As I mentioned in an earlier blog post, we are continuing to expand and analyze the data for the Ithaka S + R Library Acquisition Patterns project. We have already established one important item, namely, Amazon has become a significant supplier of print books to academic libraries. Just how significant remains to be seen, but it is already clear that Amazon, the consummate consumer marketer, is now making headway in institutional markets. This raises the question as to whether these markets can be viewed as distinct any more, or whether the line that separates them is becoming porous.

mountain lion

Indulge me, please, in an anecdote. Our kids grew up in coastal California, about 50 yards from a nature preserve where there was an occasional spotting of mountain lions. At the top of our street there was a sign at the entrance to the park, which warned people about the mountain lions and provided safety tips (“Raise your hands over your heads,” etc.) My young son saw the sign and asked me, “Daddy, the mountain lion won’t come on this side of the sign, right?”

Like a mountain lion, Jeff Bezos does not read signs telling him where he can and cannot go. He is supposed to be in the business of selling books and a multitude of other things directly to consumers. Institutional markets are supposed to be served by companies that focus on libraries as customers. After all, libraries require special handling, do they not? They require special materials to accompany book purchases and have long-standing relationships with specialized vendors. But then Amazon comes along with an entirely new value proposition, focusing on speed of delivery, pricing, and customer service, and suddenly those venerable vendor relationships don’t seem like much. The skills of the consumer marketer become increasingly relevant to institutional customers.

Oddly, when most people think about this subject, they assume that things will move in the opposite direction — that is, they believe that institutional materials will be of great value in consumer markets. This is a truly nutty idea, but like the myth that vaccines cause autism, you cannot shake this idea out of the head of someone who believes it. I often wonder if the people who talk about new paradigms for scholarly publishing have actually ever looked at a scholarly publication. I just pulled print copies of Transactions of the ASABE (American Society of Agricultural and Biological Engineers) and The New England Journal of Medicine off my shelf. How many years of study would it take for me to get even a superficial understanding of any of the articles in these volumes? (Example: “Runoff Water Quality Characteristics following Swine Slurry Application under Broadcast and Injected Conditions.”) Scholarly materials are written for other scholars, and no dream of a better world can instantly train a mass consumer market to a level sufficient to comprehend what scholars are writing about. Besides, there is always the alternative to pass the time with Netflix and chill.

Moving in the other direction, however — from consumer to institutional markets — can be possible because systems optimized for consumer markets have to jump over a much higher bar in all aspects except editorial. Ease of use, ease of purchase: these things count for something, and these are precisely the properties Amazon brings to the party.

What this suggests to me is that institutional marketers of books, companies like ProQuest and EBSCO, may have to develop services that go head to head with Amazon or risk losing market share to the world’s richest man. The evidence is already in that libraries want to purchase some (some, not all) of their print books one at a time rather than through approval plans; and many libraries are not content simply to purchase digital aggregations. Amazon has found a willing set of customers in libraries.

This is yet another reason to develop an academic bookstore — perhaps a joint venture from EBSCO and ProQuest? — something that Leann Wilson and Marshall Poe wrote about in the Kitchen recently; and I have taken multiple stabs at this idea myself (see here, for example), but have not been able to raise any interest in the university press community, which continues to puzzle me.

What’s at issue here is whether the academy is a world apart or lives in the very same world as other organizations. If the latter is the case, not being prepared to compete with organizations that are not academic in nature could leave academic ecosystems vulnerable to new players. Shouldn’t we at least raise our hands over our heads?

Joseph Esposito

Joseph Esposito

Joe Esposito is a management consultant for the publishing and digital services industries. Joe focuses on organizational strategy and new business development. He is active in both the for-profit and not-for-profit areas.

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Discussion

36 Thoughts on "Rival Ecosystems: The Increasingly Porous Boundary between Institutional and Consumer Markets"

Needless to say, I think what Joe says about an unified/universal academic bookstore is right. I like his formulation: either the academic book market is distinctive or it isn’t. If it isn’t–or can be made to behave in un-distinctive types ways–then Amazon will triumph, and that’s probably as it should be because it provides great services. But, as an academic (producer and consumer of scholarly com) and as a publisher (of the New Books Network), I think it is distinctive, or at least distinctive enough. I want an alternative to Amazon, and I think many of the NBN’s 250,000 subscribers do too. Thanks to Joe for writing this.

