Starting the New Year off with a talk on open access publishing was sure to be lively, and our speaker did not disappoint. The event was well attended by publishers and students alike, all keen to understand emerging trends.
Rupert Gatti began by introducing himself and his background as an economics academic at Trinity College, Cambridge. Frustrated at the slow speed and content ‘paywall’ of traditional academic publishing, Rupert and a few fellow academics established Open Book Publishers (OBP). This small but dynamic Cambridge publishing house produces academic monographs in the humanities and social sciences, in both (free) digital and (paid-for) print formats. Peer review is central to acceptance for publication. All OBP content is open access, freely available (under Creative Commons licensing) to read and re-use. Properly credited, content can be shared and re-curated to spark new ideas and research directions. And open access goes two ways: feedback, from increased readership and over greatly reduced timespans, helps make learning part of writing.
Rupert argued that 2013 so far has been an open access ‘academic spring’, moving academic publishing away from an existing practice that is no longer economically viable or academically justifiable. Higher education funding agencies – with an agenda of transparency, accountability and value for public money – are increasingly and reasonably insisting on open access to publicly funded research. Rupert bravely dipped our metaphorical toes in the waters of the politics of Higher Education Funding Council for England and the UK Research Councils; even to a non-specialist it was clear there is significant political investment in open access, and it is gathering momentum too.
With a battery of lively and well-researched PowerPoint sides, Rupert referred us to studies showing that most academics (including ‘Nerdy Professor’ et al.) write and publish to promote debate on their subjects – financial reward is low down their list of concerns. Rupert gave the example of fellow OBP director Alessandra Tosi, whose book on nineteenth-century Russian writers took well over a year in editorial and production. Its selling price (£70) put it out of the reach of academics and libraries in Russia, and only 200 copies were sold anyway. Who benefits? Certainly not the author or her subject.
Rupert illustrated his point by mentioning a campaign for an author boycott of Elsevier journals. His slides showed rising profit margins on drastically reduced unit sales at substantially higher-than-inflation prices, plus highest-in-class per-page ‘author processing charges’ (fees charged to authors in lieu of income from subscriptions). Their relation with academia seemed, frankly, unfair, and devalues by association the work of other major existing publishers.
We heard about some OBP case studies, including a crowd-funded ‘Unglue.it’ digital edition of Ruth Finnegan’s previously published Oral Literature in Africa. Rupert – inviting intelligent and searching questions throughout – took us through some of the web metrics to show dwell times on page views as well as hits and country of viewing. We saw some impressive and credible stats, including heavy representation across the continent of Africa. It was clear from Rupert’s body language and facial expressions reacting to these figures that he is passionate about publishing the same way that good publishers – regardless of medium – always have been.
Finally, in a gesture admirably consistent with his principles, Rupert shared the OBP trading figures with us. With a business model where income derives almost entirely from add-on sales of printed editions rather than author subventions, the big publishers of Cambridge and elsewhere are not likely to feel directly challenged – yet. But Rupert’s point is that academia is concerned with the truth of ideas, and those ideas can indeed, with current technologies, become a material and powerful force. For those of us in the room in the publishing business, our speaker offered us a most lively account of new ways of doing old things. Food for rich thought.
Tuesday evening’s talk at The Pitt Building in Cambridge was billed as the premier event of 2012 for CAMPUS (Cambridge Publishing Society). It promised to be provocative, stimulating and entertaining and proved to be just that.
Stephen Bourne is President and former Chief Executive of CUP. After a wide-ranging career in education, accountancy, petrochemicals, newswires, printing and wine, Stephen led Cambridge University Press for 16 years. He now specialises in building bridges between the past and the future and between China and the West.
Stephen in full spate in the splendid Pitt Building. In the background Charles Darwin listens carefully.
Stephen began his most interesting talk by asking those of the audience young enough to remember what life was like 38 years ago. In 1974, few homes boasted a colour TV and most calls were made from telephone boxes. Ten years later, the first (brick-sized) cell phone came on the market, together with a battery pack to recharge it after every 20-minute call. In his first job as a trainee chartered accountant, Stephen was banned from using a calculator – on the basis that they were slow and ‘bad for the brain’.
