Revisiting: Peak Subscription

Revisiting Michael Clarke’s 2014 post on the two drivers of growth in STM and scholarly publishing: site licensing and global expansion. As successful as these activities have been, however, we appear to be nearing, if not a peak, at least a plateau. Institutional library budgets have not kept pace with the growth in global research output. At the same time, institutional market penetration is nearing saturation for many publishers.

So the question is, where is the growth going to come from?

Neither Fish Nor Fowl: Journal Publishing and the University Press

University presses are not well positioned to thrive in journal publishing because they have not adopted any of the (relatively few and common) business strategies that are necessary, given market dynamics, for success. I do not put forth this thesis lightly. I have great affection and admiration for university presses, their value — craftsmanship, attention to detail, “getting it right”— and their mission. This is not admiration from afar: I served, in the formative years of my career, at the University of Chicago Press (Chicago), where I learned the tools of the trade and many of the practices and protocols of scholarly publishing still in use today. But after nearly two decades of observing university presses, from within and without, this thesis seems to be inescapable.

The Society Publisher at the STM Conference

A special day was set aside at the recent International STM Association conference in Washington to discuss society publishing. One panel included the head of three society publishing operations, all of which are different and all of them successful. The panelists shared their strategies with the audience. The presentations are linked to from within the post.

Postscript on Sci-Hub: The University Press Edition

Not only is Sci-Hub pirating STM articles; it also has built a large collection of unauthorized university press monographs. This undermines the argument that Sci-Hub is an activist site fighting against corporate greed, as the university press community typically operates at a deficit. But university presses have many other challenges, and the threat posed by Sci-Hub is not the largest among them.

The Network Model of Publishing

One of the unanticipated consequences of the introduction of digital media to scholarly publishing is that publishing properties increasingly are organized into networks, with one property pointing to another for the benefit of all. This essay describes the network publishing model and comments on some of a network’s characteristics and economic opportunities.

The Terrible Burden of a Prestigious Brand

While all publishers like to have a strong brand, some brands are so prestigious that they actually serve to paralyze the managements responsible for them, making it impossible to introduce innovations and to develop the business. Vast bureaucracies arrive whose purpose is not to develop the business but to protect the vaunted brand. This is a management problem, not a marketing one, but it can stymie a publisher from pursuing a progressive agenda.