Scholarly Publishing: crossing the Rubicon – BookMachine, Oxford 7 September 2017

The BookMachine panel discussion on disruption in scholarly publishing took place on the 7th of September in Oxford, sponsored by Ingenta. It was a great event, with lots of food for thought, and I share my notes here. The discussion was chaired by Byron Russell (Ingenta) and focussed on how publishers can stay relevant and useful in the face of new technologies, new ways of information sharing, and changing research models and needs. The speakers were Charlie Rapple (Kudos), Phill Jones (Digital Science), and Duncan Campbell (Wiley).

What is the most disruptive thing in scholarly publishing at the moment?

The panel agreed that actually the publishing industry has not been disrupted. The large companies have not lost market share. There has been consolidation, not disruption, and consolidation might be considered the opposite of disruption. So, to ask a different question: what has been the most innovative thing? One answer is the effects of Open Access. OA has created an “author pays” model. Power has shifted towards the author and away from the library. In response to this, publishers are now focussing on services to authors (data sharing etc).

You can draw a path from evolution to revolution to disruption, and many commentators label things as disruptive which are really only evolutionary or revolutionary. The transition to digital has changed a lot of things, but not disruptively. Scholarly societies are wondering how they can continue to add value, and perhaps technological change has been more disruptive for societies than for publishers?

Why hasn’t scholarly publishing been more disrupted? We are still here. The single most disruptive thing hasn’t happened yet. Publishers rely on the scholarly importance of the version of record. This, by the way, is just as true for OA publishers as it is for traditional publishers. What happens when other versions become valid? We are seeing the rise of pre-prints, and data in multiple formats, both a move away from “the final article”.

Are publishers responding to change?

There is a huge amount going on inside publishing. Publishers need to keep listening to their users (including libraries and societies) and to their changing needs. At the moment, it’s apparent that we are still providing a useful service. We are turning richer article inputs into richer article outputs. Publishers need to listen, and innovate based on needs.

It is very difficult as an incumbent to be innovative. However, it should be said that publishers are fantastic at infrastructure. It was publishers who were behind the development of Cross Ref and DOI for example. Plumbing is not sexy, but it is important. Infrastructure can be innovative. It’s also worth saying that publishers are generally supportive of innovation elsewhere, outside of their organizations. For example, big publishers paid it forward by supporting Kudos in its early days, and were crucial for the company’s development.

Infrastructure is important now, and will become even more so in the future. A current model seems to be that an academic has an idea for something that needs to be fixed, a big company supports them, and then down the line buys them. The risk is that the learned societies and smaller publishers are not getting involved fast enough. The result is that big companies are pulling ahead. Smaller publishers should try and get involved earlier.

Smaller publishers might think that they don’t have the cash to put into investment. However, smaller publishers can be creative, perhaps getting involved in providing feedback in return for discounts for example. It is easier for big publishers, but it is possible for smaller publishers. As an example, Ingenta works with a lot of small publishers, some with only 2 or 3 staff, and introduces smaller publishers to new developments. Collaboration between smaller publishers might be the key (the IPG does a great job with this).

What is the effect of the demise of consortia deals? Are we seeing the end of the Big Deal?

There are pressures, but deals on the whole are hanging on. The slew of cancellations has still not materialised.

Access and discoverability

Library discovery systems are very expensive, but there are alternatives. Google Scholar is becoming more disruptive, and more widely used by scholars who may not even be aware of the library’s own discovery systems.

One large Dutch university killed off their discovery system, and put up a one-page document telling people how to use Google Scholar. Everything was fine. (Although a year later the library signed up to EBSCO’s discovery system, so perhaps there was more to this than meets the eye.)

New technology does not always succeed in its original form, although it can go on to evolve into something different. ReadCube is a good example. This was a kind of PDA system for journal articles, and was well received by libraries. It was like a Netflix for articles, and enabled control of what people could do (print, share). It did not succeed in the end, because publishers were not prepared to investigate the new model. But, the tech behind it has gone on to support a system for content sharing developed by another publisher.

For access to articles, forget Sci Hub, forget Patron Driven Acquisition. Even without access to a university library simply Googling an article title never fails. Green OA works well.

Copyright, sharing and piracy

Where do we draw the line on issues of copyright? In relation to the sharing of articles, there is a difference between individuals sharing stuff (sharing between academics), and a more large-scale attempt to share everything (Sci Hub). The line not to be crossed can be judged by asking who is sharing it and for what reason.

Sharing is fine, but the systemization of sharing is a problem. Sci Hub has forced publishers to face up to the fact that academics already share articles among colleagues. Sci Hub has pushed the agenda, but it is not the answer. Unpaywall is really neat, and legal.

Publishers feel a bit beleaguered when people think that piracy is bad but publishers are worse! What can publishers do? The key thing is that everything we create needs to serve the customer’s needs. The relationship between academics and publishers has been maintained by senior academics, serving on editorial boards for example. But are senior people really in touch with the needs of post-docs and junior researchers? There is a current shift in the research funding agenda, away from disciplinary funding, towards big, multidisciplinary projects (a cure for Alzheimer’s, the exploration of Mars). If people are working in multidisciplinary projects, which journal should they publish in? Will the channels change?

As well as the increasing thematic nature of funding, let’s hope there is a change in how research is evaluated too. The idea that it’s based on where you are published is so wrong headed. There are other outlets. We’ve got to use technology to start looking differently at impact, influence, and reputation.

In the old days, as publishers you never used to encounter a user; you dealt with the bookshop, the library. Things are changing and we need to get on board with the changes. In the rise of the machines (AI) in the sharing and discovery of information, what happens to publishers?

How do external parties view academic publishing?

Interest from outside investors is in scientific information, not in scientific publishing. Publishing is dead, long live scholarly information. Technology, information tools, open science, open data. You can put anything into Figshare and give it a DOI.

How can publishers move forward in ways that their customers might not think they need or want? Publishers might not be thanked for driving things forward, but you can get around that by creating a new brand, trying things out and moving forward but without the reputational risk.

Should publishers get involved with driving tech development in information sharing? The Belmont Forum was flagged as an interesting case. The Belmont Forum’s vision is:

“International transdisciplinary research providing knowledge for understanding, mitigating and adapting to global environmental change.”

Forum members and partner organizations work collaboratively to meet this Challenge by issuing international calls for proposals, committing to best practices for open data access, and providing transdisciplinary training.  To that end, the Belmont Forum is also working to enhance the broader capacity to conduct transnational environmental change research through its e-Infrastructure and Data Management initiative.

This is transdisciplinary research and information sharing, but not “publishing” as we would traditionally recognise it. But publishers should take heart from the fact that there are many things that publishers know how to do that others in the research ecosystem just don’t know. Many people think publishing is easy until they try to do it. The Belmont Forum recently asked publishers for input and advice, which is encouraging. Knowing whether and how to get involved comes back to listening to your community, that’s the way publishers can contribute.

