Academic Publishing, Bookselling, Digital Publishing, VAT

Don’t Tax Reading: the case against VAT on knowledge

The removal of VAT from electronic publications earlier this year was the triumphant culmination of a vigorous campaign that had been led by publishers, booksellers, writers, librarians, teachers and readers over many decades to protest against taxation on knowledge. Originally it was started to save print books from tax: after VAT was introduced to the UK in 1973, successive governments had cast envious eyes on the thriving book and newspaper industries and debated whether to slap this surcharge  on their products, perhaps at a lower rate than for other consumer goods, as other European countries had already done.  Protests began immediately; there were crises as the threat reappeared periodically, which the campaigners always won – VAT has never been imposed on printed publications in the UK – but sometimes the victory was a close-run thing.

To a significant extent, the advent of e-books hobbled the power of those watchful that the government of the day might target print books again. VAT was imposed on e-books immediately they became commercially available, because it was argued that they should be treated in the same way as the products of the music industry – records, cassettes and CDs. Publishers, especially, were worried that if they protested too loudly the government might retaliate by imposing VAT on print publications rather than removing it from electronic ones.

When Annika wrote about the freeing of electronic publications from VAT a few weeks ago, I remembered a book had been published detailing the early struggles.  I have a copy and had hoped to quote from it.  Unfortunately, I couldn’t find it then, but yesterday was finally reunited with it. Published in 1985, it’s even more venerable than I thought.  It was designed to be submitted to the Treasury when Margaret Thatcher was Prime Minister and Nigel Lawson the Chancellor of the Exchequer, and commissioned by an organisation called the National Book Committee.  (I’ve looked this up: it no longer exists, but in the foreword, contributed by its “Chairman” [sic], Baroness David, she explains that it represented “all the major organisations concerned with the production and reading of books”.) It was written by Marita Evans of W H Smith and Brenda White of CPI Associates (a research organisation similar to Gold Leaf), supported by several prominent academics, including Dr Frank Fishwick, of the University of Cranfield (with whom Gold Leaf subsequently worked on a JISC report on e-books).

Don’t Tax Reading: the case against VAT on knowledge is a fascinating compendium of history, economic argument, statements from prominent authors and accounts of the legal and political debates on the dissemination of knowledge that have taken place since the middle of the nineteenth century. Below are some selected quotations that seem particularly relevant.

“In 1941, in the darkest days of the Second World War, when the Government needed every penny it could get, the idea of a tax on books, on knowledge, was rejected.”

“Any attempt to separate out books of ‘non-educational value’ for taxation would lead to absurd judgements having to be made.  Fiction and poetry, for example, classical or popular, are just as important to understanding, literacy, and to our culture as serious works for formal education.”

“It seems that each generation has had to fight for the independence of the written word .. if this generation is to win its round, we must use words and tactics that are relevant today.  The arguments of the eighties.”

“The Government record for skimping on school books is abysmal: where among every twenty young adults leaving school – not even a classroom-full – there is at least one who is effectively illiterate; where a Government that is introducing huge training programmes to make sure that school-leavers are employable in our fast-thinking, fast-technology society, is now proposing to tax the basis by which those children’s minds are trained – the written word.”

“The National Association of Teachers in Further and Higher Education stated the following: ‘At a time when the Government is crying out for a better-educated work force, imposing a tax on books is not only illogical, it is stark-raving mad. Further and higher education students would need an extra £1.5 million in grants to enable them to buy their books if VAT is imposed. Will the Government provide this? We think not. Students will be penalised and their access to books reduced. And those students already least able to afford books will be the hardest hit.’”

Some of these statements seem quaint to us now. Grants? Today’s students should be so lucky! And  in 1985 students paid no tuition fees. The £1.5 million figure given as a proportion of overall student spend on books is illuminating: in 1985 the proportion of school leavers entering Higher Education was still only approximately 15%. Most were spending – and expected to spend – more in actual amounts – i.e., not adjusted for inflation – than students expect to spend today. The concept of the UK aspiring to a “fast-thinking, fast-technology society” in 1985 may seem risible to us; but no doubt future generations will be having a similar laugh at our expense in 2055.

However, much of the information captured in these extracts raises serious questions about how much progress we’ve made in the intervening 35 years. The Literacy Trust says that 1 in 7 adults in the UK today has the reading age of a child of nine or lower. There is still under-investment in our schools. In 2015, Iain Duncan Smith, the then Work and Pensions Secretary and prominent member of the Cameron administration, congratulated the government because the number of children living in poverty had “dropped to 2.3 million” – “the lowest since the mid-1980s”.  That figure was shocking; and even more shocking was that the government thought achieving the child poverty level of thirty years before was a cause for celebration. There has been further deterioration since: the Children’s Society estimates that four million children are living in poverty in 2020.

Social imbalance and educational under-achievement are of course the result of a complex mixture of factors; they can’t be attributed to a single cause. Neither can a “silver bullet” be conjured to remedy them. However, enabling affordable access to knowledge in all its formats has to be the greatest single action a government can take to alleviate these ills. Let us hope that the removal of VAT from every kind of publication is permanent; but if its shadow looms again, key stakeholders must surely unite again to protect knowledge.

