Mohr Siebeck is an independent, family-owned publisher. Founded in 1801, its aim is to publish academic works of enduring quality.
While many other publishing houses use service providers to sell their digital content to libraries and other institutional customers, early in 2016 Mohr Siebeck made the decision to take on this task itself. We were convinced that we would be able to react better to the needs and wishes of our customers if we were in direct contact with them about digital deliveries.
With our new eLibrary, the result of our thoughts and efforts has now gone online. One special feature of this service is that the eLibrary has been completely integrated in our homepage under www.mohrsiebeck.com. Our customers and readers therefore have one-stop internet access to both our website and the new eLibrary – a solution that demands complex interplay between various technical systems such as, among others, our online-shop, the editorial system of the homepage, the online library for the use of digital content, and our newsletter. This complexity is also the reason for the start-up difficulties we experienced. These problems have now been sorted, and we would like to thank all our customers for their patience and forbearance. However, in case further glitches occur, we would be very grateful for alerts via email@example.com
For the humanities we undertake to publish, their content and communication, there is an exponentially increasing tendency that is sure to determine progress in the near future: quod non est in internet, non est in mundo academio. One or two of our authors and editors will view this development, as I do, with ambivalence because of the pros and cons each advancement brings with it. As a publishing house providing services to academia though, our purpose and aim is to harness the associated potential and opportunities that such developments represent. And it is for this reason that we look forward to being able to make new offers through the eLibrary in the form of, for example, digital book bundles, which, we hope, will interest our customers and readers worldwide.
Alongside tolle, lege, we now also invite you to log in and read.
[ Written for the Preview 3/2018 ]
Academic books take time. They are not written quickly, but are the result of long-term deliberation and devising of concepts, intensive reading, other research undertaken at least partly in archives, and preparatory work in the form of essays or lectures.
It is often a fellowship or a residency in the intellectually stimulating atmosphere of a research institute that finally allows such works to come to fruition. This applies in particular to larger projects such as monographs, biographies, editions of complete works, translations and commentaries.
But composing commissioned essays for handbooks and collected volumes takes time too, of which the author also has to be given enough; generally about a year. It is for this reason that when we discuss larger projects, mapping them out and agreeing on them together with our editors, we are prepared to take the time it takes to create these academic works.
In contrast, and because it is in the best interests of authors and their careers, submitted manuscripts, especially for the likes of doctorates and conference volumes, are published as quickly as possible. That said, it can also happen here that several years pass between the first point of contact and the date of submission.
Books we are to publish in 2018 therefore owe much to preparation done years, in some cases even decades, in advance. In turn, many other volumes currently in the pipeline will not appear for several years. An added unknown factor is that of the unsolicited manuscript yet to arrive - though without a doubt we will once again manage to publish by autumn something first received in the spring.
The task of scheduling the program becomes more complicated still when manuscripts are not handed in on time – a frequent occurrence when unforeseen hurdles in the form of practical problems arise, or because the academic author is, naturally enough, very much tied to meeting the immediate demands of everyday university and scholarly life, or because new findings made by the author see the focus of interest shift to other subjects and themes.
Delays in submitting manuscripts for single-author books only affect the press’s annual plan. Where potential for conflict can arise and the situation can become a delicate one is when the slowest author in a team working on the likes of a commentary, guide, or collection dictates the pace of the whole undertaking. Here, the worst case scenario is when a manuscript is delivered so late that all other punctually submitted contributions have to be updated. But even this is not an insurmountable problem if all those involved have the publication of the volume at heart – or the editor is not bashful about putting a firm diplomatic word in the right ear at the right time.
This means that our staff have to be kitted out with a diverse set of essential skills. Most important is that we remain faithful to our authors by being patient and understanding when there are delays. In the vast majority of cases, it is the author who is existentially concerned with the completion of the work and its publication. Whoever is responsible for the program in question must therefore have sure instincts and the tact to know just when and how they ought to intervene. Such a move is in everyone’s interest where the publication of a multi-authored work is at stake. Though here, too, the principle of waiting for the slowest still applies. Academic books keep their own time – and publishers can only be assured of economic success if program managers succeed in maintaining a stockpile of projects.
