19.665 Melville's fluid text edition

From: Humanist Discussion Group (by way of Willard McCarty willard.mccarty_at_kcl.ac.uk>
Date: Sun, 19 Mar 2006 08:55:10 +0000

               Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 19, No. 665.
       Centre for Computing in the Humanities, King's College London
                     Submit to: humanist_at_princeton.edu

         Date: Sun, 19 Mar 2006 08:45:46 +0000
         From: David Sewell <dsewell_at_virginia.edu>
         Subject: Re: Melville's fluid text edition?

Neven Jovanovic asks in HUMANIST Vol. 19, No. 663:

> Dear all,
> has anyone been using, or exploring, the "Herman Melville's Typee:
> Fluid Text Edition" by John Bryant
> (http://rotunda.upress.virginia.edu:8100/melville/default.xqy; "access to
> it [must be bought] at rates that range from $195 for an independent
> scholar to $545 for a university library" --- Jennifer Howard, in The
> Chronicle of Higher Education, Feb 17, 2006:
> http://chronicle.com/temp/reprint.php?id=b8s1y8jt41x698bs783ltrft36w8mnpz)?
> What do you think about it?

As a member of the team responsible for mounting John Bryant's edition,
I can't very well respond to the last question, but would just note a
couple of things:

* The URL given in the CHRONICLE piece is obsolete. The one above will
    work, or simply go to http://rotunda.upress.virginia.edu/ for access
    to the digital publications.

* If anyone discovers problems or outright errors/bugs, please send me a
    note directly (dsewell_at_virginia.edu), and depending on whether it's a
    technical or a substantive issue, we'll address it at the Press or
    forward it to the editor.

Finally, this might be a good time to as HUMANIST subscribers to weigh
in on a more general issue that I hear lurking behind the phrase "[must
be bought]", namely, the economics of scholarly publishing on the
Internet. Traditionally, most scholarship available on the Web, apart
from online journals, has been freely available. The University of
Virginia's Institute for Advanced Technology in the Humanities
(www.iath.virginia.edu), for example, has been distributing scholarly
projects this way for over a decade. On the other hand, UVa Press's
Electronic Imprint grew from a grant proposal co-authored by IATH
pioneer John Unsworth, who believed that for digital scholarship to
thrive it would need a sound business model, and part of EI's mission
has been to explore such models.

Consider that a roundabout way of saying "I, too, wish our stuff could
be free (as in 'free beer')"; but I'd note that behind the "Typee"
edition lies not only John Bryant's years of work with the manuscript,
but also roughly six months of full-time work by programmers and
editors, or (conservatively) about 2-3 times as much investment as one
would expect for an equivalent printed book. (And to the extent that
digital scholarly projects are unique, they do not lead to much in the
way of economy of scale as more are added; that is one reason why
Rotunda has decided to focus on digital editions of existing print
documentary editions, because the wheel doesn't have to be reinvented
every time a new project is added.)


David Sewell, Editorial and Technical Manager
Electronic Imprint, The University of Virginia Press
Received on Sun Mar 19 2006 - 04:12:45 EST

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