[Written by Linda Bennett, Gold Leaf]

Academic Publishing, Digital Publishing, Open Access, Trends in Publishing

From Open Access to Open Research: a summary of developments

As the OA movement picked up momentum, there were some watershed moments in the UK: the publication of the Finch Report (2012), which – to the surprise of many – chose the Gold “author pays” model (in which the author or his or her institution pays an APC, or Article Processing Charge) over the Green free-to-view-after-an-embargo-period model; the ruling by the major funding bodies, including RCUK and Wellcome, that outputs of the research they fund (journal articles and underpinning data) must be published OA and the content made available for re-use; and the requirement of REF 21 that authors’ final peer-reviewed and accepted article manuscript submissions must be placed in an Open Access repository.  The last of these supports the Green OA model, but without the embargo element. 

Developments in Europe were soon to surpass the UK in ambition. The principal research funder in the Netherlands, the VSNU, began to mandate a transition to full OA via “transformative agreements” with major publishers in 2016. In 2017, the Swedish government issued its Government Appropriation Directive to the National Library of Sweden (leading member of the BIBSAM consortium that co-ordinates library spending across the country) that “all scientific publications resulting from research financed with public funds shall be published immediately open access”, with a deadline of 2026 for “transitions” with all publishers to be fully realised; also in 2017, Projekt DEAL, a German consortium of libraries and research institutes, set a target of revising licence agreements with major publishers to “bring about significant changes in content access and pricing” of e-journals.  Denmark, meanwhile, remains committed to Green Open Access, as do some countries around the world, including the United States until recently (though without consistent policy or a mandate).

Despite all this activity, some major research funders across Europe and the UK believed that progress towards attaining full and complete Open Access to their funded outputs was moving too slowly. Concerns over “double-dipping” and the lack of take-up of initiatives such as membership schemes and the “block grants” from UK HEIs, compounded a view that publishers were profiteering from taxpayer-funded research that ought to be open for all. There is much general recognition that publishers do add value, but the margins and perceived behaviours of some have become polarising elements in negotiations with their stakeholders. The hard reality of adverse macroeconomic factors for higher education has fused with the ideal of democratisation of knowledge (propounded by groups like Unpaywall) to challenge the industry to change – although without concomitant change to the academic incentives that drive ever-increasing research publishing in the first place.

In 2018, the EU Commission created cOAlition S and launched Plan S, which set out ten main principles intended to achieve full and immediate Open Access by 2021: “…all scholarly publications on the results from research funded by public or private grants provided by national, regional and international research councils and funding bodies, must be published in Open Access Journals, on Open Access Platforms, or made immediately available through Open Access Repositories without embargo.” Key tenets of Plan S are that research must be available via free online access immediately upon publication; be free for sharing and re-use under (ideally) the CC-BY copyright licence; and that publication in hybrid journals is not acceptable unless covered by a transformative agreement.

UK Research & Innovation, allied with cOAlition S, is consulting on its own very similar recommendations at present, with a 2022 compliance target. Separately, the Office of Science & Technology Policy (OSTP) of the President of the United States appears to be preparing a similar position. Some academic publishers felt that Plan S merely formalised the goal to which they were already working, although bringing forward the deadline; others, including the largest, have resisted the mandate, which has led to disputes and ongoing battles that these publishers probably can’t win.

A benefit of the pressure being applied by funders is that the most enterprising publishers are considering real openness throughout the research cycle – often of more actual value to researchers than the formal published output – and trying to add value in supporting academic dialogue, early findings, failed experiments, supporting datasets and more.

Open Access for books has also been experimented with, at first either by small publishers – often new university presses set up for this specific purpose – or via open funding platforms such as Knowledge Unlatched; later by the larger academic publishers themselves. In the UK, the 2027 REF requirements have mandated Green open deposit of accepted book manuscripts; UKRI considers them “in scope” from 2024; and the National Endowment for the Humanities is approaching both authors and their publishers with offers of grant funding to turn monographs OA retrospectively. Nevertheless, a viable OA business model for books does not yet exist.

The conundrum that academic publishers have had to address is how to fulfil the requirements of the mandates, treat their librarian customers fairly, and develop a sustainable business model to ensure their own survival.  The “transitional model” developed – which has many variants –  is commonly called “Read and Publish”. It involves signing an agreement with an individual library or consortium that monies formerly supplied to the publisher for subscriptions and/or APCs should be combined in a single payment that allows readers access to the publisher’s content and pays for new articles to be published at the same time.  Ideally, no new money will be introduced into the system, though if a per-article APC model predominates, both cost and complexity will inevitably increase. Some publishers allow unlimited new articles to be published within this payment scheme; others put a cap on the number the payment will cover.

The model is simple in principle but needs much work by both publishers and libraries to make it work, and will only be successful if a) it really effects transformation and b) if the author experience is at least as smooth as it was in the old world of subscription funding.  There are plenty of issues besides this to address: transitional agreements are not intended to last forever – basing payment on historic spending will not work in the long term; funding streams across institutions are not centralised; big research libraries may not be able to publish all accepted articles if there is a cap on the “publish” element of the deal – and if this happens, who will decide which articles to publish?; metadata capture and workflows are still painfully inadequate; crucially, many academics are still unaware, or shaky on the detail, of what it means to publish Open Access and need a great deal of support from librarians and publishers in the form of workshops, online tutorials, etc.; and some confuse OA publishing by reputable mainstream publishers with the “cowboy” publications that proliferated after APCs were accepted as a form of payment, and are therefore hostile to the concept.

Above all, the model must be adopted globally in order to succeed. There may be enough money in the system overall, but its distribution will differ radically under R&P, which has implications for the whole ecosystem. China and the USA lead the world in the quantity of their research output.  Neither has a national OA mandate yet – though some American institutions have now signed Read and Publish deals.  The consumer nations, which publish less than they read, should end up paying less – but how will publishers support research outputs from the developing world? In the long term, publishers can’t run with two major business models – i.e., subscriptions + APCs and Read and Publish.  They need the whole world to get behind the Read and Publish model.  Will this happen?