Having encouraged us to think about life almost 40 years ago and appreciate how far technology has come since then, Stephen then invited us to project 40 years hence.
The first scenario Stephen proposed was that of devices becoming even smaller than the current tablets. The iPad is already considered too big by under-25s and the newly launched iPad Mini was out of stock countrywide within weeks of coming on to the UK market. Stephen predicted that by 2050 functions such as music, car controls, home controls, TV, etc would be contained within a wrist-worn device.
The second, rather unnerving, scenario was that of direct messaging via an in-ear device rather like a cochlear implant. The thought that this could be intercepted by subliminal advertising and even superseded by direct imaging onto the eyelid was a notion too far for most of the audience!
The third, rather more palatable, scenario was the idea that time-poor teenagers with short attention spans might forgo more immersive texts for a series of mini-chapters of books to be read in 20-minute snatches. He cited the example of Bunny, a Japanese blogger who published her keitai (cell-phone novel) in 1000-character instalments over several months, writing each night in her bedroom between homework assignments. Stephen’s one caveat about such publishing, which has its origins in the early Victorian serialisation of novels, is that it must be entertaining and, of course, requires each issue to be bookended by ‘the story so far’ and ‘coming up next’.
In fact, Stephen felt academic publishing could learn something from such micro-publishing. Many academic texts are impenetrable by the average reader and need to be more accessible. Furthermore, he revealed that fragment selling generated more revenue from the sum of its parts than the full-price complete book.
Despite these predictions, Stephen felt confident that the physical book would remain. People like books. But where will they buy them? Stephen predicted that only a few small niche booksellers would survive. More controversially, he asserted that Amazon would not. Most large firms expire after 50–60 years, largely because they are unable to adapt, often as consequence of increased competition or government interference, but sometimes as a result of a single significant PR disaster. Was Stephen thinking of the current furore over tax avoidance by Amazon, among others, in the UK?
Another significant threat was that of piracy. Stephen was clear about the need for publishers to protect copyright, not least as a means of protecting the author’s income. He felt piracy had two main causes – sheer greed in the developed world, and poverty in less developed countries. He didn’t have a solution to piracy for greed, but felt that tackling poverty was a better solution than attacking petty criminals in the developing world.
How to bring an august institution like CUP into the 21st century? Stephen’s view was that changing the mindset of the people employed by the Press was more important than training courses. He felt publishers should meet more students of publishing – perhaps lecturing on courses such as the MA in Publishing at Anglia Ruskin University – and that student interns should be placed in the IT department rather than editorial, so that staff could learn from the early adopters of new technology. At its heart, publishing is still a people business, and therefore to be an effective leader you must bring people with you.
Stephen's final PP slide: a poignant/pregnant metaphor for the nurturing of the future.
Many thanks to Jackie for permission to copy this from her blog.
The ever-creative CAMPUS member Anthony Haynes has started an excellent new web compilation of news affecting our industry locally. Based on a newspaper metaphor, subsections include Leisure, Education, Health, Science and Society. It is available here. It adds critical mass to our Cambridge publishing scene and is free. Well worth supporting!
The 2012/13 publishing masterclass schedule is looking very exciting indeed, with some of the major names in the publishing industry coming to talk about a range of key trends and topics:
Tues 16th October 2012 Indexing – Elske Janssen and Jan Worrall (JW Indexing) 6–8pm, LAB214
Tues 20th November 2012 Publishing and Media Finance – John Hodgson (author of Test Your Financial Awareness) 2–4pm, LAB307
Tues 4th December 2012 The Changing Landscape of Academic Publication – Richard Fisher (CUP) 6–8pm, LAB214
Tues 29th January 2013 Children’s Book Publishing – Anne Clark (Piccadilly Press) 11am–1pm, HEL110
Tues 19th February 2013 Publishing a Book about Publishing – Kelvin Smith (author of The Publishing Business: From p-book to e-book) 6–8pm, LAB216
Tues 19th March 2013 Commissioning in the Digital Age – Andrew Brown (CUP) 2–4pm, LAB216
Tues 23rd April 2013 Publishing at Bloomsbury – Alexandra Pringle (Bloomsbury) 6–8pm, LAB216
Note by DW: some industries (e.g. architecture and medicine) run compulsory Continuing Professional Development schemes. We don't do that in publishing, but these excellent free masterclasses – for the MA in Publishing course but open to all CAMPUS members – help us stay keen and keep our thinking fresh.