There is an increasing amount of material that flows between academia and the lay public. This is not just books but articles in trade publications such as business and industry controlled circulation magazines. In fact some of the articles are deliberately submitted to these magazines rather than to traditional academic publications. Thus, the issue is not just “books” but how knowledge is distributed and circulated. The squirrel, like the mountain lion, searching for food does not acknowledge the “no trespassing” sign at political boundaries.

Many public libraries give patrons access to the same search engines that are available in academic libraries; Amazon lists many “scholarly”, often highly technical, materials in its electronic search engines. Increasingly, there are intelligent search engines which extract materials from both open materials and often from behind pay walls.

Amazon is agnostic with regards to what a publisher chooses to print and list on its site. Amazon allows publishers to set pricing.

It’s not clear where the concern lies with Amazon’s ability to bring its marketing exposure to resource limited scholarly publishers. It’s true there are problems with the electronic platforms including Google, Facebook, Apple, and the rising Chinese platforms but that is a larger issue.

For many years I have been suggesting, only half in jest, that my library would load bib records for everything Amazon sold into our catalog and the location code would say “remote storage facility allow 48 hours for delivery.” There would of course be no remote storage facility, only the Amazon warehouse on the outscirts of our city. The reality is that this one-time half jest is now an easy reality. Amazon makes a print PDA possible and more and more libraries will move to using in this way.

I think this is a great idea, and I hope you work to make it happen.

Joe forgets that university presses were first out of the gate in launching an online academic bookstore, when Amazon was still just a gleam in Bezos’s eye. In fact, its three co-creators were awarded the AAUP’s Constituency Award for this initiative. So let’s give credit where credit is due and not obliterate the past.

Also, one needs to acknowledge that Amazon has used some ruthless tactics in getting its way in the academic book market. When it bought BookSurge (now called CreateSpace) as a POD vendor, it threatened to de-list the books published by some university presses (including the one I headed at Penn State) if we did not use that as our exclusive POD vendor. Never underestimate Amazon’s willingness to throw its 800-lb. gorilla weight around to get its way in the marketplace.

Hi Sandy,
You are right. Amazon is the 800 pound gorilla. But it took Hatchette Book Group a number of rounds to finally wrestle an agreement with Amazon with some interesting outcomes not too beneficial to the reading public.

It might be interesting to speculate. What if Amazon became interested in other publications, perhaps under its own imprint with post publication reviews and other features. It follows from the previous thread on the entrance of the “for profits” under OA. The suggestion of a central submission platform was suggested with a build from there. Think Springer/Nature, Elsevier and Amazon.
What Then?

Two comments here. First, I did not forget about the earlier attempt to create an academic bookstore online. I simply don’t think it is relevant, since it did not succeed. Second, the point about Amazon’s rapacity should surely be that academic publishers have to learn to compete with such practices, not that publishers should cry about the injustices of the universe. Let’s solve problems.

Depends on what you mean by “success,” Joe. It was successful within the terms envisioned for it. Otherwise, why would its creators have received the AAUP’s highest honor? Such honors are not bestowed on failures. Obviously, when Amazon came along and targeted a much wider market, AAUP’s more limited effort could not compete on equal footing. As for competing with the likes of Amazon, of course you know that university presses do not have access to venture capital the way Amazon did. Moreover, I’d like to think that they are run on more principled and morally defensible grounds than a profit-oriented business like Amazon. Are you suggesting that academic publishers should be just as rapacious and unethical as Amazon? Or perhaps you believe that ethics has no role to play in the marketplace?

You are being a troll, Sandy. My view: it is indeed a good question why that initial project received a prize from the AAUP when no ongoing service came out of it. As for the ethics of publishing, your insinuations are uncalled for. My point is simply that if not-for-profit organizations wish to compete, they have to be aware of the actual practices in the marketplace, or they will continue to launch (and honor) services that go nowhere. Success is measured by outcomes.

The reason that AAUP awarded the prize is that the idea was conceptually sound and innovative, Joe? And it did work within the limits that the AAUP itself had envisaged for it. Why judge it by the standard of either it had to be Amazon or it wasn’t worth doing? As for your suggestion that “success is measured by outcomes,” that sounds to me awfully like saying “the ends justify the means,” which is a Machiavellian point of view, surely. Some of us believe that success is also measured by how ethically you conduct yourselves. On your terms, Donald Trump should be considered a “success” if everything he does turns out to benefit some segment of the US population, say the top 1%. I prefer a different way of measuring success. And calling me a “troll,” Joe? You usually don’t stoop to ad hominem arguments, so I’ll let that one pass.

