New Business Models for University Presses

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  • Alex H.

    • Comment on Executive Summary on March 9th, 2011

      Of course, the irony that you are waiting for it is precisely because Davidson is rolling it out slowly as part of a “world tour” to toy with questions of attention. I don’t buy that as a strategy, but I applaud the willingness of a (commercial, in this case) publisher to experiment with release.

    • I don’t find the ambiguity here troubling. I think it’s fair to say that any system with any real stakes will be gamed. And it’s also the case that once those games are named and countered there will be new gaming going on.

      My concern is that it leaves the reader with the impression that the current system of filtering isn’t gamed, which is just silly. Likewise the comment about “fame and popularity.” What exactly is an impact factor if not “fame and popularity”?

    • This isn’t a practical issue, but I do think this dichotomy between two much information and too much restriction is misplaced. “Information overload” (or likewise “information surfeit”) is an oxymoron–the structures of culling useful data from non-useful data is a process of information. By definition “information” is taming entropy.
      This isn’t just a theoretical issue, it is immensely practical. The solution to too much data is more data of the right sort.
      We can then, for example, see ways in which the web can help make sense of books (cf citation managers, blogged reviews, library interfaces, etc.), but the opposite seems unlikely past the mid-90s when the last web directories were published in book form.
      I worry about the false dichotomy because it suggests “books vs. the web” which isn’t a winnable battle.

    • I’m willing to go farther than Kathleen here and say that tastes change, and that design–from typography to jacket–is only going to diverge from those defaults on rare occasions. Yes, that is unfortunate from the perspective of a well designed (book) world. But given some of the economic concerns outlined here, the craft of book design will be pressed to the margins.
      Just as there remain bespoke tailors in every major city of the world, there will always be space for good book design, but I am sorry to say that significant differences between manuscript and book will be the exception, not a rarity. (Of course, my hope is that this means better looking manuscripts, but there is no guarantee of that.)

    • Isn’t the motivation described here? I was right there with you until the last line. Publishers should not be in the business of creating motivation. It’s not as though meta-data and indexing have suddenly gone out of favor–quite the contrary. I think the role of publishers is to respond to new, more extensive needs in this regard, and by doing so they may actually find new streams of revenue.

    • ” PDFs are currently not accepted by the iPad.” Not sure where this comes from. GoodReader was available the day the iPad shipped, and you can sync PDFs to iBook.
      And I now this will be anathema to publishers, but there seems to be the possibility of continued Wordy-esque crowdsourcing potentials here, for copy editing, fact checking, and layout checking.

    • It seems silly for each UP to focus on distributing in each format. If distributors won’t meet publishers half-way, there is a market demand for someone in the middle.

    • “does not fit the standard book and journal formats.” Indeed, though the examples cited here still remain fairly textual. There is a rapidly evolving sphere of scholarly discourse that goes beyond fixed text. It’s a shame TED ended up not being run by a UP…

    • Here we go :). Grafting publishing to the broader issues of communication among scholars–including tools of representation that are non-textual, and that are conversational–is exciting stuff.

    • Comment on Conclusions on March 10th, 2011

      I’m struck by just how focussed on the bottom line this conclusion appears to be. Scholarly publishing seems to be a classic example of the double bottom-line. While a certain amount of revenue is necessary to keep the lights on, the difference between the focus here and (e.g.) the focus in start-ups on the web is striking. Many of them do not know how to monetize either, but they recognize that a vibrant (and large) community of users is in many ways more important. The realities may be starkly financial, but securing funding streams to the exclusion of the “other” bottom line may be dangerous.

    • Comment on Recommendations on March 10th, 2011

      There may be space between (a) and (b). Something like a prompted “stand up” saying what the press has been working on and how it’s going. Intentionally a very BRIEF update. This could be done in lots of ways (a paragraph, a two minute recording over the phone, etc) and then compiled into a monthly report. This kind of general peripheral awareness is a prerequisite to more depth.

    • Comment on Recommendations on March 10th, 2011

      Hmmm. Or, if you are doing a decent job of documenting experiences from within, then opening those up, that may be enough. Given that these are ventures or experiments, the creators should have enough cognitive distance to also evaluate…

    • Comment on Recommendations on March 10th, 2011

      “OA has been proposed as a new model for publishing specialized book-length works that have little market value.” Surely OA has also been proposed for book-length works with significant market value…

  • Alex Reid

    • A good point. In fact the digital would clearly take this beyond the analogy of the manuscript transformed into a well-designed book. The neat division of “editorial engagement and “presentational expertise” may break down here.

  • As We May Publish: My Reflections on AAUP’s Sustaining Scholarly Publishing Report « RtH: Remixing the Humanities

    • Comment on How to Read this Report on March 15th, 2011

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    • Comment on Executive Summary on June 20th, 2011

      […] Executive Summary of this new work from MediaCommonsPress is now available online, free of charge. We have, in the course of interaction with participating institutions, seen […]

  • Barbara Fister

    • Comment on Executive Summary on March 10th, 2011

      I don’t have a problem with the ecosystem metaphor – I have often thought that we have needed to view knowledge as an interdependent system rather than as publishing in one corner, authorship in another and libraries as a reliably gushing stream of revenue.  I do have a problem with saying what we need a sustainable business model. Funding model, yes. Business … that’s what got us in this mess in the first place, assuming scholarly publishing would sustain itself financially.

    • Comment on Executive Summary on March 10th, 2011

      Yes, this. I don’t understand “distraction as a big business” threatening scholarship. In fact, I have no idea what this means, unless it’s a claim that people can’t read books anymore because they are distracted by technology (which I seriously doubt).  I also see no signs that deep expertise is on the ropes.

    • Comment on General Comments on March 11th, 2011

      This is wonderful – a sign of taking collaboration seriously. Mwah!

    • Comment on Executive Summary on March 10th, 2011

      I am happy to see openness about projects and open access embraced.

    • Comment on Executive Summary on March 10th, 2011

      My dissatisfaction with assuming we need to find a business model stems from working in a library. Libraries are sustained by their institutions because what they provide is necessary. I argue we also need good scholarly publishing even if it can’t pay for itself. But by reallocating library funding to up front publishing costs, adding library values of access and discoverability – I think we can combine forces for at least some scholarly publishing ventures and stop asking presses to pay for themselves (largely through sales to libraries).

    • Comment on Executive Summary on March 11th, 2011

      This frustrates me enormously. I suspect it’s a bow to specialization and a feeling that if you aren’t in exactly that candidate’s sub-sub-sub field you can’t judge. Either that or laziness. I would rather have candidates submit their best work for consideration and not rely on quantity and proxy vetting.

    • Comment on Executive Summary on March 11th, 2011

      But isn’t this more of the problem mentioned above – instead of actually reading and evaluating a text on its merits, people mistakenly think “it looks scholarly, so it must be okay?” or “it says it’s peer reviewed, so it must be true?”

    • Change from all directions – yes. And if a #pubcamp could involve press, librarians, and scholars, it would be very interesting indeed.

    • I admit that I am dismayed by the ugliness of commercial e-books, but there is no reason that a well-designed template or three couldn’t be used repeatedly. Look how often blogs change clothes and new clothes are designed for people to choose from. Lack of design (or ugliness of bad design) hasn’t made it difficult for people to read on Kindles.

    • The million or so members of LibraryThing have added 71 million tags to the 58 million plus books in their catalog. LT has ported cleaned up tags to libraries through their LT for Libraries product. I didn’t think libraries could get much traction when we let patrons add tags to our catalogs, and sure enough, they don’t tend to play with our catalogs. But LT and Flickr and other social networks have managed to encourage massive amounts of tagging. Also libraries are good at metadata. I think publishers can get some help with this. But it is much more likely if the objects that need metadata are readily available, not in such limited supply that there’s no crowd to do the social tagging work.

    • “there are some protections from misuse (or resale, or mistranslation, or misrepresentation, or other abuse) that copyright affords, and which many authors and institutions will insist upon. How can we institutionalize these issues?” I think this is overblown. In fact, locking down culture creates far more problems than unlocking it does. And what is the threat to copyright if you reserve some but not all rights? How much does it cost scholars and publishers to fuss about permissions when openness would free us from that burden AND chip away at the problem of obscurity?

    • What Heather said. This is so much more easily solved today than a few years ago. And yes, we will still need printed books, but we needn’t rely on the cumbersome distro through jobbers followed by returns. If we could locate an Espresso in R1 libraries to serve local and regional needs, we’d be in good shape. And in states like Minnesota, the interlibrary loan delivery system could easily be used to distribute books all over the state. Libraries are pretty good at this stuff. Heck, we could even have a hold shelf for local bookstores to pick up their orders.

    • …. and independence doesn’t map to being able to sell books.

    • Yes – and sales do not equate potential readers, either. A high quality book that may not be easily distributed and purchased by libraries or consumers may make a real impact if it can be passed along without a cost barrier. We’re selecting open access monographs to catalog in our library to call attention to works that fit our curriculum and we’re including a note with contact info if a student or faculty member thinks we should buy a print copy. Our students still prefer print if they’re going to read anything more than a page long. If they’re merely harvesting a quote for a paper, maybe not…but that’s not why we acquire or catalog books.

    • We absolutely have to include in this systemic discussion faculty expectations and curious blind spots.

    • Would it not be easier to make an impact in emerging areas if the marketplace (which for academic books includes P&T inerita and shrinking library budgets and fewer subscribers to humanities journals that carry reviews) were made less dependent on selling copies?

    • I’m not sure I understand how openness and selectivity are opposed.

    • ” If anything, journal publishers are becoming victims of their own success, as pressure mounts to shift from a subscription-based model to open access.” I am bemused by this. Journal publishing has destroyed library budgets; that has in turn damaged university presses. If high-stakes commercial publishing is a victim – good. High time. But “success” is not a word I would use in this context.

    • There is also the possibility that OA books can be converted into alternative formats by people who want those formats. Cory Doctorow’s fans do it all the time. And if nobody wants to do it, maybe there’s not a real need to worry about it.

    • The real reason to go to open access with books is to increase access to the information the books contain. Maybe worrying about losing the opportunity to sell e-editions is misplaced when we should be worrying about obscurity.

