Dynamic Publication Formats and Collaborative Authoring

Lambert Heller, Ronald The and Sönke Bartling

''We are Wikipedians. This means that we should be: kind, thoughtful, passionate about getting it right, open, tolerant of different viewpoints, open to criticism, bold about changing our policies and also cautious about changing our policies. We are not vindictive, childish, and we don't stoop to the level of our worst critics, no matter how much we may find them to be annoying.''

—Jimmmy Wales—one of the founders of Wikipedia.

Abstract While Online Publishing has replaced most traditional printed journals in less than twenty years, today's Online Publication Formats are still closely bound to the medium of paper. Collaboration is mostly hidden from the readership, and 'final' versions of papers are stored in 'publisher PDF' files mimicking print. Meanwhile new media formats originating from the web itself bring us new modes of transparent collaboration, feedback, continued refinement, and reusability of (scholarly) works: Wikis, Blogs and Code Repositories, to name a few. This chapter characterizes the potentials of Dynamic Publication Formats and analyzes necessary prerequisites. Selected tools specific to the aims, stages, and functions of Scholarly Publishing are presented. Furthermore, this chapter points out early examples of usage and further development from the field. In doing so, Dynamic Publication Formats are described as (a) a 'parallel universe' based on the commodification of (scholarly) media, and

(b) as a much needed complement, slowly recognized and incrementally integrated into more efficient and dynamic workflows of production, improvement, and dissemination of scholarly knowledge in general.


The knowledge creation process is highly dynamic. However, most of current means of scholarly publications are static, that means, they cannot be revised over time. Novel findings or results cannot contribute to the publications once published, instead a new publication has to be released. Dynamic publication formats will change this. Dynamic publication formats are bodies of text/graphic/rich media that can be changed quickly and easily while at the same time being available to a wide audience.

In this chapter we will discuss dynamic scholarly publication formats with respect to their chances, advantages, and challenges. First, we begin with a revision of existing and past publishing concepts. We discuss how the growing body of scholarly knowledge was updated and evolved using static forms of publishing. This will be followed by a structured analysis of the characteristics of dynamic publication formats, followed by a presentation of currently implemented solutions that employ concepts of dynamic publications.

Historic Dynamic Publishing Using Printed Journals and Books: Revising Editions or Publishing Novel Books and Articles

For centuries scholarly books were improved and updated with new content. This happened through releasing new editions. In subsequent editions, mistakes were corrected, recent results incorporated, and feedback from the readership used to improve the overall book. A sufficient demand for the reprinting of editions was a necessity. Before reprinting the publisher invited the author to revise the next edition ('revised editions'[1]). The changes were usually marked and introduced in the preface of the consecutive editions.

Many encyclopedias, handbooks, and schoolbooks became established brands, which have been revised over and over again, sometimes over the space of decades. In many examples the authors changed. In successive revisions parts were changed, paragraphs rewritten, and chapters removed or added. In particularly vivid fields a different 'genre' of book—the loose-paper-collections—were invented. Here, carefully revised pages were sent out to subscribers on a regular basis.

Libraries provided not only access to the most recent version of books, but also kept earlier editions for interested readers. Earlier editions were of historical and epistemological interest. Recurrent book editions made it necessary to add the consecutive edition number when referencing revised books.

Revising books allowed authors to keep track with novel developments. A book usually presented a closed 'body of knowledge', a mere collection of indisputable knowledge, often with a review character. Textbooks or encyclopedias were specially structured books.

In contrast to books, scholarly articles were a snapshot of certain scientific knowledge. In most scholarly fields, research results were published only once. Scientific journal articles were not to be revised—if new findings occurred, new articles were published. Publishing became the currency of research and around the journal article methods to measure the performance of researchers were developed.

The scholarly journal article and its 'life cycle' are currently under debate and development. New mechanisms to publish scientific results are being widely discussed; most opportunities have been opened up by the new possibilities that were enabled by the Internet.

Some of the most prominent changes that have already found wide acceptance so far are being reviewed in the following:

  • [1] see Wikipedia: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Edition_(book)#Revised_edition
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