Reinventing University Publishing

by Paul Maharg on 17/03/2015

I’m attending the above conference at ANU, organised by CAUL Library Publishing Advisory Committee, having to drop in and out because of meetings & other things, but determined to participate as much as possible – too important to miss.  CAUL notes in its conference blurb: ‘academic publishing and the scholarly communication environment is in a period of considerable change.  A wide range of new models and ventures are emerging as a result of technological opportunities and the open access agenda’.  Hashtags: #RUP15 and #RUP15THAT.

Last morning session, first day, Perspectives: University Presses.  JoAnne Sparks, University Librarian Macquarie U in the Chair for the University Presses session, and first up, Nathan Hollier, Manager of Monash U Publishing, speaking from a managerial perspective.  He noted the necessity put upon university presses to make a profit, and the balancing act that that entailed on adding cultural value to the university, which was crucial, in his view.  The ANU was influential in achieving that balance at Macquarie.  There is an emphasis on open access publishing (OAP).  Authors and distributors are not necessarily happy with this (why would academic authors not be happy with this?), and is partnering with Google to make this initiative more achievable.

Susan Murray-Smith, Manager & Publisher Sydney U Press next – From Efficient to Effective.  Traditional scholarly press closed down in 1988, opened in 2005 as innovative, with new technologies, experimenting the in the networked scholarly environment.  Over 200 books published in over 20 different disciplines.  There was a review of SUP in 2012.  Objectives and strategies weren’t clear, nor alignment with U strategy.  So SUP re-established formal governance processes, with Advisory Boards, etc.  It now seeks to be more ambitious, internationally.  Quality needs to be evident in content, products, and reputation, eg brand awareness for SUP, authors and titles; and active in industry groups, co-publishing and sharing.  Moved to a cloud-based work flow system.  Very interesting example of innovation here – not sufficiently given attention by other university presses in this field, I suspect.  She gave the example of the upsides to this, in terms of more nuanced indices in books.  OAP is an output choice that comes after the quality selection and development processes.  The business model and funding are still experimental and subject to change — they’re still watching and experimenting.  Data underpins the transition from efficient to effective.  Their data includes book sales, customer data, attendance at events, OA downloads, POD schedules.  What data do they need?  A title management system; new website with better integration of social media and trackers; and book activity worksheet.  Ah, at last, mention of the social media phrase…  Good presentation: frank, very informative on SUP.

Mal Booth, U Librarian, UTS next. Are we becoming Blockbuster in a Netflix world, he asked?  Good question.  OA is essential.  Quoted David Weinberger: ‘Publishing is different now.  Maybe think less about containers and more about facilitating interaction and debates.’  Exactly so.  He cited Serial Podcasts as an example to follow.  Why are doing digital publishing like print?  unfinished/ shorter/ freemium/ non-text content?  What about offering APIs (or similar) to anyone, as per Brooklyn Museum?  Passive = marketing, spoon feeding and pushing (not pulling).  He drew examples of mixed media from concerts, eg mixing Vivaldi with Tawadros Bros.  Finally: UTS will continue to experiment and be happy to fail.  Excellent presentation.  Slides on his blog at this permalink.  Good jokes too.

John Emerson, Director, U of Adelaide Press.   Can’t hear this speaker too well.  I think he gave information about downloads.

Finally, Lorena Kanellopoulos, Manager, ANU Press. She gave a brief history of the press.  Old press closed down 1987, established e-press in 2003, officially launched in 2004 with university funding, now core business of the university.  Changed back to ANU Press in 2014, and backlist of over 500 titles. She went through the three imprints – ANU Press, E-view, E-text.  She described the status of ANU Press in the scholarly community, and also the process of the workflow — all this information is on the ANU Press  site.  Over 800,000 downloads for 2014 and 900,000 for 2013.  Stats show something of a decrease recently for POD books, e-books still generally increasing.

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