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Pathways to PubPub

A guide for MIT Press editors and authors for the effective use of the platform as a resource

Published onJun 04, 2020
Pathways to PubPub

PubPub is an open source publishing platform for wide variety of open access works. The MIT Press and its authors use PubPub predominantly for the open publication of books and open community peer review. The Press also uses PubPub to hosts some OA journals (e.g. the HDSR and the forthcoming Rapid Reviews COVID-19).

The purpose of this document is to outline the existing MITP programs operating on PubPub, as well as other ways Press authors and staff may find the platform useful. In doing so, this document will also link to examples of existing works on PubPub that serve as good models for future projects. However, the platform is intended for experimentation and trialing novel use cases, formats and models, so if you have a project pending that you do not see reflected in this document please email us at [email protected].

Works in Progress

MITP Works in Progress (WiP) is a program for long-form works in early stages of development that would benefit from broad community feedback, as well as the ability to publish a ‘beta’ version of the work before more formal publication. These projects are not yet under contract by the Press, but show a great deal of promise. There is a separate contract for participation in the WiP program, with a fee of $1,000 to cover production and marketing costs, including promoting the work’s open commenting period, which usually lasts 2-3 months. After collecting feedback, authors may revise the work and submit it for consideration for formal publication. The MIT Press will have first right of refusal, and all submitted manuscripts will be subject to rigorous peer review. The final, contracted manuscript does not have to be available under an open access license.


Open Peer Review

Open peer review is similar to WiP, except it applies to books already under contract. There is no additional hosting fee for these manuscripts. Open peer review occurs simultaneously with traditional Press-managed peer review, and ends at around the same time authors receive those anonymous reviews. This allows authors to synthesize both sets of reviews (open and closed) in order to improve and finalize their manuscript. Authors have the option of leaving their draft up on PubPub or taking it down after open review period has ended. The final manuscript does not have to be OA if it has gone through this open review process.

Titles that are part of the MIT Press First Reads series have the option of publishing a draft of their book on PubPub while their manuscript is undergoing peer review and before the Kindle edition is published. This allows authors to publish their work in draft form quickly while benefiting from broader exposure and feedback afforded by a rapid review workflow.


OA Titles

Books that will be available both in print and as open access titles have the option of being made available on PubPub. The earlier a decision is made about the open status of a title and its availability on PubPub, the sooner the PubPub team can queue the title for production and launch. Please let the PubPub team know as soon as this decision has been made. When deliberating between OA options, it’s important to know that PubPub works best for titles that may be used in courses, have multimedia or additional resources, have (an) experimental element(s), and/or may need to be updated frequently/regularly. (Note that, in some cases, a downloadable PDF, made available from the Press’s main site, may be a more suitable, easier, and cost-effective way to deliver an OA book, especially if it’s stylistically complex, heavily illustrated, or is a deep backlist title.) Please make sure a link to the PubPub version of an OA title appears in the OA field of that work’s MITP landing page.


Additional Resources and Updates

Even when a work is not itself OA, PubPub is a nice option for collateral material, data sets, multimedia components, and/or regular (or even occasional) updates to the content. Such a community can have the same branding as the book—or not! It’s up to you and the author to decide how closely aligned the PubPub site and the book should be. In this case, authors should feel comfortable updating and managing the site on self-service basis, after initial design and training provided by the PubPub team.


MIT Open Publishing Services (MITops)

MITops, a new MITP Press service offering currently under development, is a scholar-focused, MIT-branded hosting and publishing services operation built on the PubPub open source platform. Under this program, MIT Press will offer peer review management, EDP services, and hosting to the MIT community (our initial install base). We will also provide these services to other research center and institutions that support small-scale indigenous publishing programs. If you have any questions about the MITops program, please contact Terry <[email protected]>

Independent Posting

PubPub is free and open for anyone to publish books, journals, conference proceedings . . . just about any kind of work! If you’re speaking to an author who might have another use for PubPub, or is working on a project without the MIT Press’s involvement, he or she can use PubPub independently. To do so, first create an account and then create a community from the PubPub homepage.


  1. What file formats does PubPub support?

PubPub supports a range of files for import and also exports to a wide range of file types. We prefer submissions to be in Word, HTML, or LaTeX. Once a book is available on PubPub, it can be exported (i.e. downloaded) to the following formats: EPUB, PDF, Word, and plain text, among others. Please be sure all images that accompany the boos are .jpg, .png, or .svg files (no PDFs), movies should be .mp4, and audio in .mp3 format.

  1. What kind of metrics does PubPub offer?

PubPub collects a range of metrics (views, downloads, referrers, etc) but they are not publicly available currently. If you or an author have an interest in or need for a particular metric, please let the PubPub team know and we’ll send you the data. The PubPub team expects to release a metrics dashboard viewable to all community admins in the near future.

  1. I have a project I think will be great for one of these OA publishing options, who should I contact to find out more and move forward? What’s the workflow?

Ah, a great question. It will depend on what the nature of the project (WiP vs open review, etc) and at what point in the traditional publishing workflow you’re thinking about using PubPub. Generally speaking, the earlier you can identify PubPub as part of a book’s workflow at the Press, the better. Please ask Gita for guidance on the suitability of your project for OA delivery on PubPub.

  1. Should I put authors in direct contact with the PubPub team? If so, how and at what stage?

This is really up to you. The PubPub team can produce a book and implement changes/feedback on it without direct contact with authors. However, we’ve often found that authors have a lot of questions about PubPub for their specific use case and often find it helpful to talk to someone on the team. That’s fine too. Please email [email protected] or Catherine at [email protected] to arrange this.

  1. Are there any help or support resources for using PubPub?

Yes! Please visit our Resources page for more information about using PubPub. We’ll be adding to this in the coming months as well. If you have a suggestion for a helpful resource, please let us know at [email protected].

  1. Who can comment on works posted on PubPub? Is there any kind of community moderation?

All commenters must have a PubPub account. They will be prompted to create one when they try to annotate or comment on a chapter. This helps with community management and helps the PubPub team comply with the PubPub terms of service. There is no default moderator for communities to check against trolling or bad-faith uses of the site. We recommend assigning a moderator for the first few weeks after a work is posted; this individual should provide guidance for readers and/or authors who would like to report an inappropriate or offensive comment or request that notes be removed (emailing [email protected] will always get you to someone who can help).

  1. Do you have any advice for cultivating a community around a posted work?

It’s always helpful to model the behavior you’re hoping others will exhibit in your community. To that end, we recommend seeding the title with a few annotations from invited commenters, including the authors or editors of the work, ahead of a broader, or more public, “launch.” It is also helpful if authors are available, even if for a few days, to respond to reader comments. We also recommend that authors write a brief statement about why they’re posting their work. We think the authors of Data Feminism provide an excellent example of how to do this well in the landing page copy for the draft of their book.

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