Could the hypothetical SBU still sell to libraries? Why can’t we load print book records into library discovery service via knowledge base collections? The records could show the status of the book as “in process” or some such and then library patrons could trigger a purchase when the patron places a hold on the title. It could work like DDA for print titles, but only as long as we were working with a vendor such as Amazon whose fulfillment services are much better than that of the traditional library vendor.

I’m not a publisher or a librarian, but (the way I imagine it) I don’t see why the SBU couldn’t sell to libraries. One of the selling points of the SBU from the point of view of scholarly publishers is that it would enable them to sell books DTC and therefore at lower prices; the libraries (and their patrons) would be another “C.” Library requests could trigger DDA. Since there would probably be a savings program for bulk purchasers, libraries would pay less than individual customers. The important thing is that all the books any scholar/library would want would be in the SBU at an attractive price. The offerings (part of a SBU subscription) could very well include discounted access to EBSCO, ProQuest and the like for individuals (scholars) without access to a library.

You could design a bookstore to do anything you wanted it to–that’s not the problem. The problem is developing a cogent business plan. Selling to libraries would be part of that plan, but not necessarily at launch. In introducing any new product or service, the key is to include only the features that are absolutely necessary (the so-called MVP for Minimum Viable Product) at the start. Then a roadmap is built (based on user data) for enhancements along the way.

Yes, I agree completely. Arguably, one piece of the SBU puzzle that has always been missing is now present: the retail audience for scholarly books has, to a considerable degree, been aggregated online by the NBN. We have around 250,000 subscribers, all of whom have opted in to a service that feeds them information about scholarly books. We “touch” them regularly, as is evidenced by the fact that we serve (they download) about a million episodes a month. That number is rising; yesterday we served 56,894 episodes. The NBN audience, I would guess, represents a good portion of the entire universe of people who buy scholarly books. An SBU could reach them (sell to them) directly via the NBN. We want to provide this serve because it would be good for our listeners. Many of them want to buy scholarly books (and other stuff) from someone other than Amazon. Of course they want a good deal too, but I think the scholarly presses (selling DTC) could provide that. We’re just waiting to help.

Having read the original post and all of the comments I have not seen an articulation of the special needs of the institutional buyer that is not being met by Amazon. Could someone please explain what those needs are that are not being met?

Special needs not being met: PO invoicing (the 3rd party system they have now is a joke), auto-integration with ILS (GOBI-III integration where you order in one and it makes an order automatically in the other), consolidated shipping (Amazon insists on a million boxes, yes, even when they are from the same shipping center, which puts the extra labor on our end), ebook selling (Amazon doesn’t handle the platforms academic libraries use), etc.

‘Scholarly materials are written for other scholars, and no dream of a better world can instantly train a mass consumer market to a level sufficient to comprehend what scholars are writing about.’ – seems fairly self-evident. Joe, what are your thoughts then on arguments for Open Access regarding public access to knowledge?

I think the concepts are largely compatible. It is true that scholarly papers are written at a high level, meant to be a conversation among experts with significant levels of background knowledge. The majority of the non-researcher public does not have the training nor the knowledge base to read and understand such papers. But the key word there is “majority”. There are individuals for whom the information is understandable and valuable. So while Joe is right that there may be no mass consumer market for these materials, that doesn’t prevent the value of making them more widely available to the (albeit small) segment of the market for whom they are useful.

In response to your comments, I do agree, certain research materials are for scholarly exchange. But the majority of academic articles are not sufficiently erudite, exotic, narrow or arcane that they can’t be accessed effectively by a much broader audience.

To that point, I would take issue with David’s comment “(albeit small) segment of the market”

I await sufficient evidence supporting either of these comments or the converse across academic publications.

Since a great many STEM journal articles employ higher mathematics, and since only a very tiny fraction of the American public can grasp mathematics at a level much above basic algebra, I’d wager that the vast majority of STEM articles are beyond the understanding of a broad public. And even much of social science, as in economics, employs higher-order math as well, As for the humanities, I’d guess that most ordinary readers could not make head nor tails of what English professors write under the banner of postmodernism. It used a vocabulary impenetrable to most. I say all this having worked in scholarly publishing for over 50 years.

Yes, but is there a market.

As you rightly point out, there are arcane and narrow-focused materials that remain obscure even to academics, particularly journal articles. But this thread focuses on books. One takes great delight in the pillorying of these, in the journals, in the “Sokal Affair” and the “science wars”, for the post modern publications and a more erudite condemnation of econometrics in both journals and books, as eloquently represented by Taleb, particularly in his volume, The Black Swan, with his extensive, scholarly and inter/pan disciplinary references.

