Cambridge University Press has launched Cambridge Elements, a large-scale programme for research that sits outside the traditional formats of either book or journal article.
Cambridge Elements, which CUP says "will open the way to publication for huge wealth of world-class material", will comprise of work of between 50 and 120 pages, published digitally and through print-on-demand as guides to "key and current topics across all fields of study and research", organised into focused series with leading scholars editing.
Published in just 12 weeks, they will "combine the speed, flexibility and versatility of digital with the highest academic standards", said the Press.
While similar mid-length, fast-speed publishing is employed elsewhere, notably with Palgrave Pivot, CUP is claiming a "new model for scholarly publishing", pointing out its focus on series publication. Seventy series in the programme are already under contract, on topics ranging from flexible and large area electronics to ancient Egypt, and the publisher expects to add a further 30 series by the end of year. Two hundred individual texts will be published this year, and thereafter CUP expects to publish in the region of 250 per annum.
The programme launches with 70 Elements, published across the arts and sciences, on subjects from cutting edge electronic engineering, through to using Twitter as data, to the problem of evil in the Old Testament.
Chris Harrison, publishing development director for the humanities and social science, said: "For many years, commercial constraints and the established model of scholarly publishing have prevented publication of a huge variety of work that could not be accommodated within the existing books and journal formats because it was too long for a journal article and too short for a book.
"The rise of digital publishing and print on demand removes these barriers, promising a way to publish a wealth of material from this previously untapped resource. Cambridge Elements provide an outlet for concise, authoritative, and peer-reviewed research across academic disciplines, which we think combines the best features of books and journals."
Phil Meyler, publishing development director for STM, added: "The way people want to write and consume information is changing. Many authors and researchers want to publish work that sits outside of the traditional formats of either book or journal article and there has been real frustration that there is nowhere for that material to go.
"In a digital environment, that binary choice between scholarly content produced in short form journal articles or in long form monographs of 80,000 words and more seems artificial. Publishing each title within a specific series, edited by senior figures in the discipline, enables Cambridge Elements to provide both a focussed exploration of a topic and the wider, ongoing development of the subject."
"We wanted to bring the Cambridge approach to this – to marry the rigour and excellence of our publishing to the new world and finally deliver on the potential of digital to change the look and reach of academic publishing. This is a clear response to a market need and an opportunity to get these ideas across for the first time – it’s hugely exciting."
Cambridge Elements will be made available as digital collections to institutional libraries and to individuals as e-books and in print. There will also be Open Access options, said CUP.