    • As a librarian, I’d much rather invest in the work of non-profit publishing with my dollars than in commercial presses taking on the mantle of authority and running the prices up. Scholarly societies have found it cost effective to essentially sell their names to commercial publishers; libraries have paid the price (or not, in which case that knowledge is locked up and inaccessible to many).
      The real issues is not “how can we publish?” but “how can readers benefit from our scholarship?” – at least it is to me. Publishing books that few can afford seems a huge waste, particularly now when there are alternatives.

    • “”What started as a press-library experiment is now a business operated by the Press with the ongoing assistance of the library. It has been self-supporting for over ten years.” Self-supporting but for many libraries unaffordable. My library was among the first to buy into Project MUSE, but as it grew, its needs fell out of alignment with ours and all of a sudden we lost access to much of what he had counted on. The title list just … changed. Poof. Yeah, I’m still a little annoyed.

    • Comment on Recommendations on March 11th, 2011

      …otherwise OA will always be the poor cousin and the refuge of books people want to write but not to read. C’mon, let’s open up books that have a large audience. There frankly is little reason to lavish editorial attention and design on a book that only six people want to read.

  • Brent Winter

    • As the previous commenter noted, GoodReads is an iPad app that was created specifically as a PDF reader. It’s been available since the day the iPad launched. Nor is it the only one. So the assertion that iPads won’t accept PDFs is not just wrong, but disheartening. It’s statements like these that make publishing companies (academic and otherwise) look exactly like what tech-savvy people are calling them: dinosaurs.
      Exhibit B: This report was released in March 2011, but “Google Editions” (fourth sentence) ceased to exist in December 2010. It was replaced by “Google ebookstore,” which has different technological possibilities, a different business model, and different business relationships with publishers. I do not expect the average person on the street to be aware of this change and its nuances, but I do expect much more from a publishing consortium’s report about how technology affects publishing.
      I applaud the intentions motivating this report, but you still need to get with the program, people.

    • @Monica: It’s true that Apple will only accept EPUB-formatted books for sale in the iBookstore. But it’s my understanding that most (virtually all?) UPs use InDesign for layout; and I know for a fact that InDesign provides native support for exporting InDesign documents to the EPUB format. So I don’t see that there’s some high wall between UP books and the EPUB format.
      Granted, there’s likely to be a learning curve involved when first beginning to create EPUB documents, but that’s been true of all technological innovations that have affected the publishing industry, going all the way back to movable type. And in this case, we’re not talking about new machines or even new software; it’s InDesign. If UPs elect not to learn one new function of stable, robust, well-supported software that they already own, use, and know, that’s on them. I’ve looked at InDesign’s how-to manual for exporting files to EPUB; it’s 6 1/4 pages, with lots of white space and 5 big screen shots. I’ve never done it (I used Quark back in the day, before InDesign came along), but it just doesn’t look that hard; and once the learning curve has been surmounted, it doesn’t seem like it would take that long, either. So what is the obstacle?
      I hear you about the lack of clarity on format details possibly obscuring the paragraph’s main point, but I actually disagree with that, especially given the paragraph’s additional fumble of the Google Editions/Google ebookstore change. This whole new world we’re in is all about format details, and version numbers, and compatibilities, and how those intersect with business models (or fail to). These are not niggling details; they’re like the difference between kerosene and gasoline. You simply have to get it right.
      My point is, change is already upon us. How are we responding to it? I’m reminded of this quote that I serendipitously ran across earlier today, by Charles Darwin: “It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent, but the one most responsive to change.”

    • Yes, I think organizational inertia is the real culprit here. Most organizations seem to have a built-in resistance to change, but I would argue that publishing has more of that resistance than is good for it; and it seems that university publishing is even more resistant than publishing at large. (I say this as someone who has worked in publishing for 17 years and has done lots of freelance work for UPs, but has never had a UP staff position; grain of salt, etc.). And I think that resistance is on unwitting display in the paragraph we’re discussing.
      Unfortunately, as long as UPs think the problem is out there (file formats) instead of in here (organizational inertia), the problem won’t get addressed. I expect and hope that certain UPs will be leaders in this respect and that the others will learn from them.

  • bryanalexander

    • Comment on Executive Summary on March 30th, 2011

      I wanted to chime in with Paul’s defense of the ecosystem metaphor. It’s a rich cognitive tool, opening up thought to multiple positions and actors, rather than foreclosing analysis of forces.
      The metaphor is also used in knowledge management quite productively (cf Nardi and O’Dea), empowering rather than victimizing participants.
      Brian Eno’s recent screed about the importance of ecological thinking might be useful here as well:
      “[W]e now increasingly view life as a profoundly complex weblike system, with information running in all directions, and instead of a single heirarchy we see an infinity of nested-together and co-dependent heirarchies — and the complexity of all this is such to be in and of itself creative.”

    • It’s important to note the role played by national financial crisis in the Rice shutdown.  The Great Recession has hit academia very hard in general, and its impact on scholarly publishing should be considered.

    • I wonder if that PDF/HTML dichotomy holds up now, eight years later.

    • Comment on Publishing e-books for sale on March 25th, 2011

      “forthcoming launch of Google Editions”?  As Barbara Fister noted earlier, this needs updating.

    • Comment on Conclusions on March 26th, 2011

      That double bottom line concern seems more salient in open content discussions.  There reaching out to the world, sharing some content (intellectual products, a certain pedagogical style) is vital.

    • Comment on Recommendations on March 26th, 2011

      Yes.  And it helps if the experimenters are using social media to share the arc.

  • Dan Cohen

    • Comment on Press Release on March 9th, 2011

      I’ve written some rather critical comments throughout, but I want to acknowledge up front how much I appreciate this report and the willingness of the AAUP to put it out for comment. I see a lot of progress in this report from earlier stances by the organization and its members.

    • In poker this is called a tell. It’s indicative of the AAUP’s general unease with the way the open web works, and this description of “social-network voting” is intentionally vague: no examples of actual gaming, no sense that there can be more sophisticated modeling of the reception of an article. This paragraph exists to say: You, the scholar, need us, the AAUP, to save you from what the heathens are doing on the wild web.

    • I completely agree that the current system can be gamed. Worse, it can often be gamed in the opposite direction, behind closed doors (e.g., an anonymous reviewer slams a book manuscript by a rival). At least in the open web model you can recursively review–i.e., review the reviewers or see exactly why something was accepted or rejected. The AAUP’s characterization is ambiguous because they group every web filtering system under some broad “voting” system without getting into the details of specific systems. And the use of “social network” seems loaded to me–like they think Facebook will take over academic publishing.

    • I too am reading (perhaps quite) critically, and do appreciate the honestly and flexibility represented in this report.

    • I’d feel better about the language if the AAUP can point to some real experimentation by its members with open-web systems and genres (and yes, other metrics), which could be pointed to as evidence that humanities scholarship cannot make the transition that high-energy physics has. I don’t think I’m the only one who thinks that the AAUP is still nearly 100% in the book/journal business, where the “electronic experiments” are mostly ebooks. This was quite clear in last year’s report “Digital Publishing in the AAUP Community,” where the top “digital strategies” were all book-oriented (POD/ebook/etc), and blogs were relegated to a small footnote. (See Survey Question 1 of that report.)
      How many blogs or group blogs have AAUP members nurtured that weren’t related to book promotion but the germination of new ideas or the engagement of the scholarly community? Why isn’t the AAUP better represented in new genres like Kindle Singles? How many presses are making effective use of social media? I could go on. I think I’m not the only one unconvinced by claims of true experimentation, and who senses that the AAUP still generally equates “scholarly communication” with “book publishing.”

    • I’m no businessperson, but I believe that’s precisely the attitude that leads to the death of businesses: overemphasizing their current revenue sources until new sources “prove” themselves. It’s the opposite of prudent. See, for example, the experience in the last decade of regional newspapers: they didn’t want to explore new models (e.g., hyperlocal news, partnerships with blogs, new modes of advertising like affiliate sales) because their print ads were still the real moneymakers. So they became extraordinarily vulnerable to technological change because they had insufficiently tested the new waters. Throughout, of course, the newspapers could feel good that they were maintaining the “gold standard of news”–until they ceased to exist. If I were the AAUP, I would be frightened by the same prospect and wiling to throw caution to the wind. Sorry, I don’t think scattered Twitter accounts mostly promoting books count.

    • Me too.

    • I’m replying to Shana’s comment because CommentPress won’t let me reply to Greg’s last comment because the nesting has become too deep. Greg: if you read what I’ve written I haven’t said to “throw caution to the wind”; I’ve said that the AAUP has been too timid in its experimentation. And I think I’m right that long-lasting successful businesses are willing to be more aggressive in superseding their existing revenue sources before a third party (e.g., Craigslist in the case of newspapers) does it for them. But it will become very clear in the next five years which one of us is right, and whether the AAUP has been experimental enough.

    • This section is far too short if we are to take seriously that the AAUP is really looking at new formats and genres beyond the book and the article. Are the examples given here truly revolutionary?

  • Darrin Pratt

    • Comment on Conclusions on March 14th, 2011

      Well, you are right about the double bottom line, of course. The reason this report is so rightly focused on the financial bottom line is that markets, such as the library market, are eroding along with institutional support. As a point of fact institutional support has declined during the past four years at a greater rate than sales, even though sales have been impacted by the recession. Perhaps another way of putting this is that university presses are always concerned about all sorts of other bottom lines (mission, authors, audiences, institutional needs), but circumstances dictate an increasing attention to fiscal bottom lines.

  • Dean Blobaum

    • Quote: “For university and other scholarly presses, selling books has been simply a means to an end–to publish more and better scholarly books.” There is just no “simply” about it. Publishers don’t enter the marketplace for books simply to get money. It is not only commercial; it is also cultural. Publisher’s put a price on books and release them into the marketplace because both commerce and culture revolve around that market. Books enter the marketplace to be found, to be promoted, and to be publicized. Attaching a price to the book allows its entry into wholesalers and booksellers of every kind. That’s where the public is. Scholarly dissemination does not, and should not, exist in some tidy sphere away from the hurly-burly of the market, if it wants to remain relevant to a larger public.

    • Price is a signal of worth. A shorthand signal. That’s what it means to be in market, which where we perpetually are.