In the STEM area, one can point to the plethora of materials for the general and lay public written by authors not considered to be fully vetted as academics and which access and often point to the original academic materials.

But none of this addresses the issue of the size of the market for academic books as opposed to the more narrow focused articles, which are often obscure even to colleagues in the adjacent office or even lab bench.

One must remember that, for books, a “small” segment of the lay public, as opposed to the retail consumer, globally, is potentially significantly larger than the scholarly community. As I said, I await information that definitively shows that, with careful marketing, that there is no, or a minimal, market for this material both in articles and books, outside of the narrowly focused academic community, anecdotal thoughts not withstanding.

I guess I would agree, Tom, that there is probably a somewhat wider potential market for many scholarly books than academic publishers have been reaching, but the question then becomes, how much more in marketing expense would it cost to reach that marginal market. Here the idea of diminishing returns on investment comes into play. If the publisher has to spend $5,000 more to reach 50 more people who will purchase the book at $40, then this doesn;t make economic sense. There is no such concern about journals because articles are not marketed individually and they can be as obscure as they want without interfering with the number of subscriptions a journal has. I can tell you, from my 50+ years of experience working for university presses that the sales for the average monograph dropped from close to 3,000 in the 1960s to less than 300 today. A large part of that decline had to do with the allocation of library resources away from books toward sustaining ever higher priced journals. But I wouldn;t be surprised if some of that decrease came in lower sales to individuals also, as list prices began to soar and the nonacademic reader faced a wealth of alternative reading options, online and off. I have no data to support that hunch, however.

Sandy asks a good question: “I guess I would agree, Tom, that there is probably a somewhat wider potential market for many scholarly books than academic publishers have been reaching, but the question then becomes, how much more in marketing expense would it cost to reach that marginal market.” The answer, I think, is a lot less than it would have been before the NBN. As I’ve said, we would be very pleased to tell our audience–numbering in the hundreds of thousands and particularly interested in academic books–to buy books from UPs and scholarly presses if we had someplace to send them where they could get all the books they wanted at reasonable prices. That “someplace” is the DTC online academic bookstore we’ve been discussing for a very long time. We are ready to partner with any press, consortium of presses, foundation or media company that is willing to begin setting up this online academic bookstore. I think we need to run some tests, and I don’t think those tests would be terribly expensive. My email is marshallpoe@gmail.com. Let’s get to work.

It would be interesting to know:
a) How many on this list are affiliated with UP’s and what their thoughts are
b) How many non-academic libraries purchase volumes from UP’s and other specialty publishers and whether these can be deconstructed
c) understanding that the market has dropped from 3000 to 300 within the academic community, what would happen if the prices for these volumes were adjusted within the range of other professional publications

As Marshal notes, the cost to ascertain these and related questions, probably with a combination of actual test marketing would not be outside of the realm of several UP’s or a granting agency.

David – I agree it’s conceivable that an indeterminate (but probably small) segment of the public (which public?) might find value in being able to read open access publications and be individually empowered by the information available. How that empowerment actually manifests though is pretty hazy. Another issue here is the conflation of two arguments around public access to knowledge – some present it as a normative proposition (i.e. publicly funded research is a public good) whilst others see it as a matter of utility. This isn’t to say I don’t agree with public access to research, I just think the arguments aren’t particularly well rehearsed.

Tom – I challenge you to provide a practical explanation of what ‘accessed effectively’ actually means for the individual who does not have specialised training in that field. Does it mean understood, able to be communicated, able to build upon, used to improve personal living standards?

Regarding: ‘I await sufficient evidence supporting either of these comments or the converse across academic publications.’ What you’ve asked for is a meta-analysis of the complexity of all academic publications across all disciplines in relation to the education (or intelligence?) levels of all individuals in the world. I’m not sure I’ve got that at my fingertips.

While I agree with you that the arguments around this are poorly formed (my taxes pay for upkeep on the NYC subway, yet I still must pay for access to it), the idea is that governments fund research to drive economic development. One good example would be a small company looking to develop a technology being able to access the latest relevant research to help improve their product. This presumably would drive employment and tax revenue, both positive results for society.

