The author—working either independently or in collaboration—remains central to this endeavor. The primary goal of the History E-Book Project is to encourage historians to think in new terms about the creation and publication of historical works; it invites reconsideration of the traditional relationship between primary source materials and the role of the historical work in gathering, assessing, and interpreting these materials for the scholarly community. The traditional print monograph generally presented a clear-cut division—both conceptually and on the printed page—between the argument (narrative) and the supporting data (evidence). One of the major tasks of the professional historian has been to determine the most appropriate relationship between argument and data. In most cases the historian's interpretive discussion of the subject occupied the main body of the printed book, with supporting documentation relegated to a lower status, in either footnotes or endnotes, or as limited appendices at the end of the print structure.
While there were, of course, excellent reasons for this approach, recent historical projects have reconceived this relationship. Until recently, however, the cost limitations of print have made any experimentation—let alone breakthrough approaches—prohibitively expensive for all publishers, but most especially for those most committed to publishing books in history: the university presses.
With the advent of electronic publishing historians are now free to begin thinking in new terms about ways in which to present and analyze their historical sources and in which they will offer their work to the reader. The History E-Book Project therefore invites prospective authors to consider the wide range of possibilities for collaborative projects, multiple narratives, and the deeper and more varied presentation of primary sources and their interpretation that the new electronic media may provide. It encourages authors to approach project liaisons at the participating Learned Societies, acquisitions editors at the participating publishers, or the ACLS Project Directors either with their own innovative ideas for electronic history or to seek advice about how a particular topic might best be approached in electronic form.
While the History E-Book Project shares much with the traditional publishing process—particularly in acquisitions and editorial matters, which will be familiar to most historians from working with publishers—electronic publishing involves special features, approaches, and solutions that may be new to prospective authors.