The Academic Book of the Future Report launch event, 20 June 2017

The end of project reports from The Academic Book of the Future project have now been made available, and were formally launched in London on 20 June 2017. These are my notes from the event, with apologies for any errors or significant omissions (my handwriting is not always fast enough!). The Twitter hashtag was #AcBookReports.

The project reports are available online: https://academicbookfuture.org/end-of-project-reports-2/

Welcome and introduction:

Caroline Brazier, Chief Librarian, British Library – The project started three years ago, to address what the ongoing rapid changes in the publishing industry would mean for the Arts and Humanities. Marilyn Deegan’s report provides a synthesis of the project and what it has achieved so far. Michael Jubb’s report gives details of the state of affairs in the academic publishing ecosystem.

Andrew Thompson, CEO of the Arts and Humanities Research Council – Having just signed a book contract with OUP, quite pleased to read the report’s finding that the book has a future! The report is conceived not as the end of a project, but the beginning of a discussion. How can our high quality research be more widely shared?

Samantha Rayner, UCL, Principal Investigator, Academic Book of the Future – So, here we are, finished after three years of work. This evening we start to collect the responses. Thank you to Melissa Terras who coordinated the team from behind the scenes. The team gelled quickly because they found they had common ground, and felt a responsibility to respect lots of different views. Fellowship has been essential part of the project. A journalist who read the report thought it painted a bleak picture. Sam rejects this entirely. There are lots of challenges, but this is NOT a bleak picture, and there are talented, practical, and visionary people out there who want to be involved. The project has shone a light on the things that need discussing. Research is becoming ever more politicised, so it is good that policymakers were involved in the discussions. The team managed to speak with a huge range of people. One of the best things proved to be having a pool of money unallocated at the start, which could be made available for mini projects which suggested themselves as the project progressed. This provided useful agility. In putting together the two reports, Marilyn and Michael are both heroes of the history of the academic book.

Academic Book of the Future Reports:

Marilyn Deegan, KCL, Co-investigator, Academic Book of the Future –

Thought this day would never come! The project has been a community building project, with a small project team, but a very large coalition of contributors. Want to mention advisory panel chair Kathryn Sutherland who never let us forget that good scholarship is central. Sam Rayner deserves credit for the decision to cast the net very wide, with events, etc. She was the one who came up with the idea of Academic Book Week, which has been an astonishing success. There was also the first ever UK university press conference, and many other conferences, seminars, workshops, focus groups, talks, interviews.

The BOOC is going live on Thursday 22nd June.

See http://www.ucl.ac.uk/ucl-press/browse-books/academic-book-of-the-future.

Conclusions:

  • The academic book/monograph is still greatly valued in the academy and beyond
  • Print is not dead, and many scholars at all stages show a preference for print for sustained reading
  • The future is likely to be a mixed economy of print, e-versions of print and network enhanced monographs of greater or lesser complexity
  • There are many new exciting forms and formats of academic book…
  • …and new publishers and publishing partnerships emerging
  • Publisher brand still matters
  • Most scholars would be happier producing one or two ground breaking books in their careers rather than five or six which are produced quickly and have less impact
  • There is still confusion and anxiety over the Open Access agenda

Not bleak at all! But there are challenges, including increasing teaching loads and assessment.

A quote to end with:

“The substantial work of serious scholarship with a wider reach than that of the immediate academic sub-field is a precious thing, at the core of our cultural life and intellectual discourse” – Jonathan Bate

Michael Jubb, Lead Researcher, Academic Book of the Future –

Books are important, and they are part of the infrastructure for the Arts and Humanities. But, books now have more than just print formats. The academic book is part of an ecology with complex interactions. The number of titles is increasing, but overall sales are not increasing and sales per title are going down. Are too many books being published? Or is not enough effort being put in to get people to buy and read the books? There are tensions over rights. There is a need for innovation from publishers (which involves tech costs). The supply chain is almost comically complicated. There is a huge range of intermediaries. There has been no wholesale shift from print to e and the reader preference is still for print (across all age ranges). We will see digital alongside print for the foreseeable future. The publishers’ economic model is still based on print, but this is unsustainable. There has been lots of experimentation with OA, but we still haven’t got to grips with a sustainable economic model. Challenges include: costs and funding, author behaviour, rights regimes, international ecology, scalability. Can we get some quick wins? There is obvious potential with OA books for wider dissemination.

“Discoverability is the process by which a book appears in front of you at a point where you were not looking for that specific title” – Thad McIlroy

Discoverability is a disaster area. Metadata quality is poor. Onix, used by publishers, is completely different to MARC, used by librarians. We need discovery services better suited to academic books and behaviours of potential readers.

Conclusions:

  • Quality must be sustained (not every book an academic wants to publish should be published)
  • Need to address issues of supply and demand
  • Need to maximise reach
  • Need to improve systems and processes and stimulate innovation
  • There should be more bespoke publishing services (not every book needs every publishing process, and there is room for cheaper, more pared down publishing for some books)
  • Need to address the economic implications of print plus e
  • Support development of OA

Above all:

  • Build communities and relationships
  • Develop a new structure to support dialogue amongst all the stakeholders
  • Need new policies to stimulate change, built on a deep understanding of the ecology

A motto to live by, to quote Ben Goldacre “I think you’ll find it’s a bit more complicated than that”

Panel responses to the project conclusions and recommendations:

Geoffrey Crossick, Distinguished Professor of Humanities, School of Advanced Study, University of London –

Very pleased to have been invited to comment. Learned a great deal, especially from Michael Jubb’s report. When Crossick wrote his own report on OA, he now realises that he structured it like a book, and it was a long form argument developed through the different sections (he wanted to shout to people “don’t just dip in and out!”) needing to be read in the order it was written.

The value of the monograph lies in the process of writing and reading it, not in the physical object. We know people value the physical book, and e-books currently can’t get near the experience of a print book. It’s different for articles. The availability of digital books became possible at the same time as OA, and this perhaps muddied the water.

Why write books at all? The answer is that long, structured argument is fundamental to humanities research. A monograph is not the same as a group of articles. Crossick is not sure that there is a crisis of oversupply, because the terms of “crisis” are not defined. He voices caution about technical determinism. Just because certain things are possible technically, does not mean they are valuable. What readers want should drive change. The reports make clear the many challenges of OA. Restraints lie in author ownership issues. There is a serious problem of third party rights (images etc). But the biggest problem with OA is finding the right business model. The book processing charge will not prevail.

