It’s certainly been a busy month for the university press sector. In the UK, new open access university press UCL Press celebrated its first birthday this month with a party at their local Gower Street Waterstones, and a few announcements. UCL has become the first UK publisher to join the US-based Library Publishing Coalition, founded in 2014 to support, encourage, and offer leadership to libraries involved in publishing activities; the press has also announced three new formats for its open access publishing: enhanced digital editions, rich in multimedia; monographs with scholarly functionality (including note-taking, citation, and extract-sharing); and Books as Open Online Content (BOOCs), which develop over time, incorporate various forms of content – from to Storify anthologies – and whose non-linear structure allows readers a more active role in choosing what they want to read. Meanwhile, the world’s largest university press, Oxford, has announced that it will be outsourcing some of its technology services – including its service desk, testing, and applications and platform management – to Cognizant Technology Solutions, in a move that, according to reports, may result in some redundancies.
This year’s annual meeting of the Association of American University Presses (AAUP) took place last week in Philadelphia. With sessions on accessibility, diversity, publicity, and the financial relationships between presses and their parent institutions, the meeting addressed many of the key issues facing academic publishers. In a session on ‘Trends in the Academy’, Scott Jaschik warned attendees that, though university presses were undoubtedly valuable, they were also vulnerable, and needed to do a better job of communicating their value: not one of the university presidents he met in the course of his job as editor at Inside Higher Ed had ever told him that they were proud of their university press. He encouraged presses to focus on sustainable business models over fundraising, and to ally more closely with libraries.
Chris Jackson, Editor in Chief of Random House’s relaunched One World imprint, shared the story of how he had entered the publishing industry as a young black man in the 1990s. He urged publishers when hiring staff to think about what the role really required rather than what was merely expected, to avoid perpetuating the status quo and instead open up the industry to greater diversity. Speakers in a later panel session on diversity reinforced Jackson’s remarks; Courtney Berger of Duke University Press counselled presses to reach beyond the usual channels when advertising jobs, and to wean themselves off a culture of unpaid internships that has contributed heavily to academic publishing’s lack of diversity. Working closely with their HR departments and parent institutions would instead help publishers to create a workplace that a diverse range of applicants could see themselves working in. Berger also encouraged presses to consider their ethical obligations to academics whose careers were under threat from a variety of factors, not least an increasing academic emphasis on the sciences over the humanities that may call into question the future of entire fields of research.
The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation has followed up its grants to the AAUP to fund diversity fellowships and research into thecosts of publishing a monograph with the award of a $73,500 grant to the universities of Michigan and Emory; the grant will enable the two universities to develop over the course of the next year a model author-publisher contract for digital scholarship, along with supplementary materials, such as model permission letters to be sent to third-party rights holders.
In the for-profit sector, Wiley has announced figures for the final quarter of its fiscal year 2016. Though overall revenues declined by 2% over the entire year, it reported a number of areas of growth, with income from corporate learning, online test preparation and author-funded access markets all increasing by over 20%. Overall, digital continues to increase its share of revenues from 60% to 63%, while print has deteriorated further, from 25% to 23%. The company predicts that these trends will continue into 2017, with revenues for the next financial year remaining flat.
Alastair Horne writes our Academic Newsletter.