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.

Mr. Market is a Brilliant Editor

Of the many ways to measure the quality of a publication, one that is often overlooked are the workings of the marketplace itself. Purchases for published material is made in large part on the basis of the quality of that material, making the marketplace something of an editor of genius. This mechanism incorporates all other metrics, from impact factor to altmetrics. Unfortunately, the marketplace is not free to exercise its judgment when many participants seek dominant and even monopolistic control.

Notes on Publishing in an Emerging Economy

Well-intended government policy in an Eastern European nation is having unexpected results on school publishing, some of which are the precise opposite of what policymakers had hoped for. The problem is that those who draft policy have little imagination about how new programs will be taken up–and altered–in the marketplace.

Return of the Big Brands: How Legacy Publishers Will Coopt Open Access

Open access publishing has gone through a number of stages. Though different people will classify these stages in diverse ways, one way to view this is to say that since the initial period of advocacy for open access, commercial interests have entered this market and are now prepared to augment their positions by leveraging their elite brands, using them, as it were, to draw manuscripts for a family of cascading products.

Libraries and Consortia in the Context of a Publisher’s Strategy

Professional societies are facing growing resistance to place their publications in libraries. This results in these societies seeking arrangements with the largest commercial publishers, whose sway with libraries and especially library consortia is significant. Libraries have demonstrated a clear preference to work with the larger publishers over the smaller ones. This leads to increasing concentration and market power in the academic publishing industry.