The year 2020, as no doubt for most of us, was an eventful year for punctum books. The Covid-19 pandemic split our team across four countries and severely disrupted book distribution, library budgets, and conference schedules. At the same time, the global pandemic once again put a spotlight on the vital necessity of publicly accessible research as well as on the outrageous practices of placing life-saving scholarly research behind paywalls and the global, exclusionary system of patents and copyright, which causes billions of our fellow humans to suffer the pandemic’s consequences for much longer than necessary.
At punctum, we have tried to use the forced “time off” from physical meetings and packed conference schedules to further consolidate the changes we started in 2019, as described in more detail below.
At the beginning of 2020, punctum books introduced its new visual identity, with redesigned logo and typography. The new logo forms a logical continuation of the original circular typewriter key design, now harmonized with the lower-case orthography of our name. The typeface used is Emigre’s Priori Sans, designed by Jonathan Barnbrook. The most significant addition is a period, a punctum, inside the logo.
In February, punctum books announced its revamped Editorial Board, which better represents the content of our diverse, wide-ranging, and experimental catalog. Board members will be directly assisting co-directors Eileen and Vincent in the maintenance of editorial standards and in reviewing manuscripts under submission.
This year also saw the launch of two new imprints, which are slated to provide exciting new additions to the punctum catalog:
Advanced Methods: New Research Ontologies “begins from the premise that it is not only possible but necessary to develop new methods that make unprecedented onto-epistemic cuts in the bodily, institutional, and political fabric of the world.” The imprint offers “concrete techniques, protocols, strategies, and implementations along with rigorous critical and philosophical contexts for understanding their implications,” providing “new models that combine approaches from the arts, humanities, sciences, and social sciences in unexpected, innovative, and challenging ways.” The first book in their imprint, Making a Laboratory: Dynamic Configurations with Transversal Video, was published last year.
Gracchi Books specializes in history and critical theory. “Through the promotion of radical, innovative, and experimental thought, dialogue, patterns of representation, methods of research, interpretive frames, and forms of discourse entangled with serious scholarly, academic, and collegial expectations and direction,” the imprint “hope[s] to topple the hoary trees of hierarchies and let research grow and disseminate rhizome-like, in all directions, with no beginnings, endings, constraints or priorities other than rigorous scholarship, critical reflection, novel intellectual propositions, and creative inspiration.” Their first publication, the edited collection, Urban Interactions: Communication and Competition in Late Antiquity and the Early Middle Ages, was published last year.
In 2020, punctum books published a record number of thirty-six titles in critical theory and cultural studies, (auto-)anthropology, animal science, disability studies, art and aesthetics, anthropocene/environmental studies, psychoanalysis, religious architecture, poetry studies, humor, psychology, musicology, medieval studies, film and media studies, literary theory, artistic research, and speculative philosophy, among many other (non-)disciplines.
* Complementary Modernisms in China and the United States: Art as Life/Art as Idea, a bilingual English–Chinese volume, was published in both a full color and black-and-white edition.
punctum books is a sparkling diamond open access press that works for the opening of scholarly research to readers worldwide and for the accessibility to publish for authors. We continue to advocate open access, for example, in relation to the life-saving potential of scholarly research and the necessity of considering open-access monographs carefully when mandating specific OA licensing policies.
In July, punctum co-director Vincent was elected into the board of open access publishing association OASPA.
One of the great challenges faced by punctum has been to provide a reliable, easily maintainable interface for its usage data such as book sales and downloads from various repositories. Although punctum receives monthly usage updates from these platforms, the data are often incommensurable. Together with Cloud68.co, punctum devised a visualization system based on open source software Metabase. punctum usage data are now openly available via our website.1
punctum books also launched its audio website based on the open source platform Funkwhale, featuring recordings by authors of audiobooks as well as several records from the archives of the now defunct punctum records label.
punctum books continued its involvement in the Community-led Open Publication Infrastructures for Monographs (COPIM) project, being one of the first two presses to beta-test the Open Metadata Management System Thoth. Thoth is now used on a daily basis for the management of punctum metadata, greatly simplifying this aspect of our production. Thoth ONIX output files are already available in our collaboration with Project MUSE, and multiple other output formats are scheduled for development in 2021 (such as MARC records and KBART files).
Finally, the Dotawo imprint has migrated its web presence to the open source Sandpoints platform, co-developed by Marcell Mars, Sean Dockray, and Vincent. Via Sandpoints, Dotawo’s print files are generated directly through PagedJS, similar to the Editoria platform that punctum is currently exploring.
In 2020 punctum also saw an expansion of its Supporting Library Membership Program, signing on several new participating libraries. Currently, punctum books has 31 supporting libraries. The rate of expansion was greatly affected by the Covid-19 pandemic, which affected library budgets and slowed down bureaucratic processes due to remote working conditions. In September, we partnered with Jisc to represent our library membership program to UK academic libraries.
The pandemic severely affected print book distribution throughout 2020, with big dips in April and May. Although sales recovered later in the year, delivery times have slowed and multiple countries remain unreachable through our distribution channels owing to restrictions on shipping.
Last year, punctum imported its full back catalog into Project MUSE and also joined JSTOR. Downloads have spiked during the Covid-19 pandemic, with a large increase in downloads from OAPEN, JSTOR, and Project MUSE since May 2020.
punctum books is a non-profit, public benefit corporation registered in the State of California. All of our revenue is reinvested in our core business: producing widely accessible, high-quality scholarly publications.
Since 2016, punctum books has seen a steady increase in income from a variety of sources. A stable part of our income is provided by book sales via Amazon and other online booksellers, as well as wholesale channels (such as Ingram) and conventional bookstores. In 2020, the Covid-19 pandemic has led to a significant drop in book sales, especially in the early months of the pandemic as online booksellers were halting distribution. Revenues from Book Processing Charges (BPCs) have also dropped, as university and library budgets were put on hold.
At the same time, our Supporting Library Membership Program has steadily expanded, compensating for part of the losses of BPCs. The disbursements of COPIM grant funds has significantly added to our income, although nearly all of those funds are spent directly on staff.
In 2020, thanks in part to the profit generated in 2019, punctum books was able to hire an accountant to review our books since 2016 and file tax returns for the period 2016–2019, which is now visible in our expenses. The pandemic has also led to a reduction of our travel expenses and we have been able to reduce our overhead by becoming more efficient. The COPIM grant has, on the other hand, led to an increase in personnel expenses.
Although the Covid-19 pandemic is expected to continue some of its disruption of book distribution networks, both universities and conferences will probably start reopening physically after the summer break, which will provide increased possibilities to reengage in our customary outreach via conferences and workshops.
In March 2021, punctum books joined Lyrasis to represent its Supporting Library Membership Program in the US and Canada.
In April 2021, Associate Director for Community Outreach Dan Rudmann decided to leave punctum books. We wish him all the best with his future endeavors. Meredith North will take over his functions with regard to outreach for our Supporting Library Membership Program.