Frances Pinter, Founder of Knowledge Unlatched –

Books sit inside the knowledge structure of each discipline, and there is a different ecology for every discipline. These reports look at the academic book from an Arts and Humanities point of view. KU’s research has shown that there is enough money in the academic system to support OA. It is not in one place, but it is there. Pinter agrees that not every monograph needs the full publishing treatment, and this is significant because it means there is scope for reducing publishing costs significantly before the stage of having a finished digital file. KU has looked at publishing costs around Europe, and many publishers offer a pick and mix menu of publishing services, which goes a long way to explaining the differing costs of OA in different places in Europe.

The writing of a monograph is part of the research process itself, so Frances is not convinced by the argument that there are too many books published. You need the whole of the milk before the cream can rise to the top, and there are no publishers who can reliably spot the cream. “Find me a publisher who’s always been right … there isn’t one”.

The Jubb report has an excellent chapter on intermediaries and their services. Amongst other things, it provides the startling fact that vendors typically take 50% of the amount the library pays for the book.

KU have been looking at geo-stats for the monographs they have unlatched. Monograph usage is 7x higher than what is going through the libraries in the same area. This suggests that there is a larger audience than we thought. HEFCE is looking to mandate OA, but is trying to get funding together in a very unstable environment. It would be easy for them to shelve their plans, but Pinter thinks this would be a mistake.

Chris Banks, Director of Library Service, Imperial College –

For a librarian, collecting, discovery and OA are important topics. It is worth thinking about the different types of academic output. At the moment we still have an academe that is very cautious. Reward mechanisms are based around publishing a book, and scholars need to write a good book and publish with a good publisher.

Collecting – Increasing amounts are being published, and there are more students. Despite things being available online, there is an increased usage of libraries, and so libraries have a space problem. In the old days, with print books, you never knew when a book might go OP and become unavailable, so libraries used to purchase “just in case”. There are more choices now, and libraries can purchase “just in time”, as the need arises, and in whichever format is the most appropriate. Libraries still buy print books, but there is more sharing amongst institutions. We are moving away from the number of books on shelves being a measure of value for the institution towards looking at the number of books a library can make available.

Cataloguing adds value for the library, and Chris thinks libraries would be willing to pay publishers to add good metadata to make sure books are discoverable. Libraries have trained, skilled people who could help with this! This would be valuable for both libraries and publishers. Libraries are looking for new and smart ways to use their budgets to make more books open, and Chris supports initiatives such as Knowledge Unlatched.

Discussion and audience Q&A:

Anthony Watkinson – In the US they have the Mellon Foundation who supply significant levels of funding. Where is our Mellon? Where will the money come from?

Answer from Michael Jubb: struck by how conservative the US publishing landscape remains, despite 20 years of Mellon initiatives.

Answer from Marilyn Deegan: Mellon seems to support two kinds of projects, either boutique projects for a single book, or large infrastructure projects, many of which are in partnership with libraries. We in the UK need to focus on what we actually need.

David Sweeney, Research England – Thanks particularly to Michael for an excellent piece of research. However, the challenges highlighted in the report are very scholar-centric. This sits uncomfortably with the AHRC focus on scholars developing a wider influence in the UK as a whole. The breadth of the contribution of our research to our national culture needs to be as important for humanities scholars as it is for science.

Answer from Michael Jubb: lots of sympathy with that view, which is why the report emphasises the importance of quality of research output, and that the book should be a partnership between the author and the machinery of publishing (ie dissemination).

Conclusion:

Shearer West, Provost and Deputy Vice-Chancellor, University of Sheffield –

This is a huge subject, so to finish, and inspired by Jenny Holzer and her “Truisms”, which are short statements encapsulating sometimes uncomfortable truths, here are 10 statements:

  • Libraries have adapted more radically to changes in the digital environment than either publishers or academic authors.
  • The reports are relatively silent on readers, apart from noting that both students and academics prefer hard copy academic books to digital ones, but with little indication as to why.
  • The desire to get published by well-known university presses appears to be as much a concern about academic reputation than a concern about rigorous peer review. The brand becomes a proxy for quality.
  • The continuation of the print book is increasing supply led rather than demand led.
  • Supply chain complexities mean that publishing is a discrete set of processes and services rather than a single event.
  • The sluggish pace of open access developments in monograph publishing suggests that the right audience for an academic book is more important to authors than a large audience.
  • True Innovation in the format of academic books is not scalable.
  • There is increasing strain in the relationship among stakeholders in the academic book supply chain.
  • It is more difficult to preserve digital books than physical ones.
  • The hard copy book serves as a monument to the author.

Turn, Click, Swipe: the next chapter for academic publishing – some notes

I attended the LIBF Tech Tuesday event held in Oxford earlier this week – a lively conversation about the future of academic publishing – and I share my notes here. The panel discussion was chaired by Jacks Thomas (LIBF) and covered print vs ebooks, social media, business growth, open access, and various topics in between. The speakers were David Taylor (Ingram), Rachael Lammey (Crossref), Pippa Smart (publishing consultant), Andy Redman (OUP) and Chris Fowler (Oxford Brookes University Library).

Does the academic book have a future? 

The answer from the panel was yes. Long form publishing is turning around, and the consensus is that print will be around for a long time. Readers are willing to use e, but the preference is still for print, so we will have both. And we still need library shelf space for books! From a technical perspective, discovery and layering content is adding value. People want to link to different parts of a text. Being able to find different research in whatever medium is future proof. From a commercial point of view, POD means that publishers don’t have to make the decision about which format will win. Do both e and print and allow the customer to have a choice.

The monograph is still a valuable form and, as noted in the Crossick report, remains the most effective way to present sustained research over many years. The monograph allows the space to express an argument fully.

More and more is being published, and it’s now a real problem to review all the relevant research. Historically, it has been possible for authors to go back and read every primary document mentioned in relation to their book. That’s a challenge for the future. Of the scholarly output from the last 50 years, 70% of the output has been in the last 15 years. Future academic publishing needs to address that.

What is the role of Social Media?

Students and researchers don’t use publisher websites to discover information, they use “the web”. People incrementally pick up information, and social media is a very important element of that. It allows people to discover things by accident, serendipity. We are in a search environment, and people do directional searching in Google.

A very relevant example of the value of social media in academia is the very recent UK supreme court decision about parliament’s role in triggering article 50 for Brexit. The decision cited the UCL Constitution Unit blog. It’s very notable for a blog to be cited in a legal case. A blog can pick up issues very quickly, 24 -48 hours after events. Social media is a good way of providing a first-pass synthesis of emerging trends. With new applications of law, for example drone strikes, scholars get to grips with these issues much more quickly on social media than they do via monographs or journals. Social is also beginning to have an impact on promotion and career development. There is a problem with persistence though – links deteriorate, information disappears. We need to ensure stuff is still discoverable. There are initiatives to try and tackle this, for example the wayback machine.

