actions and feedback. There might be sponsored forums targeting
subjects in which new research is changing ideas. The discussions could be the seeds of new content. Authors could be
encouraged to produce papers on new sample chapters to circulate back into the community and generate more feedback.
The “shared interest” here can extend beyond the intellectual
enthusiasm for an academic topic. In scholarly research communities, funding for grants is often tied not only to publication of
new material but also metrics indicating how often a particular
paper has been cited. Engagement communities can provide
researchers the opportunity to pick up new papers and cite one
Collaborative communities, unlike engagement communities,
are often project-oriented. A group collaborates together toward
the completion of a particular goal or goals. In publishing, we are
well suited for collaborative communities structured around our
own production processes. The creation of books and journals is
a team effort involving authors/contributors, members of both
the editorial and production departments, and of course vendors.
Traditionally, the effort is held together by a project manager at the
publisher or the vendor (for full service) or a shared responsibility
As publishers have moved more work into the full service
model, there has been a subsequent loss of centralized production control. Authors and contributors often complain about being
shuffled about from one person to the next, without being quite
certain exactly what is happening with their creation at any particular time in the process. Scheduling seems to be getting reduced
down to manuscript delivery date and final file delivery date, with
little publisher/author knowledge of what is happening in
Consider a platform designed specifically for the various interactions that occur in production. Such platforms already exist
commercially and might even be provided by the vendor doing full
service work. The first benefit is that the collaborative platform
provides a communication system dedicated specifically to the
project. All members of the production team know where to look
for updates and special instructions. Team members can be
assigned roles within the platform that provide them access to
documents and processes they need or restrict that access as
appropriate. The platform itself tracks all versions of pages.
Every member of the team can see where the project stands,
and there should be no complaints about publications going into
Looking back at the way ALT assembled publisher, parents,
teachers, and children, we see a small but powerful indication of
the virtual community’s potential in publishing. There are existing
platforms that can meet our functional needs, and there are
plenty of opportunities for creating communities. Now it is time
to start connecting the dots between them.
Wikipedia’s definition: “Virtual communities resemble real life
communities in the sense that they both provide support, information, friendship and acceptance between strangers.”
The Potential of Virtual Communities
Within the Publishing Ecosystem
Initially, appreciating the power of the virtual community in publishing may require some modest changes to the way we now view
our customers, authors, and even vendors. In the pressures of
day-to-day business, it is easy to look at customers as sales targets, with authors and vendors as contractors. In a community,
however, all members are working together with a common cause.
In that context, we are partners.
Most publishers have used the power of the Internet to send
email marketing blasts to all their customers. Using it to create a
community platform for customers around a common interest can
positively change the way they regard the publisher. That platform
may not always be an immediate path to increased sales, but it
can certainly be an immediate boon to customer relations. If built
with their interest in mind, a community platform can do more to
promote customer loyalty than any marketing campaign could.
Engagement communities provide their members with a platform for ongoing interaction dedicated specifically to their
common interest. As publishers, we are looking to bring together
our customers and perhaps our authors into an engagement community based on an interest they share.
It is often subject matter from the trade sector—particularly for
hobbies and crafts—that lends itself naturally to an engagement
community. On a publisher-sponsored site, hobbyists can be
encouraged to ask questions of their favorite authors or comment
freely on what works best for them. The publisher can release
advance articles or chapters to the community and invite reader
response. Authors might use reader feedback to guide their
writing going forward. The publisher might facilitate open discussions about particular hobbies or crafts, with the authors as moderators. There can even be contests to encourage readers to recommend new subject areas for exploration. The most avid fans
will not only have definite ideas of what they want to see published
next, they will also be buyers and enthusiastic promoters of the
Outside of the trade sector, publishers may not as easily find
readers who bring such enthusiasm to particular subject areas,
and those readers might not necessarily be the best source for
new content development. As one STEM executive has noted,
“New scientific discovery is hardly appropriate for crowdsourcing.”
There are, however, still appropriate engagement communities to
target for more academic or scholarly areas.
In the STEM world, for example, there are a number of expert
authors who might be brought together around specific topics.
Publishers might partner with existing scientific associations
already dedicated to specific areas of inquiry, such as cancer
research for medical content or nanotechnology for engineering
Once again, it would be the publisher’s role to encourage inter-
THE TECHNOLOGY-PUBLISHING CONNECTION
This is the final installment in CodeMantra’s Technology-Publishing Connection series. A free webinar based on the
article will be held on January 25.