Scholarly Publisher BioMed Central Goes From PDF to EPUB

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As ebooks become more popular and more readers have devices on which to read ebook files, other branches of publishing outside the trade are adapting.

Scholarly publisher BioMed Central will publish its latest journals in EPUB format, a more modern and flexible format than what the publisher previously had used: PDF. The company is among the first academic publisher to make such a switch.

“This is actually a pretty big development in scholarly publishing circles. Virtually all scholarly publishing is in PDF, which effectively makes them hard or even impossible to view on mobile platforms,” said digital media consultant Joseph Esposito.

The first EPUB files from the publisher are now available for the Journal of Neuroinflammation. The publisher announced the move on its blog today and cited the “rapid growth” of ebooks and e-reading and the availability of e-reading devices that can handle EPUB as its reasons. Quality of the product the company outputs may also be a consideration.

“Beyond screen reading, the PDF format really has limited opportunities for doing interesting programmatic explorations of the texts,” said Matthew Bernius, former co-director of the Open Publishing Lab at the Rochester Institute of Technology and current Ph.D. student at Cornell University studying the future of journalism in the U.S.

BioMed Central, in addition to being forward thinking on content format, is an open access publisher, which means that, once published, it makes its content widely and freely available on the Web. Open access publishing is not the norm for scholarly publishers but is gaining traction. Recently, Amherst College Press announced that it intends to become the first fully open access college press.

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