RESOURCE: Using Static Site Generators for Scholarly Publications & Open Educational Resources

The latest issue of Code4Lib Journal includes an article by Chris Diaz (Northwestern University), entitled “Using Static Site Generators for Scholarly Publications and Open Educational Resources.” In it, Diaz considers the role static site generators may afford can play in libraries’ open publishing activities.

Static sites are cheap to host and require very few computing resources. In addition to domain name services, dynamic sites require an operating system to manage the web server, the database, and all server-side scripting, often with significant software dependencies that require regular monitoring and maintenance. Modern web browsers are reducing the need for server-side processing for rendering dynamic web content. Static sites simply require storage and a content delivery network (CDN) from hosting providers. The requirements for specific operating systems, databases, software dependencies, or server-side scripting for are minimal or nonexistent for hosting static sites. In some cases, static sites can be hosted for free or very cheaply (e.g. $6.00 US – $30.00 US per year) by providers like GitHub Pages, Netlify, or Amazon Web Services (AWS).

Static sites are generally smaller than dynamic sites. For one of our conference publications with over 30 presentations, the entire working directory is 230 MB (includes the full Git version history, Markdown, configuration, and Sass files) and the output directory is 61 MB (which includes only the HTML/ CSS files and PDF full-text content). For comparison, some hosting providers suggest 1 GB of space needed to run one WordPress site, more than 10 times the needed disk space to host a static website (Jackson 2018).

The article goes on to cover workflows for two static site generating approaches, Jekyll and Bookdown, and outlines the content, layout, and metadata concerns involved in each.

dh+lib Review

This post was produced through a cooperation between Sarah Ames, Corinne Guimont, Martin Kass, Christopher Sawula, and Valentina Vavassori (Editors-at-large for the week), Patrick Williams (Editor for the week), and Caitlin Christian-Lamb, Nickoal Eichmann-Kalwara, Sarah Melton, and Roxanne Shirazi (dh+lib Review Editors).