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, Digital Publishing, Libraries

How to make your publications more discoverable: tips from Lone Ramy Katberg, Special Adviser to Aalborg University Library and the Royal Danish Library

In today’s academic library world, there are scores if not hundreds of companies offering every possible kind of solution for cataloguing, displaying and making the library’s holdings discoverable.  However, some of these are very expensive; and, as Lone Ramy Katberg, Special Adviser to Aalborg University Library and the Royal Danish Library points out, few will work unless publishers prepare carefully first.  Here are some tips from Lone on how to make publications more discoverable.  They are even more pertinent this week, which is Open Access Week.

Be distinctive 

Lone says it is a good idea to choose titles that stand out. Adopting the identical title other publishers have also used – e.g., Economics – will only work if the author is very famous in his or her discipline.  Subtitles are sometimes crucial: they are an easy way of directing content expectation. If the title covers some new or unusual ground, creating the right metadata becomes all-important.

Bibliographical descriptors must be accurate, but at the same time not “drown in detail”; e.g., Life in Cyberspace – is it about social media, cybercrime, psychology?

Think in buzzwords

Crafting the correct metadata to underpin a snazzy or challenging title is key. The short description or blurb, especially its first two lines, is also very important. There can’t be too many keywords listed, as long as they are a true reflection of the content.

My Google does not look like your Google

Google uses a lot of knowledge about the user individual when displaying search results.  This is information it derives from gmail, bookmarks and interactions.  Consequently, the list of articles a user gets from searches differs according to that user’s behaviour. The language used by the searcher also makes a huge difference to the search results. 

Google is easy, but is it enough?

Libraries have gone full circle in their approach to Google.  At first, librarians discouraged students and academics from using it; after some years, they realised that, in order to achieve maximum discoverability, their holdings had to appear on Google.  But is Google enough?  No, it is not… Google fathomed this quite early on and introduced Google Scholar to the market.

Google Scholar

Google Scholar was launched in 2004. If you feed “Dolly” into the Google search engine, you come up with information about a sheep and not a country-and-western singer: from the outset, academia was and still is its focus. But what is included in it and what is not is still a big issue.  It is by no means comprehensive.

Library systems and workflows

In an academic library setting there are two ways of being found.

  1. Via a link resolver which discovers via basic metadata – title, author and ISBN.
  2. By direct indexing, where you let your content be indexed by the provider.

If a publisher does not use link resolvers, although the publications may be indexed in Google Scholar, Web of Science, and so on, libraries can’t connect the reference to the content if no direct URL is provided. Addressing this issue is especially important for publishers wishing to make Open Access content discoverable, because otherwise libraries can’t switch on access and display the content as available.

Direct linking/indexing

There are several off-the-shelf discovery systems now available.  Each has its drawbacks: in some, the hierarchy of display order seems illogical, some are difficult for consortia to use, some seem to favour certain publishers over others.  In addition, these are add-ons and not necessarily an integrated part of the library system environment.  Nevertheless, unless publishers are brave enough and have sufficient resources to take on a great deal of discovery work themselves, working with third party discovery system providers may at present be the only practical way forward to maximise discovery.

Digital Publishing, Learning from Libraries, Libraries

Libraries Week – “Celebrating Libraries in a Digital World”

It is Libraries Week in the UK – a “celebration of […] the role of libraries in the digital world” (CILIP’s words).  CILIP is organising and coordinating a series of events to mark the occasion.

Libraries up and down the country are organising events and activities around the celebrations, and the hashtag #librariesweek is trending on Twitter this week. The role of public libraries in a digital world is one that seems to need a lot of PR. More and more libraries are being forced to close down or reduce their services: services which go much beyond the mere lending of books.

Libraries are hubs of information, learning and social interaction on multiple levels. They certainly still provide information and entertainment via books, but they also allow access to multimedia content and games; provide events and courses; and offer opportunities for different communities to get together. More and more libraries are being turned into “community hubs” by their local authorities.