As well as discoverability, it’s also worth thinking about access to content via social. Students expect access. Why can’t they access an ebook from Facebook?

Ingram have recently introduced an interesting commercial model related to social – Aerio. This is a C to C (customer to customer) model, allowing connections to grow between people who have the same interests. Aerio is essentially a widget which allows people to add a “bookshelf” to an online page (website, blog etc) with a direct link to buy the books. It’s available in the US but not yet in the UK.

How can publishers grow in this time of change?

It’s a challenge. We should not hold onto the old ways of adding value, and we need to think about new ways of adding value. Try looking at the content supply chain from the academic’s perspective. Work towards open systems, open standards. Think about new ways for the publishing process to add value, for example through enrichment. Publishers should free up resources to work with authors and content creators to add value. With so much research available you need expert curation, and publishers can provide this.

Consider using every available format, so people can have what they want. Don’t pretend to know what the customer wants. By and large, publishers are reported to have come to this conclusion.

A librarian’s perspective

The plethora of different formats is very confusing for libraries. In many cases libraries need to buy both print and e because students want both: e for getting at information quickly, print for in depth study. Libraries look at overall value for money. Often e is very expensive. Also e pricing structures vary. A single user licence almost renders the ebook not an ebook. And it doesn’t work if multiple students need the same book on the same day, for an exam.

The librarian needs to consider and prioritise value for money. Patron-driven acquisition has a tendency to use up budgets fast, and can result in an unconvincing range of purchased titles. Evidence-based acquisition, where purchases are driven by usage levels, seems more promising. Libraries can agree with the supplier in advance on how much to spend, then, over the budget period, choose what to buy.

The challenge of increased technical know-how for journal publishers

Technology appeared to offer solutions; you don’t need publishers, societies thought. But things now seem to be flipping back. The case was cited of an association which brought things in house 5 years ago. They now have a successful journal, but have got to the stage where they can’t do it anymore and are looking for a publisher to work with. With journals these days there is a requirement to provide additional information – ORCID iDs, information about funding sources etc. There are tools to help, but it does need a level of technical expertise. Small publishers don’t have this. The big publishers know they need to develop skills and are investing in technical staff.

Open Access

Open Access is about a change in access and funding models, but there’s an inherent conflict between principles and pragmatism. There are two main strands – gold and green – which by itself causes stresses. Which is the version of record? There is conflict between local models and global models. The research councils have put HE institutions in the front line because of their funding requirements. OA is the direction of travel, and many publishers are constructively engaged, but there are real questions about what is achievable. Creation, enrichment, retaining accessibility – these all have costs. If customers don’t pay, what is the sustainable model?

The rise of sci-hub can be seen as an indicator of a dysfunctional publishing environment. Publishing shouldn’t be as expensive as it is. Publishing companies are expensive to run. Are we overcomplicating things? If we want OA we need to find an easier, cheaper way, and we haven’t found it yet. We need to find a better way of enabling access, but we need to pay for it.

A major problem with OA for publishers is that they have no idea how to make money out of it. Is there a workable, robust business model? Many universities are doing their own publishing but this is problematic too. It comes back to funding, to sustainability.

Some Thoughts about Impact (and Open Access) for Humanities and Social Science Publishing

My background is in Humanities and Social Science publishing, and that’s the key area of focus for the majority of university presses. Attending a couple of sessions on Open Access and Open Science at the London Book Fair last week reminded me just how different things look from the perspective of the STEM subjects and the major journal publishers. A session on crossover academic books, and an inspiring talk from the founders of the new Goldsmiths Press brought some other thoughts into play too. A common theme was impact.

For academics, the measure of success is prestige. Have you changed the conversation? Have you changed the world? This idea came up in the session on the crossover book (the academic book that crosses over into a wider market). Penguin Press has published serious books by academic authors which have sold more than 100,000 copies. The question was posed in the session: as an academic why wouldn’t you want to reach 100,000 readers? If you want your work to have real impact in the world make sure you write well and concentrate on communicating your message. Penguin is highly selective in its commissioning, but then really gets behind the marketing for each of its books. Its academic authors include Daniel Kahneman and Paul Dolan. These authors have genuinely made an impact, and the huge success of their books must bring fantastic prestige to their institutions. I was left pondering the contrast with Open Access publishing, through which as much research as possible (rather than selected research) is made available (rather than actively promoted).

With the rise of Open Access, there is a commercial imperative to issue as much OA material as possible. This was from the “What is a Publisher Now? It’s Open, but where on earth is it?” session. Funders are providing money for Open Access publishing, and publishers seem very happy to take the money. A lot of money is being poured into the development of new platforms, and the big publishers are becoming content providers rather than book and journal publishers. With more and more research being published, discoverability is becoming a key issue. Metadata and semantic search are buzzwords. Is there an element of re-inventing the wheel here? Google is the expert in semantic search, and Google is widely used by academics for search purposes. In the future, will scholars search within several different platforms to find what they’re looking for, or will a single search portal (like Google) become dominant?

In STEM subjects, articles rather than books are the dominant form. Article Processing Charges for OA mean that there is a shift in where the value is perceived to lie, away from the journal (the publisher) and towards the article (the author). Articles can be published before the journal publication date. There is a move towards article-level metrics, which would mean that prestige (the academic’s measure of success) is tied in with the impact factor of the article, rather than the journal as a whole. In this scenario, what is the purpose of the journal? What is the purpose of the publisher? Are they now simply platform developers?

The fact that for STEM subjects OA is moving towards content held on platforms provides challenges for research that does not fit into the journal article mould (aka books!). Rupert Gatti (Open Book Publishers) and Lara Speicher (UCL Press) both spoke of the difficulties of finding the right business model and of getting Open Access books to the reader. Open Access books typically have free versions and also paid-for versions (for example you can access the pdf free online, but you can also pay to buy a print edition). Retailers (such as Amazon) and library suppliers are happy to list information about the books on their systems, but they don’t label them as being Open Access. So how does the reader know that a free version is available? Open Access book publishers need to find new channels. Publisher platforms, websites, OAPEN, DOAB and social media were all mentioned. For smaller publishers, without the scale and finance to develop sophisticated platforms like the mega-publishers, and without the routes to market provided by established commercial distributors, this seems very challenging. It’s often repeated that making books available as Open Access does not have a detrimental impact on sales of the print or ebook versions. I’m now wondering whether this is significantly influenced by the fact that distributors who sell the book do not mention the OA version. Are buyers ordering books through their usual channels not even aware that they’re paying for books that are OA? As OA becomes more widespread, surely this will change?

