On today’s episode, we take in in-depth examination of the costs and complexities of scholarly publishing. Nancy Maron (ATGthePodcast #14) takes over the host duties in a panel discussion with three of the authors that contributed to her recent article in the Against The Grain journal titled The Value of Publishing:What’s Worth Paying For.
Nancy Maron is president of BlueSky to BluePrint, a consulting firm supporting leaders in libraries, publishing, and digital initiatives who want to build, grow, and sustain their innovative enterprises.
Her guest authors and their referenced articles are:
- Becky Brasington Clark, Director of Library of Congress Publishing Office. Before that, she was the longtime director of marketing for Johns Hopkins University Press and is a former marketing chief at Brookings Institutional Press. Becky’s article, Ditching the Guillotine: An Education in Accessibility offers an eye-opening look at the challenges of making books easily accessible to those with disabilities.
- John Sherer, Director, University of North Carolina Press, and formerly vice president and publisher of Basic Books. His article takes probably the most radical stance. In Dust Jackets to Dust?, Sherer suggests that the days of online discovery may be making the designed cover obsolete.
- Susan Doerr, Assistant Director, Digital Publishing and Operations Manager for the University of Minnesota Press. Her article, Adding Media, Adding Value, explores what happens when “we can’t fit that in the book” is no longer a constraint in a digital environment.
The idea for the issue came from work I had done with my colleagues at Ithaka on the COSTS OF PUBLISHING MONOGRAPHS, a report published in spring 2016. This report, you may recall, is the one that outlined in some detail all the various activities that go into creating, producing and disseminating a high-quality digital monograph. The study gathered data on 20 titles each from 20 university presses, and came up with total costs for producing a monograph that included ALL costs, from the staff time needed to acquire a book, to develop it with the author, to design and produce it, and to make it discoverable and actively promote it to an audience.
The “punchline” of the report was — spoiler alert — that it is very expensive to do this work today, and for many reasons.
Of course, the landscape for publishing, digital technologies, and opportunities for Open Access, suggest that things are changing – formats, pricing, and access models.
While our study zeroed in on what it costs publishers today to produce a high-quality digital monograph, the really exciting next question is — DOES IT NEED TO BE THAT WAY? In a changing environment, what elements of publishing might change, should change, or even go away?
And which elements are so critical to the practice of publishing that they must be maintained, no matter what?