The report Sustaining Scholarly Publishing: New Business Models for University Presses has caught academic attention.
The Chronicle of Higher Ed article discusses the report and I noticed some very interesting aspects.
The report cautions that the print-on-demand model does not solve everything. “The online free/print for sale model thus seems likely to be a transitional strategy,” it says.
I thought this was an interesting point. Certainly transition is important, but having the online free/print sale described as a transitional model says that it won’t last long term.
Taking up open access, the report examines how it works at the National Academies Press and the RAND Corporation, along with the recently established Open Access Publishing in European Networks project that includes several European university presses. But it points out that most university presses have financial constraints that make it difficult for them to adopt open access as their main model. It adds that the author-pays business model, which helps subsidize much open-access publishing in the sciences, hasn’t really been tested in book publishing or in humanities publishing generally. The push for open access must be acknowledged, “but it will not succeed unless sustainable business models can be developed to support it,” the report states.
Since vanity press publications are not acceptable sources of scholarly publications, this route seems fraught with peril.
It wants presses to develop “a central conduit for sharing information” about which models and experiments work and which don’t. It encourages them to work with each other and with scholars, libraries, and other institutions to develop standards on how to distribute digital scholarship. It urges other potential donors to follow the Mellon Foundation’s example and “contribute to innovation in the area of scholarly communication.” The overall message is that presses can’t go it alone if they’re going to survive.
That’s an interesting take-away. You can’t go it yourself. Get help.
What will that help look like?