As soon as a manuscript is ready for typesetting or printing, a new phase begins, the pace quickens and things change in a flash. Authors, program and production managers are then united in the common aim of producing and publishing the book as swiftly as possible – something we gladly and repeatedly pull out all the stops to do as a service for our authors and editors.
[ Written for the Preview 1/2018 ]
There is an interplay between institutions or companies and those who work in them and act on their behalf. While on the one hand every organisation tries to operate so that it does not rely on any single individual, on the other it is precisely the actual person who gives it a face. For it is the individual’s aptitudes and skills, their virtues and characteristics that help shape the undertaking they work in. This applies even more the higher the position occupied and the stronger a person's particular character traits. When the greater good benefits from this over a longer period of time, it can be said that the person has made a lasting impression or, in the best case, characterised an era.
Dr. Franz-Peter Gillig has been a key figure for Mohr Siebeck and to have found such a colleague was, as the publisher Dr. Georg Siebeck stressed many times, a stroke of luck. Franz-Peter Gillig joined the publishing house on September 1, 1982, initially as editor of the JuristenZeitung before becoming chief editor in sole charge of the entire law programme on July 1, 1990, and ultimately being appointed managing director on September 15, 2005. Being in charge of the whole programme, he not only launched many series, such as – to name but a few without wishing to exclude those not mentioned - Jus Publicum, Jus Privatum and Jus Poenale, but also initiated or helped shape weighty commentaries on the likes of the German constitution, the German Civil Code, the Civil Process Order, or, most recently, on European Law. Because he was the first specialist editor in the previously exclusively publisher-led press, his work here also provided a model and orientation for other subsequent programme areas and their editors. If his responsibility for the largest programme area and his competencies saw him become the publisher’s right-hand man, his appointment as managing director saw Dr. Gillig formally able to co-determine the fate of the entire press. His part in developing the press over the years was therefore a fundamental one.
Dr. Gillig's career spanned from the end of the old German Republic right up to the present day, a time in which the transition to a specialist press providing a consistent service to the research it publishes was completed. For this process, Dr. Gillig's contribution as chief editor and managing director was, alongside others, crucial. It is not only the law programme that bears his hallmark, reflects the diversity of his contacts and shows his high regard for quality - his programme being the largest and his role being a dual one meant that all his considerations and decisions have always focused on the well-being of the press as a whole, and thus his impact on it throughout his career can hardly be overstated. Coupled with this are the logical alignment of the programme and its expansion to include fields such as history, along with the internal division of publishing work into various tasks and editorial responsibilities plus the transition to new digital processes currently being introduced in all departments.
That I greatly enjoy working with Dr. Gillig and can imagine no better colleague has often brought to mind an observation made by Ernst Jünger in Subtile Jagden (1967): "The great man is less recognisable in that he has more space, but rather that he has more time than others." Dr. Gillig might very well not have the largest office in the publishing house, but he would deny that he has more time than others. And yet precisely therein lies his art of living: to give the other the impression that now is the time for the current problem and questions to be dealt with. Time and again I have been amazed at Dr. Gillig's well-informed, quick-witted and attentive individual approach to his counterparts, whether within the press itself, or in talks with other publishing colleagues, with service providers, with customers, or with authors and editors. The beauty of this is that a lifetime's professional achievement reveals itself to be nothing less than the sum of numerous constructive conversations and the deliberations and decisions bound up with them.
On September 1, 2017, Dr. Gillig is to retire from his duties at Mohr Siebeck. During 35 years of endeavour as law editor, he has created a lifework which can likewise be understood as the yield of a subtle hunt; that is, the one for excellent contents: the entirety of all the juristic books and journals that appeared in his time. This result is more than just impressive and for that, Mohr Siebeck will remain ever grateful to Franz-Peter Gillig.
Chief Editor Theology & Jewish Studies
[ Written for the Preview 2/2017 and translated by Elizabeth Wener. ]
Besides authors, editors and editorial departments, producing a publication involves external service providers such as printers and setters. And at the interface coordinating the whole process between these parties is the production department. While a production manager ten years ago was almost exclusively occupied with calculating books, scheduling their production, and controlling costs and deadlines, the working day has since – in keeping with changes in the publishing industry – been transformed. Mohr Siebeck’s production managers no longer only master business and typography challenges, but also need to understand questions about technology and content. The development of e-books having to be sold alongside print products confronts publishing with the task of preparing and keeping a stock of media-neutral content. But what does this mean for authors and readers?
