A spotlight descending from above on a black background, with yellow and white text to the left that reads 'Publisher Spotlight: a series of blog posts by publishers, talking about the platforms they use to publish their open access books. Read their stories on the OABN blog.'

Using Manifold at Temple University Press and Libraries by Alicia Pucci and Mary Rose Muccie

Welcome to a series of blog posts by publishers, talking about the platforms they use to publish their open access books. In these posts, a range of different presses tell us what platform they use, why they chose it, and how it fits (or occasionally doesn’t quite fit) their work.

The next post in the series is by Alicia Pucci (Scholarly Communications Associate at Temple University) and Mary Rose Muccie (Executive Director at Temple University Press) and it explores how Temple University Press have been using Manifold to publish their open access books.

Founded in 1969, Temple University Press publishes books in the humanities and social sciences and is the premier publisher of books on Philadelphia and the surrounding region. The Press began reporting administratively to Temple’s libraries in 2010. With the 2018 launch of the libraries’ Center for Scholarly Communication and Open Publishing, the libraries and Press began to partner on new approaches to sharing scholarly output and developing services in support of our mission to advance learning and scholarship. One such service, launched in 2019, is North Broad Press (NBP), a joint Libraries/Press open access imprint that provides Temple faculty with an opportunity to author their own open textbook.

NBP primarily publishes high-quality open educational resources by members of the Temple community, with limited additional capacity to support scholarly monographs, edited volumes, and digital scholarly projects. Everything we publish is open access and goes through a traditional book production process, including peer review by two independent experts in the field. Copyediting, typesetting, and design are provided at no cost, and we allocate stipends to some Temple authors to support writing an original open textbook. To date, we have published five textbooks and have sixteen in varying stages of progress. All NBP titles are published our Manifold platform.

Temple began using Manifold when the NBP imprint was announced and at a time when the Press was strategizing on sustainable open access models for traditional titles. After evaluating the options for hosting and publishing open access books, including the ease of integration with our established procedures, support for digital enhancements, and cost, we applied for and were chosen as one of ten publishers to participate in a 2019 pilot program on using Manifold.  

We kicked off our Manifold collections in 2020 with four Press titles previously published as part of the American Literatures Initiative (ALI). Funded by a grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, ALI supported the publication of important scholarship in literary studies, which had become an underfunded and under-resourced discipline from which fewer titles were able to be published. Open access availability of these titles matched the spirit of the grant by expanding their reach and supporting their use in ways beyond the traditional print and electronic editions.

Manifold allows for the inclusion of related and supplemental material to enhance and expand the traditionally published content. The Press was immediately able to take advantage of this by including the text of two author talks, a link to a website listing reviews, and slides from a presentation related to Belinda Kong’s Tiananmen Fictions Outside the Square.

In addition to the five NBP titles published to date, Manifold hosts all Press open access titles. This includes over thirty titles in labor studies, re-released with new forwards through a Humanities Open Book grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities; the Press titles included in the Knowledge Unlatched program; and, most recently, titles made open access through support from the authors or their institutions.

Our experience with Manifold has been positive, in part because it is designed to be compatible with the majority of publishing outputs. Unlike an authoring platform like Scalar or Pressbooks, Manifold ingests source texts created externally, including EPUB, Google Doc, Markdown, HTML, and Word, which makes it a great option for smaller publishing initiatives like NBP that have limited bandwidth and rely on a combination of internal and external workflows to produce their content. For example, although most of the NBP production workflow is managed in house, we have used various tools for generating the final open access and print-on-demand files. This includes working with external vendors and freelancers, partnering with our library’s graphic designer on text design and typesetting in InDesign, and using Pressbooks to typeset less complicated titles. And because Manifold is compatible across devices, users can access content on desktops, smartphones, and tablets and enjoy a customizable and immersive reading experience. Given the evolving ways users, in particular students, are accessing online content, this factored in our decision to use the platform.

Manifold fosters experimentation and innovation through its support for diverse project types. These can range from simple text-only content that has been authored directly in Word/Google Doc to media-rich content that has been designed professionally. Because NBP serves the broad Temple community across departments and courses, the textbooks vary in complexity. Our current publications are primarily text with hyperlinks throughout. However, upcoming projects will integrate elaborate imagery, audio files, videos, interactive H5P exercises, and supplementary resources like instructor guides and homework assignments.

Although Manifold is not an authoring platform, we have incorporated it at specific points in that process. NBP authors can request that we post draft versions of their manuscripts, as in this example. This allows authors to experiment with the process of writing an open textbook, as opposed to a traditional book. Readers can highlight and annotate Manifold titles and share those annotations with others, either publicly or in private reading groups. Not only is this useful for students using the final version in class, but it also allows for crowd-sourced open peer review on draft manuscripts. NBP currently employs single-blind peer review with the option for open peer review, and we would love to expand the options to include this feature.

All NBP textbooks are licensed under Creative Commons to facilitate the unfettered flow of ideas, scholarship, and knowledge. In this spirit of open, we also aim to make our titles accessible. The Manifold team prioritizes accessibility as a non-negotiable design philosophy and ensures that their user interface follows the latest WCAG 2 AA standards. However, it’s important to note that while the platform itself is accessible, the final book files that are ingested in Manifold must also be made accessible. At NBP we have built support for accessibility into our workflows, ensuring that the final book files are accessible before they are ingested.

Like many open source developers, the Manifold team continues to work with the community to develop the platform and is committed to incorporating feedback from publishers, librarians, and users alike. As more scholars experiment with new modes of publishing, the platform adapts to meet these growing needs. This commitment, along with the features outlined here, is key for a mission-driven press such as Temple that wants to deepen its support for digital scholarship and open access.

Temple University Libraries and Press mourn the loss of Temple President JoAnne A. Epps, who died suddenly on September 19. She was a champion of the Libraries and Press and a staunch believer in equitable access to education. She will be greatly missed.

Read the other posts in this Publisher Spotlight series on the platforms presses choose to publish their OA books: https://openaccessbooksnetwork.hcommons.org/category/publisher-spotlight/ 

CC BY 4.0 This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.