    • Comment on Toward new business models on April 25th, 2011

      Of course, digital publications can be sold in the same sense that software is sold. That is–in effect–yes, even though such a sale does not necessarily allow a full range of actions by the buyer that physical objects allow: for example, resale, re-use (short of violating copyright), and access outside of the specific platform for which the digital object is intended.
      What difference does that make?

  • Diane Harley

  • Dorothea Salo

    • My sense from reading coverage of the Rice closing in the Chronicle of Higher Ed and elsewhere is that the new Rice UP was stunningly under-resourced. That it folded is no surprise; it wasn’t given a fighting chance to succeed.

    • Comment on Toward new business models on June 20th, 2011

      Troublingly, libraries have some of the same tendencies. It’s easier politically to starve a service into uselessness than to straightforwardly kill it.

  • Ellen Faran

    • We should also note the inertia in the larger academic community served by UP’s — tenure & promotion requirements for hardcover print, authors continuing to write at book length (our average MS length is increasing not decreasing), continued insistence on print as well as ebooks, and so on.   

    • So there’s a broad spectrum of possibilities, I think, ranging from including the works at zero price in paid collections to charging a premium price for the collection edition because of the platform benefits.  Along with the question of existing open content, I’m guessing that new open/paid strategies will emerge after ebook platforms shake out a bit.   

    • Two more examples are the iPad app edition of Nonobject by Lukic & Katz (yes, first created as a book) and the video-book Learning from YouTube by Juhasz (entirely digital), both published, after the report was written, by the MIT Press.  

  • George H. Williams

  • Greg Britton

    • Comment on General Comments on March 9th, 2011

      MediaCommons: Thanks for hosting this report!

    • Comment on Executive Summary on March 11th, 2011

      Murphy, murphy, murphy. . . .

    • Dan, “How many presses are making effective use of social media?” Really? I see a lot more experimentation with social media from scholarly presses than from other publishers. Start following Minnesota, NYU, or MIT. Watch Florida and Kentucky and Chicago.

    • Also, if the AAUP is still nearly 100% in the book/journal business — I wouldn’t put the number that high — it’s simply because that’s where the money is. Until alternate funding appears to underwrite what scholarly presses do (and what universities need their presses to do), those experiments are necessarily going to be prudent ones that build on older models. Presses are desperately trying to reinvent themselves, but are forced to do so while keeping the lights on and the operations running.

    • That’s precisely my point, these are businesses and need to be run as such. Experimentation is key–as is amply demonstrated in this report–but it has to be done in a way that is supportable. “Throwing caution to the wind,” sounds great, but I think presses need more nuanced approaches than that. Rice University Press, for example, is a sad case of throwing caution to the wind without some sense of which direction that wind was blowing.

    • Laura, you’re right. I think using POD as a way to market test a book — that might build an audience and later flip to offset — is a terrific and under-explored used of that technology. It’s a great way of mitigating some of the risk.

    • Another example of this – within the scholarly microclimate of art museum publishing – is the Getty Online Scholarly Catalogue Initiative that supports museums’ efforts to publish their catalogues in digital form. These reference works or “data sets,” long the stock in trade for museum publishing, are migrating quickly online with increased functionality, cross-collections searching, and enhanced media. One might argue that the codex was never the best technology for their delivery. Although these catalogues no longer resemble traditional books, they provide the scholar a much richer experience and greater access to this research. Getty Publications in conjunction with the Getty Museum will deliver these completely open access.

    • I concur: MIT Press’s video book is particularly interesting in this regard. In fact, it so diverges from the book format that it mirrors the deficiencies of YouTube itself, but that seems to be part of the point. Here’s the link: http://vectors.usc.edu/projects/learningfromyoutube/

    • Good point–this is just the tip of the iceberg. These examples are multiplying daily both at university presses and for-profit scholarly publishers.

    • What increasingly concerns me is how important scale is to the question of sustainability. Large presses can afford innovation, staffing, and economies that are out of reach for small ones. Small presses might be more facile — in theory anyway — but they lack the capital and infrastructure to implement change quickly. They also tend to be the most vulnerable to economic shifts and institutional pressures. Given this, I wonder if we’ll see more small presses merging as a business strategy. Many already collaborate on distribution and sales. When will they start to share production (both digital and print) departments?

    • I’m with you on this one, I’d rather see university press collaborations (like the new UPCC) or UP-library cooperations, but scale is the key.

    • Comment on Conclusions on March 10th, 2011

      I think you’re right, it is focused on the financial bottom line. It seems that’s the dual world university presses inhabit–disseminate excellent scholarship in a broad array of narrow specialties, but make it pay for itself. Most do it by pulling together a combination of other streams (and cutting costs) to make that happen. Comparing a UP to a web start-up is very interesting, but I’d put my money on the former over the latter most of the time. You make a good point that there is another bottom line to watch and UPs are figuring that out.

    • Comment on Recommendations on March 11th, 2011

      I really like this idea, Alex. It needs to be done more frequently than an annual meeting.

  • Heather Morrison

    • Comment on Executive Summary on March 9th, 2011

      Excellent points here. One suggestion: the point about building on existing partnerships and collaborations is a good one. However, what I would like to suggest is that we all need to begin thinking about scholarly communication from a systemic point of view. It is more than ironic, for example, that universities do not support scholarly presses while at the same time universities are accidentally supporting a dysfunctional, inelastic commercial market in scholarly publishing that in effect raises costs for universities while diminishing service to the academy and creating the threats to the scholarly entreprise described here.
      One approach would be to support systemic economic analyses of scholarly monograph publishing, similar to the studies carried out by Houghton and colleagues for journal articles, but taking into account the current and potential roles of university and scholarly presses.

    • I would argue for distinguishing between the economic incentives that come from working within a context of limited resources and “market forces”, which I would characterize as largely detrimental to scholarly publishing. It is the attempt to impose market imperatives on university presses that have created the current scenario of potential loss of these presses. John Thompson, in “Merchants of Culture”, discusses how the market imperative has been leading university presses towards trade publishing, and for trade publishing to encroach on academia.
      Working within a context of limited resources, as if of necessity the case anywhere in the public sector, may well have advantages in motivating selectivity, publishing only the best. There are pros and cons to this argument, but it is at the very least worth discussing.

    • Maintaining a proprietary interest in intellectual property is exactly the wrong approach, in my opinion. What is needed instead is to move towards funding on the production side, for quick release into the broadest possible dissemination.
      Publishers should keep in mind that any scholar today can easily create a wiki instead of writing a book. If I had written a wiki instead of a book, my work would be instantly available to anyone, anywhere, whereas now it is at best expensive and time-consuming to order a copy. Plus I could update it anytime, allow for comments and that sort of thing if I want.
      In other words, if publishers wish to retain authors into the future, it will be key to let go of ideas of holding on to “intellectual property”.

    • Move to one-off print-on-demand or espresso printing ASAP. Have the rights to print whatever, and work towards options for printing – perhaps even craftwork handbinding can come back.
      When I went to a local provider of such a service, I looked in vain for a number of academic books that I would love to have in print. I was disappointed that my own book wasn’t available this way.

    • What about partnership with university communication specialists? Universities are always looking to enhance their prestige and web presence; it seems to me that having a highly regarded university press – with so many interesting titles that could be highlighted on the university web site – should be most helpful to this constituency.

    • The format that we should all be working towards is one that is primarily electronic in nature, with the ability for anyone to re-create in the format of their choice with just a click, with the options including such things as print, large print, daisy, or braille, along with modifiable electronic versions for viewing online or downloading. It wouldn’t make sense to me for any one publisher to try to do this on their own.

    • Comment on Recommendations on March 18th, 2011

      My recommendation would be to include librarians, library consortia and senior university administrators and faculty members in this discussion. One reason for including librarians is that transitioning funding from purchase to support for open access makes sense for economic support for OA. The reason to include library consortia is that this kind of support makes more sense at an aggregate than at an individual level, indeed much of purchasing and subscriptions today is through consortia rather than individual libraries. The reason that senior university administrators and individual faculty members should be involved is because of the possibility of the loss of traditional support from individual print sales; it is important for everyone to understand that this is part of the bigger picture.

  • Helleberg

    • Just to weigh in with an EDP perspective, I see resources (particularly time) being a much larger problem than skills. File prep, conversion, and management aren’t new skills. I mean really, a tag is a tag. There’s not a world of difference between composing for print and tagging for EPUB, especially if you’ve come to InDesign from a Quark codes background.
      The problem is that every format, whether IDD, PDF, or EPUB represents some investment of effort. This can be accelerated or partially automated but, even believing the Adobe instruction booklet about how seamless InDesign EPUB export may be, can’t be really eliminated. Even using best practices in composition, check out how your x-refs, indexes, art, and notes turn out without clean-up. At the very least, there’s a quality control investment here.
      This problem is particularly pronounced in the transition between print and digital, as we have are multiple competing formats jockeying alongside a still-primary print edition. This results in three or four times as many output formats and even if the only additional work created by these formats is QC and archiving, that’s significant. And we’re not talking about tapping new markets with these new formats, we’re talking about delivering to the same people who used to buy the print edition, just on a whole lot of different devices. Okay, you reduce incremental costs close to zero, but you ramp up your plant costs with every format you produce.
      Anyway, I just wanted to offer a counterpoint to the idea that the problem is institutional inertia or UP luddism. More simply, I believe you have a fixed resource pool (whether staff time or a plant budget) being spread increasingly thin to create a broader range of outputs without an increase in the number of units being sold. This is a problem.

  • Joel Kalvesmaki

    • Comment on Publishing e-books for sale on March 24th, 2011

      See my comment at the end of this report; this section assumes that one can sell a digital book. That assumption needs to be argued for. If no argument can be lobbied, future versions of this section should be reformulated to treat primarily licenses, not sales. Different animal.

    • The greatest omission from this page is a discussion of collaboration with scholarly societies. The digital age presents a golden opportunity for publishers to rethink their reference publications, which, Wikipedia has shown us, ought to be living publications. If publishers wish to remain relevant in publishing reference works, they must collaborate with scholarly communities already dedicated to the specific fields. This is terra incognita, pretty much (see my comments below on the New Georgia Encyclopedia). But it is absolutely crucial if the paramount concern of sustainability is to be addressed. And it is important to scholars, who would by and large be much more inclined to engage in a living reference project sponsored and marketed by a university press than in an anonymous project such as Wikipedia.

