Web Magazine for Information Professionals

Parallel Publishing for Transactions (PPT)

Hugo Brailsford introduces a parallel publication in Geography.

Parallel Publishing for Transactions (PPT){1] is a research and development project for a parallel online version of Transactions of the Institute of British Geographers, an internationally-renowned journal of geographical research with a sixty-year pedigree. The project partners in PPT are the editor of Transactions, based at the Department of Geography, Queen Mary and Westfield College, University of London, and the Electronic Publishing Research Group at the Department of Computer Science, University of Nottingham. Extensive liaison also takes place with the journal’s publishers, the Royal Geographical Society, for whom this is a first venture into the world of electronic publishing.

Transactions is published by a relatively cash-constrained scholarly society, edited by a full-time academic, with a staff, readership and range of authors largely unfamiliar with electronic publishing. PPT aims to report on the practicalities and consequences of introducing a parallel publishing system within such an environment. These constraints led us to base our development work upon a number of key provisos. Our electronic publishing solution had to be a low cost, technically uncomplicated means of electronic delivery capable of preserving the important ‘look and feel’ of Transactions, including the preservation of page fidelity and complex diagrams in the electronic format. These considerations shaped our choice of Adobe Acrobat and its Portable Document Format (PDF) as the electronic publishing medium for articles.

Initially, PPT focused on modifying the manuscript preparation scheme at the editorial office and data processing at the printers so as to establish a system for producing PDF versions of articles with a minimum of extra training or workload for existing employees or the editor. The resultant PDFs are produced automatically along with conventional copy by the printers and arrive ‘customised’ with in-built features for ease of use, such as hyperlinks to article references, figures, endnotes and full reference citations, and links to ‘bookmarks’ and article headings and subheadings. The first fully parallel online issue of Transactions was produced in December 1996 and each quarterly issue is now made available on the electronic Transactions Web site along with pre-print PDFs of forthcoming articles, contents of forthcoming issues, and links to resources in geography on the Web. The PDF production techniques have also been successfully transferred in trials to Transactions’ sister journal, Area.

PPT is now well into its second and final year with current work focused on securing the future of electronic Transactions beyond the period of eLib funding. Like many other projects in the electronic journals area, PPT is rapidly approaching cost-benefit judgment day. While electronic Transactions brings valuable benefits to the journal as a whole through international publicity and increased flexibility in its design and delivery, it implies a considerable strategic and financial commitment and a shift in attitude towards the uses of information technology on the part of all those involved in its production and delivery.

However, the ‘value-added’ aspect of electronic Transactions has recently received a significant boost through the eLib Higher Education Digitisation Service Fast-Track scheme. As a trial run for HEDS, the entire Transactions archive from the first issue in 1935 to the present day will be scanned, passed through optical character recognition processing and made freely-available to all UK HE institutions in PDF form through the electronic Transactions Web site by the end of the year. Digitisation will significantly improve access to a journal which has just become proportionately the most cited in academic geography, and is now a member of the top ten most cited journals in the social sciences. The digitisation makes possible an online archive that will comprehensively document the best of research in geography in modern times. Archive PDFs will be fully text-searchable reproductions of the printed source material, and if needed, will print out to a very high quality on a laser printer.


[1] Parallel Publishing for Transactions (PPT)

Author Details

Hugo Brailsford
email: H.F.Brailsford@qmw.ac.uk