[Written by Linda Bennett]
This article was first published by Bookbrunch on 13th May 2020.

Academic Publishing, Apprentices, Deutsch

Apprenticeships in academic publishing – part 3: Germany

For the past two weeks this blog has focused on apprenticeships in academic publishing. In earlier blog posts, we talked about the – relatively new – system of apprenticeships in the UK.

Today, we would like to look at Germany, where the apprenticeship scheme has been long established and where apprentices have worked in publishing for many decades. Of course, apprentices have been learning the skills of certain trades for centuries, but a standardised apprenticeship scheme was first introduced in the Germany in the 1920s. Then, many trades applied standards that were thereafter recognised country-wide and guaranteed that each apprentice learned certain basics of his or her trade within the apprenticeship scheme. Since then, the standard length of an apprenticeship has been established as 3 years (some of them can be shortened under certain conditions); and so-called “Berufsschule” (a kind of FE college) is compulsory for each apprentice. Usually, apprentices will spend between one and two days a week at school, and the rest of the time in the companies to which they have been apprenticed. During the school time, they study subjects relevant to their trade, but are also taught English as a foreign language; and German, Politics and Maths, to ensure a rounded general knowledge. At the end of their apprenticeship they have to sit exams – both academic ones (at school) and practical ones (usually a final piece of work that is judged by an external jury). They then get their formal qualification, which is nationally recognised. Apprentices in Germany receive a basic salary from the company that employs them, and their tutor is usually their manager within the company.

In some trades, it is possible – or even necessary if you want to work as self-employed and/or train apprentices yourself – to add a higher-level “Meister” (master craftsman) qualification in the same profession.  It requires study in Business Studies, Law and Pedagogy, as well as becoming proficient in the expert knowledge and skills of the trade.

Apprentices first joined German publishing companies in the 1950s, when a national curriculum for the profession, “Kaufmann im Zeitschriftenverlag” (businessman in magazine publishing) was established. It didn’t take long for non-magazine publishers to follow suit and soon the job title was changed into “Verlagskaufmann” (Business Administration, Publishing). This changed again several times until in 2006, the current name of “Medienkaufmann/-frau Digital und Print” (Media Business Administration for digital and print) was established.

Therefore, German publishing companies have been employing and training apprentices for several decades and they are an integral part of each publishing company.

To find out more details we spoke to Nadine, who started her 3 years’ apprenticeship with a German pharmaceutical publisher in autumn 2019. (She wishes not to be named in full and asked for her employer to remain anonymous)

“I am doing an apprenticeship as ‘Medienkauffrau Digital und Print’ (Media Business Administration for digital and print) with an addition qualification in Media Economics, publishing. The main focus of my apprenticeship is the production of different kind of media, but I also learn about the planning, marketing, finances and many more things. The company I work in mainly publishes academic books and journals, and so far I have been very involved in the marketing of products and advertising sales. However, as an apprentice I change departments frequently, and even within each department the kind of jobs I have vary hugely. This ensures that I learn about the publishing process and the many different departments that contribute to a successful product. At the end of my apprenticeship, I am expected to know how different departments and workflows relate and I should be able to work in any part of the publishing process. It means that one day I may be analysing sales figures and, on another day, I am looking through a selection of freebies to send to customers. That’s what I enjoy about my apprenticeship – I find it interesting to work on a journal that contains specialist knowledge.  Even if most of the content is too specific for me to understand, I have found many interesting articles that have helped me already.
Before I started my apprenticeship, I completed my “Abitur” (A-Levels) at a Sixth Form that specialised in Design and Media. A-Levels were necessary for the apprenticeship, but the main reason for completing them was to keep my options open for the future. At “Berufsschule” (college) I go into a special class for apprentices who are working for additional qualifications: we are also being taught Business English, presentation techniques and rhetoric, and the handling of New Media. In addition to this, we all learn about Business Administration, industry-relevant law, production (for example we learn about paper quality and printing costs), budgeting, multimedia (programmes like Photoshop or InDesign), design and skills in computer applications such as Excel or Access.
I enjoy learning all of these things because they have a relevance to what I do in my job.  A university degree was not something I considered, because I didn’t want to learn purely academic subjects any longer.
The apprenticeship is meeting my expectations; it is never boring, and I get to do a variety of tasks. In my company the apprentices are continually being challenged but never overburdened, and it is always ok to make mistakes, too.
I would definitely recommend an apprenticeship like mine, especially to people who love to read. It is exciting to see how a product is being developed and to see it through from planning to sales. Also, this apprenticeship allows you to work in any department of a publishing house and to follow your strengths. That’s also my plan for the future: I hope I can stay at the company when I finish my apprenticeship, but I do not yet know which department I will want to work in, because I haven’t experienced all of them yet.”

[Written by Annika Bennett, Gold Leaf]

Academic Publishing, Apprentices

Apprenticeships in academic publishing – Part 2: The Apprentices

In last week’s blog post, we gave an overview over the UK apprenticeship scheme and explained how apprenticeships are a valuable addition to Academic Publishing.

This week we have asked some apprentices to speak for themselves. Gerda Lukosiunaite from the Royal College of Physicians [RCP] and Kaya Spencer from Cambridge University Press [CUP] kindly agreed to tell us about their experiences.

