The Importance of Single Source Publishing in Scientific Publishing

Antoine Fauchié, Margot Mellet, Marcello Vitali-Rosati. Canada Research Chair on Digital Textualites (CC-BY). Source:

Contact: Antoine Fauchié,

Other formats:

What is Single Source Publishing?

The expression Single Source Publishing refers to generating several formats from a single source. One and unique source can be used to produce various artifacts, without having to switch from one working progress to another. With a Single Source Publishing approach it’s possible to produce a PDF format for printing, an XML export for a digital platform or a digital version in HTML format, just with one source. What is this “source”? A set of texts, some metadata, some bibliographical data, perhaps some images and other medias. Perhaps you already use the principles of Single Source Publishing: it’s long and tedious with a classic word processor, it’s a little bit complex with LaTeX, it’s expensive and it’s not easy with XML, and it’s very powerful and more accessible with tools like Pandoc.

This editorial challenge brings up both theoretical and technical questions, such as the legitimization of content, the evolution of publishing practices, and the creation of adequate tools.

Academic publishing constraints

Scientific publishing has several constraints:

Different formats: in and out

In: with non-standard formats like .doc/.docx, it’s not possible to produce richly structured content. XML is a good solution but it’s complex and there are not enough customizable tools to write and edit. Lightweight and understandable markup languages is an interesting intermediate solution, like Markdown or AsciiDoc.

Out: scientific publishing requires specific formats: PDF, HTML, and various XML with specific schemas (like JATS or TEI).

Benefits of Single Source Publishing

Issues involved in the Single Source Publishing principle

Legitimization of content

If the publishing chain can be horizontal, how can we do the legitimization of the content? How to deal with the validation of content, the structuration and the design of the document?

Evolution of publishing practices

Creation of adequate tools

Since the 1980’s, scientific community use one and unique tool for writing and editing: different generations of word processors like Microsoft Word, LibreOffice Writer or Google Docs. Proprietary, copycat of proprietary software or centralised, they maintain a confusion between the structure of the contents and the graphic rendering.

The academic community needs tools that correspond to its constraints! And it’s what a lot of people do, with an approach more or less compatible with the Single Source Publishing: Manifold, PubPubPub, Coko, Métopes, Quire, Stylo, etc.


With Single Source Publishing come some interesting concepts:


From Marshall McLuhan (McLuhan, 1965): the hybridity of the media generates new media: the media have an effect on each other. In the same way, it is interesting to take into account the influence of various formats on their unique source.


From Alessandro Ludovico (Ludovico & Cramer, 2012): the hybridization of forms and formats is a phenomenon that can be observed in the first digital experiments: electronic versions come to complete already existing forms, printed and digital artifacts become hybrid.


From Marcello Vitali-Rosati (Vitali-Rosati, 2016): editorialization is the set of dynamics that produce and structure digital space. The adaptation of publishing chains to produce different artifacts is one way of understanding and constructing this space.

Academic Single Source Publishing in practice: an example

In the Revue2.0 project ( lead by the Canada Research Chair on Digital Textualities, several journals have experimented Single Source Publishing with Stylo (a semantic editor for academic writing and publishing). With one source (a set of text, metadata, bibliographic data), scientific journals are able to produce the following formats: HTML for their website, PDF for their own distribution and for aggregators, and XML formats for digital distributors.

Stylo is a tool designed to transform the digital workflow of scholarly journals in humanities and social sciences. As a WYSIWYM (What You See Is What You Mean) semantic text editor for the humanities, it aims to improve the academic publishing chain. Stylo is ready and free to use:


Blanc, J., & Haute, L. (2018). Technologies de l’édition numérique. Sciences du design, 8(2), 11–17.
Hyde, A. (2021). Single Source Publishing. In Coko.
Ludovico, A., & Cramer, F. (2012). Post-digital print: the mutation of publishing since 1894. Onomatopee.
Maxwell, J. W. (2019). Mind the Gap: A Landscape Analysis of Open Source Publishing Tools and Platforms. The MIT Press.
McLuhan, M. (1965). Understanding Media: The Extensions of Man. MIT Press [1994].
Vitali-Rosati, M. (2016). What is editorialization ? Sens Public.