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New Business Models for University Presses

New approaches to scholarly publishing

1 Leave a comment on paragraph 1 1 Scholarly publishers have been adapting to this new world by adopting new technologies in production workflow, marketing, and distribution, and by forming partnerships to increase dissemination of intellectual property and add revenue streams from e-content as print content revenues plateau or decline. The future of academic publishing is uncertain, but it is clear that for at least the next ten years scholarly communication will be conducted using a variety of media, on an array of platforms, funded from a range of sources, employing a variety of business models.

2 Leave a comment on paragraph 2 4 Traditional models for publishing are under attack from several sources: stagnant sales of print books, growing popularity of e-books, downward pressure on prices from e-book vendors, the movement for open access. The specific challenges are different for book and journal publishing, but the transition from print to digital formats is the primary driver of change. Journal publishing has made a successful transition to the digital age while maintaining its longstanding primary business model—subscription sales to institutions. Digital has replaced print as the primary edition (increasingly the only edition), while at the same time creating opportunities for new revenue streams, such as pay-per-view, single article sales, and bundling multiple journals in single subscription packages. If anything, journal publishers are becoming victims of their own success, as pressure mounts to shift from a subscription-based model to open access. The OA (open access) movement is directed primarily at high-profit commercial publishers, but university presses are caught up in the debates as university and government mandates expand, even while it becomes more difficult for university presses to compete with commercial firms in acquiring journals because they lack the advantages of scale.

3 Leave a comment on paragraph 3 4 Book publishing, by contrast, is only beginning the transition from print to digital formats, and that transition is likely to be messier than what we have experienced with journals. The book market is more evenly divided between retail and institutional sales, requiring the development of multiple strategies simultaneously; and widespread resistance to reading long works on screen (despite the recent explosion in the popularity of e-readers) means that publishers must produce and sell print as their primary product even while developing digital editions of the same titles. So far, the market for e-books is primarily in the consumer sector, with fiction and popular nonfiction leading the way, so pricing is a major issue. The popularity of the Kindle and Amazon’s effort to corner the e-book market with its $9.99 base price further contributes to the now widespread notion that e-books should be cheap books. As long as e-books are largely additional revenue for publishers, this is not a major concern, but what happens when e-books supplant print books in a significant way? Will reductions in the cost of printing and distribution be sufficient to make up for lost revenue? This seems unlikely as long as publishers must issue both print and digital editions. Moreover, the rapidly increasing number of e-book options takes up a great deal of publishers’ time and resources, even while e-book sales remain a small percentage of the total market.

4 Leave a comment on paragraph 4 3 Open access is not yet a major issue for book publishers, but there is some spillover from the OA debates in journals publishing. University presses are increasingly feeling pressure to experiment with OA books, which creates an additional challenge in thinking about digital publishing strategies: if digital versions of some books are offered on an open access basis, will that close off future opportunities to sell those titles as e-books?

5 Leave a comment on paragraph 5 0 Unlike the case with journals, there is no primary business model emerging for digital books, although most university presses are experimenting with various new approaches to publishing, promoting, and selling their books. Multiple business models will be necessary, not only because print and digital books are likely to coexist for the foreseeable future, but also because it is likely that no single business model for e-books will replace the traditional methods of publishing and selling print. In addition, partnerships, always important in university press publishing, are taking on even greater importance in large part because digital publishing benefits so much more from scale than print publishing. These partnerships may take a variety of forms: groups of presses working together; presses working with a variety of other nonprofits, including museums, libraries, scholarly societies, and other research organizations; and presses creating closer alliances with other units within their parent institutions.

6 Leave a comment on paragraph 6 0 New approaches underway at scholarly presses may be broadly categorized as:

  • 7 Leave a comment on paragraph 7 0
  • Publishing open digital editions of books combined with paid print editions for sale using short run or print-on-demand (POD) methods;
  • Publishing primarily via open access;
  • Issuing e-books for sale, either singly or in collections;
  • Experimenting with digital publishing projects that do not fit into the standard book and journal formats.

8 Leave a comment on paragraph 8 0 Of course, many presses also publish journals in both online and print formats, a practice that is better established than digital publication in the book realm, but has its own set of challenges, especially in the face of increased competition from commercial publishers.

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Source: http://mcpress.media-commons.org/sustaining/new-approaches-to-scholarly-publishing/