AAUP Forms Partnership with Tizra E-Publishing Service

On June 26, a mid-sized conference room in Montreal was home to a standing room only crowd. At least one too many invitations (perhaps my own!) had been cadged to a private presentation and discussion of a new e-publishing service.

Tizra Publisher is a new publisher-branded online sales and distribution platform for electronic books and other document-based content. Perhaps that doesn't sound terribly unique these days, but the Tizra software makes it very simple for non-technical staff to create online content collections, to set pricing, and to control the look and feel of the site itself. A Tizra-hosted publisher site needs only searchable, bookmarked PDFs, which many publishers create now as a part of the regular production process, to produce a secure and smooth reader experience. The interest in what Tizra demonstrated was palpable.

Of course, resources are always at stake when trying out a new e-publishing platform or sales model—not just money, but time and staff resources. University presses and their fellow not-for-profit scholarly publishers in the AAUP membership are particularly sensitive to return on investment (or, at least, return OF investment) in these days of experiment and hope. One of the most appealing aspects of Tizra's pitch has been their own sensitivity to these concerns.

Since June, the company has worked in various ways to minimize the risks to such publishers in using Tizra Publisher. Their tiered pricing structure focuses on providing a pricing plan that fits the needs of presses from small to large. Even better, AAUP has been able to negotiate a 20% discount off of the monthly fees for our members. (Tizra's terms entail a basic monthly service fee, as well as a modest transaction fee on sales through their hosted sites.) The Association will receive a percentage of the transaction fees earned by Tizra through sites signed-up through this AAUP discount program.

In addition to the direct financial benefit of the AAUP discount, the Tizra administrative control panel is both self-service and fairly intuitive, in hopes of decreasing the amount of time needed for learning and managing the site's functions. Importantly, the site doesn't require IT set-up or file conversion. One of the most interesting aspects of the product, however, is the flexibility of the sales model. Publishers can sell access to discrete book titles, individual chapters, or whole collections of content. Pricing can be set for individuals, institutions, or specific customer groups. And if a price point or collection offer isn't succeeding, a publisher can try out a new one in a matter of minutes.

The system works by breaking each PDF up into individual pages that will be embedded in the HTML web page though which users access content. This increases security of content online, and decreases the download lag of high-quality PDF material, while appearing seamless to the end user. Searchable PDFs are indexed for both the internal Tizra search-engine and for sites such as Google. More than half of current traffic to Tizra-hosted content comes from Google searches, so findability is key. Currently Tizra's product supports the sale of online access to content, with the ability to include links back to the press site to purchase print books, or to integrate with a publisher's own shopping cart to sell print-and-online packages. Making the sales of downloadable PDFs possible is part of the company's near-term plans, and they have discussed the possibility of partnering with a POD vendor to make that an option for publisher clients as well.

The MIT Press was already working with Tizra at the time of the June meeting. Their Tizra-hosted site, CISnet, was officially launched in early September. MIT chose to make available a specific collection, their computer and information sciences titles. Access to the complete collection can be purchased for a 5-day trial, a one-month or a one-year subscription. The site now includes more than 150 books, with more being added. The press cited the minimized upfront costs and delays as the largest benefit of working with Tizra. Throughout October, AAUP and Tizra have held weekly webinars to introduce a wider range of AAUP member presses to the capabilities of Tizra Publisher. As of the last week in October, the company began offering free online sign-up for publishers wishing to try out Tizra Publisher. While the free sites include Google Ads and have limited content allowances and branding and design tools, they are an excellent opportunity for risk-free experimenting and training. Throughout November, the webinar schedule will be split to accommodate the publishers who have begun to use the free sites and who have hands-on questions, and those who did not attend the initial October webinar introduction.

AAUP members who are interested in more information about Tizra Publisher, AAUP pricing, or the webinars should contact Brenna McLaughlin.

Brenna McLaughlin
Electronic & Strategic Initiatives Director, AAUP