When talking about their experiences as apprentices, both Gerda and Kaya were full of enthusiasm. They both found themselves in similar positions: they had finished school and were unsure about what they wanted to do next. Gerda had been made aware of the apprenticeship scheme by a friend and decided to take that route to become a dental nurse. After qualifying, she decided that she would prefer a more office-based job; discovering that the RCP was looking for an apprentice in its publications department, Gerda decided to apply. She got the place and worked on the RCP’s medical journals and monograph publications. She wasn’t sure what to expect from working in a publishing environment.  She hadn’t really considered publishing before, but found she wholeheartedly enjoyed it. “I never thought I would work in publishing, because I always assumed that you would need a lot of experience to get into it. I was absolutely thrilled when I learned I had got the apprenticeship position in the RCP’s publications department. It was such a great place to be and I was very involved in most of the tasks there: I did some basic admin, arranged for meetings and travel for the team, I was responsible for copyright permissions and liaison with the print room and was even allowed to do some proof-reading  and attend editorial meetings. The apprenticeship did exceed my expectations and I have loved working for the RCP so much, that I have recently changed to a permanent role as Membership Engagement Coordinator. I am still able to finish my apprenticeship in Business Administration at the same time”.

When she finished Sixth Form, Kaya had never imagined that she would work in publishing. “I wasn’t quite sure what to do after my A-Levels and wanted to set myself apart from graduates going for similar jobs to me. After working in some part-time jobs for a while, I was very excited to see the apprenticeship advertised on the CUP website. I had previously unsuccessfully applied for an Editorial Assistant role with the Press, but getting a place as an apprentice was fantastic, because not only was I able to get into a publishing job, it also allowed me to gain another formal qualification. I did my first apprenticeship in recruitment as an interview coordinator, where I worked with colleagues at all levels; this enabled me to gain great knowledge of the Press and a better understanding of the business as a whole – the different kinds of jobs people do, from entry-level positions to board members.”

Kaya finished her Business Administration apprenticeship within the HR department at CUP 4 years ago and has continued to work at the Press. She is currently a Communications and Community Executive and has recently started on a degree-level apprenticeship. The “Chartered Manager Degree Apprenticeship” [CMDA] is provided by the Open University and runs for the duration of 4 years alongside her current role, offering her continuous development whilst working. “This is a great opportunity to develop myself and build on the skills I already have as well as gain more skills in the managerial area.”
Looking to the future, Kaya says she would like to use the skills and knowledge she has gained to move into a managerial role where she can continue to help others. “I hope to develop the CSR programme at the Press that supports social mobility in Cambridge. I would definitely recommend apprenticeships to young people – we actively promote them to local schools in our area, as we feel apprenticeships are a great alternative to university and an invaluable opportunity to gain more skills whilst gaining real experience.”

Gerda also has ambitions beyond her apprenticeship. She has developed a keen interest in marketing and would like to develop her skills in this area. As she says, “it is never too late to go to university. I may well one day decide to do a marketing degree, but then I will be 100% sure that’s what I want to do and the money and efforts that I put into this degree will be well placed and thought through.”

Many thanks to Gerda Lukosiunaite (Royal College of Physicians) and Kaya Spencer (Cambridge University Press).

We also spoke to an apprentice in Germany, where the apprenticeship scheme has been well established for several decades – look out for our next blog post, where you will be able to read all about it.

[Written by Annika Bennett, Gold Leaf]

Academic Publishing, Apprentices, Students

Apprenticeships in Academic Publishing – Part 1: The Scheme

National Apprenticeship Week featured prominently in the media earlier this month, which made us think about the scheme and how it is represented in Academic Publishing. We therefore decided to speak to several people involved and have received so many good responses that we have decided to create two blog posts about it.

This is the first, which introduces the scheme.

In the UK, the Education and Skills Act was passed 12 years ago; it makes education or training compulsory until the age of 18. This means that all young people are expected to continue learning after they have reached school leaving age at 16, and the government has since put various schemes in place to give everyone opportunities to shape this learning according to their interests and needs. This does not necessarily mean that everyone has to continue going to school – the training can, for example, be fulfilled by taking up on-the job training; and later this year the new T-Levels will be introduced, to provide qualifications for 16 to 18 year olds who do not want to go down the route of  (more academic) A-Levels. Whilst T-Levels will offer a mixture of classroom and “on-the-job” learning, apprenticeships offer an additional option to school leavers. These are mainly focused on the workspace (like other workers, apprentices earn a salary and have the right to paid holidays), but allow the apprentices time off for academic learning, in conjunction with a Training Provider.

With the high increase of university tuition fees 8 years ago and the government’s strong support of a newly-created apprenticeship scheme, apprenticeships have become an attractive alternative for some students who have completed their A-Levels. The government has introduced nationally recognised standards and in recent years, apprentices have become more and more part of the workforce, including the Academic Publishing industry.

So, what is the scheme?

Apprentices usually work in a full-time post at a company, receiving on-the-job training and gaining the skills and knowledge necessary for the job. However, unlike an untrained or unqualified member of staff who will simply learn a job by doing, apprentices are supported by the Training Provider – they are enrolled on a course that provides theoretical learning needed for the job (up to 20% of the time); an independent mentor who is in weekly contact with the apprentice to monitor their progress and answer questions; and pastoral care. Apprentices receive a basic salary (in Academic Publishing it usually is somewhere between £14,500 and £19,000 pa) and get the course fees paid via Apprenticeship Levy funds.
These entry-level apprenticeships usually take around 18 months.

