Charleston 2012: The Twenty-First Century University Press: Assessing the Past, Envisioning the Future

Lecture by uniinnsbruck
“Lecture” by uniinnsbruck

Speaker: Doug Armato, the ghost of university presses past, University of Minnesota Press

The first book published at a university was in 1836 at Harvard. The AAUP began in 1928 when UP directors met in NYC to talk about marketing and sales for their books. Arguably, UP have been in some form of crisis since the 1970s, between the serials crisis and the current ebook crisis.

Libraries now account for only 20-25% of UP sales, with more than half of the sales coming from retail sources. UP worry about the library budget ecology and university funding as a whole.

“Books possessed of such little popular appeal but at the same time such real importance” from a 1937 publication called Some Presses You will Be Glad to Know About. Armato says, “A monograph is a scholarly book that fails to sell.”

Libraries complain that their students don’t read monographs. University Presses complain that libraries don’t buy monographs. And some may wonder why authors write them in the first place. UP rely on libraries to buy the books they publish for mission, not to recover the cost of production by being popular enough to be sold in the retail market.

Armato sees the lack of library concern over the University of Missouri Press potential closure and the UP role in the Georgia State case as bellwethers of the devolving relationship between the two, and we should be concerned.

But, there is hope. The evolving relationships with Project Muse and JSTOR to incorporate UP monographs is a sign of new life. UP have evolved, but they need to evolve much faster. UP press publications need better technology that incorporates the manual hyperlinks of footnotes and references into a highly linked database. A policy for copyright that favors authors over publishers is necessary.

Speaker: Alison Mudditt, ghost of university presses present, University of California Press

[Zoned out when it became clear this would be another dense essay lecture with very little interesting/innovative content, rather than what I’d consider to be a keynote. Maybe it’s an age thing? I just don’t have the attention span for a lecture anymore, and I certainly don’t expect one at a library conference. As William Gunn from Mendeley tweeted, “To hear people read speeches and not ask questions, that’s why we’re all in the same room.”]

NASIG 2010: It’s Time to Join Forces: New Approaches and Models that Support Sustainable Scholarship

Presenters: David Fritsch, JSTOR and Rachel Lee, University of California Press

JSTOR has started working with several university press and other small scholarly publishers to develop sustainable options.

UC Press is one of the largest university press in the US (36 journals in the humanities, biological & social sciences), publishing both UC titles and society titles. Their prices range from $97-422 for annual subscriptions, and they are SHERPA Green. One of the challenges they face on their own platform is keeping up with libraries expectations.

ITHAKA is a merger of JSTOR, ITHAKA, Portico, and Alkula, so JSTOR is now a service rather than a separate company. Most everyone here knows what the JSTOR product/service is, and that hasn’t changed much with the merger.

Scholar’s use of information is moving online, and if it’s not online, they’ll use a different resource, even if it’s not as good. And, if things aren’t discoverable by Google, they are often overlooked. More complex content is emerging, including multimedia and user-generated content. Mergers and acquisitions in publishing are consolidating content under a few umbrellas, and this threatens smaller publishers and university presses that can’t keep up with the costs on a smaller scale.

The serials crisis has impacted smaller presses more than larger ones. Despite good relationships with societies, it is difficult to retain popular society publications when larger publishers can offer them more. It’s also harder to offer the deep discounts expected by libraries in consortial arrangements. University presses and small publishers are in danger of becoming the publisher of last resort.

UC Press and JSTOR have had a long relationship, with JSTOR providing long-term archiving that UC Press could not have afforded to maintain on their own. Not all of the titles are included (only 22), but they are the most popular. They’ve also participated in Portico. JSTOR is also partnering with 18 other publishers that are mission-driven rather than profit-driven, with experience at balancing the needs of academia and publishing.

By partnering with JSTOR for their new content, UC Press will be able to take advantage of the expanded digital platform, sales teams, customer service, and seamless access to both archive and current content. There are some risks, including the potential loss of identity, autonomy, and direct communication with libraries. And then there is the bureaucracy of working within a larger company.

The Current Scholarship Program seeks to provide a solution to the problems outlined above that university presses and small scholarly publishers are facing. The shared technology platform, Portico preservation, sustainable business model, and administrative services potentially free up these small publishers to focus on generating high-quality content and furthering their scholarly communication missions.

Libraries will be able to purchase current subscriptions either through their agents or JSTOR (who will not be charging a service fee). However, archive content will be purchased directly from JSTOR. JSTOR will handle all of the licensing, and current JSTOR subscribers will simply have a rider adding title to their existing licenses. For libraries that purchase JSTOR collections through consortia arrangements, it will be possible to add title by title subscriptions without going through the consortia if a consortia agreement doesn’t make sense for purchase decisions. They will be offering both single-title purchases and collections, with the latter being more useful for large libraries, consortia, and those who want current content for titles in their JSTOR collections.

They still don’t know what they will do about post-cancellation access. Big red flag here for potential early adopters, but hopefully this will be sorted out before the program really kicks in.

Benefits for libraries: reasonable pricing, more efficient discovery, single license, and meaningful COUNTER-compliant statistics for the full run of a title. Renewal subscriptions will maintain access to what they have already, and new subscriptions will come with access to the first online year provided by the publisher, which may not be volume one, but certainly as comprehensive as what most publishers offer now.

UC Press plans to start transitioning in January 2011. New orders, claims, etc. will be handled by JSTOR (including print subscriptions), but UC Press will be setting their own prices. Their platform, Caliber, will remain open until June 30, 2011, but after that content will be only on the JSTOR platform. UC Press expects to move to online-only in the next few years, particularly as the number of print subscriptions are dwindling to the point where it is cost-prohibitive to produce the print issues.

There is some interest from the publishers to add monographic content as well, but JSTOR isn’t ready to do that yet. They will need to develop some significant infrastructure in order to handle the order processing of monographs.

Some in the audience are concerned that the cost of developing platform enhancements and other tools, mostly that these costs will be passed on in subscription prices. They will be, to a certain extent, only in that the publishers will be contributing to the developments and they set the prices, but because it is a shared system, the costs will be spread out and likely impact libraries no more than they have already.

One big challenge all will face is unlearning the mindset that JSTOR is only archive content and not current content.