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. Founded in 2011, Punctum is devoted to cultivating radically creative academic work that takes risks with form and style, and to fostering authors both within and outside the academy, including thought leaders at prestigious universities, early career researchers, precarious para-academics, independent scholars, artists, and others who want to push the boundaries of established disciplines and their conventional methodologies, and who also understand the importance of sharing their work with the Open Commons. Punctum is further dedicated to publishing work that is not only cross-disciplinary in innovative ways (poetic cybernetics, for example), but that also helps to bring new fields of thought into being (such as noise poetics, cognitive museum studies, digital capitalism studies, Anthropocene studies, digital poetics, posthumanisms, and more). In its mission, Punctum and library publishing share many objectives and values. 

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 radically creative intellectual work that might not find a welcoming harbor elsewhere. Punctum is a non-profit "public benefit" corporation, registered in California, with editorial and production offices in Santa Barbara, CA and The Hague, Netherlands, that is dedicated to the idea that research funded by the public should be openly available to all publics worldwide, and to the idea that the tools for open access publishing should be open source, community built, and community owned. 


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 Research Data Services 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 science-based scholarly communication programs in libraries, UCSB's program grew out of initiatives developed by librarians of the Humanities Collection Group, who were curious about the radically changing landscape of scholarly publishing.  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 major components of the project include:

  1. Developing "best practices" protocols and infrastructures, technical and otherwise, around Punctum's digital catalog (in collaboration with OAPEN Library), so that the press can meet expectations for potential library sponsors.
  2. Designing, implementing, and managing a Supporting Library Membership Program. 

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

Technical Infrastructure Development

  • In collaboration with UCSB Library's Content Management Services department and OAPEN Library, we will create open MARC, ONIX, and KBART records for Punctum’s catalog, as well as establish new workflow protocols for generating metadata records for future use by the open access and library publishing communities.
  • Create DOIs for Punctum's entire catalog, including for chapters within edited collections. 
  • With OAPEN Library, develop user-reader metrics and COUNTER-compliant statistics.
  • Ensure long-term preservation of digital files, via OAPEN Library and Portico.
  • In collaboration with UCSB Library's division for IT Operations & Software Development, re-engineer the backend of Punctum's website to support ADA compliance, to ensure stronger privacy protections for users, and to enable better technical efficiencies.
  • Create open access HTML editions of each Punctum title (in addition to the already existing, open access PDF e-books) in order to meet ADA requirements for accessibility of e-books and to ensure greater ease of data-mining and machine-reading of Punctum titles. 
  • Work on getting Punctum’s catalog and metadata indexed and abstracted with significant knowledge base vendors and aggregators, such as Web of Science, EBSCO, ProQuest, JSTOR,  Project Muse, Integrated Knowledge Base, Global Open Knowledgebase (GOKb), IngentaConnect, Knowledge Base Plus (KB+), etc.

Supporting Library Membership Program

A main component of the pilot partnership is ensuring the long-term economic sustainability of Punctum Books without placing financial barriers in front of authors or readers. Unlike other open access initiatives that charge authors fees to publish open books (what are known as Book Processing Charges, or BPCs), Punctum believes these fees aggravate deeply entrenched inequities in the scholarly publishing landscape, and we also believe that print editions of scholarly work should not be cost-prohibitive. At the same time, the average cost of making an academic book can range from $5,000 up to $15,000 per title, and making digital e-books available in open-access form, utilizing all of the best practices for the curation and preservation of digital objects and their integration into universal research records, and with no economic barriers to authors and readers worldwide, necessitates rethinking the traditional business models for academic publishing. In order to craft a way forward for better economic stability (for both publishers and libraries), and broader impact of the press, we're developing an outreach and economic plan rooted in, but not limited to, two primary revenue streams:

  • Annual and multiyear supporting memberships (determined on a sliding scale) from university libraries and other institutional partners wishing to help support the press's operations and growth of its catalog (consortial funding model); and
  • Individual subscriptions from readers committed to revolving donations of $10, $15, or $20 per month (similar to National Public Radio's annual drives for listener support: a reader support model).

Current sources of revenue include the sales of print and e-books, voluntary institutional subventions, irregular individual donations, and revolving reader subscriptions. Other immensely valuable support comes from volunteer peer reviewers and copy-editors, undergraduate and graduate student interns, and occasional grants, but our research tells us that one of the most secure ways forward for the long-term health of open access publishing is consortial library funding along with the development of more robust and horizontal working partnerships between scholar-led, non-profit publishers and librarians.