The Apprenticeship Levy was introduced by the government in 2017, to support more apprentices. The Levy is a tax paid by every business that has an annual pay bill of more than £3million and the money is held in a fund that the employer can access to train staff who are doing an apprenticeship. Surplus money is used to cross-fund apprenticeship courses at smaller companies. These companies do not pay into the levy, but can still appoint apprentices – the cost is then split between the government (which covers 95% of the cost through the levy) and the employer, which covers 5% of the cost, plus the apprentice’s salary.

When talking about apprentices, many people will think of school leavers who join the workforce for the first time through their apprenticeship. These are usually called “Level 3” apprenticeships, and there are many different courses to choose from. The ones typically offered in Academic Publishing might include Business Administration, Customer Services, Accountancy, Project Management or – a newly accredited standard – Publishing Assistant.  However, employers also have the option to use the levy to offer apprenticeship learning to existing colleagues to further their education in work-related qualifications. These apprenticeships range from mid-level qualifications (such as Data Analysis or Operations Management) to a degree-level apprenticeship such as a Senior Leader Master’s Degree, which is the equivalent of an MBA. Like entry-level apprenticeships, these are studied for whilst the apprentice is working; the apprentice doesn’t pay for any tuition fees and continues to earn a salary, but is given 20% of working time off to study.
The courses are taught in block seminars, or through online learning; and it is a statutory requirement that all apprentices are given “20% off-the-job” learning during the working week. This might be done one day per week, or spread across the week, depending on individual circumstances.

Why do companies engage in the scheme? In an interview with Heidi Mulvey, Head of Community Engagement at Cambridge University Press, she made the reasons clear:

“We started employing apprentices in 2012, before the levy was introduced, initially with roles in shared services such as Customer Services, HR and IT. Now we employ apprentices in departments right across the business and we currently have 28 entry-level apprentices, plus more than 50 colleagues who are using apprenticeships to further their development.

Apprenticeships are helping us to attract fantastic new people into the business, many of whom, for a variety of reasons, did not go to University. Most of our apprentices have A-Levels or equivalent, though in some cases candidates as young as 16 have been successful in their applications, which really demonstrates how much they have to offer: their potential is more important than their formal qualifications, and the apprenticeship provides training around the skills and knowledge needed for their role, whilst they also learn their role. Apprenticeships are playing a big part in helping us attract diverse new talent into publishing, and our apprentices are bringing in fresh and innovative thinking.

Most of our apprentices stay at the Press when they have finished their apprenticeships and have opportunities to continue their development and gain promotions.  One of our earliest apprentices now manages an apprentice herself and two others are doing a degree apprenticeship. This opportunity to earn while you learn has become a very viable and attractive alternative to the classic career path of a university degree and graduate training.”

…please also read our next post, in which three apprentices in Academic Publishing will tell us about their experiences.

Many thanks to Heidi Mulvey, Cambridge University Press, who provided a lot of the insight for this article.

[Written by Annika Bennett, Gold Leaf]

Academic Publishing, Learning from Libraries, Libraries, Open Access

White Rose University Press: the Library as Publisher

Triggered in part by the Open Access movement and also by the desire of early-career researchers and students (undergraduates as well as postgraduates) to find reputable publishing outlets for their work, in recent years there has been a steep increase in the number of university libraries setting up or encouraging the foundation of presses for their own universities.  (In 2015-16, Gold Leaf conducted research to determine the feasibility of one such project, on behalf of the University of Manchester.)

Most of these presses support the publication of new journals. Less common, but also steadily increasing, are publishing projects started by university libraries for the creation of Open Access monographs.  White Rose University Press [WRUP], founded jointly by the libraries of the Universities of Leeds, Sheffield and York, publishes both journals and monographs.  WRUP was created to ensure academic quality, support Open Access and support innovation in publishing. It welcomes proposals across all disciplines and from across the academic community, not just from its host universities.

There are four live WRUP journals (JACHS, JESLA, UJPIR and BIOJ), with another on Contemporary Chinese Writing in development. Each journal has its own website, from which articles are available to access and download without charge. 

WRUP’s first monograph, Star Carr, published in two stunning volumes, was released in April 2018 and has now had more than 20,000 views/downloads.  Three more monographs have since been released with the most recent, Voices and Practices in Applied Linguistics, seeing nearly 1000 views/downloads since publication in Sept 2019. Further monographs have been commissioned, with three expected to be published in 2020.

Books are made available in a variety of e-formats, (HTML and downloadable PDF, ePUB and MOBI files). These are offered through the book listing page on the WRUP website, as well as via other content providers like JSTOR, and are free to access, download, etc. WRUP also offers print versions (via POD), so that for a modest fee people can obtain a hard copy of the book.  This means there is no embargo period; authors retain copyright; the Open Access version is the published Version of Record; charges apply: both APCs and BPCs; and, as WRUP is not-for-profit, the charges levied are enough to cover production costs only.

Sarah Thompson, Head of Content and Open Research at the University of York, was involved in early conversations about the possibility of establishing a shared university open access press and is also one of its board members.  She says that setting up and working with the Press has been very exciting and has involved a steep learning curve.  In common with more commercial publishers, WRUP has found that monograph publication schedules are hard to stick to.  Many academics have still to get to grips with the concept of Open Access and need support in navigating the choice of OA licences and in e.g. securing the right permissions for images. 

Sarah says: “White Rose University Press has been a very worthwhile enterprise.  We are fortunate in having been able to secure the support of our Vice-Chancellors and other senior administrators at the WRUP universities.  We were also lucky to be able to supply the relevant expertise in-house.  We are looking forward to continuing the White Rose University Press adventure in 2020.”

