5.2 Consolidation with the Web book

The need for a new publication format

Today, digital projects in Humanities are more and more developed under the form of institutional websites, supported by diverse public and private funds. It is our belief that this new trend is a great opportunity for Humanities research, but generally presents three important issues:

  • So far, publishers are not partners. Consequently, these projects and their websites are lacking the expertise of the publisher and the usual dissemination reserved to academic publications.
  • A "long text" describing the research in detail is not typically included in such websites. We are convinced, however, that the writing of “long text” such as a monograph is among the most excellent intellectual features of Humanities research. We observe the recurrent absence of long texts from digital websites projects.
  • A paper monograph does not fit the model of a research project on an institutional website: it can not be related to the added value of collected data, material, and comments on the website and it does not allow access to the different steps of the research, that is, to the versioning.

Web book: definition

We therefore believe that a new format is required. We have decided to test a new model of publication, the “web book,” as part of this project, a new promising concept that needs to be investigated by the Humanities research.

A recent blog article in french by Antoine Fauchié (24.10.2016) cleverly illustrates the situation: Le livre web, une autre forme du livre numérique [Fauchié 2016]). For now, the web book format has been principally developed by prospective individual initiatives and not in a commercial perspective – unlike e.g. the EPUB format. But, as the author explains, some professionals are beginning to work with web books, such as Book in Browsers and Rebus.

A list of several web book examples is available on Github here.

All these initiatives are very promising: it is time for researchers, in partnership with publishers, to get involved in the “web book adventure”.

Our objectives

In our case, in particular, a web book will allow to us to:

  • relate the text to all data, with a fluid navigation between the manuscript, its transcriptions and the analytical long text.
  • include different media in the web book (such as eTalks, videos, etc.) as well as all the necessary external resources with hyperlinks.
  • offer the versioning of our text. This provides the opportunity to researchers and readers to keep track of the evolution of the research and writing, with the possibility of returning to the main previous steps.
  • produce a publishable format, adapted to the continuous publishing of our edition. To this end, we have formed a collaboration with Brill publishing.
  • present a content that has been peer-reviewed. For the peer-review process, we are working with an editorial board of international experts: David Bouvier (Ancient Greek, Lausanne, CH), Marco Büchler (DH, Göttingen, D), Jennifer Knust (New Testament, Boston, USA), John Kutsko (Publication and management, Atlanta, USA), Laurence Mellerin (Latin, Lyon, FR), Herman Teule (Arabic, Radboud Universtiy Nijmegen, NL).