Each medium places special demands on the content that is to be published. It is not easy, for example, to generate bookmarks, automatic references and registers for an e-book from a normal print product setting file. These functions, which are what give electronic books their added value, have to be individually populated. In order to generate various products from a unified database in the future, Mohr Siebeck is currently installing an XML-based content management system. A structured database like this stores content centrally in a media-neutral format and allows it to be adapted to the relevant output medium through automated processes.
The introduction of these new structures has created new challenges for a traditional academic publisher. The partial automation accelerates preparation in production and enables a steadily increasing number of new titles to be published. On the other hand, the reader can expect a product with highbrow content that is easy to read and take in whatever the edition’s form. Above all though, our main concern is that each author whose work we are entrusted with publishing should receive the best possible individual support during production.
Is standardisation of complex academic texts at all possible, and, if so, at which point in the production process should it be applied? Gauging this is the production manager’s main task. The structure of the text is appraised and the manuscript prepared so that it fits into the specified layout. Individual features – for example, offsetting or complicated tables – are identified and highlighted because each peculiarity in the manuscript blocks setting automation and often leads to reworking by the setter, the production manager, or sometimes even the author. By supplying document templates which automatically store structural characteristics when a text is being written, the author can be actively involved in the process early on. The result is a well-structured basis for producing content efficiently in visually appealing print and digital forms.
Finding the right mix of standardisation, automation and individuality is the key to a publication’s economic success. The production manager decides on the basis of the text and the data situation what is possible and what makes sense as to which path can be taken. For each single project, the optimum balance is sought anew. After all, each work is and remains unique.
Head of Production
[ Written for the Preview 1/2017 and translated by Elizabeth Wener. ]
For a publishing house of our size, we are very internationally-orientated with export sales of around 40 percent. And almost 15 percent of our turnover is generated in the Asiatic region. For that reason, my colleague, Laszlo Simon-Nanko, and I travelled to Asia for the SBL International Meeting, and to meet with our customers in Seoul, Tokyo and Peking.
Our first stop was South Korea where German public law is seen as a role model and is widely read, and where Korean theology professors discuss in perfect German the most important new publications from our exegetical series. On the South Korean academic book market, the tendering policy of the libraries has led to price wars and consolidation in the trade. But at the end of the day, rather than offering a few more discount points, it is the personal contact to academics, attending exhibitions and having the right sales strategy that lead to success.
In Japan, we enjoy long-standing and trusting business partnerships, are firmly grounded in the academic environment there and are well-equipped for it. It is gratifying that the external and internal quality of our books are highly valued in Japan, that publications on German law and Max Weber are big sellers, and that in a small Christian book shop in Tokyo there are more of our titles on the shelves than in the relevant specialist book shops in German university towns.
The academic merit of our books presents us with the opportunity to become noted and respected in China. The market there is dominated by large English-language natural science publishers, and Mohr Siebeck has yet to become established, identify and claim niches for itself as well as to develop and cement business contacts here. I was impressed by the Chinese importers and how despite currency exchange control, censorship and limited internet access they manage to find what they are looking for and make our digital content available to scholars.
And what was the lasting impression after almost three weeks in Asia? The insight that this market is only accessible through contact to local brokers, be they agents or traders, who can overcome language, cultural and market-specific barriers. Other than in the German market, we are barely able to directly reach readers of our publications, but rather are dependent on the advertising and selling skills of the local agents and traders.
The conviction also remains that this and future visits, maintaining and sustaining contacts, and providing publications fitting to the market will further enhance our position in Asia. Plus there is the wonderful realisation that our law, theology and Jewish studies, philosophy, sociology and history publications are greatly appreciated – and this because outstanding authors entrust us with their publications, which are then internationally received, but also because German law, philosophy and theology are highly regard in Asia. This is a source of encouragement to us not only in light of our publishing house's future, but also because it means that scholarship from Germany and in the German language is and remains a benchmark in these fields.