After Nigel’s lovely introduction of ‘Jonny’ – Nigel gave him a job at CUP many moons ago – Jonathan started by answering the question: ‘Why is Bloomsbury investing in academic?’ This was followed by a launch into new territory for the assembled masses at a CAMPUS speaker evening: group work! After five minutes of discussing why academic and professional publishing is more profitable than trade, a strong list of reasons was drawn up, including:
• Lower and fewer discounts, and a higher starting price
• Repeat sales and subscription-based models generate more consistent income
• The content is a must-have for the end user, and a must-have outlet for the author
• Author moves between publishers do not have as big an impact as in trade publishing
• Demand is not affected by price, and much less reliant on retail chains
• The ability to see your direct sales and target accordingly
• Academic is intrinsically international, reducing the reliance on particular markets
• The market is much more predictable
• The move to digital has (largely) already happened
Then Jonathan moved away from ‘why’ to ‘how’, giving us an overview of how Bloomsbury Academic has grown.
The main method has been through acquisition: buying smaller companies and collections to expand their portfolio. They have focused mainly on humanities and social sciences (as STM is a very difficult and competitive field that is already dominated by major players) and having strong contracts that allow for production of solid future titles.
The advantages of growth by acquisition are clear: it allows for quick expansion, the economies of scale are far better, and you can go as far as your corporate ambition can take you. Of course, it’s not all plain sailing, and where there is good there is also bad …
So, after a second round of group discussions, Jonathan discussed the (roughly) Seven Deadly Sins of growth by acquisition. The main offenders fall into the categories of estimation, ignorance and retention. The final list consisted of:
• Overestimating synergies
• Underestimating acquisition costs
• Underestimating the problems of integration
• Ignoring the upheaval to the running of existing businesses
• Ignoring the effect on management time
• Ignoring the cultural differences between companies
• Failing to retain and nurture key talent
• Loss of brand identity
To round off the talk, attention moved to digital publishing and the future.
There’s no escaping it, the market is tough and changes have to be made. The move from print to digital has already happened in professional publishing, and academic is certainly catching up. The ultimate goal is to be selling direct to institutions on a subscription or perpetuity model. Digital publishing also allows publishers to reinvent their backlist, despite many making the mistake of creating big platforms where the content is being shoved out aimlessly without regard to ‘historical’ publication models.
[Smart work by the Woodhead publicity machine in getting Jonathan to pose with one of their books …]
One increasing problem going forward is uncertainty in both the US markets and the UK HE market, with fewer university applications altering the traditional consumer landscape. Although there is a rise in digital publishing, it isn’t big enough to compensate for the drop in print-based publishing profits, and this is a challenge that needs to be tackled.
It’s also worth thinking about what Jonathan labelled the Aga factor – not that publishing is being attacked by oven retailers – i.e. the Apple-Google-Amazon triumvirate. These three have disrupted the publishing space significantly, shifting the power from supplier to distributor, creating a very different relationship between publisher and consumer.
The final thinking point concerns Open Access, and whether this model will eventually trickle into the world of books, especially as academics are increasingly being encouraged to find new, non-traditional ways of getting their work published. The end point of this is a simple question, which Jonathan left us to ponder over our wine: which is more important: sales, discoverability, or accessibility?
We are enormously grateful to Jonathan for coming along and giving us all his fascinating and hard-won insights from the cutting edge of UK academic and professional publishing.
