New Business Models for University Presses

Publishing open digital plus paid print editions

1 Leave a comment on paragraph 1 0 Many of the university presses we surveyed are making some of their backlist titles available openly online with print editions for sale, and others are planning to move in this direction. In most cases, the online editions are hosted by the campus library, while print editions are produced using short-run or print-on-demand technologies. The primary goal of these projects is to test the theory that online publication serves as a form of marketing, especially for older titles that have largely disappeared from view. In some cases, presses are re-issuing books that have been out of print. Early experiments with free-online-plus-print publication suggested that making books available free online does not reduce print sales and may indeed increase sales, though further experience has indicated this is affected by many factors of both content and format (see below for a related discussion of the National Academies Press model.) Skeptical publishers concerned about losing sales are more willing to experiment with online open access when the books involved are older volumes. Most of these projects also aim to provide a community service and/or contribute to parent institutions’ open access goals. Examples include:

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  • University of Michigan Press has a growing body of its work available for free viewing worldwide in HathiTrust (about 800 titles currently). The backlist collection is paired with a policy of making all new titles available for free viewing online as close as possible to the time of print publication. In addition, almost all titles are available in online editions for sale through various e-book vendors, and can be ordered directly from a digital shopping cart on the press’s website. http://www.press.umich.edu/ebooks/
  • University of California Press makes available about 2000 titles online through the California Digital Library (CDL). About 500 titles (most of them out of print) are fully open access, while the balance is open to the University of California community only. California is extending its open access program through an arrangement with Google, which has scanned about 2000 of the Press’s out of print titles; they are available through Google Editions. Titles with significant online usage will be brought back into print using POD. There are no immediate plans to provide new titles on an open access basis, however. http://www.cdlib.org/services/publishing/ucpress_ebooks.html
  • University of Pittsburgh Press has most of its backlist available (more than 500 titles) through its Prologue Books program, also hosted by the university’s library. New titles will be added to the digital collection with the introduction and one chapter available initially; full text will be made available after two to five years, depending on the title.
  • Indiana University Press has made about 400 titles available to the University community through the IU Library. http://www.iupress.indiana.edu/catalog/information.php?info_id=129&meid=129
  • University of Florida Press makes all titles published prior to 2006 available through Florida’s statewide institutional repository, the Orange Grove. http://www.theorangegrove.org

3 Leave a comment on paragraph 3 0 In an experiment focusing on textbooks rather than scholarly monographs, the University of Florida Press and the Orange Grove, Florida’s digital repository, have collected all open access textbooks available through any source—whether the Orange Grove or other repositories—that are used in Florida university courses. This program, motivated primarily by concern about the high cost of textbooks for students, offers POD editions of the online texts at prices that are typically 40 to 50 percent of those available through other market channels. Student purchases of the print books are currently funding the program, but the plan is to shift this to a “tech fee” paid by the universities involved (which will require an action by the state legislature). For new works, the Press offers editorial and peer review services for books that will go OA in Orange Grove after five years.

4 Leave a comment on paragraph 4 0 Many other presses are offering smaller collections of titles available online. These include:

6 Leave a comment on paragraph 6 0 In most cases, university libraries provide hosting services to the presses at no charge to the presses; in some cases, the libraries also digitized the books. Without this level of institutional support, these programs would not be possible. Adding future titles is made more practical because all book production is now handled digitally, and retaining digital files post-production is standard practice. A much larger issue is the concern about losing print (or, increasingly, e-book revenue) if books are made available openly online; hence most university presses have been reluctant to experiment with open access publication for new titles. This is beginning to change, however, particularly in the case of very specialized scholarly titles.

7 Leave a comment on paragraph 7 0 A handful of university presses, in collaboration with their libraries, are experimenting with the “online free plus POD for sale” model for specialized series of books. For example:

9 Leave a comment on paragraph 9 0 The reasons for using this model for specialized scholarly work vary among individual presses, but include the potential value of online publication as a marketing tool and better inventory management through short run and POD methods. Underlying these experiments is the view that specialized monographs have such a limited and inelastic market that little is lost by publishing them on an open access basis, while much is gained in expanding access to scholarship and gaining goodwill within the academic community.

10 Leave a comment on paragraph 10 0 However, while this model may be effective in reducing the costs of publication, it seems unlikely, based on experience so far, that POD sales will be sufficient to sustain the full costs of publication. Initial experiments in publishing books online free while selling print editions—whether new titles or backlist—indicate that online editions receive substantial usage, but print sales remain limited.[1] In addition, among publishers engaged in these projects, there is significant concern that print sales will erode even further, as readers become more comfortable with reading online and libraries feel less compelled to buy print editions for archival purposes. The online free/print for sale model thus seems likely to be a transitional strategy.

11 Leave a comment on paragraph 11 0 The limited revenue realized from print sales of books available online free is of little concern when the books involved are older backlist titles. Indeed, when applied to out of print titles, this strategy can provide a welcome new revenue stream. Presses publishing new titles using this model, however, must rely on a mix of revenue sources, typically including institutional support.

  • [1] See below on the National Academies Press experience. Data from our survey of university press directors also indicates that print sales do not support the full costs of online publication.
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    Source: http://mcpress.media-commons.org/sustaining/new-approaches-to-scholarly-publishing/publishing-open-digital-plus-paid-print-editions/