New Business Models for University Presses


1 Leave a comment on paragraph 1 0 The dominant business model for scholarly publishing over the past several decades—sales of print books and journals to institutional, retail, and text markets, supplemented by modest amounts of institutional support—is no longer sustainable. The reasons are complex, but include shrinking markets and the accelerating shift from print to digital formats. The need for new business models is unassailable, but exactly what those models are and how they will interact with the traditional model remain unclear. Journal publishing has made a successful transition from print to digital formats while maintaining the long-established primary business model of selling subscriptions, primarily to institutions, although continued consolidation in the STM publishing industry and escalating prices, combined with economic pressures on libraries, has put enormous strain on the standard model. In book publishing, the situation is more complex for a variety of reasons, including the broader range of market channels and the slower pace of transition from print to digital.

2 Leave a comment on paragraph 2 0 Many experiments are underway among scholarly publishers: publishing digital editions of books in various formats; distributing digital books on an open access basis, usually combined with sales of print editions; and digital-only publications that go beyond the standard book and journal formats. Publishers are employing a variety of strategies to fund these experiments, including print sales as a means of supporting open access digital publications; subscription sales for digital book collections and digital-only projects; foundation support, usually as investment capital for new projects; and parent institution support. Other strategies are under discussion but with little actual experience yet, including publication fees (common in STM publishing but not HSS), online advertising, and institutional or corporate sponsorships. Some of these strategies seem likely to be transitional and not sustainable in the long run, such as start-up funding from foundations and relying on print sales to support open access online publication.

3 Leave a comment on paragraph 3 0 The one evident conclusion that emerges from the various reports on the current state of scholarly publishing, as well as in the research undertaken for this report, is that no single new business model will replace the traditional print-based model. Rather, a mix of revenue sources will be required to sustain scholarly publishing in the future, and that mix is likely to vary for different kinds of publications. Perhaps even more important, the new models will co-exist with the traditional print-based model for the foreseeable future. Notwithstanding all the experiments and the widespread conviction within the publishing industry that digital will eventually replace print, scholarly presses now derive most of their income from sales of print (in the case of books) and from subscriptions, whether print or digital (in the case of journals). Thus it is necessary for publishers to maintain and indeed strengthen the standard business practices while at the same time developing new forms of publishing and revenues to sustain those new forms.

4 Leave a comment on paragraph 4 0 It is important to recognize that these multiple models will include both market-based revenues and institutional support. Revenue will come from both consumers and producers of content. At the most fundamental level, this situation does not represent a change from historical experience; scholarly publishing has always been subsidized to some degree, combining market revenues and subsidy support, as university presses and other nonprofit scholarly publishers have long managed a balancing act between mission and business necessity, managing multiple product lines with varying markets (trade books, scholarly monographs, textbooks, journals). Presses have become adept at managing varied business models and adjusting the mix as market conditions change. Looking to the future, however, it seems likely that the mix of revenues, once derived primarily from the marketplace, will shift such that a greater share of revenue will come from the producers of content, whether in the form of publication fees or institutional support of other kinds.

5 Leave a comment on paragraph 5 0 The need for multiple revenue sources is especially evident in open access publishing, which seems certain to become a significantly larger component of scholarly publishing. Recent discussions of open access publishing have begun to acknowledge the costs involved, recognizing that open access is not “free,” despite the potential cost savings of digital-only publication. Recent work analyzing business models for open access publishing suggest that a mix of revenue sources will be essential if open access is to be sustainable over the long term.

6 Leave a comment on paragraph 6 0 The need for collaboration among scholarly publishers is more evident than ever. Most university presses and other nonprofit scholarly publishers are small, by comparison with commercial publishers, whereas many of the new forms of publishing require considerable scale to work well. Even more importantly, most university presses lack investment capital and are unable to undertake the kind of investments in technology at the scale required by new forms of publishing. Partnerships with libraries; e-book collaborations among university presses and nonprofit organizations; and editorial collaborations such as those recently funded by the Mellon Foundation are critically important, and among the most promising developments in the challenging and ever-changing scholarly publishing community.

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Source: http://mcpress.media-commons.org/sustaining/conclusions/