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 to collaborative, non-competitive, no-fees, open access monograph publishing. Punctum's scholarly, editorial and design skills, combined with the Library's long-time record of stewardship, relative to the discovery, dissemination, access and preservation of the scholarly record (including its skills and expertise in metadata management, indexing and abstracting, and bibliographic systems), allows us to jointly leverage our strengths for the benefit of scholars in the Humanities and Social Sciences, and on behalf of a more universal Open Knowledge Commons.  Given our shared values and joint commitment to scholar-led, 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. On behalf of the UCSB community, we are dedicated to improving access to publicly-funded scholarship and to diversifying the modes and outlets for the production and dissemination of scholarly research.

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., Europe, and beyond to facilitate the transition to a more transformative and open scholarly commons and to share ideas and resources. Valued collaborators and funders whom we have worked with or are currently working with on projects related to ensuring the long-term technical capabilities and economic sustainability of open monographs include:

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 already published by Punctum include Felice Blake (English) and Elisabeth Weber (German). Other UCSB book and imprint projects are in the works with the Art, Design, and Architeture Museum (ADAM) and with faculty members in Anthropology, Black StudiesEast Asian Languages and Cultural Studies, Global Studies, Linguistics, and Sociology. And many other faculty within the larger UC system have also been publishing with Punctum.  The list of UC authors of or contributors to Punctum publications is too long to detail 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 open publishing landscape is also a priority. To that end, our earliest collaboration was an experimental publishing lab, funded by a generous donation from the Arnhold family, that included English Department faculty members, undergraduate and graduate students, a data librarian, a scholarly communication librarian, and authors. The Arnhold-Punctum Publishing Lab was led by Punctum's co-directors Eileen Joy and Vincent W.J. van Gerven Oei and was hosted in the Library's Interdisciplinary Research Collaboratory for four quarters in 2017 and 2018, and you can read more about that here 

The Arnhold-Punctum Publishing 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 students an opportunity to apply their editing and design education to real world book production under the mentorship of highly skilled scholar-editor-publishers and scholarly communication librarians. In addition to learning all of the nuts and bolts of making print and e-books, the students are provided with seminar-style learning modules on the open access movement, the history of print (from papyrus to the e-book), intellectual property and copyright, the "state of the field" of the business of academic publishing, and ethical, economic, cultural, and other debates surrounding content industries and their transformation under the aegis of the internet.

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 awarded 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 that would eliminate the need for author-facing publication fees.  The presses include Mattering Press (UK/Netherlands), Mayfly Books (UK), meson press (Germany/UK), Punctum Books (US), Open Book Publishers (UK), and Open Humanities Press (UK/Australia). Sherri L. 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, the development of a shared e-repository for each consortium press's catalog and metadata, and a pop-up conference display for the promotion of ScholarLed content, including "The Book of Books," a USB drive containing an open archive of all of the consortium presses's e-books. 

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 consortium of open book publishers 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 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 two of the five projects (Revenue Infrastructures and Community Infrastructure and Governance).

 OAPEN Library (Netherlands) is dedicated to open access, peer-reviewed books. OAPEN operates two platforms, the OAPEN Library (www.oapen.org), a central repository for hosting and disseminating OA books, and the Directory of Open Access Books (DOAB), a discovery service for OA books. They work with publishers to build a quality-controlled collection of OA books, and provide services for publishers, libraries, and research funders in the areas of dissemination, quality assurance, and digital preservation. OAPEN is the primary repository of the Punctum catalog and provides metadata support, discovery and dissemination services, book usage reporting, and long-term preservation (via Portico) for Punctum's e-book catalog.

EDITORIA LOGOThe Collaborative Knowledge (Coko) Foundation collaboration focuses on the development, testing, and building of Editoria, a web-based, open source content and workflow management system designed to streamline and simplify the production of open books, in digital and print editions. The tool is community-built by publishers and developers working together from the ground up. Punctum joins a community of other publishers (including University of California Press, Stanford University Press, University of Minnesota Press, eLife, Hindawi, and others) to assist the Editoria team in building and customizing streamlined, scalable book publishing workflows using Editoria’s rich web-based tools. Being part of the Editoria community is in alignment with punctum's conviction that all tools for OA publishing should be open source and community-built with no vendor lock-ins. See also 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: openaccess@library.ucsb.edu or eileen@punctumbooks.com

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