The digital equation

In 1998, the UK Government introduced the People’s Network, which recognised the need for everyone to have access to computers (and ultimately the internet). £100 million of lottery funding was invested to create an IT-based public library network, an objective fulfilled in 2002. The project equipped all public libraries with hardware and software which they could make accessible to their users. Over the past 20 years, countless users have relied on these services in a world that has become more and more digital. This has meant that the more vulnerable members of our society – the elderly, unemployed and those who cannot afford to pay for IT equipment themselves – have been able to participate in the digital world, not only by using the libraries’ equipment, but also by being given support and help on how to make most of the opportunities that present themselves online. Many libraries report that although the borrowing of books is going down, footfall is increasing; they say they can never have too many IT workstations. This is demonstrated also by the increase in use of online resources such as E-Books, subscription websites and downloadable audiobooks. Public libraries therefore occupy a big role in a digital world!

Budget cuts and lack of resources have put this system under a lot of strain recent years: the money for the People’s Network has dried up at a time when the equipment held by the libraries is in desperate need of being replaced. More modern computers are needed, as well as faster software and the resources to train staff to keep abreast of new developments. Some library authorities (e.g., Cambridgeshire) have decided the only option is to charge the users of IT equipment.  This leaves those unable to pay in an impossible position: in a world where Universal Credit can only be applied for online, those who need it most are being denied the means to apply for it. In 2017 and 2018 Lorensberg’s, the online resource booking company, commissioned a series of case studies from Gold Leaf on this precise topic. 20 years after the launch of the People’s Network, we examined the current IT situation in public libraries and the challenges of digital resource provision they face. These case studies are available as freely downloadable E-Books: “Short Stories from the People’s Network” (2017) and “More Short Stories from the People’s Network” (2018).

Libraries have come a long way and have achieved so much – especially in providing digital inclusion, and we should not stop celebrating this at the end of this week!

Academic Publishing, Audiobooks, Digital Publishing, Trends in Publishing

Audiobooks – more than just a trend?

Audiobooks have been the fastest growing area in consumer publishing, but also in academic publishing they are becoming more and more popular.

Undoubtedly the market leader is Amazon’s “Audible” but other audio services like Spotify, Audiobooks.com and various eBook vendors also offer audiobook programmes and some publishers distribute audiobooks on their own ebook platforms or websites.

Of course, audiobooks are not new – their origins date back to the 1930s when audiobooks were being sold on vinyl records, primarily for educational purposes. However, since they have become digital, their market reach has grown exponentially and with modern devices (for example smart watches or speakers), they can be played in all sorts of environments and have also become more interesting for the academic market. Their potential to bring in new types of content is interesting to the academic market and non-fiction “trade” publishing was  the first to take advantage of this, for example in Bloomsbury’s “33 1/3” series with a focus on exploring popular music (this project is a co-operation between Bloomsbury Publishing and Spotify).

In academic publishing, Princeton and Cambridge University Presses were the first publishers to announce their audiobook programmes: whilst PUP launched theirs in 2018 , which now comprises 12 titles, Cambridge launched their pilot with 4 titles at the 2019 London Book Fair (and a fifth title will be available in October). They have benefited from some authors who have been happy to read their work, for instance the topical “There Is No Planet B” by Mike Berners-Lee. Both university presses collaborate with the UK-based production company Sound Understanding. In November 2018, Wiley announced a collaboration with RBmedia to produce over 650 audiobooks over the next three years, though the focus will be on business and finance as well as the popular Dummies brand, more than on traditional academic publishing.

No doubt, with audiobooks being one of the buzzwords of the industry, there will be more to follow, and readers ought to keep an eye on our blog, where we will talk more about this trend as it evolves with some industry stakeholders.

Brexit, Deutsch, Digital Publishing, General

Brexit und Verlagswesen. Eine persönliche Stellungnahme einer britischen Deutschen

(This blog post has been written in German. To see an English translations, click here)

Heute ist „Brexit“-Tag. Eigentlich. Und was bedeutet das für dieses Land?

Heute sollten wir aus der EU austreten, hieß es. Nun also doch nicht.

