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University Press Turns to Tizra Publisher; Tizra Turns to Free
by
Posted On February 26, 2009
With ebooks on the move and the pressure of print production costs looming larger in this economy, more publishers are looking for ways to take advantage of the digital format. Sometime this spring, probably by early April, the Indiana University Press (www.iupress.indiana.edu/catalog) will launch IU Press Online. The service will rely on Tizra Publisher, a web-based software service, hosting customized websites using client look-and-feel. Last September, the Association of American University Presses (AAUP: www.aaupnet.org) announced a 20% discount for members on services from Providence, R.I.-based Tizra, Inc. (http://tizra.com). In January, Tizra announced a limited, free version of its service, using Google ad support for its business model. This month, Tizra announced a set of feature upgrades to its products.

Basically, Tizra allows publishers of ebooks to create their own "e-bookstores" with their own branding, pricing, and mixing of content. Tizra handles the software needed, the content conversion, and infrastructure in a hosted service. It can handle enterprise accounts with IP-based authentication of individual logins and also specify a maximum number of concurrent seats. Publishers get their own customized ebook websites and use a web control panel to set the presentation, organization, and sales terms for their content.

One of the company’s main selling arguments is the ability of Tizra Publisher to use PDF content that most publishers generate in the course of print production, rather than demanding XML or EPUB conversions. According to Abe Dane, president and COO of Tizra, the system does not currently support XML, although the technical staff is "rooted in XML and [are] strong advocates of converting to XML and we would like to take advantage of EPUB" in time.

Tizra has begun expanding its market base by applying its services to enterprise knowledge management efforts. The latest feature upgrade includes the ability to selectively expose documents in title listings and search results and to suppress tables of contents, e.g., for shorter documents. The system also allows clients to designate which users can access which content and under what conditions or terms. (For a full list of Tizra Publisher features, go to http://tizra.com/press/feature-list.pdf.)

Tizra has also expanded its potential publishing base substantially by opening up a free version of the service. The free, ad-supported model for access to Tizra Publisher started testing in November 2008, according to Dane, but "we made the official announcement Jan. 28, 2009." Dane added, "We were kind of surprised when enterprise vendors headed our way. A couple of really high-end web design and development shops are looking at us as a knowledge management and info-commerce solution. The free option suited them." Dane agreed that self-publishers might find this service very valuable, particularly at the price—free.

Indiana University Press publishes about 140 new books each year, plus 30 journals and a backlist of some 2,000 titles. The IU Press Online service will launch with some 200 books and more than 75 themed journals, arranged in five subject libraries: African Studies, African American/Diaspora Studies, Jewish/Holocaust Studies, Philosophy, and Russian/East European Studies. These libraries will continue to add content over time. Plans for a sixth library focus on music titles. According to Kathryn Caras, director of electronic and serials publishing at Indiana University Press, the "themed journals" are selected anthologies of articles on specific topics, and so they work well with Tizra’s monograph-oriented service.

Recent improvements to Tizra Publisher’s features include purchase options for individual chapters and articles and subcollections of material crossing over different collections. In time, Caras says, "we will let our customers build their own anthologies, but for personal use only. We retain the license to purchase access, so people can’t use them in classes or distribute them without copyright. We will try to sell to classes and semester subscriptions, for example, where all students can get access for a fee.

Tizra Publisher’s software allows for fast downloading, even with PDFs, by breaking content into chunks. The service supports page-specific URLs for easy bookmarking, citing, and sharing, as well as full-text searchability across the whole site, by collection/library and individual titles, or within specific metadata advanced search fields. Search results are relevancy ranked. Publishers choose whether they want to offer online access only on Tizra, e.g., a print purchase made online can open up online access to the purchaser or PDF downloading of whole or portions of documents. Tizra software supports various browsers, including Internet Explorer variations, Firefox variations, Safari, Camino, and Opera. Dane says that they do have some issues on specific browsers, especially Mac versions. The various viewing options include full-screen zoom. With the publisher’s permission, Tizra can also open its content up to Google and other web search engines.

