e-editiones: Focus of the Society
The focus of the the e-editiones society rests on 4 pillars:
- Initiating and Coordinating Developments in Open Source Software for Digital Editions
- Promotion of Information Exchange and Communication between the stakeholders involved
- Fundraising for the purposes of the society
- Ensuring long term availability of digital editions
1. Initiating and Coordinating Developments in Open Source Software for Digital Editions
The society promotes the use of open standards and open source software for digital editions. While digital editions may differ considerably in structure and content, there is great overlap in the basic technical functionality that each edition must offer. Small projects often face the challenge of publishing an edition under time pressure and with limited resources and would benefit from access to free, open source. standards-based software that could provide much of this functionality out of the box. All projects, including those that are well-resourced, would benefit from such software, by avoiding the need to reinvent the wheel and incur high development and maintenance costs, which threaten their long term sustainability.
The society therefore focuses on the promotion of open source, standard-based software. Editions should be able to reuse existing building blocks in a modular way, achieving quick solutions at low cost, but without being forced into a corset, neither technically nor scholarly.
The society therefore focuses on the promotion of open source, standard-based software. Editions should be able to reuse existing building blocks in a modular way, achieving quick solutions at low cost, but without being forced into a technical or scholarly corset. The starting point for the founders of the society is their shared use of TEI Publisher, which meets above conditions:
- TEI Publisher is consistently based on TEI and related standards such as ODD and TEI Processing Model;
- TEI Publisher is implemented as a toolbox: the entire user interface consists of small components complying with W3C standards, which can be recombined and reassembled as needed;
- TEI Publisher supports exchange and communication between different editions; and
- as a free, open source software project TEI Publisher enables and stimulates competition between commercial service providers serving the publishing industry.
The society thus initially aims to further support the development of TEI Publisher and TEI Publisher-based projects. However, such software cannot be created in isolation. Rather, it requires a constant exchange between developers and users, who are familiar with the technical requirements of their respective edition projects. This is how TEI Publisher originated—as an initiative of the TEI Community and has since been continuously developed in interaction with a large number of projects. The Society would like to provide a stable and productive forum for this exchange of information, but it does not limit itself specifically to TEI Publisher.
Direct communication between edition projects is also central: instead of having to solve the same problems over and over again, projects should benefit from the experience and developments of other editions. In most cases, the technical requirements of an edition can already be covered with existing building blocks. Where this does not suffice and new blocks are needed, edition projects should coordinate with others to avoid duplicate developments. If possible, new building blocks should be created in a generic way so that other editions can easily adapt them to their requirements. To do this, the project’s context has to be extended beyond the single edition and a broader perspective needs to be adopted.
It is a main objective of the society to coordinate such developments and channel existing funds or funding applications in a way that supports sustainability, from which all members derive long term benefits.
2. Promotion of Information Exchange and Communication between the stakeholders involved
A second important goal of the society is to promote a constant exchange of information between the members. This includes establishing a communication platform open to all members for questions, suggestions, and other contributions.
However, based on our experience with open source projects, we know that such communication only works in the long run if there are responsible individuals taking on a coordination role, overseeing requests, and, if necessary, referring communications to the right people. The society therefore intends to appoint a secretary who will take on these responsibilities and be available as a contact person for all members.
In addition to electronic communication, the society also plans workshops, seminars, and talks—or arranges these on request. It can often be assumed that the projects themselves have funds to cover travel costs. However, this is not always the case. The society should therefore be able to cover part of the costs from membership fees—e.g., travel expenses or a compensation for invited experts.
The society also actively seeks members and promotes sustainable solutions—e.g., through conference talks or workshops.
3. Fundraising for the purposes of the society
The society can support its members in writing project funding applications, or it can apply for funding itself and in this case represent the interests of all members. All software development shall be for the benefit of the general public and must be available for further use as open source.
4. Ensuring long term availability of digital editions
Especially for smaller edition projects with limited resources, hosting can be a massive problem. Running a server and maintaining the associated infrastructure is expensive and requires constant commitment, which likely extends beyond the planned duration of the project. And even if hosting is provided by an institutional service infrastructure, those institutions’ own resource constraints may limit their role to providing updates and minimal maintenance only, a tragic pattern that too often leads services to become partially or completely inaccessible after a few years.
The society is therefore committed to ensuring that public memory institutions (i.e., archives, libraries, and universities) provide the editions on a long-term basis. The society wants to dramatically lower the cost and effort for institutions charged with maintaining the editions. In early 2020, the swissuniversities project, Nationale Infrastruktur Editionen (NIE-INE), sponsored improvements to TEI Publisher to facilitate long-term updates and enable shared hosting of heterogeneous edition projects on one platform. The society also assists edition projects to secure a (public) provider for the time after the completion of the funding period and plan for the long-term archiving of the project’s raw data.
Since the entire software is freely available, it is also possible for infrastructure providers to set up a corresponding service. The society explicitly welcomes and supports this.