For more information about White Rose University Press, please go to https://universitypress.whiterose.ac.uk/

Sincere thanks to Sarah Thompson and Kate Petheridge, WRUP Manager, for providing the information for this article.

Sarah Thompson
Academic Publishing, Audiobooks, Digital Publishing, Trends in Publishing

Audiobooks in Academic Publishing – Princeton University Press

In September we published a short blog post on audiobooks in order to offer a short overview of this topic.

We have since had the opportunity to speak to Kim Williams, Digital and Audio Publisher at Princeton University Press, who kindly gave us an interesting insight into the world of audiobooks in academic publishing.

When Princeton University Press announced its new audiobook programme in 2018 it was the first University Press to do so.  Kim Williams told us that they had been licensing rights for audiobooks for several years – first primarily to Audible, later also to others, including Recorded Books, which is the largest independent producer of audiobooks in the world.

However, interest in audiobooks had evolved into something of a trend, with the US market seeing its 7th consecutive year of double-digit growth in sales. Taking this on board together with the increased interest in audiobook licences, Princeton University Press saw an opportunity to enter the market and not only license, but also produce, audiobooks for their readers. After a lot of investigation and costing, a business case was made and in July 2018, Princeton University Press announced the launch of PUP Audio – an audiobook programme aiming initially to publish 24 titles each year. Princeton chose Sound Understanding as its production partner. It is an audio production company that specialises in non-fiction. A great deal of care needs to be taken with the choice of titles to be converted into audiobooks, as Kim Williams explains:

“When choosing the titles for PUP Audio, we first of all have to think about the potential listenership for the book – will an audiobook increase the audience for the title? I then read the book to check if I can ‘hear’ the text; we also have to make sure that charts and diagrams can either be omitted or explained in a simple way without a visual prompt. And then we have to check that the length of a book is right for audio – we don’t want the audiobook to be either too short or too long – and we have to bear the intended readership in mind. In our portfolio, economics books, biographies and big histories tend to work quite well, but we are excited about the potential for our trade science list.”

PUP decided still to maintain its business relationship with Recorded Books; and last month  announced an exclusive partnership with Recorded’s mother company, RBmedia, for the audiobook licensing of further titles (approx. 40 per year).

Kim Williams believes that there is a need for academic audiobooks as well as the various print formats. Audiobooks can support different learning styles, especially now that accessibility of learning content plays an ever more important role at universities. People for whom English is not their native language can find audiobooks a helpful complement to the print book, and of course listening to a book can be time-saving, as it can be done whilst driving a car, exercising or doing other activities that allow you to listen. She thinks that, like e-books, there is a time and place for audio and that having the choice of multiple formats – including audio – ensure a “frictionless reading experience”.

The distribution of audiobooks has not caused difficulties, as they are treated in a similar way to e-books and all big e-book wholesalers will also include audiobooks in their distribution channels. Princeton’s current wholesaler also has good distribution agreements with large audiobooks platforms like Audible, audiobooks.com, Kobo and many independent platforms.

Princeton University Press is not the only academic publisher who publishes audiobooks, but it was certainly one of the first – and the first University Press to do so. Since the publication of their first titles 13 months ago, many others have taken the leap, including Cambridge University Press and Kogan Page.  

So, who are the readers, or should we say listeners, of audiobooks?
“Students of course, but also lecturers who commute, policymakers, the interested public – anyone who wants to save time or who prefers the spoken word over the written one. That stresses the importance of a good narrator: it is crucial to get the right person, someone who is an authority on the topic; they need to show confidence in what they read and therefore must understand the subject, and at the same time have a likeable and clear voice.  Many of our authors have considerable experience in public speaking, but not always the vocal stamina to read a whole book over five or more days. Several of our authors have narrated their own audiobooks, but we have had wonderful readings from professional narrators, too,” says Kim Williams.

Only one year after launching an audiobook programme of its own, Princeton feels that there are many aspects to success as an audiobook publisher.  The production costs of audiobooks are not inconsiderable – on top of hiring studios and the associated costs of this, the narrator puts considerable time and energy into the preparation of an audiobook and deserves fair compensation; and as a publisher that takes pride in the quality of its content PUP (with Sound Understanding) appoints proof listeners for all audiobooks to ensure that the quality control is as rigorous as it is for its print publications. But even though the revenue may not yet exceed the production costs, Princeton University Press has gained many positives from this first year beyond the obvious marketing advantages, as Kim Williams explains: “It certainly has given us a new lens and has opened ways to reach new readerships. One of our missions as a University Press is to reach diverse people across the world, and the audiobooks initiative lets us frame books in new ways and helps us in achieving this goal. Part of our role is to educate people, not only through the content we publish, but also in the way this content is being accessed. Audiobooks are still an evolving model, but we want to be part of shaping this as part of our effort to educate. We have had great feedback from readers and authors alike; and, after all, they are the ones we are here for.”

Academic Publishing, Case Studies, Trends in Publishing

Grown out of dispute: how collaboration removed frustration – and DRM!

Last month, De Gruyter announced the launch of a new initiative, called University Press Library. From early 2020, De Gruyter’s re-launched e-book platform will provide access to the digital book content of 10 American University Presses – with some of whom De Gruyter has long had distribution agreements; others have newly signed with the Germany-based publisher for this project. So far, so good.

