E-Book Project does not aim to subordinate the historian's work
to computer formats and delivery systems, but rather to achieve
the opposite: to harness technology in the interests of the historian's
craft. It places its prime emphasis upon the highest quality,
the most thorough, and the most painstaking research, allowing
the historian to employ both analytical and interpretive skills
upon a large body of documents, defined in the broadest possible
terms (whether archival, textual, statistical, ephemeral, visual, sound).
The aim of this project is to harness technology's ability to
provide scholars with new and innovative ways of using and presenting
historical material and research and of creating cogent and compelling
works of history writing.
Because we seek to emphasize the centrality of serious historical research and writing, the History E-Book Project differs from many electronic projects already under way. The typical title in this project is one in which the historian, having identified, gathered, and analyzed a large corpus of primary-source materials, seeks to structure these within an interpretive and narrative framework consistent with the basic purpose of professional history writing: to publish for the benefit of professional historians, students and informed general readers the results of primary research and analysis and to make these available for examination, evaluation, replication, and further discussion by other members of the historical profession. One of the goals of the History E-Book Project is that these latter functions of reception and review will also be carried out electronically.
What types of titles are most appropriate for the ACLS list?
The historian could consider any treatment of a historical topic,
applying any organizational approach—from the traditional interpretive
text with footnotes, bibliography, and other hyperlinked apparatus
to more innovative formats of interactive electronic projects,
including hyperlinked images, charts, maps, slide shows, and other materials, such as video and extended sound recording. The challenge is to include these in ways that go
beyond the merely illustrative and include varying degrees of
reader access to wider and deeper sources of information. These
capabilities put at the disposal of the author unprecedented
possibilities for conveying the rich variety of the historical
periods, forces, and personalities under study that the print
format can only hint at. Because this project does not encourage
the simple digitization of the traditional print monograph, the
criteria for the author's selection of electronic formats are closely related to the nature of his or her project and do not simply introduce "bells and whistles" to an otherwise traditional approach merely for the sake of moving a project
into electronic form.
In general these projects, even at their most simple level, exceed the capabilities of print publications. They are searchable and available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. They contain a far larger number of illustrations, in color or black-and-white;
and include supporting documents that can range from the
dozens to the thousands. The interface used by the ACLS History
E-Book Project allows the reader to follow the author's argument
and narrative on one level but then also allows direct access
to a broad array of documentary sources including complete digital
The History E-Book Project also encourages historians to approach
their topics and materials in new and innovative ways that might
reconceive, and even challenge, the traditional monograph's relationship
between primary sources, secondary material, and the constructed
narrative and interpretation, as well as the ways in which these
are weighted and presented. The History E-Book Project encourages the creation
of electronic works that build upon and explore digital archives either created expressly by its authors or accessed from other online sources. A title that allows the reader to call up and study full-length source materials directly alongside the
author's narrative adds substantial value to a work of history.
Similarly, the presentation of visual materials—including the
wide range from the fine arts through cartography, statistical
charts and tables—can form the core of the author's approach
and become the focal point from which the historian organizes
his or her narrative and interpretation.
Again, the extent to which the historian experiments with the capabilities of electronic publishing and the complexity of the proposed title must be balanced against the
practical limitations of this project: budgetary and time limitations—as well as the increasingly complex issue of securing fair-use
rights to verbal and visual materials for
scholarly use. (See Copyright and Fair Use: Information for Authors and Learned Societies.) The author will want to
plan the work in close consultation with both the editorial staff
at the university press that accepts the title for publication
and with the HEB Project Center.