Celebrating 20 Years
20 years is a short time in scholarly publishing. To quote Alberto Pepe of Authorea, “scientists produce 21st century research, written up on 20th century tools, packaged in a 17th century format.” Ahmed Hindawi, our founder, once said that if he could change one thing to make the company more successful, he would have founded it 20 years sooner.
As Hindawi turned 20 on May 15, we wanted to reflect on how far we have come. How did an Egyptian startup break into a market dominated by centuries-old conglomerates protected by moats of prestige?
Although Hindawi was set up to be a publisher from the start, the company worked on other activities before starting its own scholarly publishing program. As a physics graduate student in the mid-1990s, Ahmed found himself developing a deep interest in design and typography. He pored over manuals for the TeX typesetting system and began experimenting with font design in his spare time. He appreciated the beautifully designed MathTime font and Donald Knuth’s instrumental work in the creation of TeX, with its fine typography controls such as kerning and italic correction.
That love of beautiful typography coincided with the arrival of the web. Existing sites like the arXiv used protocols such as ftp and gopher rather than http, but it was clear that the arrival of the web would transform scholarly communication. Ahmed Hindawi and co-founder Nagwa Abdelmottaleb saw two opportunities in the arrival of the internet. The technology not only vastly increased the ability of a journal to reach readers, it also made it possible to publish a peer-reviewed journal from anywhere in the world.
Returning to Egypt after finishing his Ph.D., Ahmed’s luggage contained a Mac, a PC, and a printer – Hindawi’s first office equipment. Our earliest work came in helping conferences publish the first online versions of their proceedings. This work allowed us to form relationships with the Editors-in-Chief of several journals, which led to an arrangement to publish our first journal, the 1999 volume of the International Journal of Mathematics and Mathematical Sciences. Over the next few years, one mathematics journal became several, and we began to experiment with launching our own titles in other fields.
Without the backing of a famous editor or a well-known publisher, a new subscription journal will always struggle to attract authors. Our small subscription base couldn’t compete with other publishers’ big deals, but we could maximize the value we created for authors elsewhere: a beautiful typeset manuscript, an easy publication process, and rapid dissemination online. Although we didn’t realize it right away, those decisions started us on the path to Open Access from the very beginning.
Those first conference proceedings in ‘97 and ‘98 were published freely online, although the term Open Access didn’t exist at the time. We experimented with hybrid OA models in the early 2000s. We were among the first publishers to place links to indexing records in the reference sections of PDFs. And in 2007, we became the first subscription publisher to convert our entire portfolio of journals to OA.
These same principles remain central to Hindawi today: author services, technical excellence, openness. In promoting data availability and the public awareness of science, we continue to push for science to be open to all. Earlier this year we celebrated ten years as a fully Open Access publisher and this week, Ahmed and Nagwa cut the cake at our 20th anniversary celebration.
Hindawi’s first decade was spent building a global publishing business and learning to compete with much larger companies. Our second was spent defining and promoting OA publishing models. We look forward to many more years of applying the same rigorous attention to detail to the craft of scholarly publishing, contributing to a more open and connected world.