What is so special about this project is its background. It all started as a pilot project back in 2014 (very imaginatively, called “the pilot” within De Gruyter!) to get University Presses and their readers to collaborate. At the time, De Gruyter had digital distribution arrangements for America with some of the participating Presses and was therefore aware that one University Press had decided to implement a strict DRM policy for its e-book content. As a direct result of this, 65 subscribing American libraries cancelled their subscriptions and caused a lot of disruption and frustration on both sides of the distribution chain.

At this stage, University Presses were very concerned about piracy and the cannibalisation of print sales. It was for this reason that many had implemented strict DRM rules for e-books, which in turn for the subscribing libraries was difficult to manage and administer. Particularly difficult to deal with was the fact that the Presses implemented different DRM rules on different platforms and for different formats (sometimes even introducing variations on a title-by-title basis).  This caused headaches for the librarians. One knotty issue that emerged was that the duplication of content purchased became unavoidable. For their part, the University Presses had to cope with receipt of inconsistent revenue streams from e-books whilst trying to sustain the publication of scholarly monographs.  (Despite being of high quality, the latter often only generate low usage.)

De Gruyter embraced this situation by turning it into an opportunity; by collaborating with all stakeholders, it developed a solution that worked for everyone: the University Presses, the University Libraries and the consortia.

To tackle the problems, three University Presses – Princeton, Harvard and Columbia – agreed to work with De Gruyter, the consortium LYRASIS and a group of 10 selected US university libraries to start “the pilot”.

In the pilot, all front list e-book content published in 2014 or later, whether user rights had been restricted at title level or not, was made available to the 10 university libraries without DRM. It was agreed with all stakeholders that the pilot would only last as long as it would take to collect enough data to measure the implications of going DRM-free and to evaluate the success of the pilot itself. Eventually it took 5 years to gather enough data, but the outcome was overwhelmingly positive. It turned out that there was no evidence that providing unlimited access to e-books would cannibalise the print sales. User behaviour amongst the 10 participating libraries was very consistent and showed that usage and adoption rates were not dependent on DRM.

This collaborative approach has now led to the development of a product which serves the needs of University Presses as well as consortia and university libraries; all the stakeholders have agreed to a solution that works for them. Even more, it is promising to be so successful that another 7 University Presses have already signed up to become part of the initiative. Each will have its own microsite to keep its branding and profile distinct, but will enjoy the benefits of being part of a larger platform.

When the programme is rolled out globally, it will be interesting to see how many university libraries within and outside of the USA will be interested in participating.  It will allow front-list e-books access (and in some cases also back-list access) on a DRM-free platform.

This blog post is based on an interview with Steve Fallon, Vice President Americas and Strategic Partnerships at De Gruyter.

More information on the Pilot Project and the University Press Library can be found on the De Gruyter website.
University Press Library: https://www.degruyter.com/dg/page/2001
Pilot Project: https://www.degruyter.com/dg/page/2003

Academic Publishing, Learning from Libraries, Libraries

Changing sides: From Publisher to Library

In the academic publishing world, every now and again you meet librarians who have moved across to work for a publisher, or vice versa. We wondered about their motivations and experiences, so we decided to talk to some of them.
Three weeks ago, we spoke to Tash Edmonds, who left her job as a librarian to join ProQuest. This week, we spoke to someone who used to work for Cambridge University Press and moved from the UK to Sweden to become a librarian.

Jonathan McCrow

  • Please give us your name and describe your role.

Jonathan McCrow
License Coordinator – Librarian
Licenssamordnare – Bibliotekarie
Stockholm University Library

  • What makes your library a special place to work?

At Stockholm University we all work in diverse working groups in order to meet the needs of our patrons and to support the university. My working group is the Licensing Group – looking after all e-resource acquisition and Open Access. I, fortunately, get to work within a small team of very experienced librarians with a wealth of knowledge for me to slowly steal, bit by bit.
Within the license group, we aim to meet our Media Plan strategy as best we can. A strategy that we treat as our standards guideline – laid out by the library director and steering committee. With a straight-forward strategy focussing on patron and usage-driven acquisition, we have a clear pathway and game plan as to how we will meet our users’ needs with regards to academic resources. This, of course, doesn’t fend off the usual challenges acquisition teams typically face – budget restraints, inflexible sales models, etc. – but it does give us reasoning and focus.

  • Why did you choose to become / what do you enjoy about being a librarian?

Brexit. If the UK had not voted for us to leave the European Union, then I would not have applied to Information Science MSc courses in Europe – wishing to squeeze in some last-minute free studying as an EU citizen. Without one thing leading to another, I would not have studied for a librarianship master’s degree and I would not have ended up in Stockholm, Sweden.
The work I now do as a librarian has been a true eye-opener. Although there were many practices on this side of the fence that I have always known about, it has been a joy to watch them in motion. With the knowledge and experience I garnered in Academic Publishing I now get to discuss the industry of academic research/publishing without any blinkers on – this is quite refreshing.

  • What was your responsibility when you worked in publishing?

During my years working in academic publishing, I have almost exclusively worked in e-resource sales. The years spent selling e-resources in the Nordics were a particular highlight for me, as I got to meet many nice librarians and visit many gorgeous libraries.
Following my years as a sales rep, I worked as the development manager for the journals team – sat in between the sales teams and the journals editorial teams. Half of my work was assisting sales teams globally with transitions to new sales models. The other half of my work was to assist the editorial teams with the management of the academic journals from a sales and financial point of view. With so much change going on, it was imperative the two teams had a bridging employee to direct conversations and link working practices together.
My work with journals was extensive – as was the sales work for ebooks, with a strong focus on Evidence-Based Acquisition. Working with a varied set of different tasks and slightly different fields of interest gave me a nice balance to keep me interested and on my toes.