Head of Marketing & Sales
[ Written for the Mohr Kurier 3/2016 and translated by Elizabeth Wener. ]
Among academics – and not least of all legal scholars – the 70th birthday is also known as the "Festschrift age". The end of 2015 saw the JuristenZeitung (JZ) reach this point in its history, something which calls for a retrospective, but also some self-commendation. In the first issue of this year (JZ 2016, 1-18), the JZ's former long-term co-editor Rolf Stürner extensively reviewed the developments the journal went through and which issues of post-war (legal) history were dealt with in its pages during the past seven decades.
From Mohr Siebeck's point of view, the JZ is special because it is the only journal with a full-time editorial team in Tübingen's Wilhelmstraße, a fact that can certainly be put down to its frequency of publication (twice monthly). Incidentally, before writing their first contributions for the JZ, many authors have already collaborated with our law editorial team, whose offices are right next door on the same floor in the building.
The JZ's main characteristic is that among the numerous other legal journals – excluding the educational ones – it is one of the few which does not specialise in a particular legal field or at least focus on one of law's three traditional pillars (civil, public and criminal law). Ever-increasing legal differentiation and specialisation among legal professionals – including legal scholars – has and will continue to be a subject of much debate. For the publisher and editorial team, this means asking the question: Is there still a need and therefore demand for a "general" legal journal with academic aspirations? And if so, which criteria – apart from exceptional quality – determine the selection of contributions if any "legal issue" is admissible right from the start?
The second question certainly brings to mind first of all issues that raise potentially interesting aspects for all lawyers and legal scholars. For example, on interdisciplinary contributions and the "bird's eye view" of law and legal order(s): Europeanisation or constitutionalisation, judicial development of law, private law enforcement etc., or on so-called basic subjects such as the theory or philosophy of law. But it should – and ought! - not always have to "be about the whole". A contribution may on the face of it deal with a very particular legal question, and, by way of an independent dogmatic approach or the revelation of surprising parallels with figures of thought temporarily forgotten during changing societal "environmental conditions", can nevertheless be just as inspirational as any reflection about the "right right".
Over the decades there has been and still is a great deal of consensus between the editors and editorial staff on the criteria for and selection of individual contributions. But what is even more remarkable is that for authors too the question of the “right” place to publish each individual essay keeps on arising. And here it is apparent that there is broad agreement about the "role" of the JZ, something which is independent of the level of experience in teaching, research and publication matters as well as the internal discipline represented. Conversations confirm this time and again, as does the – still gratifying – number of manuscripts sent in. Perhaps this gives a clue to the answer of the first question asked above. We are in any case convinced that a general legal journal that can combine academic ambition and topicality is both important and necessary.
Managing Editor of the JZ
[ Written for the Mohr Kurier 2016/2 and translated by Elizabeth Wener. ]
"Do you read the manuscripts at all anymore then?" or "Do you not have to read an awful lot?". When it comes to the job of the editor, these are two very contrary, typical questions. The publishing editor is indeed a quiet quick and avid reader. In academic publishing, things go above and beyond that though, reaching into the realms of program planning, evaluations and consultation. Our authors are specialists in their respective fields and trust us with the publication of their research findings. For these, we seek out the right place in our publishing program, arrange the reviewing, make revision recommendations and take care of the formalities.
Many of our customers are also professional readers who put their trust in us as an academic publisher to procure relevant research literature: then what we publish has undergone a selection and review process, has often been assessed from several angles and held to be important, and has subsequently been frequently revised. So it is that we provide guidance in the increasingly complex world of academic publishing and are also often able to broker new contacts within the scholarly community.
Young authors especially are advised intensively and helped on the way through the jungle of series, evaluations, promotion regulations, deadlines, grants and subsidies. Why is it worth publishing in a renowned series and waiting for the result of that extra assessment? What makes a book title good? Why are indices important? For big as well as small questions, it matters to have a personal contact partner.
Editors are professional optimists. They are convinced of the importance of a book project, refuse to let go and, along with marketing, campaign on its behalf even after publication. It is always exciting for program planners to follow which expectations are fulfilled (or which are not). And it is fascinating when sales from the back-list mirror current political affairs and, for example, following events last autumn, titles such as Karl R. Popper's "The Open Society and its Enemies" or "Violence and Social Orders" by Douglas North, John J. Wallis and Barry R. Weingast are increasingly bought (and read?).
