The cost of creating Using Primary Sources

This blog post was written by Alison Welsby, Editorial Director at Liverpool University Press.

Anyone contemplating publishing an e-textbook will undoubtedly have cost at the forefront of their mind. This blog post concerns the expenditure associated with Using Primary Sources, an Open Access teaching and study resource that combines rare archival source materials with high quality peer-reviewed chapters by leading academics, published by Liverpool University Press and the University of Liverpool Library. The library had subscribed to the platform, Biblioboard, prior to discussions regarding the e-textbook as it provided students and academics with material curated by other libraries and institutions (including The British Library) and gave academics the opportunity to create their own collections for teaching and research purposes. So we already had the software in place to create Using Primary Sources, which was certainly an advantage in budgeting for the project. The remaining costs to create and publish Using Primary Sources are as follows:

  • Commissioning. As part of the contract agreements, payments were made on publication to the General Editor, the Assistant Editor and to the individual contributors for their work on the e-textbook and essays. We also paid external academics to write independent peer reviews of the e-textbook on publication.
  • Acquisition of third party material. We tried to use as much primary source material as possible from the University of Liverpool Library’s Special Collections and Archives department. However, some of the contributors requested material for their essay that was not available in Special Collections, so we sourced and paid for primary source material from other institutions, museums and collections, from whom there was an acquisition / supply of material charge as well as a permission / licence charge. In one instance, we paid for the specialised and high-definition digitisation of a rare and fragile medieval text so that we could include it in the e-textbook. Whilst this was relatively expensive, we considered making this material available for the first time in a digital format and therefore accessible to students as being essential to the aims of the e-textbook
  • Production. This included copyediting and typesetting of each chapter as well as an e-book cover design and logo.
  • Marketing. Many marketing activities have been relatively ‘cost free’ – see blog post by Emily Felton on Marketing Engagement and Creativity. However, we did employ traditional marketing activities such as printing colour flyers, which were, and continue to be, distributed to students at lectures, as well as at conference attended by Liverpool University Press and the General Editor. We also included Using Primary Sources in our seasonal catalogues and created three standing display banners: one for permanent display in the Sydney Jones Library foyer, one for the reception area of the Department of History at the University of Liverpool and one for Liverpool University Press to take to conferences.

However, the biggest cost of all would be staffing costs. The staff members at Liverpool University Press and the University of Liverpool Library working on this e-textbook in addition to their current employment and workload are listed below in alphabetical order:

  • Patrick Brereton (Head of Production, Liverpool University Press)
  • Paul Catherall (E-Learning Librarian, University of Liverpool Library)
  • Emily Felton (Marketing Executive, Liverpool University Press)
  • Heather Gallagher (Books Marketing Manager, Liverpool University Press)
  • Jenny Higham (Special Collections & Archives Manager, University of Liverpool Library)
  • Catherine McManamon (Liaison Librarian, University of Liverpool Library)
  • Karen Phair (Finance Assistant, Liverpool University Press)
  • Emma Thompson (Education Lead, University of Liverpool Library)
  • Alison Welsby (Editorial Director, Liverpool University Press)

The number of hours invested by these people over the past three years is incalculable. At times the project was quiet, as the contributors worked on their essays. At other times, it was the main daily activity and workload of some of the people listed above, often for prolonged periods of time. Special mention must be made to Dr Jon Hogg (General Editor), whose commitment and energy to the project has been essential throughout, and, whilst a six-month research leave was granted during the three years of the project, still had to manage this e-textbook on top of his teaching, research and administration duties. In hindsight, a project manager should have been employed to manage the project once the chapters were completed and sources identified (approximately two days a week for the final two years of the project, increased during intense periods such as the three months prior to launch in January 2017), to support the library in the acquiring and scanning of the primary source material and to take full responsibility of uploading all the material onto Biblioboard. Whilst the project manager would not require a high level of technical expertise, it would be essential they were competent in the digitisation of primary source material and data software platforms.

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