  • How does your experience of working in publishing help you in your current role?

My years of following the journal editorial and production processes allowed me the good fortune of learning all the general intricacies of journal publishing, plus many irregular matters. Trying as we are to transition to a world of Open Access publishing, we in my working group are tasked with assisting researchers as they attempt to author their articles as Open Access. My previous experiences with journals publishing and knowledge of Open Access has given me a real boost in this field, allowing me to assist our authors as best I can.

  • How does the work as a librarian compare to what you used to do in a publishing company?

Working for an academic institution feels quite different from working for a commercial publisher. Not to suggest things are more relaxed working in a library, but there sure are fewer people rushing and whizzing around – darting from one meeting to the next. We are of course kept extremely busy, working within similar cycles as academic publishers and sales teams – tied almost strictly to the terms of the academic year. Even during the ‘quiet’ months over summer outside of the academic year, we still had plenty of work to do to prepare for the new term starting in September. I remember doing similar things and waiting for the new term to start when I was working for a publishing company – not much has changed in that respect.

  • What are the particular challenges you face as a librarian?

In very similar fashion to publishers, we on the library side have to keep ourselves up to date with so many different aspects of scholarly communications. It is not just Open Access – although this does top the bill. The management of our catalogues and acquisition portfolios really does keep us busy, as we are expected to keep abreast of model changes and the different approaches publishers have. More so when adjustments to how e-resources are offered changes in one way or another – especially when we are not informed until after the fact. When it comes to data and information sharing, we all need to make improvements and streamline our information channels.

  • Is there anything else you would like our readers to know (about yourself or your library)?

Librarians are cool. Never forget it. Librarians in Sweden more so than all the others – with all further librarians worldwide coming a close second.

Academic Publishing, Bookselling

Vale atque Ave, Tim!

(written by Linda Bennett of Gold Leaf)

People who are old enough to remember President Kennedy’s assassination in November 1963 nearly always say they can remember where they were when they heard the news; similarly, members of a different generation remember precisely what they were doing on the day in August 1997 when Princess Diana’s death was announced. 

For those of us working in the publishing and bookselling industries (and, again, of a certain age!), a similar indelible moment occurred when the demise of the Net Book Agreement [NBA] was first made public in 1996.  At the time, I was attending the Scottish Library Association’s Conference in Glasgow – so the delegates there were among the first to hear.  It was on the second day of the conference that the axe fell.  A speaker at the conference who had passionately defended the NBA on the previous day – I won’t name him, but he was the very prominent MD of one of the UK’s largest publishing houses – was one of the chief architects – or assassins, depending on your point of view – of its departure.  “The Net Book Agreement”, he had proclaimed earnestly the day before, “is safe.  It will be abandoned over my dead body.”  This was well before the era of fake news; but suffice it to say that the gentleman concerned managed to survive – and I believe is with us still.

For those too young to know what it was all about, the NBA was the legally enshrined practice of  price-setting their own publications by publishers. Booksellers and others selling these publications were not allowed to undercut the publisher’s chosen price, except in very particular circumstances: 10% discount could be offered to libraries and schools, and, with the publisher’s permission, old stock could be ‘remaindered’.  New stock had to be sold at the correct price. At the time of its demise, the NBA had been in force for the best part of a century.  It was designed to prevent booksellers from discounting each other out of existence – or other retailers from discounting booksellers out of existence.  Technically it was a restrictive practice, and in 1996, when a Tory government had been in power for well over a decade, ‘restrictive’ and ‘practice’, when seen adjacent to each other, were two very dirty words.

Everyone in the two industries knew the NBA was controversial, of course: it had endured a few nasty moments down the years and, to be fair, it didn’t enjoy unanimous support.  Everyone also knew, and hugely respected, the man who had been championing it, thus saving many booksellers from insolvency: Mr Tim Godfray, the already veteran CEO of the UK Booksellers Association.  Tim was and is a tireless supporter of all above-board initiatives to support proper bookselling; I still have in my possession two of his iconic and well-reasoned pamphlets on maintaining the NBA (Books Are Different) and not introducing VAT to print (Say No to VAT on Books).  He has prevailed on the latter issue, having campaigned against VAT on recurring occasions: VAT is still not applied to print books.

Why am I bringing all this up now?  Because today, after 47 years at the Booksellers Association, most of them in the top job of CEO, Tim is retiring.  Yesterday evening a farewell reception was held for him at the atmospheric, also iconic, London Library.  The event was attended by 250 guests of Tim’s own choosing, from across both industries.  Remarkably, he presented each with a handwritten letter telling him or her why they were special to him.

Tim has campaigned on many other issues to make life happier and more prosperous for booksellers and publishers.  Latterly and most extensively, and in league with his counterparts across Europe, he has lobbied the EU and individual European governments to close the loophole that allows large online retailers to escape or greatly reduce payment of corporation tax.  More joyfully, in 2013 he spearheaded the enduring and highly successful Books Are My Bag initiative, which is now in its seventh year.  Academic Book Week eventually became one of the offshoots of this campaign.

In many ways, Tim will be irreplaceable: he has combined tireless hard work with a fine brain, ready wit, genuine sympathy and unfailing patience when listening to others.  For those of us who have known him a long time, it has been a comfort just to know he is there.  He will leave a large hole in the fabric of our universe.  Yesterday evening, however, he hinted that he may come back – at least in a part-time capacity – in another guise.  I’m sure we all hope so.  Vale atque Ave, Tim!