The newly launched Press at Goldsmiths is format agnostic. They are taking a critical attitude to Open Access, not saying yes, not saying no. For co-founder Adrian Driscoll, a key issue is sustainability. Open Access is very reliant on continued funding, which seems risky for a university (and therefore a press) which has a liberal arts focus. Sarah Kember, the Publishing Director, wants to think about different communication formats that are suited to subject specialisms which include arts and performance. She thinks Open Access does not work for the liberal arts. OA belongs to the STEM subjects, and publishers’ systems are being developed for those subject areas where the article is the main communication vehicle.  Goldsmiths Press wants to push the barrier between academic and trade, to focus on the needs of authors and scholars and on supporting the aims of their institution. They are asking whether impact can be measured in new ways.

Advocates of Open Access talk about increasing the impact of research, getting it read by more people. The speakers in the crossover books session were talking about that too. Mathew Lyons spoke about it being important that academic humanities should be a vital contributor to the national conversation and be part of the wider political and cultural debate. Sarah Kember from Goldsmiths spoke about finding the best way to maximise impact for different areas of research. There seems to be wide agreement about the importance of impact, of changing the conversation.

At the University Press Redux conference In Liverpool in March, Mandy Hill from Cambridge University Press expressed a worry that Open Access might mean that some research might not be able to be published. I read a tweet from a librarian who was in the room, reacting to this idea with astonishment, and thinking that he must have misheard. But there are costs associated with publishing research, whether those costs are paid by the publisher, by institutions or by external funders, either through processing charges or through funding a university (or library) press. If institutions and funders are paying article and book processing charges, and the publisher is supplying a content platform instead of making commercial decisions about what to publish and what not to publish, where will this lead? For research which may not have an immediately apparent commercial value (STEM research receives a lot of commercial funding, humanities and social science research does not) will there be a limit to how much will receive OA funding for publication?

Liz Allen from F1000Research spoke about the outbreak of the Ebola virus providing a strong impetus to get the latest research published fast. Open Science is ideal for this kind of research and information sharing. But maybe a different approach is more suitable for the communication of humanities and social science research, one that is more focused on proactively engaging with the national conversation, communicating ideas and research in ways that will advance culture and policy.

Reflections on The University Press Redux

The University Press Redux conference was held in Liverpool on the 16th and 17th of March. Organised by Anthony Cond and Liverpool University Press, it brought together 150 delegates – all with a stake in the future of scholarly publishing – and it was a hugely stimulating and thought-provoking couple of days. Having had a couple of weeks to digest what I took in from the conference, I’ve now put together a few thoughts on the key themes that stood out from my perspective. My perspective being that of someone with a background in academic monograph publishing in the Humanities and Social Sciences…

Here are the themes that stood out for me:

Energy and commitment –

There is a palpable energy, and lots of new ideas, in university publishing. New presses are springing up, with a focus on Open Access, and with close connections to the university library. New conversations are happening between longer-established presses and their home institutions. There seems to be a renewed sense of mission – “how can we best support the publishing needs of the academic community”. We heard that 40% of US university presses got a new director in the past 3 years, bringing new energy and new perspective. In the UK, five new presses have been established in the past 12 months. Established presses are being innovative, and are winning awards (Liverpool University Press, Policy Press).

The importance of reputation, especially for early-career researchers –

Early-career researchers still need to be published by a reputable academic press, and preferably a university press. This is crucial for getting a job. A book published by a university press also remains the gold standard for more established researchers, especially in the UK, where the REF is a dominant presence. Will the new university presses be able to develop a strong reputation for academic excellence? Will they be compromised by their focus on publishing their own faculty rather than from a more globally diverse base? Or should the reputation of the home institution be enough of a guarantee of excellence for their research output, without the need for endorsement from a publisher?

A crisis of readers? –

Researchers need to publish for career development, so there is no shortage of new book projects for publishers to choose from. But library budgets are (as always) under pressure, and libraries are also increasingly moving to patron-driven acquisition rather than buying books “just in case”. Are there more people wanting to publish than are wanting to read?

Discoverability (and sustainability) –

No-one will buy or access books if they don’t know they exist. Publishers with a strong reputation in particular subject areas, and with established sales and communication channels, may have an advantage here. Open Access research is achieving impressive download numbers, but this (so far) is based on a small level of output with a high level of energy (and funds) being devoted to publicity. Will this prove to be sustainable? As the amount of open access research increases, how will people decide what they should be reading? Will there be an ongoing need for gatekeepers, curators and sales people (the role that publishers have played and continue to play)?

Collaboration and outsourcing –

There is a notable increase in collaborative activity; a sense that smaller publishers can punch above their weight and gain mutual advantage by working together. And there is also an increasing number of companies offering specialist services to those who may not have in-house resources. We heard from collaborative organisations: ALPSP, AAUP, AEUP; and from publishing service providers: Ubiquity, IPR Licensing, Turpin Distribution, EBSCO. There are also presses or institutions working together, such as White Rose Press in the UK, and Lever Press in the US.

Who pays? And will there be a limit? –

There is no such thing as free research, and to publish it requires investment. In the traditional publishing model, the press covers the cost of publishing via revenue primarily from sales. The developing Open Access model involves financial investment from institutions, either to support publishing in-house, or to pay Article or Book Processing charges to external publishers or publishing service companies. There is also experimentation with subsidies from library consortia. Will these new models be sustainable? How much research output will OA funders be prepared to subsidise?

Let me know your thoughts via the comments…

Further reading:

University Press Redux: Preserving Heritage, Charting The Future (Alison Mudditt)

The University Press Redux: Balancing traditional university values with a culture of digital innovation (storified)

Pathways Forward: The University Press in the 21st Century (Alastair Horne)

2016 to be ‘tough’ year for CUP Academic (Mandy Hill)

Writing for Survival: Publishing & Precarity in the Lives of Early-Career Researchers (Nadine Muller)

Futurebook 2015 – five key takeaways

Futurebook 2015 – Friday 4th December, London

This was my first Futurebook conference, and it was inspiring. For me, a few themes emerged.

Here are my five takeaways (bringing in some relevant phrases that I noted from the talks):

  1. Can we make it better? Iterate, iterate iterate. Constant incremental improvement. Deliberate evolution. Test – a lot. Start small, test and grow. Have a kick-ass product. Use the data to improve the product. Collaborate with new technology.
  2. The “not book”. Events. Publishing/content ecosystem. Rather than change the book, develop what surrounds and supports it. Amplify and enhance.
  3. Customer-centricity. D2C, B2C. Connecting with the consumer. The new pampering. Love the data: collect, analyse, learn, use. Optimize ideas. Delight the customer. Publishers must understand mobile.
  4. Do more with existing content. Importance of the backlist. Integrate and leverage. From timely to timeless. Multiple formats. Repackage. Audio. Apps. Ecosystem (again).
  5. What is it for? Immersive reading. Enhance the reading experience. What do readers need? No-one really wants ketchup leather.

