Punctum Books is a scholar led, open access (OA) monograph publisher founded by Eileen A. Joy and co-directed by Joy and Vincent W.J. van Gerven Oei. The press prides itself on publishing weird and wacky creative minds, within and outside the academy, including thought leaders at prestigious universities, paraacademics, independent scholars, artists, knowledge workers, and others who want to experiment with writing styles and forms that do not fit into the rigid parameters of the traditional scholarly monograph or that push the boundaries of established disciplines and their conventions. This is also a general characteristic of library publishing.  Punctum's success thus far is due in part to the care and attention it gives to authors’ visions and interests. At punctum, authors’ voices are not normalized. An author’s style and voice is privileged over the market and other commercial forces that often drive the publishing choices of university presses and for-profit publishers. Punctum is focused on publishing both as an artisanal craft and as a house of hospitality that seeks to foster and preserve work that might not be welcome elsewhere.  Punctum is a non-profit "public benefit" corporation dedicated to the idea that research funded by the public should be openly available to all publics, and to the idea that tools for open access publishing should be open source. 


On behalf of the UCSB community, the Library's Scholarly Communication Program works to create, support and promote scholar driven, community owned and economically sustainable open science and scholarship. Improving access to scholarship for the UCSB community is the Program's core mission. Working collaboratively with Collection Coordinators, subject librarians, the Copyright Advisory Committee, and the Data Curation Program, the Interdisciplinary Research Collaboratory, and now punctum books, the Program represents an integral part of both Collection Development and Digital Scholarship services in the Library. Unlike most scholarly communication programs in libraries, UCSB's program grew out of initiatives developed by curious librarians of the Humanities Collection Group.  Thus, with its roots in the interdisciplinary humanities, and a commitment to core Library values such as collaboration and innovation, the Program strives to champion a myriad of diverse and disciplinary approaches to OA, while prioritizing support for those UCSB researchers with the least amount of resources to join the open access revolution and the changing scholarly communication environment.  

A Two-Year Pilot Project

The Partnership is a two-year pilot project to test a no-fees open access book publishing model that would privilege horizontalist and cooperative knowledge sharing between communities of professional-public academic practice (librarians, knowledge managers, publishers, and scholar-authors). The ultimate goal is to establish a more secure institutional base of operations for Punctum, and for the Library to advance its interest and investment in no-fees OA book publishing.  In line with approaches and strategies outlined in UC's Pathways to Open Access report and the Call to Action, the Library also seeks to expand and strengthen its leadership role as an advocate for transformative multidisciplinary OA publishing.

The two components of the project include:

  1. Developing punctum's technical and other infrastructures so that the press can support a library sponsorship program.
  2. Designing and implementing the library sponsorship program.  

At the end of the pilot period the Library and punctum will seriously consider the idea of punctum and the Library merging operations, whereby punctum would become the open access press of UCSB Library, and by extension UCSB.  

Technical Infrastructure Development

  • In collaboration with UCSB Library's Content Management Services department, create MARC, ONIX, and KBART records for punctum’s catalog; develop workflow protocols for generating metadata records for future use by the open access and library publishing communities. Essentially, this punctum books metadata upgrade project aims to prepare the entire punctum catalog for usage and dissemination through the OAPEN repository, and a repository for open access monograph publishers that is under development by ScholarLed (see below), of which punctum is a founding member.
  • Create DOIs for Punctum's entire catalog, including chapters within edited collections. 
  • With OAPEN, develop user-reader metrics and COUNTER-compliant statistics.
  • Ensure long-term preservation of digital files, via OAPEN and Portico.
  • Conduct a technical assessment of the punctum website infrastructure, emending and or redesigning the site as necessary to support an open API; and to ensure ADA compliance.
  • Create XML editions of each punctum title in order to meet ADA requirements for accessibility of e-books. 
  • Arrange to have punctum’s catalog and metadata indexed and abstracted with significant knowledge base vendors and indexing and abstracting aggregators, such as Web of Science, EBSCO, ProQuest, JSTOR,  Project Muse, Integrated Knowledge Base, Global Open Knowledgebase (GOKb), IngentaConnect, Knowledge Base Plus (KB+), etc. 

Library Sponsorship Program

A main component of the partnership is ensuring the long term economic sustainability of punctum without requiring author or reader fees. In order to craft a way forward for better economic stability and broader impact of the press, we're developing an outreach and economic plan based, but not limited to, on two primary revenue streams:

  • Library and institutional partners willing to make annual or multiyear commitments to sponsoring the partnership at to be determined rates, with to be determined benefits, plus
  • 3,000 (up from the current 200) individual subscribers at $10 monthly.

Current sources of revenue include sales of print books and downloads, downstream/translation rights, and voluntary subventions. Other immensely valuable support comes from peer reviewers, periodic student interns, enormous amounts of sweat equity, grants (OpenAIRE, Arcadia Foundation, Research England), and generous and loving family members.

This is What Collaboration Looks Like!

Punctum Books has accomplished much as an independent press and is well positioned for continued growth and success.  UC libraries are charged with developing campus-specific roadmaps to support the large-scale transition to open access. The Punctum Books+ UCSB Library Partnership is just one of multiple paths on the Library's roadmap.  UCSB Library and punctum are both passionately committed to the mission of the public research library, and collaborative non-competitive no-fees open access monograph publishing.  Punctum's editorial and design skills and expertise, combined with the Library's long-time stewardship (regarding discovery, dissemination, and access) of the scholarly record, and skills and expertise in metadata management, indexing and abstracting, and bibliographic systems, leverages each of our strengths for the benefit of scholars, and the the future of the public humanities, and of open access monograph publishing.  Given our shared values and commitment to scholar driven, community owned and economically sustainable open science and scholarship, it makes sense for us to do together what would be more difficult to do independently. In behalf of the UCSB community, we are dedicated to improving access to scholarship and serving as a resource for the UCSB community.

