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Chapter 10 Hosting Your Online Version

You have HTML output, and now where do you put it? A fundamental design decision is that you only need to simply upload your HTML files to a hosting service and since all the links are relative, readers should be able to read your whole book with no more effort than that from you. By design, no extraordinary configuration or privileges are necessary on the server.

For the choice of a hosting service you may have a fundamental decision to make. Mostly this applies to authors who are employees of an institution, yet have the freedom to control the copyright on their scholarly work. But there is information here for independent scholars and for other employees.

  • You love your institution, and plan to stay for a good long time. They have implicitly (or explicitly) supported your project with time and/or money. A URL with the insitution's domain name on a freely-accessible project is good advertising for the institution. Bandwidth is huge, IT is super reliable and helpful, all this is no-cost to you. Read the next scenario, but you have a good situation, so you might as well use it.

  • You are not really attached to your institution, and five years from now you may be somewhere else. Consider hosting your project externally, so it is not tied to your institution.

    Or maybe policy on faculty web pages, or crummy content management systems, make it difficult or impossible to host your project. Or it is buried five levels deep with an impossible URL. Point out the situation to your Provost or Dean, with examples of how other institutions do it right. Remember that your colleagues may be writing monographs and textbooks for commercial publishers, likely with institutional support, and selling their copyright. Your institution should be proud to host your project prominently. If a reasoned, rational approach does not improve the situation, then consider hosting your work elsewhere.

If you are hosting at your institution, that is a great outcome. There is no cost to you, and everybody is happy. Lobby for a great URL, like platypus.mammal-institute.org and the rest should take care of itself. The rest of this section is about the second situation.

To arrange hosting yourself,

  1. Purchase a domain name, it should not be a real big annual expense. Choose something professional, rather than just your name (though your name does have a natural appeal). And maybe something general enough that you can host your next book under that same domain name. The idea here is to own the domain name, so your book can move anywhere, but that domain name will always point to the book. This name should be owned and controlled by you, not your institution, not GitHub, not 5GBFree.com.
  2. Sign up for, and perhaps pay for, a hosting service that lets you point your domain name at the site.

    • Oscar Levin explains that GitHub Pages (pages.github.com) is free, super-easy to use if you already use git, and makes using your domain name (“custom URL”) nearly trivial. (2017-09-08)
    • Mitch Keller likes the “Swift” plan at A2 Hosting (a2hosting.com) at about $60 annually. (2017-07-05)

Now you are set, and control distribution of your scholarly publication. If you are bothered by the thought of having expenses while you make your work freely available to the world, then consider generating some modest income. For example, sell Google ads against your pages. (Why should this disturb anybody? I don't get it.) Or roll a small royalty into the print-on-demand version, see Chapter 13.