Here are the notes I made at the conference. They are personal and partial. I didn’t attend all the sessions, and the varying quantity of my notes for each section is a reflection of my own energy and concentration levels throughout the day…

Opening keynotes

Annette Thomas – Springer Nature

B2C is key for academic publishing. We can be part of the workflow of our customers – “integrating into the workflow” is something they’ve been thinking about quite a bit at MacMillan and Springer Nature.

How has change been implemented at MacMillan Science and Education? Making a restructure is not the same as making a change. Change has been achieved by transforming learning and discovery:

  1. Bring the separate companies in the group together to gain scale (a big change)
  2. Focus on constant incremental improvements
  3. Disruption! (we have put our flag firmly in the sand)

Try things out. Much won’t work, but some will. Be disciplined about investing in the future.

There have been a lot of changes to behind the scenes infrastructure. Bringing the company together at the London campus has helped to foster innovation. This year the science business is growing at three times the level of the rest of the industry. MacMillan/Springer Nature is achieving double digit growth and the company now has the number one position in open access, and they are also the world’s largest academic publisher. “We have reinvented academic publishing”.

What’s next?

It’s all about “open”. A new world of open research. Two thirds of Nature revenue is now from open access publishing. Not just open papers, but open data. Workflows can be open. Power is no longer in the proprietary, it’s in the open.

“Customer-centricity” is the buzzword. They are data driven, and the researcher is truly at the centre of everything they do. The researcher creates the content, consumes the content, and needs publishing for their career. The researcher drives the chain.

What do MacMillan/Springer Nature offer to the researcher? “The new pampering”. Publishing is about pampering our customers. It’s also about connecting ideas together.

Stephen Page – Faber & Faber

No fan of “the new normal” – it invites us to sit back, not lean in. Rather than “new normal”, a better description might be “unstable equilibrium”, this is dynamic.

Stephen feels confident of Faber’s ability to be the publisher they want to be. He has a sense of opportunity. How do we continue deliberate evolution? How do we derive value for writers? How do we gain attention from potential customers?

Five things:

  1. Shops aren’t dead. Stephen has been touring UK independent bookshops to try to get under the skin of today’s bookselling. Events are at the centre of the new book trade. Everything we do has to get better – iterate, iterate, iterate.
  2. Mobile is the zero law of 21st Century publishing. Publishers must understand mobile. 4G users shop online more than other mobile users.
  3. People I: Authors and Readers. Publishers will have to get clear about what their marketing is worth for individual authors. Some authors already have a good base.
  4. People II: Who will work in this industry? We need to give young people room to develop. Publishing needs to be attractive for bright young people.
  5. Not Book. Maybe long form, immersive reading is necessary. The physical book is different to online/mobile. This is not about replacing the book, but developing new opportunities around the book. (Look at the Pelican Books site – it’s really exciting.) Rather than change the book, develop what surrounds and supports it. Amplify and enhance.

Making a good future for writers and readers is about making a business between them.

Change does not mean the end of everything.

Susan JurevicsPottermore

Pottermore exists because of one person – JK Rowling. The aim is to engage and delight the wizarding community. Pottermore is now about ‘wizarding’, not just the Harry Potter books anymore. The new site is mobile first. Users can tap and swipe through it. Pottermore is now working with other retailers, most notably iBooks. The Harry Potter audiobooks are now also available via Audible.

Akala – musician, writer, poet

The aim of the Hip Hop Shakespeare company is to explode the myth of the mundane. Intellectual things are not boring.

Akala has self-published two books. His latest – A Conversation with Freedom is an audiobook EP. Akala performs at 150-200 live events a year and through this finds it easy to sell 2000 books per year to his fan base. At the gigs they sell more copies of the poems than the music, even though the price is higher. Interesting! Is the book seen as more valuable? Has music been devalued (seen as being available for nothing).

The pioneers of intelligent rap were the Wu Tang Clan. They used words like “benevolent” and “cometh”. They used Shakespearean words.

Are we doing everything we can to collaborate with new technology?

Face out: strategies that work and why

Jane Friedman – Open Road Media

Jane is former CEO of HarperCollins, and worked at Knopf in New York for many years before that.

Publishers typically focus on frontlist. Open Road Media specialises in bringing deep backlist back to life. “I want your backlist!”. Open Road has partnered with more than 40 publishers globally. To date they have had 15 million downloads – of deep, deep backlist books (1994 and earlier). They are a “pre-profit” company at the moment. They are now launching a D2C function.

Discovery is the key to successful publishing. Open Road has created a multimedia platform (audio, video, conversations and more). Their marketing is based around milestones and themes. You can come up with a milestone for every day of the year if you try. They also focus on content in verticals, eg marketing a group of “legal thrillers”.

Through “Early Bird Books” they have a daily deals newsletter. Only their books – but they do have 10,000! They offer free ebooks for one day, and they generally see an increase in sales of the paid version the next day. D2C is really important to us all. They are building websites and newsletters around verticals and are increasingly a digital company. They also tie up with partners, eg Yahoo Travel – people who like visiting haunted houses might want to read ghost stories.

Asi Sharabi – Lost.myName

Lost.myName is on the intersection of technology, storytelling and print. In 2.5 years the company has grown from 4 people to 65. They publish the world’s most technically advanced children’s books. Each book is individual for each child and is printed POD. The book includes the child’s own name, and also uses postcode information to include actual aerial views of the child’s own house and street.

They are a technology company that happens to make books. Personalised kids’ books have actually been around for many years, but have generally been very boring. The question they asked themselves was “can we make it better?” It was not a publishing pet project, it was a start up pet project. [Book recommendation: The Lean Startup by Eric Ries].

The company is obsessively iterating, improving the product. As of last Friday, they have sold one million copies. The book has been published in 9 languages and to customers in 158 countries.

Five things:

  1. Execution is everything. You need to have a kick ass product.
  2. Nothing is ever complete. Continuous improvement. Never be satisfied.
  3. Full stack publishing, and a scalable operation. 100% ownership and control of everything, including sales. This way you can improve and grow every part of the operation.
  4. Think global. Control all the rights so you can grow sales globally.
  5. Love the data. They call it “fundata”. Collect, analyse, learn, use.

Sarah McConvilleHarvard Business Review

Tips for success:

  1. Understand your audience
  2. Acquire and optimize ideas
  3. Have a direct relationship with the consumer
  4. Test – a lot!

HBR is not an academic publisher, although it is connected to Harvard University. HBR is a content engine. Its proposition is to deliver inspiring new ideas. But, people also need help applying those ideas, so HBR enables this too.

HBR is still available on the newsstand and via subscription, but going digital in 2011 was a game changer.

The HBR archive is very important. The popularity of this made them realise there is a lot of value in older content. They have a range of branded books which bring older content together, and now have 500 titles in the backlist. “Integrate and leverage”. “From timely to timeless”.