We are fortunate that there are many in the academic and open access communities who share our values.  We are working closely with like-minded scholar-publishers, funders, and librarians in the U.S. and Europe to facilitate the transition to an open scholarly commons and share ideas and resources. Valued Collaborators and funders who we have worked with or are currently working with on projects related to building the technical infrastructure and ensuring the economic sustainability of open access monograph presses include the:

Our most important collaborators are the authors and organizations that trust us with their work and ideas.  Many of them are UCSB scholars.  They include Julie Carlson and Aranye Fradenburg (emeritus), faculty members of the English Department's Literature and the Mind program, and founders of the punctum imprint Brainstorm Books.  UCSB scholars with books in press or published by punctum include Felice Blake (Black Studies), and Elisabeth Weber (German).  Other UCSB projects, (mostly books and imprints) are in the works with the Architecture Design and Art Museum (ADAM) and faculty members in the Departments of Anthropology, Black StudiesEast Asian Languages and Cultural Studies, Global Studies, Linguistics, and Sociology. The list of UC authors of or contributors to punctum publications is too long to mention here.  Student-centered learning opportunities for undergraduates have included a Library-based publishing lab and editorial internships for students in the Writing Program's Professional Writing Minor.

Publishing Lab

Enabling the next generation of scholar-publishers and librarian-publishers dedicated to a community owned and controlled open publishing landscape and infrastructure is also a priority. To that end our earliest collaboration was an experimental proof of concept educational endeavor that included English Department faculty members, nine undergraduates, two graduate student coordinators, a data librarian, a scholarly communication librarian, and courageous authors.  The Arnhold-Punctum Publishing Lab hosted in the Library's Interdisciplinary Research Collaboratory ran for four quarters and is detailed in two essays: 

The Arnhold-Punctum Lab is now the Punctum-UCSB Library Publishing Lab, with undergraduate students from the UCSB Writing Program's Professional Writing minor.  Two quarter internships give the students an opportunity to apply their editing and design education to real world book production under the mentorship of a highly skilled scholar-editor-publisher.

More on our Collaborators

Founded in 2015, the Radical Open Access Collective consists of over fifty open access presses (including punctum), theorists, scholars, librarians, technology specialists, activists and others, from different fields and backgrounds, both inside and outside of the university. The Collective prioritizes and values scholar-led, university-based, service-oriented publishing as a craft, involving humanistic horizontal relationships, a commitment to an open scholarly commons, and the creation of a more diverse scholarly publishing landscape. 

OPENAIRE LOGOIn 2018 OpenAIRE awared a consortium of six open access presses (all members of the Radical Open Access Collective) a 50,000 euro grant to develop an alternative business model for open access book publishing.  The presses include Mattering Press (UK/Netherlands), Mayfly Books (UK), Meson Press (Germany), Punctum Books (US), Open Book Publishers (UK), and Open Humanities Press (UK/Australia). Sherri Barnes (UCSB Library), was a member of the punctum books team.  The grant led to the establishment of ScholarLed, a consortium of open access monograph publishers, and the development of a shared repository for each press's catalog and metadata, and a pop-up display for education and promotion of their content at conferences and book fairs, along with some fun book art promotional resources, like the book of books USB drive. 

SCHOLARLED LOGOPunctum Books is a founding member of ScholarLed, which builds on the success of the OpenAIRE funded project, New Platforms for Open Access Book Distribution."  The aim of the collective is to foster a realignment of OA book publishing away from an array of competing commercial service providers to a more horizontal and cooperative knowledge sharing approach. This includes developing systems and practices that allow presses to provide each other with forms of mutual support, ranging from pooled expertise to shared on and offline infrastructures. Members of the consortium each retain their distinct identity as publishers, with different audiences, processes, business models and stances towards Open Access. What they share, however, is a commitment to opening up scholarly research to diverse readerships, to resisting the marketization of academic knowledge production, and to working collaboratively rather than in competition. Current activities include sourcing funding (1.5 million euros) for a detailed set of interlinking open infrastructure projects titled Scaling Innovation in Community-led Open Access Book Publishing.  UCSB Library and punctum are project leads on three of the five projects.

 OAPEN works with publishers to build a quality controlled collection of open access books, predominantly in the areas of humanities and social sciences, and provides services for publishers, libraries, and research funders in the areas of dissemination, quality assurance, and digital preservation. OAPEN is working with punctum to become the main repository of the punctum catalog, provide COUNTER compliant punctum data for libraries; and facilitate the preservation of the punctum catalog.

EDITORIA LOGOThe Collaborative Knowledge (Coko) Foundation collaboration focuses on the development, testing and building of community for Editoria, a web-based, open source content and workflow management system designed to streamline and simply editing and production. The tool is built by publishers, for publishers. Punctum is the first community member to adopt the software, which will involve the further development, test, use and feedback on reusable open source components that will enable punctum to manage content, configure associated workflows, and streamline processes from initial authoring through styling, editing, and production to the final export of publication-ready files.  Many of the components currently in development are for the wider Editoria community and others will may be developed to meet punctums' specific design, usability and technical requirements.  Contributing to the Editoria community is in alignment with punctum's conviction that all tools for open access publishing should be open source. Also see related Editoria blog posts:

The Punctum Books + UCSB Library Partnership is dedicated to testing and cultivating a more robust and transformative set of functional relationships between primary stakeholders in OA publishing, throughout the scholarly communication process, from submission to preservation.

For additional information contact: sherri [dot] barnes [at] ucsb [dot] edu or eileen [at] punctumbooks [dot] com

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The Punctum Books + UCSB Library Partnership is proud to be a member of the Library Publishing Coalition.