Publishers using Tizra can offer a range of payment options. IU Press Online will initially offer single-title pricing, but it plans to add timed subscriptions of varying lengths for individual libraries, any combination of libraries, and to the entire database. MIT Press already offers pricing options using Tizra Publisher on its computer library service called CISnet (http://cisnet.mit.edu). Individual CISnet subscribers can pay $125 for 1-year access to the complete collection; 1-month access for $25; and a 5-day trial subscription for $15, while institutional 1-year subscriptions range from $1,100 to $2,000, and commercial site licenses cost $2,500 annually. IU Press Online will also update content automatically for those subscribing to RSS feeds.

Tizra is adding other features in response to user needs and requests. Publishers using the system can provide buyers with watermarked, downloadable PDF content. A REST (REpresentational State Transfer) API lets developers integrate Tizra Publisher with other applications to create a transparent website. Tizra has promised that future developments for the system will include video and audio.

Pricing for Tizra Publisher (www.tizra.com/index.php?page=pricing) is structured into five packages priced monthly—Free, Basic ($49.95), Basic Plus ($295), Professional ($995), and Enterprise ($4995). Annual subscribers can discount 2 months from their charges. The packages differ based on number of pages (2,500 pages for Free, 10,000 for Basic, 85,000 for Basic Plus, 175, 000 for Professional, and unlimited pages for Enterprise) and other factors such as level of branding, ecommerce handling, bulk content uploading, and type of customer support. The Free version supports itself using Google ads, all revenue of which goes to Tizra, though any sales of ebooks go to the publisher using the service.

According to Caras, Indiana University Press’ decision to use Tizra was influenced largely by the good pricing they got through the deal worked out by the Association of American University Presses with Tizra. Despite its title, the AAUP’s 125 members include members from nine countries outside the U.S. According to Brenna McLaughlin, director of electronic and strategic initiatives at AAUP, though not many members have "gone live yet, a lot of people have taken the webinars and a number of members have tried out the free service. This is the first deal with a vendor like this that we’ve had, though we have had conversations with some service providers. We’re very pleased so far. Although it’s slow to pick up, that’s because it’s very new and challenging to envision what the sales model will be, but we’re very pleased. It’s a non-exclusive program. We’re interested in helping members and we like non-exclusive agreements." At present, Dane says that they have no present efforts for arrangements with other publisher organizations.

McLaughlin considered the move to digital publishing almost inevitable. "Quite a few of our members already work with eLibrary, NetLibrary, etc., and journal publishers have long worked with outfits like JSTOR, HighWire, Project Muse, and others." She also pointed to university presses that supported open access, such as the Rice University Press. Caras agrees, "We see a steady attrition in print revenue and usage, clearly in journals. In the last fiscal year, for the first time, electronic versions of journals brought in more money than print. It’s just going slower for books."

Indiana University Press will also continue to maintain a separate service called Inscribe for selling subscriptions. That service uses Atypon. Though Indiana University Press might have preferred a single vendor and a single service, Caras did not feel Tizra was ready to handle the complexities of journals. Nevertheless, she was very pleased with Tizra. "It’s really working to make scholarly content available. I cannot sing their praises high enough." Tizra also has efforts underway with University of Texas Press, Bloomsbury Academic, and the Association of Research Libraries.


Barbara Quint is senior editor of Online Searcher, co-editor of The Information Advisor’s Guide to Internet Research, and a columnist for Information Today.

Email Barbara Quint
Comments Add A Comment
Posted By Abe Dane3/4/2009 1:46:34 PM

Great article...thoroughly and thoughtfully reported!

One small clarification: About halfway through, there's mention of "issues on specific browsers." In fact, readers viewing books on Tizra Publisher are by default presented with pages as simple GIF files in HTML, which is about as broadly compatible as anything on the web (standard practice since around 1993, when the Mosaic browser came out!)

We took this approach because we view it as a core part of our mission to remove the technical, production and business-model barriers that have prevented many books from going online.

It is true that readers have the OPTION of viewing book pages in PDF format, which has certain advantages (primarily crisper text and faster downloads). This works with the great majority of browser configurations, but not all (mostly because plugins aren't installed or don't work properly).

I wouldn't describe this as an issue we have with certain browsers, however. It's just an enhanced reading option that doesn't apply to all.

In any case, thanks once again for a terrific piece.

Abe Dane
President & COO, Tizra

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