Five or six new articles a day are posted to the HBR website, and these articles often get turned into a more long lasting format.

They think in terms of the HBR ecosystem, and it is interesting to talk to authors about this ecosystem concept. One example of part of the ecosystem is the HBR Visual Library, which provides infographics (for premium subscribers) that people can use in their own presentations. They also provide book content in Powerpoint format, again for people to use in their own presentations. Saves time, but also gives users the gift of confidence.

HBR has worked with authors to turn their books into a toolkit for them to use at a strategy meeting. This a la carte offer (the charge is $250) is one of their bestselling products.

Another thing they offer is “playlists” – a curated collection of content around a theme.

Social is hugely important: LinkedIn, Twitter (bringing people to the website), Facebook, Instagram (particularly for promoting the content from their visual library). For the mobile user there is the HBR app.

HBR branded books are created if there is a minimum viable product. First step to to survey the audience, then sell the book as pdf. If the pdf sells well then a paperback is published. Examples of HBR series are the “HBR 10Must Reads” (essential content from the year, in ten themed volumes), and HBR Guides (skills based). Tools are embedded into books (eg video) for a premium price.

You should think about the physical properties of a book as well as digital (how does the jacket look as a thumbnail?).

HBR also runs events – there have been 75 in 2015. This ties in with the concept of taking an idea and turning it into multiple formats. You need to think about it as an ecosystem.

Morten Strunge – Mofibo

Mofibo is an ebook subscription service. “We are not in the book industry, we are in the entertainment industry.”

Profitability comes from:

  1. Getting the right mix of customers
  2. Recommendation and engagement

The new publishing: content unbound II

Ian Metcalfe – Hodder Faith

Talked about the NIV bible. They sell an MP3 version on CD for £40, which has sold really well. The Bible has 752,000 words. It s a big book, and people want to jump around in it, rather than read it through. Ebooks don’t do navigation, nor do audiobooks, so a new format was needed – an app. The app they produced is designed for normal people – it’s easy to read, easy to navigate, easy to listen to. You can buy a version with audio (narrated by David Suchet), and this version sells for £19.99. The app includes tools for navigating big content. It has micro-synchronisation of audio to text, so you can hear as you read. They have layered extra content onto a robust technical base.

Anna Gerber and Britt IversonVisual Editions

Editions at Play – a new product. It’s a bookstore for books that cannot be printed.

Question: what’s the next big book?

Answer: the mobile phone

An example of a book that cannot be printed is Raif Larsson’s – it uses Google streetview to narrate the book.

Editions at Play values:

  • Bookish
  • Unprintable
  • Delightful

Editions at Play behaviours:

  • Pages
  • Mobile
  • Dynamic

Laurence Howell – Audible

Audio is showing fantastic growth at the moment. 25 years ago a Penguin rep told him that audio is the future, so it feels slightly ironic that audio is now part of a conference on new ideas.

A good narrator can transform an ordinary book into a fantastic experience.

There is a huge gap between the amount of content available in audio compared with ebooks. To help tackle this, Audible established ACX (Audio Creators Exchange), where rights owners can get in touch with potential narrators etc.

With Audible you can listen and read at the same time. While you are reading the text on your Kindle the text is highlighted as you hear it.

Kiren Shoman – Sage

Talking about streaming video in the Higher Education environment. They sell bundled video content to institutions (500 videos per bundle).

Why video? Students expect visual stuff, and feel they learn more from video than from written notes. One lecturer explained that the reason they use video is so that students read more. Video enhances the reading experience. Sage are working on improving the accessibility of video (mobile responsiveness, transcripts, closed captions etc). Video comes to praise the book, not to bury it.

Tom WilliamsTouchpress

Touchpress was born in 2010. Their first app was “The Elements” which was very successful. They now have 30 apps, always ios, and have achieved 7 million downloads. Previous projects include “The Waste Land” which they produced with Faber, and also Iain Pears’ “Arcadia”.

This year has seen a change, as they have been working with music on a project with the Juilliard conservatory. There is a known, solid, market for classical music. What Touchpress is doing is classical music re-imagined. The app is available for free on the app store for AppleTV. For the project they collaborated with a company called “Symhony” (owned by Universal Studios), who make amazing visual representations of music. There have been 63,000 downloads to date, and it has been voted the best new app in 70 territories. Customers have come from 110 different countries.

Touchpress have been surprised how much of the content of the Juilliard app has been consumed in its total form. 70% of customers have watched the entire performance. (They expected people to dip in and out more.)

How to make it commercial? Customers will become a member of the Touchpress community, and this will be a community of high value customers. Their research has shown an overlap between those who drive a Lexus, own a Rolex, like shiny Apple gadgets, and who like classical music. That’s the group they are aiming for!

Free first, then subscribers.

The Academic Book of the Future

Introduction by Samantha Rayner, Director of Publishing at UCL. The Academic Book of the Future project is an AHRC/BL collaboration. Project team comprises Samantha Rayner, Nick Canty, Rebecca Lyons (all UCL); Simon Tanner and Marilyn Deegan (King’s College); and Michael Jubb. The project is running from October 2014 to end of September 2016 (so quite a short project).

The recent academic book week was a good amplifier for the project. You can follow on twitter @AcBookFuture and on Facebook.

Richard Fisher – formerly of CUP

Academic publishing is not a world of mobile.

There is a great deal of longevity and stability with academic publishers, and publisher continuity has had the effect of placing too much emphasis on the wrong things. 80% of HSS work is still sold in print form. 25-50% of revenue goes to intermediaries. These intermediaries have changed more than publishers have. Change has been in response to scale.

The permanence of scholarly book brands:

  • High entry costs
  • Long term gestation
  • Complex interaction of career, tenure, outputs and reputation, with scholarly conservatism reinforced by eg the REF
  • Continued (surprising?) survival of university presses, especially in North America
  • Cautious authorial response to digital opportunity

Looking ahead:

  • Numerous, small-scale open access publisher experiments, but these are artisanal, cottage-sized responses to a global challenge of over-production
  • Growing systematic and operational frictions in the intersection of book publishers, libraries, readers and authors

Suzanne KavanaghALPSP

How publisher networks help. The ALPSP has 330+ organizational members. Key focus is not for profits – societies, associations, university presses, NGOs, institutions and those that work with them. They have 250 publisher members.

The ALPSP focuses on four key areas:

  1. Connect
  2. Inform
  3. Develop
  4. Represent

See the ALPSP blog for information on conference talks etc.

“The Academic Book of the Future” has been published as a Palgrave Pivot. 180 print copies have been sold so far. The ebook is free to download online, and is highly recommended.

Academic book week was a great success. In terms of reach, it achieved 189 press pieces, in 21 countries and in 5 languages. Total estimated reach is 425 million people.