    • The NGE is an example of a successful, well-run online reference work. Congratulations to them! Having said that I must wonder about its prospects for the future. How reliable and steadfast are the various partners in the collaboration? Is the GHC committed to perpetual support of the NGE? The university system? The office of the governor? Take a look at the sponsors page and you’ll see a stellar beginning that dwindles from 2008 onward. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, since grant money is ideal for a start-up and the four core sponsors are key partners. But if the NGE is to stand as the final, central reference work for its topic (one hopes that’s the case) then one would like to see what structure has been put in place to ensure that NGE is around for centuries to come, rather than living off year-to-year largesse from organizations that may or may not be committed to it. I’m not saying that the NGE isn’t sustainable. Rather, there’s no evidence (on the website as I’ve read it) that the partnerships are as strong and sustainable as they could be. University-press publishing, particularly in the humanities, should have a long-term view of publishing, keeping in mind that what we do now should aim for a longevity enjoyed by the incunabula in the rare-book rooms of our libraries. How could this core be strengthened? Here’s one of several ways: amend the charters or bylaws of the partner organizations to make the NGE part of their mission. Such a move does not guarantee sustainability, but it certainly helps it.

    • Comment on Toward new business models on March 23rd, 2011

      It seems important in future versions of this report to take on the conceptual hurdle of sales versus licensing. Can any digital publications be sold? If anyone thinks so, those arguments need to be advanced, and relatively soon. Without them it seems inevitable that we should shape business models in the digital age around licenses and frame our strategies accordingly. Many of the descriptions below nudge the reader toward, or let the reader remain ensconced in, traditional sales-based business models.

    • Comment on Toward new business models on April 26th, 2011

      Actually, software isn’t sold. It’s licensed. There is a veneer of a sale with software, but if you look beneath the hood of any software “purchase,” namely, at the EULA you inevitably agree to, you’ll see that the software is being licensed, not sold.
      What difference? Look at the recent story on HarperCollins’s decision to alter its EULA on its books:
      Transferability is a big issue too. That’s appeared in a healthy discussion in the mainstream media of loaning and borrowing e-books. But there are relatively unexplored areas, such as whether a person can bequeath their e-book collection to their heirs.
      To think in terms of licensing, not sales, can open new possible business models. For example, a press, or a consortium of presses, could offer subscribers their entire list for a monthly or annual fee. Such subscription fees could be marketed as the opportunity not only to access cutting-edge research but to support future scholarship. I’m not arguing this is the ideal model or that it doesn’t have flaws. But it is a possibility that should be explored.

  • John Babcock

    • Clarification for Columbia International Affairs Online (CIAO): One, CIAO went online in 1998, which included publications as early as 1991; two, CIAO is updated monthly, not annually.

  • John Muccigrosso

    • This sounds awfully defensive as a start. I was expecting a “but” after that last sentence, which also sets up a nice straw man.

    • Surely correct that dissemination is not sufficient for promoting long-term significance, but are all the parts of the current ecosystem, as listed here, preconditions for impact?

    • I think the question is broader: not how publishers maintain profitability, but whether they can.

    • I’m finding the near complete avoidance of the profit motive to be a significant barrier to my taking this piece seriously. I think we all accept that presses need to make money within whatever economic parameters they operate (e.g., University subsidies).

    • I’ll reply to Dan because I can’t reply to Greg either…
      Where’s the acknowledgement in the article that “these are businesses”? I instead see constant refusal to acknowledge this obvious reality.

    • Who are these scholars making money on their publications? They are far and away the minority. Given current incentives and marketplace, some would even pay to see their work in print…and a few do!

    • At the risk of repeating myself ad nauseum, what scholars find their books on commercial shelves? Distribution is a non-issue for most of us.
      Scholarly publishing has instead help push us into a system in which scholars as faculty are expected to publish a book…that no one is expected to read…in order to get tenure. This is the large-scale, systemic problem that few want to confront.

    • Is this supposed to be a good thing? What I hear from the faculty side is that an increasing reliance on such proxies is an abdication of responsibility by the faculty.

    • Is this a claim that UPs keep in print works of lasting scholarly value, whatever their commercial rewards?

    • In what way is it clear? Ask Blockbuster what they thought 10 years ago.

    • I’d love to see some data. Most scholars that I know who have published books (not textbooks) haven’t seen a dime and they do it for the professional reward of tenure and promotion, not for the direct economic revenue.

    • Making publications free diminishes their significance?
      Wow. There’s a serious problem here.

    • Comment on Publishing e-books for sale on April 23rd, 2011

      Even when this article was released, the iPhone was the most popular e-reader in use.

    • Comment on Recommendations on April 23rd, 2011

      Sandy, this is rather silly, isn’t it? Where will you find a field in which one or two bright lights are the only ones who want to read a particular worthy article? (A dying one, I suspect.)
      To my mind, the more important point is that many (most?) scholarly books are only worth publishing because of the captive academic-library market. What’s happening now is that they are starting to baulk at paying the exorbitant prices. Since the content creators as a rule don’t make any money in any case, they don’t see the value in the existing academic-press model (esp. once they have tenure), so the presses are left with few defenders.
      What this whole article fails to address is that basic problem with the business model.

  • Kathleen Fitzpatrick

    • Comment on General Comments on March 9th, 2011

      Our pleasure! We’re very excited about the opportunity, and look forward to participating in the discussion.

    • Comment on Executive Summary on March 9th, 2011

      While the shift from content scarcity to content abundance does produce challenges for readers in finding the right content at the right time, I’m not entirely convinced that this shift “threatens” the intellectual values scholars hold dear. The kinds of multi-tasking and speed-up that we associate with the digital (and particularly the mobile) might change the ways that we concentrate (I’m waiting to read Cathy Davidson’s forthcoming Now You See It before saying much more here), but they certainly don’t undermine analysis or expertise. The point here is tangential to the report’s overall focus, but this kind of rhetoric frustrates serious scholars of the digital.

    • I think this is exactly right, and the kind of thing we run the risk of losing in the increasingly straitened circumstances under which university presses operate: professional design, copyediting, marketing, and so forth. The question I have is about which of these tasks need to be handled on the front end, pre-publication, and which can be managed post-publication. Is there a way that university publishers might work with the scholars producing more open, DIY forms of publication, helping them get the work they’re already doing on their own properly disseminated, indexed, and preserved?

    • Something in this leaves me a little skeptical. It’s not that I don’t think that quality is presses’ primary goal — I really do — but I also think that “having a financial interest in the success of a publication” can be too easily translated into a focus on sales potential over and above quality. How many projects are declined because their potential audience seems too small? The “best” projects over the long run may not necessarily be those for which there is already a clear audience.  How might removing financial constraints — or, perhaps, shifting those constraints from “must return costs” to “must stay under budget” — enable the kinds of risk-taking that might in fact better serve quality over time?

    • A note: I’m beginning to recognize the degree to which I’m reading critically. There’s a lot to be supported in the report, and I want to make note of that as well. But I hope the ways I’m pushing against the report’s assumptions a bit are helpful to thinking about future experimentation.

    • This remains extremely important in future digital publishing endeavors, absolutely. But I think it’ll also be important in the future, as I’ve heard one publishing professional say, not to approach designing a book as if a book had never before been designed, or a digital project as if there weren’t well-designed templates already in existence. How might publishing organizations maintain such expert design without repeatedly reinventing the wheel?

    • John Maxwell of Simon Fraser U made a compelling argument at TOC this year that we’ve in fact got that “universal format” already — the open web. How might publishers explore the possibilities that HTML5 presents?

    • The counter-argument here seems to be that the distance between the provost and the press has helped to create the situation in which the press is dependent upon the bottom line. Might the relationship with the institution be better negotiated such that the provost feels some responsibility for supporting the press as a key component of the institution’s communications infrastructure?

    • I very much like this description; it’s now got me wondering about the scholarly communication version of locavorism…

  • Laura Cerruti

    • Along the lines of what Monica and Maria are saying: anytime there’s scarcity (whether that’s of time and attention or money), then market forces are still at play.

    • In the digital world, designers are both artists and information architects. It’s not just about graphic and typographic expertise. Our designers will need to develop new skills, including a knowledge of usability in an interactive environment.

    • Anyone trying to do business in China will tell you that innovation flourishes in places that value and protect intellectual property. This doesn’t mean that there doesn’t need to be a balance between access and protection. Often authors struggle with this balance as much as publishers do. Could it not be the responsibility of publishers to be experts on this issue and to provide this expertise as a service to their authors and their parent institutions?

    • It seems to me that many publishers have seen licensing as ancillary revenue, but when technology is moving so swiftly, a licensing arrangement with a fast-moving company could enable presses to experiment with new technologies and learn about new markets–without building the technology, sales, and distribution infrastructure themselves. I fear our royalty arrangements have often been the biggest obstacle to seeing licensing as a larger opportunity.

    • Every press will tell you that they can’t cut print runs fast enough to keep up with decreased demand. How much time does your sales department spend on forecasts for individual titles that are accurate in the aggregate but not accurate at the product level? This is not a criticism of the forecasters–it’s just the reality of sales forecasting. POD doesn’t require a sales forecast, and if a book takes off (adopted, for example), you can always move it out of POD. Right now, I suspect that most presses go the opposite direction. I have done analysis that even with higher unit costs, many books will break even more quickly in POD than when printed in short run or offset.

    • Another new skill needed in our ED&P departments is file preparation, conversion, and management, especially as more of our printing goes to short run digital. In effect, print is just one of many output formats for which we need to make sure our digital files can support.

    • Association with the parent institution can also be a competitive advantage, particularly in a global marketplace. Logistically, dependence on university systems can provide economies of scale (access to great health care plans) but also bureaucratic nightmares, such as dealing with accounting systems that were not built for running a publishing business.
      (Also note that later in the report, the authors tie the development of a limited number of fields to marketing and sales efficiencies, and important thing to keep in mind.)

