Print-on-demand service providers

Our main format of distribution is pdf, but we also offer printed copies via print-on-demand service providers. In this post, I want to shed a bit of light on the factors which influence our choices in this domain.


The following four criteria are essential:

  1. can accommodate our format of 170mm x 240 mm
  2. listed in the German registry Verzeichnis lieferbarer Bücher
  3. world wide distribution
  4. good quality books with regard to layout and printing

The following other criteria are nice to have

  1. choice between softcover and hardcover
  2. use of own ISBNs
  3. no setup fee.

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Calculating the costs of a community-driven publisher

Publishing does not come for free. There are a number of obvious costs, such as ink, paper or computer storage, and a couple of not-so-obvious costs, such as the time needed to set up a book for print-on-demand or the creation of user manuals and screencasts.

These costs have to be counterbalanced by revenue. Traditionally, publishers recoup their costs via the margin of their book sales. In an open access paradigm with a smaller print run, this is less straightforward.

Spreadsheet for calculating press's costWe have created an interactive spreadsheet where you can assume the role of press editor and see how you can make the ends meet. You can download the spreadsheet or use the online version (you will have to copy the online version to be able to edit). In what follows, I will detail the different sources of revenues, roles, and expenditures. You can use the spreadsheet right away, but it might be worthwhile to read what the individual categories stand for.

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Fatḥah in the margin

This post discusses an advanced typesetting problem dealing with the interplay of margin notes with German and Arabic LaTeX packages.

We have published a critical edition of Georg von der Gabelentz’s Die Sprachwissenschaft. This book comprises the text of the first edition from 1891 and the second edition from 1901. Differences between the editions are marked with different colours in the running text. Substitutions are marked in the margin. So far so good. The following image gives an example.

Margin notes and coloured text in the critical edition of Gabelentz's "Die Sprachwissenschaft"

Margin notes and coloured text in the critical edition of Gabelentz’s “Die Sprachwissenschaft”. Red text marks updates between first and second edition, blue text marks corrections by the editors of the present edition, here a wrong accent mark.

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Open Authoring as the obvious next step in open publishing

When it comes to writing, reviewing, and proofreading scientific publications and text books (for university students), I am convinced that a radical wisdom of the crowd paradigm does not apply, mostly because the crowds are too small and likely also too fragmented. However, the principles of open access definitely allow larger communities to contribute suggestions, ideas, and corrections to publications, simply because the hurdles and the fuss brought about by copyright restrictions are removed. In this post, I propose that there is much more potential to unleash for the writing and editing process by borrowing concepts and adopting technologies from open source software development.

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