Lara SpeicherUCL Press

The revived UCL Press is the UK’s first fully open access press. It publishes scholarly monographs, short monographs, scholarly editions. 8 books have been published in 2015 and 20 books are planned for 2016, plus between 2 and 6 journals, to be available on Ingenta Connect.

3012 downloads to date for Lisa Jardine’s Temptation in the Archives, 762 downloads for Treasures from UCL.

A full launch for an enhanced UCL Press platform will take place in December 2015, including audio and annotation. This has been developed by Armadillo Systems.

They will be publishing many of the outputs from the Academic Book of the Future project. UCL is involved with BOOC (Books as Open Online Content). This is a way of having a living book which will evolve over time.

Anthony CondLiverpool University Press

To put into context the development of LUP in recent years: in 2004/5 they published 7 books and 3 journals. Ten years later, 2014/15, they published 85 books and 25 journals.

LUP aims to achieve a balance between:

The traditional:

  • Peer review
  • Experienced editors
  • Engagement with academics
  • Robust editorial board

And the new:

  • A plurality of models
  • Systems and staff
  • International partnerships
  • Embrace risk
  • What is it for?

A key factor is the domination of Open Access.

LUP are actively exploring new kinds of projects, which make the most of requirements and resources close to their home institution. For example, they are currently working on two projects in collaboration with JISC which are based on the requirements of their own faculty. One is to produce bespoke content for the Essentials of Financial Project Management course, and if this replaces the existing textbooks, the saving would be around £56,000 per annum. The other project is called “Using Primary Resources”. This highlights resources to help academics.

Crowdfunding is an interesting idea too. As an example, look at Historic England’s (formerly English Heritage) Unbound crowdfunding page for a book on Capability Brown.

What is it for? On this, read Tom Mole’s chapter from the Palgrave Pivot collection (The Academic Book of the Future).

Looking ahead, in March 2016 Liverpool University Press are organizing the first University Presses conference for the UK. This is already attracting a lot of interest.

Breaking the Page – a digital book design workshop – led by Peter Meyers, with contributions from previous presenters

What do readers need? If we lose sight of this we get innovation for innovation’s sake. Enhanced ebooks are the ketchup leather (Google it!) of the publishing world.

Paul Cameron, Booktrack – they add soundtracks to books; music which complements the book, acts as background music when you’re reading (it matches the mood). They noticed that books are the only large scale entertainment which does not have a sound element. They rely on word of mouth to get the word out about their product. For this to work, the sharing experience needs to be seamless. Has to be very easy to share and recommend.

Kiren Shoman, Sage – Routes to market; different ways to think about D2C, eg corporate training, MOOCs. Repackage content.

Emily Labram, HarperCollins – Product development is based on a mix of lean research (put the word out informally) and proper market research (more expensive). Make assumptions, then test them. Published extracts from Game of Thrones as a way of promoting the whole book(s). 42 extracts made available, and curation means that you can pick exciting extracts while avoiding spoilers.

Enhanced ebooks – the enhancements tend to have the result of distracting you from reading. Need to think hard about how to enhance rather than ruin the reading experience.

Publishing through a looking glass: a view from the outside

Perminder Mann – Kings Road Publishing

Kings Road has four imprints. All are multifaceted and multimedia. The USP of the Blink imprint is speed to market; books are produced quickly, sometimes taking only a few weeks. They only publish 30 books per year. This is deliberate, so that they can get full publicity behind each title. Creative, intelligent marketing – includes video trailers. Marketing work very closely with PR and Publicity teams. New product types, for example “Lucky” by Professor Green – they call it videography (video + autobiography).

Douglas McCabe – Enders Analysis

Douglas McCabe is a content/commerce specialist.

  • Web – 1995
  • Smartphones – 2007
  • Tablets – 2010
  • Now: Apps to apps, and connected devices

Media has moved from push to pull, and back to (a different kind of) push. Media is moving towards a subscriber and membership model.

Caroline Raphael – PRH (Penguin Random House) Audio

Has moved from BBC radio to audio books at Penguin Random House. Fulfils a very similar function as she did previously:

  • Commissions writers
  • Podcasts and websites
  • Youtube and apps
  • Live events and games
  • Partnerships
  • Exploits IP

Podcasting is eavesdropping raised to new heights. There is a competitive battle between podcasts and audio.

Tom Whitwell – Flux[x]

How to make good things happen for not much money. How do we know whether an idea is any good or not?

The Big Company Way:

IDEA – pitch – talk – research – get approval – spend – spend – spend – spend – launch – earn (hopefully)

The Startup way:

IDEA – spend – launch – earn – spend – launch – earn – spend – launch – earn

Start with the smallest way to earn money, then grow. Iterate and grow. Get customer/user feedback along the way. Build something organically all the way through.

Think: How do you build something small, and how do you expand it?

Here are some questions about books from an outsider:

  • Why don’t authors have the email addresses of all their readers?
  • What experience is a book reader paying for?
  • Why do you keep publishing new books when there are so many old ones that have already been written?
  • Why do publishers build apps?
  • Why do publishers celebrate when ebook sales fall?
  • What is the competition for a book reader’s attention?

Understand what the product is and what the consumer is getting from it.

Publishing is guilty of oversupply. Why don’t publishers publish fewer books and put more effort into marketing them?

Closing KeynoteCharlie Redmayne, HarperCollins UK

Risk, opportunity, and writing our own future.

  • Keeping authors at the heart of what we do
  • Investing, building and managing authors’ careers
  • Telling stories, across different platforms

Key themes:

Embracing technology, embracing startups. Continued growth of the ebook market. Revival of print books. Rise of self-publishing – a problem for traditional publishers. Revival of Waterstones under James Daunt. Growth of audio – for too long, publishers have sat on audio rights (allowing Amazon, via Audible, to step in and take over if publishers do not look at audio). Relentless innovation of Amazon.

As an industry we have more and more data. Publishers need to take data security seriously, be aware of hackers. Be careful what you write in emails, assume it will be made public. Take financial security seriously.

Amazon’s impact continues to grow. Their focus is changing, and they are now looking for margin. Amazon cares about customers and shareholders; publishers care about authors.

HarperCollins has global reach. Theirs is not a process driven system, they take a different approach for different countries (for example different cover designs).

Emailing at scale offers a chance to test, iterate, improve. Bookperk. Cookperk.

Inflexible attitude to rights is a significant barrier for their global publishing programme. Ability to have a valuable offer to authors is challenged by the rights issue; rights restrictions restrict the ability to publish on multiple platforms.

We ignore our rich backlist at our peril. The Mog/Judith Kerr campaign (linked with the Sainsburys Christmas ad campaign) has shown how much demand there can be for older titles (and related merchandise).