    • Sometimes it’s not even the gap in skills and expertise but an all out fear of technology. It’s actually fine if managers and senior managers don’t have these skills, as long as they are not afraid to listen to those who feel more comfortable in these environments.
      Also, while we talk a lot about some of the large scale experimentation that is going on, what about an openness to small scale improvements that can bubble up from the desks of everyone in your organization? Why aren’t we cultivating a culture where there’s room for ideas from every desk? I talk to too many people (and not just in university presses) who have stopped expressing their ideas for improvement because no one has ever listened to them. Many of these ideas will make our core business functions more efficient, which will be essential to any reallocation of resources to new businesses. Conversely, we can no longer encourage complacency.

    • I would argue both yes and no. Of course if a customer can get something for a cheaper price, they will take the cheaper price, but that does not necessarily reflect their ultimate willingness to pay. The issue is that publisher’s channel partners have become very large, very powerful commercial companies with a great deal of bargaining power. It seems to me that Amazon’s move to discount ebooks was in part to grab market share and to make the ebook marketplace unappealing to new entrants (alas, Apple decided to enter anyway). Price often translates to perceptions of value, which is why many publishers were very unhappy to see this heavy discounting.

    • I’m happy to see this report acknowledge that the digital strategy for books (unlike journals) must be customized to its more diverse set of market segments. One that’s missing here is the textbook/coursebook market.

    • Most publishers do not sell directly to consumers but through market channel partners. These partners offer a number of services that actually increase the visibility and usability of books. One of the problems with purely open access titles is that an entire audience may miss them for a variety of reasons. I know this seems counter-intuitive, but i’ve seen it in practice. I’d like to understand it better myself.

    • Going back to my earlier comment about licensing opportunities, it would be great to hear about projects that include university or university press content but aren’t necessarily run by presses. For example, a project that started in the classical archaeology department and 3D labs at UCLA licensed its content to a company called REWIND, which provides virtual tours of the Colosseum in Rome.

    • Comment on Toward new business models on March 15th, 2011

      i applaud the reduced focus on the end user as the sole source of revenue for scholarly publications. The key is identifying all the parties that derive value from these publications, determining the total value derived, and then dividing that among the parties according to their willingness to provide support. I make it sounds so easy. Of course, university presses have always looked to a variety of sources for revenue, but I think this section is proposing a more rationale and systematic approach.

    • Comment on Toward new business models on March 15th, 2011

      One of the cultural challenges that university presses face is a willingness to walk away from experiments that didn’t quite work. I applaud those presses who have closed down experiments and then have shared the knowledge that they gained. Until presses accept and applaud failure (or show a willingness to spend some resources to regroup in the face of failure), they will be unwilling to experiment.

  • Madeline Carr

    • Comment on Executive Summary on March 9th, 2011

      This paragraph is a good representation of the divergent interests of publishers and scholars. There has never been ‘content scarcity’. This was artificially imposed by the business model of academic publishers which chose six journal article per month or per quarter from the research produced. Being able to access a broader range of our peers’ work (and being able to more readily put our own work out for comment) won’t in any way threaten the scholarly enterprise. We’re quite okay with concentration and analysis – even in the digital age.

  • Maria Bonn

    • While I agree with the opening sentence, I do challenge the notion that publishing is by definition all of these things.  Publishing is a bundle of activities which are arranged in particular configurations according to a variety of demands (those of context, content, audience, author). I’m not sure that “scholarly communication” dictates one specific configuration of these activities.

    • I’m skeptical on this point too. Quality is certainly important in Press decisions, but scholarly quality does not necessarily map onto market, especially in smaller disciplines. Also am interested in seeing whether there’s formal data on percentage of costs that come from print. That number seems to vary with the context.

    • Agree entirely with Monica McCormick on this. Everything is a resource decision.

    • One would feel better about this paragraph if it asked “how can we use ALL the tools at our disposal to identify and promote works of scholarly merit.”

    • The Press as a neutral space is certainly important and valuable. But I’m not sure that trading the pressures of university administration for pressures from the market is an unalloyed win.

    • I think that’s really true and not widely understood outside of the Presses — the role a smart editor can play in building and defining a new field.

    • Is the downward pressure on prices really from the e-book vendors? It’s there, sure, but aren’t they a channel for purchaser expectations?

    • Great to see this list. I’m curious as to whether these efforts intend to also include this content on paid ebook platforms and, if so, there is a commitment to continue to keep it open in other venues?

    • I mostly agree about the cultural barriers to publishing fees here, but am surprised by the lack of reference to subventions which seem very similar to me.

    • Just a quick corrective on MPublishing.  We run an ecommerce system that supports digital purchase as well print purchase. In addition we support subscription journals and databases (Humanities Ebook among others) with both individual and institutional subscription mechanisms. We do NOT manage the actual subscriptions, leaving that to the publishers with whom we partner. I see our priorities less about open access (although we value and promote OA) than about finding sensible and sustainable access models.

    • I think this is a really interesting direction. Looking forward to hearing more about the results of this kind of cooperation.

    • Comment on Toward new business models on March 10th, 2011

      I really appreciated the clarity of this section and it’s blend of optimism (we can discover new models) and realism (and it’s difficult work). We do now need to manage a whole portfolio of models and while diversity has distinct advantages it brings with it increased overhead.

  • Michael Jensen

    • The complexity of scholarly authority metrics, algorithmic or heuristic, is nontrivial, and certainly beyond the scope of this report.

      Dan, I guess this language hit a nerve — or the preceding paragraph didn’t frame the following list effectively enough. University presses don’t believe they hold (or should hold) a monopoly on peer review, or on any parts of the process. Many members of the AAUP quite embrace the open Web. This section is intended to explore some of the elements of scholarly publishing that will likely need to be performed, one way or another, by the scholarly community, to keep scholarship robust.

      If effective mechanisms for open peer review can be shown to work for a particular discipline over the long term, great! It seems to work for high-energy physics, for example, but it may not be as effective in many of the humanities, or for long-form works.

      As any editor will tell you, it can be tough to find scholars willing to volunteer to read book-length manuscripts!

  • Mike Furlough

    • I think this report makes it clear that the UP community is looking for ways to move the discussion about the future of scholarly publishing forward, and to actually do stuff that will create useful change. Shana is absolutely right about the need to make space for experiments that would help to clarify what is possible and demystify alternate modes of publishing.  But it is a real challenge to find space for that kind of experimentation in many libraries, let alone UPs.  A #pubcamp approach is a great idea, especially if you believe (as I do) that change comes from all directions and not only from leadership at the top.  This report and this forum are good examples of that.

    • There are several approaches to “maintaining a proprietary interest in an intellectual property.”  There is the all or nothing approach that most authors are familiar with.  There’s also an approach allows for a diversity of modes of distribution without necessarily shutting the publisher out of future opportunities to generate revenue. Exclusivity won’t always be necessary for a publisher so long as they have the right to continue distribution.  Just because I can share my chapter or my book off of my blog or IR doesn’t mean that a publisher can’t do a better job of reaching potential readers through services that might well justify a fee.  The world does not flock to my blog–it flocks to Amazon because it knows where to find it.

  • Monica McCormick

    • Comment on General Comments on March 9th, 2011

      Many thanks to the AAUP — authors of this report, staff, as well as Greg Britton and others who supported us in putting it up here. And thanks to Kathleen Fitzpatrick for the heavy lifting!

    • Perhaps like Alex H (above, paragraph 2) I’m concerned that this is a false dichotomy: are university presses setting themselves us as the alternative to anything-goes, wild-web publishing, created without financial constraints? This is not the alternative that scholars experience. They have a lot of options to get their ideas out, and these options are not “publishing” in scare quotes — there is non-book, non-journal scholarship made public, selected, commented upon, marked up, improved, cited, preserved in a great variety of ways. It’s publishing, not “publishing.” And scholars and students go to the sources they have come to trust. This kind of publishing is not done without financial constraints, though the end result may be offered at no cost to the end user. There’s no world where scholars and libraries and universities are living without financial constraints.

    • I agree with Shana and Mike about creating space for experimentation and learning. My own position (reporting to a press and a library, but with my salary coming from the library budget) seems to create some bandwidth for thinking and room for experimenting that doesn’t apply to  my colleagues at the Press, whose time must, for excellent reasons, be mostly invested in work that has some chance of financial return. On the library side there are other challenges, other priorities for staff time. (Very few people there are charged with publishing tasks.)
      Beyond creating positions at any one organization, I like the idea of a #thatcamp approach. (For those unfamiliar, see http://thatcamp.org/) This could make room for the kind of open-ended learning and skill development that new forms of scholarly publishing require.

    • One value of independence that’s only suggested here is something that UPs have done extremely well–that is, to nurture nascent fields of scholarship. Discerning publishers can help to demonstrate the value of new scholarly areas, particularly interdisciplinary ones. And it surely requires taking risks, investing in works that for-profit publishers are unlikely to consider.

    • This is (I think) a lack of clarity in the report. While PDFs can, as Brent and Alex point out, be viewed on the iPad, publishers cannot submit PDFs to Apple for sale in the iBookstore in the way we can submit them to Google, Amazon, and others. Most UPs (as far as I know) produce PDFs and then pay for their conversion to ePub or MOBI. It’s by no means a certainty that the cost of that conversion for any given book will be recouped in sales. Very few UPs have the capital to do “just in case” conversions of all their content to all the potential formats. Nor do they have the time to negotiate a license with every potential digital distribution partner out there. And almost nobody in this realm is yet able to produce books-as-apps.
      The larger point of this paragraph — that most UPs are not in a position to respond quickly to the new opportunities in the market — remains true, even if the format details are not quite correct.

    • Brent, I’m in no real position to make claims about  what the authors of the report meant to say, nor about specific technical challenges. You make excellent points, and on the whole I’m with you — we are certainly in a transitional period where publishers must change or fade away.
      Having worked in university publishing for 16 years, and now working in a dual library-press operation, I’m keenly aware of how hard change can be in these organizations. So I acknowledge your points and sincerely trust that we can, as you say, get it right.

    • Thanks for pointing out the mistakes, Sandy. I corrected them.

      Readers should bear in mind that we (MediaCommons) essentially cut and pasted this version from the public AAUP report. I’m happy to correct obvious editing errors but will of course change nothing of substance.

