Preconference: Future of the Academic Book

by | Nov 6, 2017 | 0 comments


Future of the Academic Book

This three-hour pre-conference workshop featured a panel of experts representing academic libraries and publishers.

Workshop Panelists: Future of the Academic Book

(L-R): Beth Bernhardt, Matt Ragas, Gita Manaktaka, Ann Beynon. Peter Brantley (Moderator), Charles Watkinson

Peter Brantley introduced the workshop with the question: Does the academic book have a future?

Does the Academic Book Have a Future?

Significant pressure has been placed on print sales, and publishers are rethinking how to make money in sales of academic books. They are starting to rely on more than marketplace revenue by experimenting with distribution channels: books as part of subscription packages, licensing packages, ebooks with a perpetual license to own, OA as a distribution platform, which is a way to leverage different economics.

Most publishers have not progressed past the EPUB2 format. Skills to do web standard work is something all presses should be thinking about. They are also having to rethink what rights they need for acquisitions or negotiations.

The relevance of our work is what keeps publishers and libraries going. We are seeing the rise of immersive media such as augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR). Scholarship is being projected into an increasingly immersive environment. What does that mean for libraries who want to distribute that content? The challenges are not diminishing.

Gita Manaktaka, Editorial Director, MIT Press, said that new formats have been developing over the last 10 years, but the transition to them has been uneven. Books have lagged other types of media. Why? In the periodicals world, entire publications are online. For example, the New York Times site has commenting, rich media, and visualizations. Why don’t we see this in books?

MIT Press has developed MITCognet, which contains both books and journals. Arteca has PDF books and journals in the arts and sciences, with podcasts, videos. Their latest product is MIT Press Direct , an ebook collection, which will shortly be available without DRM and with perpetual access. The Essential Knowledge Series, short authoritative overviews of key topics, has been successful. It is written by experts for people outside their fields.  The cost is low; paperback editions are $15.95.

The <strong> ideas series, an OA book series for the trade, will be launched next year  It has been funded by MIT Libraries in partnership with the Press and Media Lab and will be in traditional print edition plus a version produced on the Media Lab’s publishing platform, PubPub.

Here are some questions currently relevant to book publishers:

Questions for Book Publishers

New Players and Business Models

Beth Bernhardt, Assistant Dean, Collection Management and Scholarly Publications, University of North Carolina, Greensboro discussed new business models for publishers. She noted that significant change has occurred very quickly. Here are some issues relating to closed access.

Closed Access

Purchases are based on usage. The subscription model works for some things like computer books that get updated very frequently. Some vendors offer a purchase option for books about to be discontinued, single titles can be kept available this way.

Libraries want perpetual rights, allowance for unlimited simultaneous users, without DRM.

These models are helpful in times of budget cuts.

Charles Watkinson, Director, University of Michigan Press, wondered if there is an opportunity to return to a simpler time in a confusing market. New platforms are being developed (like Fulcrum from UM Press) to allow control of digital destinies and get a sense of usage. Purchase models are wanted by many libraries.

Here are some new OA Business models.

New Business Models: Open Access

New Business Models: Open Access

Many publishers are adopting “magpie” models–pick from here and there. Library crowd funded approaches permit selection of content.  An author pays BPC model has had limited success with individual scholars, but institutions are getting into it. Most models have an element of “freemium”.

OA has led to new players:

New OA Players

New OA Players

Discussion Questions

Ann Beynon, Manager, Solution Specialists, North America, Clarivate Analytics, addressed methods of measuring the impact of scholarly books. Books have key differences from journals and require a different approach. There are fewer citations to books, the timeline is different, as are the uses. Books and book chapters have different citation behaviors.

There are many considerations with bibliometrics. Peer recognition correlates with citations for journals, but has not been well measured for books yet. Book impacts can be measured by syllabus mentions, library holdings, public reviews on Goodreads, Amazon, etc.; social media usage, policy impact. Here are some sources of book metrics.

Sources of Book Metrics

There is a medium correlation between subject-specific citation patterns of books and journals, but there is less correlation between aging patterns of citations, suggesting that book citations are more complex and heterogeneous than journals. Aging books is more balanced across subjects than journals. These articles present some alternative sources of citations.

Sources of Book Metrics

Sources of Book Metrics

Sources of Book Metrics

Charlotte Maiorana from Emerald Publishing said that one of Emerald’s goals is to nurture fresh thinking that makes an impact. Here are some different types of impact and why they matter.

Types of Impact

Impact affects how funding is given. The role of publisher is not just a provider, but also a partner with authors. Emerald wants to work with authors and find where they could fit with their work. They did a survey of academics and practitioners and found evidence of collaboration. Books are coming into play; lots of content cannot be put into a journal. Engaging with research managers is important.

Working With Research Managers

Publishers are broadening their content offerings and can help authors write more practitioner-oriented content.

Matt Ragas, Associate Professor, College of Communications, DePaul University, said we should think of ourselves as “pracademics”. Books are accessible to students and practitioners in ways that other forms of scholarship are not. When a book is published, that is only the beginning of its journey. It only has impact if it has readers and those readers take action. We must build on business essentials. If you can sign authors in big markets, they are more connected to practitioners. Here are some criteria used in evaluating a faculty member’s impact for tenure and promotion:

Faculty Evaluations

How are faculty evaluated and motivated in terms of books? Some academic books are like a tree falling in the forest–they don’t make a sound.

Reactions of students and professionals to books:

Students' Reactions to Books

Print editions are still very popular; many students feel they would be distracted by an ebook because it is connected to the Internet.


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