September is the start of the new term at ARU – here's some of the new intake on their induction day today. Leah Tether – on the right, suffering a little from my modest photography/Photoshop abilities – kindly asked Emma and me in to talk about the opportunities for making some publishing waves via CAMPUS. An excellent response bodes well for new ideas for the coming year. Welcome to all, and enjoy your course. Many thanks for your enthusiastic response too - we hope to be meeting you shortly.
We had a good AGM in the sunshine in the garden at the Red Bull. In a wide-ranging review of our 2+ years' activities, Emma brought an impressive list of 15 meetings or social events. We've tried to keep to our brief of finding out about different publishing skills, keeping ourselves up to date and having friendly (and useful) social events.
In our short history we've had our share of changes of management: students from the Anglia Ruskin MA in Publishing in the first 6 months, then a gap; then the committee members already in the industry – maybe not plugging in to the energy of the MA in Publishing students as much as we could have. One AGM decision was to get more meshed in with the MA in Publishing programme, so we've already fixed up a presentation to the new September cohort on their induction day.
Then Nell presented the financial report: our healthy bank balance is the result of careful use of funds, rooms kindly made available by ARU and very generous contributions from CUP. After a year financially connecting and disconnecting from Creative Front we now have a straightforward pay-per-meeting financial model that is easy to manage and understand. As a not-for-profit society, all funds generated by our events programme and sponsorship go back into paying for speaker fees, refreshments, special venue hires and marketing support materials that help sustain our growth.
Communications report: during the last two years we've taken our web presence away from the ARU site so all working group members can post and update. Through the CAMPUS website we manage our mailing lists and monitor who is opening and reading our e-newsletters (including this one!). We've developed a brand identity appropriate for a design-savvy industry. We currently have 135 registered members and are hoping to grow this still further through new marketing initiatives planned for this autumn.
There are two brilliant meetings to look forward to in October and November, with Jonathan Glasspool from Bloomsbury (2 October) and Stephen Bourne, former Chief Executive of CUP (date to be confirmed).
Both meetings have been set up by Nigel Atkinson, who is now standing down as Vice Chair to build up his new corporate responsibility consultancy and management coaching business. We thank him very much for his wonderful contribution, particularly his excellent diplomacy skills and calm, positive attitude during some sticky moments! We wish him all the best.
Samantha Rayner, the original CAMPUS mover and shaker, departs ARU to lead the funky MA in Publishing course at UCL. Many thanks, Sam; sorry to see you go, but best of luck at UCL, and hope to see you at meetings soon.
Existing members of the working group were re-elected, and Dr Leah Tether is taking over from Sam at ARU. If you want to contribute your ideas and do a bit of work, please contact Emma. We're a decent, friendly lot, and I promise you the work can be exciting and enjoyable as we continue to build on our newfound stability.
The CAMPUS working group elves are now going off to our metaphorical summer villas in Tuscany, so see you at the Jonathan Glasspool meeting.
Send in your ideas and comments to me or Emma, and many thanks for your continuing support.
Leah Tether brings our attention to an excellent event at ARU, 11th August, 10 till 5 pm: 'Industry specialists discuss aspects of seeking and commissioning new talent', with speakers from HarperCollins, Bloomsbury, David Fickling Books and a literary agent. Get out of the rain and go! Booking and info: www.anglia.ac.uk/outthere
I've always been a fan of the sheer creativity of the independent sector of the publishing industry - I'm not decrying the corporates in any way, but the independents are more rawly exposed to market forces and the consequences of their actions, so the learning from failure and the pleasure of success feel more intense. In our area and group too, the independents are very active in coming together and learning from each other.
So we hoped that Bridget Shine, Director of the Independent Publishers Guild, would be a good match to the interests of many of our active members. Bridget had indeed got her network mojo working, getting a goodly showing from IPG members Lutterworth Press and Woodhead Publishing, Cambridge Publishing Management, UIT Cambridge Ltd, et al.