This spring, two new publications in the history and philosophy program tell in completely different ways of the editorial and program work in various historical constellations: Angelika Königseder reports impressively in her book on the history of the Walter de Gruyter press during National Socialism of the constraints and lures of academic publishing under the Nazis. Reinhard Mehring analyses in "Heidegger's Big Politics. The Semantic Revolution of the Collected Works" the conception of Heidegger's Collected Works and describes the dealings between author and publisher.
Even if academic publishers – the catchwords are copyright or VG Wort (the German collecting society) - currently find themselves in turbulent cultural-political waters, cultural pessimism has no place in editorial work. It is much too important that we continue with our authors to produce good and relevant books and journals to serve scholarly research.
Dr. Stephanie Warnke-De Nobili
Chief Editor History, Philosophy & Social Sciences
[ Written for the Mohr Kurier 2016/1 and translated by Elizabeth Wener. ]
As you may have noticed in the last Mohr Kurier, the traditional column has undergone something of a facelift and in the future we will use it to offer you insights into various aspects of life at Mohr Siebeck and our work here.
Marketing is our messenger in the world and the first of its three main tasks is to keep you informed of new publications. Because our program is becoming increasingly international, we offer all information in German and English and are thus able to reach readers and customers around the globe with our advertising. And as more and more books and journals have been made available electronically, so too has our advertising material been digitalized. With the Mohr Kurier's counterpart the eKurier, we are able to send out up-to-date, interest-specific e-mails about our latest releases. The website, which as you may have noticed was recently redesigned and is now online with a wider range of functions, has replaced the complete print catalog. Print and electronic advertising will continue to complement one another in the future meaning you still have the chance to leaf through the Mohr Kurier and jot down notes in its margins. There is much to be said for electronic versions however, their being more immediate, available anywhere, searchable and individually processable.
Secondly, the on-going process of digitalization and the accompanying flood of information mean that it is becoming more and more important to raise the online profile of our publications. Our strategy therefore places new emphasis on ensuring that search engines such as Google find our books and journals easily and that these are promptly indexed in the burgeoning number of specialist research data bases. Over and above this, we will continue to attend symposiums to guarantee that our publications remain highly visible in the real world and not just the virtual one.
Our third aim is to augment and reflect Mohr Siebeck's corporate identity in our advertising material. Mohr Siebeck is synonymous with high-class academic books and journals containing high-class content, the specific form of which has been subject to steady and fitting change for the past 200 years. The time has now come to fuse these developments together with our website and the Mohr Kurier. The four mainstays of theology, philosophy, law, and economics that defined our 20th century publications have evolved into nine independent areas, now represented by three inter-related thematic pillars. Law, rendering the most titles, theology as one of our oldest disciplines and newcomer history are set apart by the fact that each is represented by specialist editors.
Marketing is adjusting to fit today's information consumption habits and the new forms of advertising retain the high quality appearance and content our readers and customers expect. The aims I mention are a means to the end of selling our books and journals and disseminating our authors' works. Marketing is accordingly distribution-oriented. Just how this works will be the subject of a future column.
Mohr Siebeck and Marketing
Every now and again, we will be reporting here on various aspects of life at Mohr Siebeck.
In marketing, we aim to produce precise, high-quality print and, increasingly, electronic information on new publications in order to enhance their online visibility. At the same time, this material should clearly reflect Mohr Siebeck's established identity. You have perhaps already discovered the influence of these three elements on our recently newly-designed homepage with its improved functionality.
The aims I mention are a means to the end of selling our books and journals and spreading our authors' works. Marketing is accordingly distribution-orientated. Just how this works will be the subject of a future column.
Head of Marketing & Sales
[ Written for the Mohr Kurier 2015/3 and translated by Elizabeth Wener. ]
It may be something we are not so aware of in our daily routines, but every institution is subject to constant change and a publishing house is no exception to this. Seemingly unchanging work constitutes the thicket of the lived moment, with only the light of retrospect revealing great transformation to the way things were. This is certainly something that can be said of Mohr Siebeck; a special feature of the publishing house being that its distinguishing characteristics have enjoyed an astounding constancy over a long period of time. The task of producing superbly presented quality content for the academic disciplines in our programme has always been, and remains, our focal point.
