The digital scholarly edition is an academic product that attempts to remediate the theory and practice of print-based textual scholarship with computational methodologies. Although a vast amount of scholarly exertion is directed towards the exploration of digital editing as a scholarly enterprise (concepts, standards, technologies), significant discussions of sustainable models for publishing and disseminating the digital edition are rather infrequent. Such a practice could be explained mainly because digital editions are often developed as multi-institutional projects based on short-period funding and often every development and financial planning stops by the end of the funding period. Furthermore, as publication and distribution were procedures originally carried out by publishing houses, scholars and editors now find themselves ill-equipped and unprepared in coordinating such strategies. On the other hand, Open Access rhetoric advocating for “freely used, modified, and shared” scholarly content, put constantly into question principles of revenue generation strategies and their application.
In digital scholarship, there is obviously a cost for creating and maintaining a scholarly resource in the long-term. If these costs are not covered by a grant or by the institution, then the project must design and implement some sort of financial plan to cover it. This cost is not always treated as a price covered by the demand side (audience) or as a means to make profit - unlike in the world of commerce and publishing. It might, thus, be useful to re-think in what ways ‘price’ and ‘value’ could become interconnected in the web era. Such discussions around economic models were evident in the GLAM sector since the advent of the web, but have yet to become a major discussion in scholarly editing circles.
We would like to situate our exploratory approach within a broader discussion that challenges our traditional ideas towards the completion, publication, dissemination and sustainability of digital editions. Specifically, we will focus on economic models or monetization strategies as integral parts of a sustainability plan while embracing a strong Open Access ethos. How can we enrich the still burgeoning field of digital editing by contemplating the commodification and sustainability of our published scholarly outputs, by exploring current practices used in web publishing and e-commerce?
This research attempts to offer a state-of-the-art of current trends and business models strategies of distribution of digital content: subscription models and related price discrimination and audience segmentation principles, freemium and lite versions, referral discounts, value-added and tiered services, digital marketing, online advertising, derivatives, multimodal and customised formats for diverse purposes and audiences, etc. Our approach proposes a modular - in a “mix ‘n’ match” style - strategy for the monetisation of scholarly editions for their post-publication life, in which agents of digital editing projects could choose, combine and customize monetisation solutions for their digital scholarly editions in order to secure their sustainable future and impact in the long-term.