This year was the 50th anniversary of the founding of the IPG. Bridget unveiled some impressive stats: 560 member organizations with a combined turnover £560 million, and increasing outreach to northern USA, Asia, India, Jamaica and Australia. Membership stretches from one-person bands to university presses, Walker Books and the mighty Bloomsbury; all styles of conventional and not-so conventional publishing are represented.
Bridget led us on a brisk tour of the IPG's many activities: awards for innovation and digital publishing (recognized by swift subsequent buyouts); quarterly digital conferences and their main annual conference; speed-dating of members with the otherwise inaccessible Amazon, WH Smith, Kobo and Sainsbury's; sector-specific dinners and special interest groups; stands at London and Frankfurt book fairs; training links with Publishers Training Centre, including Merlin Unwin training grants; business support helpline on tax, law and HR issues; open days at Nielsen, Waterstone's and the high-security Amazon warehouse – requiring the signing of non-disclosure forms beforehand; Bridget's e-mail bulletin (required reading, of course!); rights advice, particularly on digital publishing; anti-piracy package for members; preferential access to finance; 50 deals for members in the 50th anniversary year …
Along the way we were privileged to see Bridget opening up the discussion to the floor and witnessing some of the mutually supportive information exchange characteristic of the independent sector, swapping stories about piracy, direct sales, discoverability of content …
All in all, this was not just a talk but most eloquent evidence of the energy and vibrancy of the independent sector in action. Bridget and IPG members: many thanks, and here's looking forward to another 50 years. It seemed fitting that there was some lively and convivial networking for some while afterwards.
Interested in doing an MA in Publishing? What to really kickstart your career? Anglia Ruskin provide a professionally focussed MA in Publishing that really prepares you for working in the publishing industry today.
Apply online and find out more details about the course here.
If we offer you a place, you will be able to apply for this year's round of the Worshipful Company of Stationers and Newspaper Makers Bursary Scheme! For your chance to be a part of this prestigious organisation, and win £6000, see below:
Postgraduate Bursary Scheme 2012
The Foundation offers 10 Bursaries across the UK to postgraduate students on specific courses related to Communication and Content industries. Successful students will each receive a bursary of £6,000 and will be offered the opportunity to receive mentoring during the period of their studies from an appropriate member of the Stationers’ Company, taking into account the specific interests of the student.
On successful completion of the Masters programme the award winners will be presented with the Freedom of the Stationers’ Company and it is expected that they will participate in the life of the company. Dispensation for payment of the annual membership fee will be given for the following three years.
Applicants must be under 25 on 1st September 2012, resident in the UK, and classified as paying UK tuition fees. Applicants must hold a conditional or unconditional offer for the Publishing MA at Anglia Ruskin University and should not be in receipt of another major award (e.g. an AHRC award).
The application form should be submitted to the relevant course administrator by Friday 8th June 2012. The application form must be supported by two references, one academic and one personal from someone of standing who can support the financial statements made in the application. The course team will then draw up a shortlist of up to three students from each university whose names will be submitted to the Foundation. The shortlisted candidates will then be invited to interview at Stationers’ Hall in London in the first two weeks of July 2012. It is essential that applicants are available for these interviews. Each relevant course director will be part of the interview panel.
Short-listing will take place based on the following criteria:
. Academic merit
. Financial need
. The quality of the application
The final decision will be based on performance at the interview at Stationers’ Hall. Candidates will have the opportunity to make a presentation (maximum of 10 minutes) in support of their application and show examples of their work, if relevant. The interview panel will be made up of at least two Foundation Trustees and the Course Director from the candidate’s postgraduate course.
Final decisions will be communicated to the candidates in the second week of July. The bursary funds will be transferred to each university in early September and then passed on to each award winner after the course fees have been deducted (if appropriate).
There will also be an Awards Ceremony at Stationers’ Hall in October at which all the award winners and representatives from each university will be present. It is essential that award winners are able to attend this event.
The selection panel’s judgement is final and no correspondence whatsoever will be entered into concerning the decision.
Any further enquiries about the scheme should be directed to Ian Larkham at the above address or email him.