It was a watershed for Mohr Siebeck when for the first time in its history, no member of the owning family, but rather two managing directors, took the helm to oversee the company's fortunes. Though this may be viewed from the outside as a breach in the order of things, continuity nevertheless carries on at a management level: we have been co-directors since 2005 and up until very recently led through thick and thin along with Dr. Georg Siebeck. We know the publishing house and its ideals inside out. And because we have always identified with these, it is our intention to continue editorially and managerially in much the same way. To be sure, some changes will be necessary because neither of us were born into publishing. However, as concerns content, overall presentation, as well as guiding ideas and concepts, our dependability for authors and customers is assured and, it is hoped, stay foremost.
And so to continue in our changing continuity, we have set ourselves four goals. First of all, we want to widen our programme, making it more international by publishing, where appropriate, more English titles. In line with this, we would like to expand our sales networks abroad in order to reinforce our presence in non-German markets, an area which currently provides about half our turnover. Thirdly, we aim to press ahead with the digitalization of the publishing programme. The first steps in this direction have already been taken by augmenting our personnel. A few younger, and partly new, members of staff have recently taken up key positions with the intention being that this new generation ferry the changes into the future.
It may well be that outward appearances give the impression of a new accent being set; however, it is the already existing or applied potential and resources that will above all be further developed. Shifting economic and legal conditions are not going to make it any easier to profitably publish specialized literature for the humanities in print and digital formats – yet that is exactly our enduring objective.
Dr. Franz-Peter Gillig Dr. Henning Ziebritzki
[ Written for the Mohr Kurier 2015/2 and translated by Elizabeth Wener. ]
Dear Mohr Kurier readers,
I am addressing you directly and without a heading this time because what I am going to write about has nothing do with any general matter concerning publishing or this publishing house, but is rather something of a personal nature.
Last year, I reached the age of 68. For an academic scholar, that is an age at which he can once more delve into a rich treasure trove of experiences and present these anew. For a publisher who has to operate a business that has become increasingly complicated over the years, it is however an age at which the value of his many experiences diminishes – at least during the day-to-day work with the many individual decisions which have to be made therein.
Rationally, this is something which has long been clear to me and therefore I have shared the directorship of the publishing house for several years with two exceptionally intelligent and loyal companions, counting it as one of the greatest strokes of luck in my life to have met them. So it was that, likewise with rationality, I limited in the first instance my directorship until my 65th year. I extended this by another three years because I love my occupation and value, above all, the many intelligent people I have come together with as a result.
Over the past two years however, I noticed very clearly - both through ration, but above all through feeling — how difficult it was becoming for me to face up to the requirements of the day as the responsible carrying out of my profession demands. I had to admit to myself in all honesty that I had become too slow for these fast times, even for a publishing house which sets store on long term perspectives.
So it was that I decided to lay down my directorship of the publishing house at the end of the year 2014.
Naturally enough, this decision filled me with wistfulness: what am I giving up in daily contacts, daily requirements and - yes, this too – daily friendships? I can not only think of myself though, but must also think of the company and its employees and my family as well. It is important for the publishing house not to have a figurehead from the past at its helm, but rather that it be led by figures belonging to the present and the future. For the family, it is important that I have more time for my wife, my children and grandchildren than the furtherance of my occupation would have allowed, particularly when I would have needed increasingly more time for all which was required.
My daughters and I decided a number of years ago that the company should not be sold but should stay in the family. That will remain so. I am, and for the foreseeable future shall also remain, the company’s “anchor owner”. I shall also retain my interest in what is published and above all, how it is published. I will also dip back into the world of publishing from time to time, particularly should I be asked. However, I will try to intervene as little as possible in the decisions made by Franz-Peter Gillig and Henning Ziebritzki, who succeed me as directors. They have my complete trust and over the years have likewise won the trust of the authors of this house.
I know that the company is in good hands.
At the turn of the year, I cleared out my office in our building at Wilhelmstraße 18, where for over 40 years personal belongings and business items had found their places next to one another. I have also decided not to visit the publishing house regularly. In his last years, my father came and went here in order to read his newspaper. I have heard of other older publisher colleagues doing similar. I do not want that. The ghost of Hamlet’s father belongs in a Shakespearean play and not in a house which should ever be open to the new.
Let me nevertheless end on a theatrical note: "You have been a magnificent audience!".
Yours sincerely, Georg Siebeck
[ Written for the Mohr Kurier 2015/1 and translated by Elizabeth Wener in January 2015. ]