  • Natalia Cecire

    • Comment on Executive Summary on March 9th, 2011

      The media “ecosystem” metaphor is a not uncommon one, but it plays such a strong role in the framing of this report that I’m inclined to inquire as to the work it’s doing here. As soon as we hear “ecosystem,” we’re bound to think “fragile”; and when we say scholarly publishers are a “species” (a “keystone species,” to mix metaphors), we start to fear its companion-word “extinct,” especially when “the landscape…has altered dramatically.” Climate change, habitat depletion, California is going to break off and fall into the sea. It’s a strange language of crisis with which to discuss the introduction of a broad array of new tools for publishing.
      I think the environmental metaphor, and its attendant apocalyptic overtones, may occlude the degree of agency that scholars can and should have over (1) their own writing (2) the conditions under which it gets published. We should be a lot more worried about actual climate change than about the agentless “shifts” and “transformation[s]” that are “alter[ing]” “the landscape”… of publishing. After all, we’re the unseen agents, and some of us actually contributed to the growth of this media ecosystem on purpose. The proposed University of California boycott of Nature — which explicitly mentioned PLoS as an alternative venue — revealed a lot about who sits where in this food chain. University presses are great–of course. But if we’re committed to that idea, then perhaps we shouldn’t discuss them as if they were passenger pigeons.

    • Comment on Executive Summary on March 10th, 2011

      I’m not against metaphors (??), nor even this particular metaphor; as I mentioned above, it’s a common one. But it ought to be observed that the metaphor works to illuminate some things (connectedness, Barbara notes) and to occlude other things.
      Large-scale biological systems are perhaps paradigmatic examples of things about which we get to feel powerless, individually and institutionally (however counterproductive that feeling is, policywise). Ecosystems are nonteleological and subject to natural disasters, the proverbial butterfly flapping its wings, and all sorts of other factors that no one can control. But we’re by no means powerless over scholarly communication, and a good deal of intention can and does go into the creation of this scholarly “ecosystem.”
      How would it change things to describe publication and scholarly communication as a “city” rather than an “ecosystem,” for example? How much more intention would we invest in its features? How much less would we feel called upon to respond (as one “responds” to a natural disaster), how much more to build?

  • Nick Jankowski

    • While this page of examples is interesting and valuable, there is sooooo much more that could be included than these illustrations. In terms of journals, perhaps the most fundamental and ‘revolutionary’ initiative is the ‘Article of the Future’ launched by Elsevier in 2009 with its Cell Press subdivision; see illustration from the journal Cell.Although I am personally critical of this initiative, it should not be absent from any overview.
      With regard to books, I would personally include the Univ. of Michigan series ‘digitalcullturebooks’ in any overview. Going much beyond the basic model of providing pdf for free and the print version for a nominal price (the UM model), I would recommend consideration of initiatives that integrate multiple forms of presentation – text, image, sound, video – into a resource valuable for both scholar and lay reader. The Univ. of Virginia Press Rotanda titles seem to accomplish this, as does a similar series at UC Press, the Mark Twain Project.I
      In the Netherlands, we are exploring various forms of ‘enhanced publication’ in the humanities and social sciences and striving to provide basic components of such publications as complements to conventionally published scholarly monographs; see our project website.

  • Paul

    • Publishers and university presses also offer an economies of scale that most individual authors cannot achieve.  University Presses, like all publishers, use their size and market power to garner lower production costs from vendors.  They also have more formalized workflows with vendors that do not have to be reinvented when a relatively small project gets produced, providing better efficiency, and a quicker time to publish.

  • Paul Murphy

    • Comment on Executive Summary on March 10th, 2011

      Just read the whole report. I actually appreciate the use of metaphor in writing about complex subjects. Positing the scholarly communication continuum as an “ecosystem” doesn’t bother me. Rather, it helps evoke for me the beautiful flora and fauna that exist there—the vast trees and low ferns, the fluffy benign rodents and the sharp-tooth predators with binocular vision. The call for sustainable business models is right on in my opinion and crucial because “business” is the broader concept—one that encompasses fund-raising and donations, institutional support both in kind and in dollars, sales and licenses, service for a fee, free work, partnerships, grants, savvy development of content and audiences, seed money for experimentation and research, fair labor swaps, and on and on. UP’s need a myriad of pillars to continue to sustain our role in this amazing endeavor, and no press should assume they’ll be able to arrange for a totally free ride in this ecosystem. That just isn’t going to happen. I see this report as just the start of some very smart cookies in scholarly communication who are opening their eyes to the major after-asteroid shift in their world, and who intend to evolve into birds, rather than die off as dinosaurs. Congratulations, AAUP!

    • Comment on Executive Summary on March 10th, 2011

      I have seen the best minds of my kids’ generation destroyed by gaming, disaffected oblivious vacant, dragging themselves through endless Facebook snippets and YouTube videos at dawn looking for an angry fix. And they’re only in grade school! So, I’m going to have to agree with the report here and register my concern about the affect of hyperabundance and hyperdistraction, in the aggregate, on the future of concentration, analysis, and deep expertise.

    • I agree, Kathleen. UC Press and the California Digital Library, for example, have a partnership where scholars in the CDL’s eScholarship open repository can call upon UCP’s publishing expertise in POD, marketing, and so forth, to further the reach of the scholars’ open works. See http://www.cdlib.org/services/publishing/. Providing publishing services, either on a pay-per-service or institution-funded partnership, is one of the many ways we UP’s can rethink how best to serve our mission and find sustainability.

    • Agreed. But I think that we UP’s also need to be cognizant that the “publisher,” as posited here, doesn’t have to be an official university press. The publisher that does all these things could very well refer to just one very savvy person interacting productively with a crowd online. To compete and survive, this means we UP’s must be as efficient, skillful, and flexible as our new world enables us to be. A big part of sustainability, therefore, means our organizations must continue to adapt and change so that every staff person at the press has “measurable” value to the mission. The downsizing and reorgs we’ve been experiencing for the last couple decades will not only continue, they will need to accelerate.

  • Peter Suber

    • Comment on Recommendations on March 28th, 2011

      On (b):  The <a href=”http://oad.simmons.edu”>Open Access Directory</a> (OAD) recently launched a list of <a href=”http://oad.simmons.edu/oadwiki/Publishers_of_OA_books#U“>publishers of OA books</a>.  The list is still taking shape, but it’s a wiki and could easily accommodate at least the OA-related projects arising from Recommendation #1.  I’m a co-founder of OAD and would be happy to talk to anyone at AAUP about making this list useful for AAUP’s purposes.

  • redwards7

    • Comment on Executive Summary on March 11th, 2011

      I have to concur with Kathleen and Madeline on this point–but want to even push their points further. While it might be tangential to report’s main focus, it is these kinds of overarching binary statements that slow down the development and dissemination of open scholarship models. Implicit in this paragraph is a belief that we are potentially “losing” something that matters in the shift to open scholarly publishing. And by framing that “loss” as potentially the loss of “concentration, analysis and deep expertise,” is it any wonder that scholars who have been trained and prepared for an older and more established model of scholarly publication are wondering if these emerging digital shifts are worth the cost and the “risk” (however we might want to define those “costs” and “risks”)? I am wary about paragraphs like this one that frame the emerging potential of open scholarship primarily as a “threat” or “loss,” since that implies the previous system had “virtues” and “values” that are not transmittable to open scholarship. To frame the issue of this paragraph in a way more conducive to the goals of open scholarship would be to say the following without equivocation and fear: Open scholarship supports concentration, analysis, and deep expertise, which have come to be seen as central to the intellectual characteristics of our best existing scholarship.

    • Comment on Executive Summary on March 11th, 2011

      It is unclear to me how the authors of this paragraph are reaching these conclusions. Monographs as analog vessels of information–i.e. books–might be “largely static objects” but the arguments and ideas contained within those monographs have stimulated many tweets, posts, and comments in the wired portion of the scholarly community. In fact, monographs often generate more online activity than a great blog post since there is recognition among scholars of what goes into producing a university-press book or a peer-reviewed journal article. However, I do concur with the paragraph’s point that the business model behind many monographs and journals intentionally cuts off rich opportunities for interaction, debate and commentary due to existing business models that have not fully adapted to the new potentials of open scholarship. And while the issue is framed around “information hyperabundance,” in many fields, I would argue the greater issue in this regard is timeliness. Monographs, due to the time it takes to reach their scholarly market, are going to increasingly struggle for relevance against scholarship that is open and timely. I think this is a case where transitional models have to be considered, such as sharing research destined for a monograph in an online blog, for example.

    • Comment on Executive Summary on March 11th, 2011

      Yes, and no. There is enthusiasm to be sure, but many experimental publishing projects require funding, technical expertise, and marketing creativity that are not always going to be found at university presses. And I do think that it is much more work to produce experimental projects, and that added scholarly (and technical) labor does not tend to produce greater results in promotion and tenure decisions. In fact, I would argue–and would love to hear counterpoints–that if you have the content for a peer-reviewed university press book, what is in for a junior faculty member to try something more exotic or experimental in a pre-tenure situation? It would seem that this is a case where scholars have to make careful choices based on their home institutions and do serious due diligence in accessing how much time they should invest in an experimental project over what the MLA still calls the “gold standard,” i.e. a typical university-press book. Again, I am very passionate about revealing the “hidden” and typically marginalized benefits and costs of pursuing experimental projects while university P&T committees remain mostly conservative in their assessment metrics.

    • Comment on Executive Summary on March 11th, 2011

      Sandy, I don’t think it was their intended meaning, so that was why I was attempting to tease out the foundational issue. However, I still would prefer framing the “technological and cultural shifts of the last decade” in positive vs. negative terms. Moreover, every system of scholarship is susceptible to fraud and/or fraudulent behaviors (e.g. Sokal and his Social Text article from the ’90s). In OA, as in any form of scholarship, the frauds must be exposed and marginalized. But ultimately, I am less concerned personally about unprincipled and disreputable actors in the OA arena than about supporting best practices in OA and having broad dissemination of those best practices to as many scholarly communities as possible.

    • Comment on Executive Summary on March 11th, 2011

      And the other factor is familiarity for P&T committees. We are still in the infancy of junior faculty going up for tenure with significant contributions made via blogging, podcasting, digital publication (here I’m thinking about USC’s Vectors Journal), open access articles, etc. The quality bar for tenure does not become lower for these types of projects, but neither do committees have pre-existing metrics for evaluation such as the long-term reputation of the publisher. I think part of what AAUP needs to advocate here is supporting OA publications for tenure, as long as the candidate can supply evidence that the OA publication achieved peer warranting (esp. important if that warranting is occurring post-publication). Of course, we know what pre-publication peer review looks like, the big issue here is what warranting evidence for OA will achieve national acceptance and cross-campus reputation.

