Report on the Seventh Year

January 1, 2005 to December 31, 2005

Date: 2/16/2008

To: Donald J. Waters, Program Officer, Andrew W. Mellon Foundation

From: Arnita A. Jones, Executive Director, American Historical Association; James Jordan, Director, Columbia University Press; Kate Wittenberg, Director, Electronic Publishing Initiative at Columbia

RE:  Gutenberg-e annual report for 2005

This marked an important transitional year for the project, as the last group of award recipients was selected, projects from the first four award classes moved toward final publication, and the managers worked through the details for completing the project. We enter the final phase of the project with a sense of optimism about the publication of the remaining books, but with a more realistic sense of the costs and effort involved in such publication.

As we discussed at our meeting in January, we are requesting a one-year extension for the project—through calendar year 2007—to allow the authors in the final class time to submit their manuscripts (which are due in March 2007) and the editorial staff time to edit and prepare them for publication. As we anticipate the large class of authors selected in January 2004 to submit their manuscripts this fall, requiring a payout of the next installment of their awards and further costs for editorial work and rights, we also request the final installment of the grant from the Foundation.

Developments in the Project

As we reported in the last annual report, in January 2005 the AHA award committee selected the final eight award recipients. This brings the total number of awards conferred back up to the planned complement of 36. All of the authors from the first four years have now submitted their manuscripts, and all the manuscripts have been copyedited. The copyedited manuscripts are now either back with the authors for final review, or with the technical staff at EPIC being encoded for publication online.

As the chart shows, almost half the authors now in the pipeline are expected to submit their manuscripts over the next 18 months. This was a result of our efforts to replace the award recipients who returned their prizes and those who did not receive prizes in the third year because of a thin pool of applicants. With the final deadline for the grant looming, the managers of the project at the AHA and Columbia met a number of times over the course of the year to discuss how we could assure that the project would be completed on time and on budget. As we reported to the Foundation in October, we have taken a number of steps to make sure that the authors clearly understand their obligations and lay a solid but flexible foundation for editing and producing the remaining manuscripts. A joint letter was sent out to the authors in the fall, reminding them of the deadline for submitting their manuscripts and the importance to the project of getting the manuscript in on time. In the meantime, staff at Columbia developed tools, style sheets, and templates that should considerably speed the publication process once the manuscripts have been submitted.

Authors and staff met together at the March workshop, to discuss the status of outstanding projects and assess how the new projects might be transformed from dissertations to electronic monographs. As in years past, the workshop proved quite helpful in bringing the new cohort of authors up to speed about the project, fostering a sense of community among authors old and new, and allowing the authors and editors to meet and discuss the specific needs of individual projects. There seems to be a substantial change among the authors who received the award in recent years. A larger portion of the authors among the last two award classes have brought a greater enthusiasm for the electronic aspects of the publication, and a clearer vision of how they intend to develop their books for the medium. This is an important and exciting development. As you know, the project was initially premised on the idea that young scholars would be attracted to the project because it provided an opportunity to turn their dissertation into a monograph in a difficult publishing market, rather than the special appeal of digital publication. As a result, most of the authors in the first three classes entered the project with little knowledge of technical or conceptual issues involved, so many of them struggled to revise their dissertations while simultaneously trying to reimagine them as digital scholarship. In contrast, among the past two cohorts of award recipients, a much larger number of the authors came to the project with some knowledge of the different models of digital scholarship that are currently available (including the earlier publications in this project) and specific ideas about how their publications could be developed or transformed for the medium. So this gives us some added cause for optimism as we assess our ability to bring the final books to publication.

As we detailed in our October report, we have had further discussions with our partners at Columbia, and think we have identified significant cost savings that will assure that we can complete the project within the remaining budget. By building marketing and editorial costs into ongoing work at the library, the press, and the Association, we should be able to significantly curtail those costs going forward. We will take advantage of some staff turnover at EPIC, shift most of the editorial work to freelance copyeditors (overseen closely by Kate Wittenberg) and absorb other costs related to text preparation and ongoing maintenance of works published in the project. Given the templates, style sheets, and established relationships with the authors, we are confident this can be done without adversely affecting the quality of the publications, even as it will reduce editorial costs to almost one-third of our earlier estimates. Meanwhile, marketing will continue to be carried out through the ongoing marketing efforts of the Press and by taking advantage of other opportunities in AHA publications and at the meeting.

Status of Publication

Thirteen publications are now online.  This year saw the anxiously awaited publication of the Heidi Gengenbach’s book, Binding Memories:  Women as Makers and Tellers of History in Magude, Mozambique, a publication that takes full advantage of the creative opportunities made possible by online media.  The design of the book is more open than the standard linear front-to-back reading of a normal codex book, as it allows the reader to determine how the text will be experienced and read.  The author offers suggestions for the order in which the chapters can be read, but shapes the contents into a non-linear graphic that allows for multiple paths through the text.

One of the other publications we are particularly excited about, Helen Pohlandt-McCormick’s, ‘I Saw a Nightmare . . .’—Doing Violence to Memory: The Soweto Uprising, June 16, 1976, was delayed by staff efforts to catalog and post the incredibly deep archive of materials assembled to accompany the work. Dr. Pohlandt-McCormick received unprecedented access to the South African archives that house materials collected from the Soweto uprising, and hopes to include more than 200 images of placards carried that day, official documents, and other ephemera from the event. She also negotiated with the photographer Sam Nzima for the use of the photo of Hector Petersen that has come to symbolize the Soweto uprising, and finally won his assent this fall. Including this well recognized and memorable photo should further increase the value and visibility of the publication.

