flux and change in scholarly book publishing


There is no doubt that the digitisation of information has radically changed the way scholarly information is published and disseminated.   The impact on the Australian scholarly book publishing industry is a particularly interesting area to consider.

My earlier post on eBooks in the academic library illustrated the constant flux and change that characterizes the way in which eBooks are currently acquired and disseminated through the academic library, as publishers and libraries attempt to develop sustainable business models.  Similarly, the scholarly book publishing industry is also experiencing much change in response to the challenges posed by digitisation.

The issues that arise around this topic are particularly pertinent in the Humanities and Social Sciences, where traditionally, monograph publication has been central to research output.  However, there has been a significant decline in publications of monographs, which is, in part, due to the disincentives that exist in the funding models.   For example, a digitally produced monograph does not qualify for funding under the current HERDC regulations.

Thus, it is easy to see why the Book Industry Collaborative Council (which was established in 2012) identified the distribution of scholarly book publications in the Humanities and Social Sciences as a key area for industry reform. The Expert Reference Group (ERG) that was formed to examine this issue, focused on the need to develop sustainable models that would “maximise exposure of Australian book publishing to the global research community in a financially sustainable way”.

The academic library is an important stakeholder in the scholarly book publishing industry.  They are not only providers of scholarly books to the university community, but also participants in university publishing.  What, then are the academic library’s views on this important topic?   What are the issues that concern it?

The Council of Australian University Librarian (CAUL)’s response to the ERG’s “request for comment”, provides an interesting, succinct account of the issues from the perspective of the academic library.

The main issues that the report identifies are:

  1. Modes of scholarly publishing (with a focus on open access)
  2. Business models (different models operating)
  3. It’s just not one big eBook (new publishing formats emerging)
  4. Access and measurement  (need for metadata standards and altmetrics)
  5. Data (management of data necessitates reconceptualization of  ‘publishing’)

Just in case you are keen to know more, in my next blog post I will elaborate on the points that CAUL makes in relation to these five points.

Or if you want to read it for yourself …

CAUL response to Book Industry Collaborative Council Scholarly Book Publishing Expert Reference Group on the future of scholarly book publishing in the humanities and social sciences. (2013). Prepared on behalf of CAUL by Roxanne Missingham, University Librarian, The Australian National University, Ross Coleman, Director, Collection, Digital and eScholarship Services, The University of Sydney and Philip Kent, University Librarian, The University of Melbourne


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