways that are fully transparent to the communities (including libraries) invested in more transformative models of open scholarly communications, and that don’t sacrifice quality on any level, including the care of our authors (the average cost of a Punctum title is $5,500).
Punctum is completely transparent in its activities and finances and publishes its annual reports openly:
- Financial and Activity Report, 2016-2019
- Financial and Activity Report, 2020
- Financial and Activity Report, 2021
It Takes a Community
Importantly, Punctum is also a library community-formed publisher. Since 2018, Punctum has been engaged in a 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 have worked together to:
- streamline and optimize Punctum’s publishing workflows;
- develop “best practices” technical infrastructure for its digital catalogue;
- engineer Punctum’s website to support ADA compliance, ensure stronger privacy protections for users, and enable better technical efficiencies;
- create and launch the Supporting Library Membership Program, in order to better sustain Punctum’s operations (consortial funding model); and
- share expertise and resources in order to better support, together, a transformative academic publishing landscape centered on OA books in the Humanities & Social Sciences.
With the assistance of UCSB Library, who guided us to trusted library platforms and groups, Punctum has designed its entire digital catalog (400+ books and counting) so that it follows all of the “best practices” for cross-referenced metadata, cataloguing, indexing, dissemination, discovery, aggregation, and preservation of its OA books. UCSB Library and other librarians also guided us to library conferences in the US and Europe that we should attend so that we could better understand what librarians need and the challenges they face, something we continue to do and always will. We have also presented in library conference sessions co-organized with scholarly communications and collections librarians and will continue to do so. In this way, Punctum staff and librarians work together as scholar-researchers in scholarly communications. In turn, Punctum has shared with UCSB and other librarians the groups and platforms trusted in the world of OA books as well as detailed knowledge about the international OA publishing landscape more broadly. Ultimately we share knowledge and technical resources with librarians, and they do the same for us, so that we can work together to help transform the world of scholarly communication.
As to other issues that matter to librarians, all of Punctum’s e-book editions, with cross-referenced metadata, can be downloaded directly from from OAPEN Library, who also supply reader metrics and COUNTER-compliant usage stats, and our books can be also be downloaded, also with reader metrics and usage stats, from JSTOR and Project Muse. The Metadata Export API of our own open book metadata system Thoth, developed in collaboration with other OA presses, also allows direct download, by book, of ONIX 2.1 and 3.0, KBART, CSV, and BibTeX records (MARCXML and other file formats under development). MARCXML records, in bulk, can be obtained via OAPEN Library. OAPEN Library also works with Hypothes.is to provide an open annotation layer on top of our books. The Directory of Open Access Books (DOAB) catalogues and indexes our titles, as does OCLC and EBSCO Knowledge Base. Editions of our titles have also been enhanced for print-disabled readers (such as through braille and audio DAISY editions) and are available through RNIB Bookshare (UK). All of our print titles, in affordable paperbound editions, are available from GOBI Library Solutions (EBSCO), but we also offer a 40% discount to libraries who can contact us directly (email@example.com).
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 hosted by Cloud68, an open source-based, privacy-first cloud hosting company based in Tirana, Albania, who have also 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. Our COMMS Hub, our platform for enabling more robust forms of community engagement around our titles and activities, 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 to develop open-source software for making print and digital books (such as Editoria). Because Punctum believes that its work should not just be focused on the Anglo-Euro-centric world, in addition to publishing authors across the globe in both the Global North and Global South, we collaborate with global infrastructure builders such as CNKI (China National Knowledge Infrastructure) who serve as a repository in China for our digital books. Punctum is invested in open source, community-owned infrastructure for OA books publishing, because we believe in non-competitive collaboration between OA presses and OA organizations who are jointly committed to transformative scholarly communications.
Punctum is 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 2021, Punctum signed the Metadata2020 Pledge in which we promise to be “an advocate for richer, connected, and reusable open metadata.” In addition to working directly with UCSB Library, and its trusted platforms, we play leadership roles in ScholarLed (a consortium of born OA presses dedicated to non-competitive collaboration), the RadicalOA Collective, COPIM (Community Led Open Infrastructures for Monographs) and the Open Access Scholarly Publishing Association (OASPA). We are founding project leaders for the COPIM project, where we are building open infrastructures for OA books that can’t be privatized and which allow a wide variety of publishers, librarians, and technology experts to partner, non-competitively, with each other to build more durable and networked architecture for OA books (all of the open documentation of the COPIM project can be found here). When libraries support Punctum, they aren’t just helping to support the operations of one OA press — they are also supporting our continuing, collaborative work on open infrastructures in the larger landscape of scholarly communications.
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 catalog 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 global knowledge systems valued by librarians and other research-intensive organizations, including 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, equitable, 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 collaborator and leader in the larger scholarly communications landscape. 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 low risk and robust revenue pool that enables an extremely cost-effective method for funding OA books 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 OA books in the Humanities, Social Sciences, Fine Arts, and Architecture & Design, with no publication fees ever imposed upon authors;
- commitment and adherence to the “best practices” (as guided by librarians and the standards of academic communities) for editorial evaluation and oversight, interoperable metadata, cataloguing, indexing, dissemination, discovery, aggregation, and preservation of its OA books; and
- the development and sustainable maintenance, in collaboration with other presses and research organizations, of open-source and community-owned infrastructure for OA 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:
- full transparency via an annual financial and activity report, in which we share the titles we have published each year, the activities with which we have been involved within our own press but also within the larger community of OA publishing, an overview of our finances, download stats for our e-books, and numbers of print books sold plus income from our print edition sales;
- biannual newsletters with information regarding what we have been doing as a press and how we have been collaborating across the landscape of OA books with organizations and other publishers around the development of community-built infrastructures for OA book publishing;
- a seat on Punctum’s Library Advisory Board, because we believe that the libraries that support us should be part of our governance (librarians who want to opt out of this can do so);
- CSV, ONIX, KBART, BibTeX, and Crossref DOI catalog formats from Thoth, a community-led metadata management system we helped to develop, as well as for other OA presses who have their catalogs incorporated into Thoth (MARCXML records and other file formats under development);
- COUNTER-compliant usage statistics & reader metrics, provided by OAPEN Library for whole books and by JSTOR and Project Muse for chapter-level usage;
- indexes and catalogs of Punctum titles, provided by Directory of Open Access Books, EBSCO Knowledge Base, CNKI, OCLC, and Thoth;
- cross-referenced metadata (including DOIs), provided by Crossref;
- open annotation layer on Punctum’s e-books and e-book chapters, provided by OAPEN Library + Hypothes.is;
- enhanced e-book editions for print-disabled readers provided by RNIB Bookshare;
- long-term preservation, provided by Portico, of Punctum’s e-books and associated metadata;
- acknowledgment of supporting libraries on Punctum’s website (on our Supporting Library Partners webpage);
- the right to use Punctum’s logo in marketing activities; and
- a 40% 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). To contact Punctum directly to purchase discounted print editions of our titles, contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
What Supporting Punctum Entails
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 (below is a link to the Pricing Schedule). 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 open to revision as each institution sees fit.
- Supporting Library Membership Pricing Schedule
- Current Supporting Library Partners
- Library Advisory Board
Supporting Punctum Books can be accomplished directly through Punctum, or through Jisc in the UK and Lyrasis in the US and Canada. For more information on the Supporting Library Membership Program in general, contact Livy Snyder (email@example.com) or Eileen Joy (firstname.lastname@example.org).
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)