Most publishing professionals working in Cambridge have heard of ProQuest, but do you have any idea what the company does?
Well now you can find out, because a resource with which ProQuest has been closely involved is now available online and is openly accessible to all UK citizens.
If anyone's been scanning the media over the last few days, you may have seen the news that the 141 volumes of Queen Victoria's diaries have been digitised in their entirety and made available online for the very first time. This website, the launch of which was timed to coincide with the Diamond Jublilee celebrations, is available for the UK public to access, in perpetuity, at
The digitisation work on Queen Victoria's Journals, and the assimilation of these rare and important documents into a website through which they can be discovered, searched and read, was carried out by ProQuest at the exclusive invitation of the Bodleian Libraries and the Royal Archives. This type of work lies at the heart of ProQuest's story. For over seventy years the company has been preserving the history of nations through archival digitisation, and making rare and fragile manuscripts, printed books, magazines and periodicals accessible to an online global audience for the furtherance of scholarship and education.
The elegance and simplicity of the Queen Victoria's Journals interface, the sophisticated but user-friendly search capabilities, and the superior visual quality of the digitised text and images, demonstrates ProQuest's unique capabilities to perfection. ProQuest is extremely proud to be associated with this high profile project in this Diamond Jublilee year.
It was a pleasure to have Rachel Calder, owner of Sayle Literary Agency, to come and speak to us about the role of the literary agent.
First of all Rachel took us back to the 1890s. Changes to the publishing industry allowed writers for the first time to earn a living from writing novels. Numbers of titles increased, as did literacy levels, and writers were looking for guidance to help them succeed in this changing market. Although people had provided similar services previously, the first man labelled ‘literary agent’ was A. P. Watt, who founded an agency still running today in London. Publishers were certainly not happy with the appearance of independent advocates for the author: William Heinemann referred to them as ‘parasites’ and ‘bar loafers’, with ‘not enough talent to succeed in business and not enough interest in literature to become a publisher’ – so no sour grapes there, then.
J. B. Pinker was the next listed literary agent, running his agency through to his death in 1920. Pinker recognised the potential in new writers and worked closely on manuscripts of the then little-known Arnold Bennett, Joseph Conrad, Henry James and D. H. Lawrence. Rachel took over the running of this agency in the 1990s from her predecessor, Tessa Sayle. Despite changes in the industry and the new styles of mega-agents such as Andrew Wylie, the role of the literary agent, acting as mediator between the publisher and the writer, has in outline remained the same.
Rachel further expanded on what it takes to make a good literary agent. You must have an ability to read a manuscript and then transmit the essence of the whole story into a couple of lines – for the right editor at the right publisher. Members of the audience were highly amused to learn the hidden meanings behind editorspeak, for example: ‘too literary’ = too boring, ‘everyone in my office loves it’ = my assistant liked it. It is then one of the agent’s many tasks to translate this into less brutal terms for the author.
With the hundreds of manuscripts that Sayle Literary Agency receives every month (occasionally addressed to someone who died 20 years ago, or Rachel’s father) it is impossible to identify every potentially successful author that comes along. The magic combination, which Rachel references, comes along when an agent reads a manuscript, knows what to do with it and can foresee an editor who will be interested in taking it on. This, she says, is a very rare thing indeed.
We all had an extraordinary and entertaining insight into the daily life of a busy literary agent, including the continuous reading, phone calls, sending to publishers, meetings, drawing up contracts, editing and still more reading … Rachel’s talk ended on a delightfully positive note: the literary agent will doubtless remain an integral part of publishing.
Drum roll... drum roll....
The proud winner of the Campus World Book Night literary quiz was Peter Moorby of the journals production team at Cambridge University Press. Peter scored an incredible 6 out of 10 to beat all comers with his superior knowledge of famous drinks in literature.
So ask Peter if you want to know:
what a pan galactic gargle blaster is?
the name of the pub frequented by fourteenth century pilgrims
how to mix a mint julep...
or answers to other completely pointless but strangely interesting booky boozy questions.