I don’t pretend to have anything like a convincing, statistically-rigorous argument regarding the potential demand for scholarly materials, but I do have some evidence regarding the potential demand for scholarly books, particularly monographs published by UPs and other scholarly presses. That evidence is simply this: thousands and thousands of people listen to audio interviews with the authors of narrow (even esoteric) academic books on the New Books Network every day. Yesterday, for example, something on the order of 50,000 of them did. Now what percentage of those listeners were academics themselves, I do not know; it would be interesting to find out. But I would guess that many of them are not academics. These books are, well, often really interesting. They contain lots of fascinating stuff, stuff any curious person might be curious about. They also have a certain amount of authority. They are not written by blowhards, bloviators, hacks or charlatans. They are usually written by credentialed professionals who graduated from universities you’ve heard of. Readers like that. And they are usually not published by “ordinary” (though sometimes very good) presses. They are published by prestigious, picky presses bearing the names (and crests), again, of universities you’ve heard of. Readers like that, too. These books have “cred.” So–and let me say again that this is all what you might call “informed speculation”–there is actually a lot of unmet demand for scholarly books among the lay public. The challenge for the UPs/scholarly publishers–and, it seems to me, anyone interested in a more educated citizenry–is to find a way to meet this unmet demand, to get the books into the hands of readers. More simply, the question is this: how do you get UP/scholarly books to the people who want them but currently aren’t getting them?

I guess the question is whether the desire to listen to an academic talk superficially about their research translates into a desire to read an often complicated and lengthy text on the subject. NPR has tons of listeners and they interview academics all the time as well, but does that demand really exist? If a researcher wants to serve this market, are they better off writing a “trade” level book about their work (think “Freakonomics” or “Team of Rivals”)?

Very interesting Marshall, you comment is appreciated. I think the key here is that your data-set (as it were) involves audio interviews. I personally think a public engaged with scholarly research is a good thing, but perhaps research articles and monographs themselves are not the best medium for communicating this research… do you have an idea of how many of those listens are converted into sales of books?

I can’t offer you definitive evidence (always hard to prove a negative) but a couple of data points/anecdotal evidence:

1) I have a PhD in Genetics and Development and have worked with a wide variety of biomedical journals and societies. I can read and understand most articles within a narrow range of biomedical research. The farther I range from my knowledge base, the less penetrable the literature. Even with decades of experience reading the literature, the vast majority is beyond my comprehension.

2) DeepDyve, for years, has suggested that there is an enormous market out there among the broad, general public for research papers. To date, that doesn’t seem to have materialized, at least from the access numbers I’ve seen from DeepDyve.

3) The sales numbers for academic monographs have, with a few notable exceptions, have always been anemic, and continue to decline.

I’ll ask you the converse though — where’s your “sufficient evidence” that this large market segment (and demand) exists?

David and Richard, I think you are both asking a variation on the same question: do “listens” on something like the NBN translate into deeper engagement, and possibly even book buying/reading. I have some data on that, and the answer is a qualified “Yes.” The NBN is a (reluctant) member of the Amazon Affiliate Program; Amazon tells us who, among our site visitors, clicks through and exactly what they buy. Not surprisingly, they buy books, often the ones we cover. These site visitors do not buy many of them–5 to 10 a day. But–and this is important– these numbers only include purchases made by site visitors tracked by Amazon. The NBN only gets about 3,000 site visits a day. That’s not really surprising because the NBN is a podcast! The universe of NBN *listeners* is much, much larger, numbering in the hundreds of thousands. We don’t know how many NBN listeners buy books because that data is not tracked anywhere. I suspect that the number of books purchased by NBN listeners is several multiples of the number of books purchased by NBN site visitors via the NBN website-to-Amazon channel. I think they would buy a lot more books if the books were less expensive than they are.

I’d also think that comparing NPR to the NBN is “apples and oranges” in an important way: NPR broadcasts while the NBN narrowcasts. NPR is sort of a “general interest magazine” in audio. The NBN is caters to very narrow interests. This being so, the chances that any given NPR listener will buy a book after listening to an interview with an academic author talking about X are very low; the chances that an NBN listener–a listener who is very, very interested in X in particular–will buy the book are much higher.

I think part of the answer lies in UP catalogs which often have segments for the lay public while others do have separate catalogs of interest to wider audiences. Those sales statistics should be available.

Another issue is cost, as noted in this thread. Academic libraries have throttled their book purchases to shift resources to journals. It is that pricing which also reduces individual purchases or availability of these thru academic libraries or thru networks of inter library loans or via e-publications. Interestingly, often e-volumes are more expensive than print. Thus, pricing for a changing market is not fully considered for UP publications (print or virtual).