The work of six other authors selected in the first four years of the project have entered the final stages of production. Like the Soweto book, most of these present similar challenges in balancing the standard work of text editing and preparation for publication, with the separate task of preparing a substantial archive of digital images and sound recordings. The publication by Sarah Lowengard, for instance, on changing notions of color, has presented particular challenges in trying to balance the different technologies that filter such color between the original document and the end reader. Ken Steuer, John Haddad, Tonio Andrade, and Willeen Keough presented similar—though in their own ways unique—challenges for the technical staff at EPIC. Steuer’s work integrates dozens of battlefield maps that need to be shown at varying scales, while Haddad’s book integrates images of three-dimensional objects that have to be shown from different angles. The staff at EPIC have been working through these issues with the authors for some months now, and the broad technical issues seem to be resolved. All that remains is the mark-up and design work that should require a few months of additional work. We anticipate their publication this spring. 

Advertising and Marketing

The majority of the advertising and marketing has been taken over by Columbia University Press, which included the Gutenberg-e titles in their seasonal catalogues this spring and fall as well as the History catalog.  In addition, Gregory S. Brown’s, A Field of Honor: Writers, Court Culture, and Public Theater in French Literary Life from Racine to the Revolution, appeared in the Literature catalogue and Tonio Andrade’s forthcoming Commerce, Culture, and Conflict: Taiwan under European Rule, 1623–1662 appeared in the Asian Studies catalog. Brown’s book was also displayed at the 18th Century Studies Society meeting. Looking ahead, we have already noted that a large portion of the manuscripts that will be submitted this year—and a large portion of those already published and in preparation—deal with aspects of women’s history. As those books come on line, we will begin actively targeting marketing efforts to that community as well.

Since library professionals are responsible for much academic purchasing, and a significant market for the project, Columbia’s team displayed the books in the Library Resources catalogue and at the meetings of the American Library Association, the Association of College and Research Libraries, and the California Library Association.  In addition, Columbia distributed promotional emails getting information about these electronic books right to potential buyers’ computer screens.

  Meanwhile, the AHA continued to spread the word about the project through its own publications, the American Historical Review and Perspectives, both through articles about the status of the project and free advertising in the Association’s publications.  The winners of the 2004 competition were formally announced at the annual meeting in Philadelphia this January, and will appear among the other award recipients in the March issue of Perspectives.

Financial Status

To address the concerns of Foundation staff about our financial reporting on the project, we asked the Association’s auditor, Elizabeth McMaster, to review both the finances of the project and the attached report through the 2005 calendar year. For the calendar year, we carried over $138,233 in funds on hand, we received $345,134 in additional funds from the Foundation over the summer, and made $3,443 in interest. Against these revenues, we incurred $437,999 in expenses which leaves us with $48,811 on hand. 

On the expense side, the report shows costs associated with the final selection of the 2004 award recipients—eight $10,000 awards for the new winners (plus $5,000 for one of the earlier award recipients when he submitted his manuscript); six $1,000 honoraria for the selection committee, and costs associated with a conference calls for the final selection ($560). The other expenses consist of some staff time at the AHA ($6,420), costs associated with some of the management meetings in New York over the summer, a late bill for an advertisement in the Journal of World History in 2004 ($200), permissions fees for rights and images for five of the forthcoming titles ($4,295), and four readers reports ($800). Columbia’s expenses for the calendar year are slightly below what we estimated in the report submitted in October as a result of some staff turnover at EPIC.

In the coming calendar year we anticipate expenses of $155,000, comprised primarily of the next installments of payments to previous prize recipients. The authors will receive an additional $5,000 when they submit their manuscripts, and a final $5,000 payment after they have signed off on the final copyedited text for publication. Beyond those costs, we estimate approximately $8,000 in permissions and fees for images for the books—though we would have to admit that thus far we have consistently overestimated the amount of need in this category. We also anticipate $25,000 in editorial costs at Columbia, primarily for freelance editing of the nine new manuscripts due this spring, and an additional $20,000 for a final workshop this Spring. As agreed in the previous budget and reports to the Foundation, staffing at the Association for remaining work on the project will not be charged to the grant.

To cover the anticipated expenses over cash on hand, we request the final allocation from the grant.


The project appears to be headed to a successful conclusion, with all books completed on time and the project finished within the designated budget. We do request an extension on the terms of the current grant, which would allow us until Spring 2008 to submit the final report for the project. Since the current contracts give the authors two years to complete their projects, the eight most recent prize recipients, who signed contracts earlier this Spring, will not be required to submit their manuscripts until early 2007. Given the time needed for editing and production work, the project cannot be completed before late 2007.  Obviously, given past experience, we have to assume that some authors will not complete their manuscripts on time. We should have a better sense of this after the workshop meeting in March, when nine of the remaining 17 authors should submit their manuscripts. After we have had an opportunity to gauge whether and if there is a problem, the managers of the project at the AHA and Columbia will meet together to develop a specific set of procedures for addressing this issue within remaining time for the grant and submit it to the Foundation for approval.