University Press Redux 2018 – some themes

Redux 18 wordcloudThe second University Press Redux Conference was held at the Knowledge Centre at the British Library 13-14 February 2018, in association with UCL Press and the ALPSP. It was again a sold-out event, with 250 delegates from across the global scholarly publishing field including university presses, commercial scholarly presses, librarians, funders and service providers. See https://www.alpsp.org/UPRedux.

Topics covered by the speakers (as summarised on the conference website) were: Academic-led presses; Author engagement; Digital publishing; Distribution and industry supply chain; Higher education policy; International sales; Journals publishing; Library – collection strategies and library supply; Media and publicity; Open access monographs; Production and printing; Relationship with parent institution; University publishing – history and new university presses.

The presentations and discussions were wide-ranging and stimulating, and some common themes emerged. Here is my personal take on the key themes from the conference.

Themes that stood out for me:

Funding – This was the question which seemed to dominate, especially after HEFCE’s Steven Hill stated that HEFCE wants its funding to incentivise academia to share content, and that this may not involve publishers (it’s not HEFCE’s role to fund publishers). The 2027 REF is likely to include an OA mandate for monographs. This seems to take no account of the findings of the Academic Book of the Future project, which highlighted the particular funding challenges for monographs, and it will have a potentially huge impact on the traditional scholarly book publishing model, especially in the humanities. Jane Winters told us that her entire departmental budget for OA was £10,000 a year. Sarah Caro from Princeton UP asked who would publish mandated OA monographs without funding. Who is going to pay? Is this, as Sarah Kember contends, part of a deliberate ongoing dismantling of state support for the arts and humanities, taking public funding to pay for research outputs purely to benefit private commercial interests?

The importance of copyright – Richard Charkin reminded us that a publisher’s commercial worth is its intellectual property assets, not its annual profit (Bloomsbury has JK Rowling). Aileen Fyfe stressed the importance to learned societies (and their ability to fund and support their field) of the income they receive from journal sales – income that relies on people having to pay for the content. So far, publishers have not noticed a decline in sales of paid content which is also available as open access. However, that links in to discoverability for OA content – if you don’t know a book is OA, you’ll probably buy the priced version. Which leads on to…

Discoverability for OA content – Michael Jubb highlighted the complexity of the supply chain for books, and the intermediaries who supply information and sell books to both institutional and trade buyers. There is no commercial incentive for these intermediaries to promote OA availability, which is therefore nearly invisible in the supply chain. However, there are signs that this is changing. For example, JStor has been very actively adding OA content to its platform (and removing the priced version of the same titles). Currently only 5% of academic book are published OA, so libraries expect to pay for most content and may not seek out OA alternatives, but if OA becomes more prevalent (and discoverable) surely fewer libraries will carry on paying for the content.

A pivoting back towards the institution – Amy Brand of MIT Press asked whether we are seeing a pivot back to the academy, with universities getting more involved in communicating their mission, and their value to society. Lisa Bayer of the University of Georgia Press stressed the political necessity of embedding the press into the university. Aileen Fyfe reminded us that scholarly publishing has not always been commercial. In its early days there was no expectation that money could be made from the circulation of highly specialised knowledge, and over the past 160 years scholarly publishing has been non-commercial for a larger chunk of time than it has been profit-led. Institutional resources such as IT expertise mean that library-based presses like Michigan have more scope to develop major projects such as collaborative platforms for sharing content in multiple formats.

Collaborative platforms – Pierre Mounier of OPERAS exhorted the humanities and social science communities to stand together – “United we stand!”. Sarah Kember asked us to think about the possibility of a publishing network that is properly, publicly funded, rooted in the university and rooting for the future of AHSS as well as STEM. Fulcrum (based at Michigan) is a values-based publishing platform, which is a collaboration between several US campus-based presses.

I took extensive notes at the conference and have put them together into a 32-page document, which I am making available for a nominal £15 (once purchased, I am happy for you to share the notes with your colleagues or students). This document has been created from my personal notes at the event and covers all the main sessions as well as three of the parallel sessions (Media, Authors and their Publishing Experiences, and Europe). It is available in Word or pdf format. If you are interested in obtaining a copy, please email me: annemnolan@outlook.com.

Please note: Official slides and audio from the conference are available for free at https://events.bizzabo.com/Redux18/page/1332592/slides-and-audio. See also https://storify.com/ALPSP/redux18-day-one  and https://storify.com/ALPSP/university-press-redux-conference-day-2 for a storify of the tweets (available until May 2018). The Twitter hashtag was #redux18. UP Redux information can be found on the ALPSP website at www.alpsp.org/UPRedux. My notes are intended as a useful complement to these resources.

Further reading:

The Academic Book of the Future: https://academicbookfuture.org/links-and-resources/

The Role of the Editor: Publisher Perspectives – Katharine Reeve (Academic Book of the Future): https://ucldigitalpress.co.uk/BOOC/Article/1/60/

Untangling Academic Publishing: A history of the relationship between commercial interests, academic prestige and the circulation of research – Aileen Fyfe; Kelly Coate; Stephen Curry; Stuart Lawson; Noah Moxham; Camilla Mørk Røstvik: https://zenodo.org/record/546100#.Wo6ctajFLcs

Why Publish? – Sarah Kember (Learned Publishing): http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/leap.1042/full

UKSG Cost estimates of an open access mandate for monographs in the UK’s third Research Excellence Framework: https://insights.uksg.org/articles/10.1629/uksg.392/

KU Research Exploring Usage of Open Access Books Via the JSTOR Platform: https://kuresearch.org/news7.htm

Research Consulting: Why are new university presses on the rise, and how can you get involved? – Megan Taylor: https://www.research-consulting.com/why-are-new-university-presses-on-the-rise-and-how-can-you-get-involved/

Changing publishing ecologies: A landscape study of new university presses and academic-led publishing. A report to Jisc by Janneke Adema and Graham Stone, with an introduction by Chris Keene: http://repository.jisc.ac.uk/6666/1/Changing-publishing-ecologies-report.pdf

Open access monographs in the REF – Steven Hill (HEFCE): http://blog.hefce.ac.uk/2018/02/23/open-access-monographs-ref-2027/

The OA effect: new report (Springer Nature): https://www.springernature.com/gp/open-research/journals-books/books/the-oa-effect

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