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Is PubPub For You?

Wondering if PubPub is right for you? Start here for an honest description of its strengths and weaknesses, as well as possible alternatives to try if it's not a fit.
Published onDec 22, 2021
Is PubPub For You?

About PubPub

PubPub is a content management system designed to help knowledge communities of all types collaboratively create and share knowledge online. PubPub’s flexible, extensible system allows communities to create the dynamic content that best represents their work, whether it’s a traditional academic journal, a book, a repository of interactive documents, a blog, all of the above, or something in between. If needed, PubPub then helps communities integrate their work into academic infrastructure like Crossref and Google Scholar without the need to remake it to conform to legacy expectations of how academic outputs are structured.

Is PubPub For You?

We’ll describe the main benefits and tradeoffs of using PubPub in more depth below. In summary, PubPub may be ideal if your community:

  • Wants to create web-native, dynamic content.

  • Wants to collaborate on content creation.

  • Wants to integrate your content into academic systems and formats like Crossref, Google Scholar, and JATS XML with as little effort as possible.

  • Doesn’t have high levels of technical expertise on-staff.

  • Doesn’t want to manage your own servers and worry about updates, plugin compatibility, or users breaking layouts.

PubPub may not be ideal if your community:

  • Publishes primarily PDF content, or has an audience that primarily consumes content as PDF.

  • Needs precise control over the look and feel of its website or its PDFs.

  • Needs precise control over academic metadata or output formats like JATS XML.

  • Needs or wants to self-host their technology.

No Technical Expertise Needed

PubPub is designed to require no technical skill whatsoever to setup or maintain. You don’t need to install PubPub on your servers, update it, or manage a collection of plug-ins. The tradeoff is that PubPub is less customizable, both in terms of look and feel, and in terms of functionality, than many of alternative systems. We support custom colors, logos, layouts, and even CSS, and we actively solicit and respond to feedback from communities on features they’d like to see on our open Discussion Forum, and often build them. You can view some examples of how a range of communities have designed and formatted their pages and pub on our Explore page. However, if your community needs complete control over the look, feel, and functionality of your site, and you have the technical expertise to manage that complexity, you may do better on other platforms that prioritize plugins and customization over ease-of-use.

Web-Native, Interactive Features

PubPub is designed to produce beautiful, accessible, web-native documents with interactive features like audio, video, and code embeds, and inline discussions. The tradeoff is that these features do not translate well to formats like PDF and JATS XML. PubPub creates automated versions of both formats (and more) that function well in most cases, but they are not perfect. Communities who care deeply about these document formats can use vendors or their own systems to produce versions that better match their needs. But if highly customized PDF or JATS XML is a core need for your community, you may do better on platforms that are designed to target PDF or JATS XML outputs.

Core Academic Features Without The Hassle

PubPub is designed to help communities fit their dynamic, web-native content into forms understood by core academic infrastructure with as little effort as possible. We support Crossref DOI depositing, Google Scholar sitemaps, Highwire, Zotero, and Mendeley metadata, LaTeX math, PDF and JATS XML export, and quite a lot more out of the box. The tradeoff is that we only support the most commonly used infrastructure, and our support for it is typically not customizable. Communities who care deeply about customization of academic metadata or integrations with specific pieces of infrastructure can often supplement our basic tools with their own workflows. If your community needs a lot of control over academic metadata, or wants to automate a specific integration, you may do better on platforms designed with a focus on producing more traditional academic outputs over web-native outputs.

Collaborative Document Editing

PubPub is designed around a collaborative, multi-user editor, like Google Docs or Microsoft Office Live, that allows you to work on content with your community in real-time. The tradeoff is that PubPub works best if you bring your content onto its editor as early in the production process as possible. PubPub can import content from Word, LaTeX, JATS XML, Markdown, and more with high fidelity, but it is not perfect, and usually requires some tweaking before it’s ready to be published. To be honest, that’s going to be case with just about any CMS you’ll choose, and we think PubPub’s importing tools are very good. But we want to be upfront about it!

Other Options to Explore

If PubPub is not the right fit for you, here are some other options to explore. All of these options have free or self-hosted versions, provide end-to-end solutions (not just toolkits), and are run by open academic infrastructure providers whose values align with our own.

You can learn more about these and other projects at Mind The Gap, an open source publishing tools landscape analysis completed in 2019.


Preprint Servers


Books & OER

Digital Collections

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