It seems that the focus of SK cooks is on journals, particularly STEM whereas the oeuvre of UP’s is often broader wrt the subjects, formats and audiences- problematic for this discussion?

I will comment here on the question of whether there is a “larger” market for scholarly books than is currently being accessed–and, yes, that larger was in quotation marks. I offer these thoughts as an editor for a number of years with a private scholarly publisher that engaged in a variety of pricing schemes, from the preciously high pricing of traditional scholarly monographs to the calculated gamble of assigning much more reasonable hardcover (or even softcover) prices to works that might seem more marketable according to their covers (even though in execution they remained highly academic in character because of the technicality of the writing or the narrow nature of the topic).

In brief, I found this thesis easy to test. Because I often let my authors know ahead of time the anticipated pricing of their books, the occasional author would plead that I drop the price from, say, a heady $75 list in hardcover to a more reasonable $35. The author not only argued that unit sales would outweigh the exchange in price difference, but even offered to throw some skin in the game and work extra hard to promote the work’s sale.

My colleagues, all familiar with this form of special pleading, repeatedly warned me that this promise of greater sales volume in exchange for that lower price was a chimera. An academic work priced down, even with a seemingly sexy topic (insert invented title here: “Hey Jude: Feminist Readings of The Beatles”), will still not sell enough to justify the exchange. In terms of basic math, a $75 title at $35 would need to triple its unit sales to cover off fully on the P&L–and that’s just on the short discount of 25% off the cover price. In the trade, where the prices are even lower and discounts higher, you’d have to hit at least four figures in units.

So who was right? Well, having worked at a publisher that generated near a thousand titles a year–with ample sales data from years before to survey past performances of similar scenarios–my colleagues were largely on target. That $35 title performed little better than it would have at $75. So instead of 300 units in the first two years, we landed 450 units: hardly a victory. And, mind you, I tested this scenario more than once with largely the same results.

So what did I learn…

1) Don’t overestimate scholarly interest against what so many academic editors already know from experience. Unit sales may have come down, but the number of books and depth of specialization has grown. A long tail is the natural consequences of expanded, deeper, but nonetheless narrower scholarship. Higher pricing for the scholarly monograph reflects that reality.
2) Don’t underestimate the search capabilities of scholars. A scholar interested in a specific topic and willing and capable of spending the necessary capital can and will find the books she needs. The implied idea that scholars are missing out on works they would otherwise know about and purchase with better marketing or pricing is, in my view, highly improbable. Many scholarly monographs price to market–mostly institutional but even individual–in order to recoup costs for a satisfactory P&L result.
3) Notable aside: the books I published were all sold via Amazon–and their presence on Amazon did not move the needle any further. It’s an added point of distribution, yes, but ease of purchase–which is primarily what Amazon delivers–does not automatically translate into better sales, which leads, in turn, to the related point…
4) Don’t overestimate public interest in scholarly writing. I’m sorry, but this is what the availability of that test title for a reasonable price on Amazon with a marginal change in sales performance ultimately proved. Non-scholarly consumers interested in scholarly books do exist, but unlike working scholars, the impetus to spend money on a scholarly work with the necessary additional cognitive labor of ingesting and mastering that content makes each dollar–even at a more reasonable price–that much harder to spend.

P.S.–the test title above also appeared as a podcast interview on NBN. That’s not to knock NBN’s incredible work. The proposal of NBN as a marketing panacea does not automatically translate into its being a sales panacea.

This is eloquently expressed and, in my view, entirely correct. If everybody understood the truth of this one sentence, millions of dollars would be saved: “Don’t overestimate public interest in scholarly writing.”

Very interesting, and I agree with Joe: no needed to overestimate the public’s interest in scholarly writings, including books. I do think, however, that many scholars (not the lay public) would buy scholarly books if they were promoted a bit differently and, perhaps, at lower prices. And they would buy from UPs/Scholarly Presses DTC. Here’s where the NBN comes in, not as a panacea (are there such things?) but as a simple tool to support a scholarly bookstore. In Bennett’s excellent example, the test title appeared on the NBN. That’s good. But a real test of the NBN’s marketing power would for the NBN itself to suggest that listeners (hundreds of thousands of them) buy the test book (and every other book) offered in a scholarly online bookstore. Whether they would actually buy the books through the bookstore, or more books through the bookstore, I don’t know. But that is the test we need to conduct if we want to find out.

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