    • I agree with Alex. I think the focus on “raw dissemination” is too casually formulated here in a statement on scholarly publishing. Yes, anything can be disseminated on the web; but conversely, anything could, and was, published on paper. Such statements imply that analog print was some guarantee of quality, when in fact, many scholarly arguments of specious value have filled up libraries as surely as their digital counterparts take up hard drive space. The issues is not “raw dissemination” but how scholarly gatekeeping and information warranting should proceed in the 21st century. Prior to the 21st century, there was broad agreement as to what constituted quality scholarship and we had decades (if not centuries) to develop that system and its proper functioning. In the present moment, we are attempting to formulate new practices while respecting the great lessons of the past. So the question is not how do we address information abundance (a condition we have always had since we began publishing books) but rather how can we take advantage of new modes of publishing and dissemination to continue making the work of our scholars relevant, reviewable, and rewarded.

    • Here is where the rubber meets the road: the publisher, due to existing business models, have resources that extend beyond “mere dissemination.” Consider for example that a scholarly blogger is unlikely have paid copy editors, paid page designers, paid acquisition editors, and independently assigned peer reviewers, but most scholarly presses do have this personnel since they are running financial businesses that support scholarly activity. As we move towards open scholarship, the question becomes: how do these publishers maintain profitability as information becomes more “open,” which can in many cases also mean “free.” So the challenge is to find a balance between an information marketplace that values “openness” and a cadre of supporting publishing talent needs compensation for their labor.

    • I have jump in and say I’ve been reading critically as well, but I think the goal at this point is to push on some of the weaker claims. But overall, I am happy to support this report and more efforts like this. I hope the main recommendations offered here begin to find greater traction in the scholarly community.

    • I agree with the points brought up in this thread so far, but another factor that hasn’t been mentioned yet is that certain presses attract certain scholars and there forms a symbiotic relationship between the reputation of a press and the reputation of a famous scholar. Beyond financial interest and sales, “big names” still matter in publishing, and there is likely a connection between potential sales and the reputation of the author. On the other hand, if you are a newly minted PhD, I can imagine you will struggle to find a publisher if you don’t have a clear marketing plan in mind.

    • I would love to see this paragraph start with the opposite impulse: what would open access and open scholarship look like if they had to work within the same set of financial constraints as current monograph publishers? I think again this report–in places–veers towards large binaries that overstate both the “threat” of open publishing and the “quality” of existing publishing models.

    • Selectivity here is framed against “services that university presses currently provide.” If I read this paragraph inside that frame, I think that open scholarship can be just as selective as the processes currently employed by university presses. But I also think at this point in time we have to be careful about getting too specific too quickly about how this will be accomplished. How it won’t be accomplished is by staying on the sideline and not supporting innovative attempts by early adopters in the open publishing realm. For me, the larger point is not comparing editorial selection vs. social network voting, but investigating, researching, and assessing all of the new methods that are being developed and conform to the best practices of peer warranting of new scholarly information. The key efforts now are to support innovation and experimentation, knowing that some of the early attempts will either be failures or non-starters, but very valuable for the long term health of scholarly publishing.

    • “Interested editorial distance” sounds like a polite way of saying “paid editorial services.” When one is publishing a book through a university press, one is by definition working with paid professionals. New forms of scholarly publishing must consider the revenue side of publishing, so that such paid editorial services are available to scholars who choice to publish their work in new and emerging formats.

    • I agree with Alex and Barbara. I don’t think motivation is as important as recognizing that scholarly communities cannot take the mundane tasks of cataloging information for granted. This is a case where scholarly communities should work closely with experts in the library sciences to make sure that best practices port over to OA.

    • I agree with you, Brent. The devil is in the details, and it is important that the information in this white paper be as accurate as possible since the point of this paragraph is the challenge of multiple formats. I also think that we need to take a long view here and recognize that over time the formatting issues will get sorted out. The history of the last ten years seems to suggest that mainstream publishers (i.e. not just university presses, but all publishers of copyrighted content) are publishing author’s works in multiple, and different, formats to capture all segments of the reading public from those who want a physical book to e-Readers.

    • I’m with Kathleen on the quality of this metaphor. I think in terms of analog books, the ecosystem was wild, semi-wild, and nurtured–running the gambit from peer-reviewed university press scholarship to self-published chapbooks. To build upon this paragraph’s own metaphor, the scholarly ecosystem has always been wild, semi-wild, and nurtured. And while we have already spent a lot of time cultivating the ecosystem of the land of printed scholarship, now we need to till the digital soil of open access and open scholarship. We only might feel this task is somehow harder than before, but it only seems that way since the land of printed matter has been well plowed and we understand how best to grow things in that soil already.

    • I really appreciate this discussion of existing models of open access as a publication model. Some of the statistics are not surprising but really demonstrate the scale of the shifts going on (NAP’s 500,000 free PDFs in 2009, RAND’s 4.2 million free PDFs). Based on the data in this section, I see a pattern familiar to “freemium” business models, a small percentage of paid users subsidize a much larger number of unpaid users). And as this section clarifies, the open access business models here are really subsidized by RAND/NAP corporate missions and some cross-subsidies with paid content. The big question for University Presses is how to take these lessons and generate scalable and sustainable sources of revenue with their greater emphasis on the humanities and social sciences. I do not think the answer will be to try to replicate what RAND and NAP are doing since the underlying contexts and missions are so different. The OAPEN experiment is promising, but feels mostly like combining scholarly publication + grant writing into a new publication paradigm. Besides the concerns of “vanity publishing,” it is hard to imagine that the model will get much traction with HSS in the US where the grant pool for the digital humanities is already a fairly small funding pool relative to Medicine and Science. It also feels a little bit like making author subventions mandatory–which I believe would require financial support at the Departmental and School-wide level for faculty (but again during an era of decreased funding for the HSS). If there is a silver lining in this section, it is that there is an academic audience that is ready, willing, and able to download PDFs in massive quantities. Perhaps one of the shifts that will need to occur in the Humanities is a serial publication mentality where books are sold by chapter or smaller sections at a nominal cost (for argument’s sake let’s say .99 cents) and that the cost of a “book” is recouped by lots of small sales that aggregrate into what used to be a single book sale. Just a thought.

  • Richard Brown

    • Comment on Executive Summary on March 11th, 2011

      I think the ecosystem metaphor is simply a poetic way to emphasize relationships, and the fact that administrators and scholars and librarians and students and publishers and all stakeholders in scholarly communication can never act independently. And it is in our interest, in everyone’s interest, to talk to each other and coordinate our efforts as much as possible. The recently announced merger of Muse Editions and the University Press eBook Consortium, in which the interests and opinions of academic librarians were taken very seriously, is an example of that.

    • Or how many small university presses might drift toward academic libraries? I suspect we will see more of that in the years to come, and while there are some synergies there is also a danger of simply shifting expenses from one cost center to another. I am intrigued by partnerships between commercial academic publishers and small university presses, viz., Boydell & Brewer and the University of Rochester Press, or Rowman & Littlefield and its relationship with several former AUP presses. Could those serve as models for UPs that simply cannot afford soup-to-nuts publishing?

  • Sandy Thatcher

    • Comment on Executive Summary on March 11th, 2011

      I agree that a systemic focus is very much needed. I have used the example of the inconsistency among junior scholars needing to publish revised dissertations to gain tenure, libraries not buying them because they subscribe to Proquest’s dissertation database, and press editors being reluctant to consider revised dissertations because of anticipated low sales. It adds up to systemic dysfunction. There are many such examples in our current scholarly communication world. It will take leadership from the top to resolve these problems.

    • Comment on Executive Summary on March 11th, 2011

      Natalie may not be familiar with the long-standing reference to certain sectors of scholarship as “endangered species” (because the market can no longer sustain publishing in these sectors). This term was coined by my boss at Princeton U.P. way back in the late 1970s or early 1980s, and it has remained a staple of the literature ever since. You will find it mentioned, e.g., by Robert Darnton in his famous NYRB essay “The New Age of the Book.” And it is what inspired his effort to launch the Gutenberge project.

    • Comment on Executive Summary on March 11th, 2011

      But, just as with ecosystems, the world of scholarly communication is replete with examples of unintended consequences, actions taken in one part of the system that affect other parts without ever having been expected to do so. An example that is looming on the horizon is PDA, patron-driven acquisitions, which i am convinced will have the effect of undermining presses’ financial stability further (esp. by creating more cash-flow problems), even though it is perfectly “rational” for librarians to adopt this approach for their own purposes.

    • Comment on Executive Summary on March 11th, 2011

      As you know, that’s exactly what we did at Penn State, and it has helped keep the press afloat there (besides providing some much needed “political” protection). As Paul suggests, I think we need to use the term “business” in a very broad sense here, not confine it to just market-based approaches, which I agree are only part of the story and, perhaps, an increasingly less important one.

    • Comment on Executive Summary on March 11th, 2011

      If that is so, then why does one hear that tenure committees rely so much on the publishers’ imprint as a proxy for quality instead of actually reading the candidates’ submitted materials?

    • Comment on Executive Summary on March 11th, 2011

      I can see how you might read the paragraph in this way, but I don’t think that was the intended meaning. If it was, then I agree with you. So long as OA publication is conducted with as much peer-review rigor as print publication has been, there is nothing to fear. However, OA does provide more opportunity for shysters to enter the arena since the entry costs are virtually nil, as we have seen with a bunch of fraudulent OA journal publishers (I won’t name names since they are a litigious group but we all know who they are). I think this may be more what the authors of the paragraph were aiming at. Also, it doesn’t help that Google Scholar appropriates the name of scholarship when it cannot guarantee the quality of what is posted there. Naive people can easily be misled by such marketing tactics.

    • Comment on Executive Summary on March 12th, 2011

      The Gutenberg-e project is a case in point. The hope of the backers of this project at the AHA was that journals would step up to the plate and review the4se experimental books. Instead, they found–as Robert Townsend explained in the AHA’s post-mortem on the project–that very few journals were interested in doing so, and therefore the project had to send out print proofs of the books, which of course could not be fully represented in print form. So not even academic journal editors could be brought to cooperate, let along P&T committees! Faculty need to accept some of the blame for lack of progress in e-publishing.

    • I disagree with the implication that market risk is needed to ensure quality. That may have once been true, but sales projections have long since become too important in the decisions that presses make about what to publish. First-rate books go unpublished because of expected small sales. In an OA environment, this constraint disappears. What ensures continuing quality is what has already been crucial for presses, viz., their reputation for excellence. In an OA world, presses will not attract investment and the necessary subsidies unless they maintain high quality.

    • I think the imputed connection is belied by the fact that there is not much correlation between sales and a book’s reputation, at least as signaled by prizes awarded. Some of the books we published at Penn State that won the most prizes from scholarly associations also did not sell well. The prizes are more important to a scholar’s reputation that the sales are.

    • An example of experimentation of the kind perhaps Dan had in mind was Princeton’s invitation of comments on new books in one of its series (I forget the name) where after a period of commenting the author of the book would produce a new edition incorporating his answers to the questions and comments that had been offered on the book’s web site. If I’m correct, PUP ceased this experiment, though I’m not sure why.
      Another area that needs exploration is the curation and publication of data, which was emphasized by Christine Borgman in her MIT Press book. Presses and libraries together need to figure out how to do this. For a brief period, the presses at Illinois, Penn State, and Michigan were invited to form a group to do just this for the social sciences, as a complement to the NSF effort aimed at science data, but the effort died out after only a few meetings. I’m not sure why. Perhaps John Unsworth knows.

    • There are many potential ways to do this, and I explore some of them in an essay titled “Back to the Future” in the April issue of Against the Grain.

    • templates have an important role to play. Just ask Kate Wittenberg, who pointed to this as a major lesson learned from the Gutenberg-e project, which might have been more financially successful had such templates been employed from the start.
      Templates are also emphasized by two top designers, Rich Hendel and Sigrid Albert, in an essay they jointly wrote for a forthcoming book titled “The Social Dynamics of Scholarly Editing” edited by Darcy Cullen of the UBC Press.

    • Proprietary interest and open access are not mutually exclusive, as Heather seems to think. CC recognizes this in its popular license that reserves “commercial” rights to the author. Presses like Penn State can publish monographs open access online, but reserve the right to control sale of any print editions, which right now continue to be important to fund these OA experiments in the first place. The AAUP Report considers this model a transitional one, and I suspect that is the correct way to look on it. But for the moment we can’t do without it. Over time, if funding levels rise to meet all needs, IP will become less important to presses, but will still serve valuable functions for authors (in protecting the integrity of their work, for example).

    • I don’t think it’s overblown when we still see suits for copyright infringement brought against authors by other authors, and beyond copyright strictly speaking, we’ll always have plagiarism to contend with.
      As a bundle of rights, yes, authors and publishers can negotiate over what rights an author needs to transfer to a publisher. Traditionally, mainly because academic authors have little interest in subsidiary rights and no time to deal with them, they have transferred all rights to presses, which serve as their literary agents for these subrights. If authors want to take on more responsibility for managing their rights, as few apparently seem interested in doing (according to recent surveys by Dianne Harley and others), they certainly can do so.
      Presses that have experimented with OA publishing have already given up the income stream for permissions for these works as reused for educational purposes. But until funding for OA grows to cover most or all of the costs of publishing, income from subrights sales will remain important to the financial viability of presses. Hence the suit against GSU.

    • To be fair, many smaller university presses do not have the financial ability to have dedicated IT people on their staff, but have to rely on busy IT people elsewhere in the university, most of whom probably know little (and care less) about publishing’s specific needs. At Penn State we managed to grow our way into having our own IT person (just one!), but many presses our size have yet to get there. This is just another manifestation of the general problem of undercapitalization that presses suffer from and that this Report addresses. On the other hand, I do agree that for the Report itself, the AAUP has plenty of expertise available that should have allowed it to avoid the kind of errors pointed out here. It does not make the AAUP look good, for sure.

    • As the Ithaka Report pointed out, presses are caught in a Catch-22 here. If they get too independent, they risk losing parent university support; if they don’t get independent enough, they risk losing business advantage. The trick is for presses to build enough strong alliances with faculty and administration that, when push comes to shove, other influential voices on campus will come to their rescue. It helps, by the way, if the press is under the direct protection of the library!

    • People may recall that the term “endangered species” was long ago adopted by scholarly publishers to describe certain areas of scholarship where the market has trouble sustaining sales sufficient to keep new books coming out. This term was picked up by Robert Darnton in his famous NYRB essay on “The New Age of the Book” and used in his approach to Mellon ti fund the Gutenberg-e project. So the ecological metaphor is not new in this business.

    • Presses have been doing this forever, and especially presses associated with state universities that do a lot of regional publishing, which helps serve the public outreach mission of their universities. At Penn State one of our publicists left to join the staff of the university’s communications office, and the VP in charge of that office was a Press author!

    • Perhaps because the temptation with “openness” is just to throw stuff up on a web site because it is so easy, and God knows we have enough garbage on the Internet to prove that this temptation is hard to resist.

    • Just to be clear, Project Muse saved the journals programs of many smaller presses like Penn State. They could not have “successfully” made the transition from print to digital otherwise. What commercial STM journal publishing has done to the system is another question, of course.

    • Just to remind people (since it is not mentioned in the Report), the AAUP did issue a Statement on Open Access (which i drafted) in 2007 whose primary purpose was to steer the discussion in the direction of OA for books.

    • There’s nothing inconsistent about hosting an online OA book series and selling those same books in other formats, whether electronic or print. The National Academies Press, as noted in the Report, sold both POD and PDF versions of its OA books.

    • At Penn State we borrowed the NAP model precisely to test its applicability to a series of books in the humanities (Romance studies) we started in 2005. Our system worked a bit differently. Only about half of each book could be downloaded and printed out; the rest could be read only on screen. We offered POD editions for sale, but not PDFs. We experimented with different price points, with greater gaps between cloth and paper POD editions for some books and smaller gaps for other titles, to see if that would affect sales to libraries. Overall, at the point I retired from the Press in 2009, sales were roughly comparable to what they had been for the print only series that had been abandoned a few years earlier, which was not quite enough to make the project self-sustaining, however. I don’t know what the experience has been since then.

    • The Report also does not acknowledge an important experiment being undertaken by the UK academic commercial publisher Bloomsbury Academic under the guidance of its director, Frances Pinter, who spoke about it at a plenary at the last Charleston Conference. Nor does the Report discuss the approach of Athabasca Press in Canada (though it is mentioned in passing), which is fully OA and somehow has managed to find the funding to make this possible.

    • There are two copyediting errors in this paragraph, and there are several more elsewhere in this Report. It doesn’t speak well of  the Report’s emphasis on quality that better care was not taken with the proofreading!

    • It’s too bad no mention is made of the Gutenberg-e and ACLS Humanities E-Book projects, which truly were revolutionary in their efforts to push scholarly communication beyond the bounds of the traditional book. They both continue today, though Gutenberg-e has ended as far as accepting new books into the program is concerned. Some discussion of these projects, and especially about their sustainability, would have been welcome in this Report. Post-mortems of Gutenberg-e have been written by Kate Wittenberg and me. So far I don’t know of any independent analysis of the ACLS Humanities E-Book project that has been undertaken, and it certainly deserves to be studied for whatever lessons can be learned from it.

    • Please don’t forget the Gutenberg-e and ACLS Humanities E-Book projects!

    • A proposal was made backed by the provosts of the CIC (Big Ten + Chicago) to merge all the business functions of the CIC presses and just keep the editorial offices independent circa 2000. It was not implemented.

    • The membership rules of the AAUPO long kept presses with such association with commercial entities from becoming members. As you know, those rules were changed a few years ago, and now some of the presses formerly excluded, like Rochester (for which I work part-time now), have become AAUP members. This is tricky territory, however, because it is essential for the presses involved to be editorially independent of the commercial publishers that provide the services.

    • Comment on Conclusions on March 12th, 2011

      It’s not as though university presses have a choice; they are obliged by their parent universities to be largely self-supporting from sales, on average 90% self-supporting. Only a very few universities, like Athabasca, seem willing to break away from this model and go in another direction. Rice tried it too, but the institutional commitment long term proved to be lacking.

    • Comment on Recommendations on March 12th, 2011

      I agree, there should be no such limitation. In fact, the most successful OA experiments have been with books by high-profile authors like Larry Lessig, Cory Doctorow, etc. who claim to have sold more books because of the OA availability.

    • Comment on Recommendations on March 12th, 2011

      If those six people include scientists like Einstein, Dyson, etc., don;t dismiss their importance! The same goes for journal articles that only a few people may be smart enough to understand.

    • Comment on Sources on March 12th, 2011

      It might have been helpful for the AAUP to cite its own Statement on Open Access.

  • Shana Kimball

    • One of the biggest challenges I encounter when trying something new in this space (in my case, a hybrid library/press publishing environment) is a gap in skills and expertise to effectively launch and nurture more dynamic models of scholarly communication. Experimentation often takes place on the margins of presses, but open, webby, social forms of scholarly communication by their nature cannot (and should not ) be sidelined.

      There is a need for people in scholarly publishing who grasp how to use social media in authentic and interesting ways — who understand the potential of social media as a form of scholarly conversation, rather than as just a marketing tool. As far as I know, we don’t really have venues for mentoring and experimenting and skill-sharing of this kind. It makes me wonder if AAUP could adopt a #thatcamp-style of unconference, where these skills can be learned and practiced. Maybe it’s time for #pubcamp.

    • I’m so glad Kathleen brought up John Maxwell’s work in this context. John’s argument goes beyond the use of web standards for e-book standards; he demonstrates a completely web-based book publishing workflow, with exciting implications for re-imagining operations, presentation & design, as well as marketing and other social aspects of publishing. See his recent article in the Journal of Electronic Publishing, “Traversing the Book of MPub: an Agile, Web-First Publishing Model.”

Source: http://mcpress.media-commons.org/sustaining/comments-by-commenter/