Als die Briten vor 3 Jahren für ein Referendum an die Wahlurnen gebeten wurden, war vorher klar, dass das Ergebnis knapp ausfallen würden. Das tat es dann ja auch (52% zu 48%) – warum es in so einer Entscheidung keine Zweidrittel-Mehrheit brauchte, wundert mich noch heute. Viele Briten hatten die Nase voll von der EU, von seiner Bürokratie und Inflexibilität. Die Flüchtlingskrise hatte ihren Höhepunkt erreicht und es gab Angst vor Überfremdung, die zwar irrational und unabhängig von der EU war, aber von den sog. „Brexiteers“ wunderbar geschürt wurde. Einem maroden Gesundheitssystem wurde die magische Transformation zum Besseren versprochen und auch an anderen Stellen wurden der Bevölkerung Versprechungen gemacht, die niemals hätten gehalten werden können. Von Wirtschaftschaos, steigenden Preisen und Fachkräftemangel erfuhr die Bevölkerung erst, als es zu spät war. In der gesamten Thematik – angefangen von David Cameron’s Einberufung des Referendums, über die darauf folgende Kampagne, bis hin zur Durchführung – ging es immer nur um eines: Parteipolitik. Um Status und Macht von Einzelnen. Um das Wohl des Volkes und die Zukunft des Landes hat sich niemand geschert. Die Bevölkerung hat es nun endlich begriffen und das Parlament sitzt in einer Zwickmühle, aus der es nur schwer – wenn überhaupt – herauskommt.

Mehr und mehr meiner britischen Mitbürger sehen ein, dass es das Chaos, die Unsicherheit und das Risiko nicht wert war. Ja, die EU hat ihre Schwächen. Ja, es wäre manchmal einfacher und vielleicht auch wünschenswert, Entscheidungen ohne Abhängigkeit von Brüssel treffen zu können. Aber die Zeiten des britischen Empires sind vorbei, und Änderungen kann man nur bewirken, wenn man Teil des Ganzen ist.

Die Stimmung im Land ist anders als sie es vor 3 Jahren war. Die Bevölkerung wurde durch diesen Prozess aufgerüttelt und besser informiert. Aber leider ist die Regierung von ehemaligen Elite-Schülern dominiert, die in ihrer eigenen Wolke leben und zu ihrer Wählerschaft keinen Bezug mehr haben. Das wahre Leben ist den Meisten von ihnen fremd.

Heute ist „Brexit“-Tag. Eigentlich. Und was bedeutet das für mich?

Seit über 13 Jahren lebe ich nun als Deutsche in Großbritannien, seit knapp 7 Jahren mit einem britischen Pass. Diesen hatte ich mir damals zugelegt, weil ich meine Zukunft hier sah, und als Steuerzahlerin wollte ich auch volles Wahlrecht haben. Und weil Deutschland einen Zweitpass neben dem deutschen problemlos erlaubt, solange es sich um einen EU-Pass handelt, habe ich auch gar nicht lange gezögert – höchstens die damit verbundenen, relativ hohen Kosten haben mich mal kurz zweifeln lassen, ob es sich überhaupt lohnt. „Ich bin doch eh EU-Bürgerin, und somit ist so ein britischer Pass doch eigentlich gar nicht nötig. Ein ziemlich teuer erkauftes Wahlrecht, aber mehr eben nicht“ – so dachte man noch damals. Und damals ist gerade mal 7 Jahre her.

Ich hätte nicht gedacht, dass ich nur 4 Jahre später heilfroh sein würde, dass ich mir um Aufenthaltsstatus, Arbeitserlaubnis und Gesundheitsversorgung als EU-Bürgerin keine Sorgen wuerde machen müssen. „Brexit“ hatte die Situation verändert und noch bis heute ist die Situation für viele meiner EU-Mitbürger unsicher.

Heute ist „Brexit“-Tag. Eigentlich. Und was bedeutet das für das Verlagswesen?

Seit ich in dieses Land gezogen bin, war ich im wissenschaftlichen Verlagswesen taetig – ich habe mit Bibliotheken weltweit gearbeitet, für und mit großen, kleinen und Kleinst-Verlagen, mit Organisationen rund ums Verlagswesen, Technologiefirmen und Non-for-Profit-Organisationen. Die meisten davon sind britisch und für sie hat der Brexit direkte Implikationen.

Vor allem im wissenschaftlichen Verlagswesen sind die Auswirkungen immens. Durch die immer wachsende Globalisierung von Wissenschaft beschränken sich Autoren und Leserschaft nicht auf den englischsprachigen Markt, sondern sind international. Natürlich spielt die EU hier eine große Rolle: nicht nur in Bezug zu Kundenbeziehung – die Unklarheiten über Handelsabkommen, Verzollung, Mehrwertsteuer etc. bremsen den Vertrieb und die mit dem Brexit einhergehenden Schwächung des britischen Pfundes bedeutet direkte Umsatzverluste – aber auch, und vor allem in Bezug zu Autoren. Ein Großteil des wissenschaftlichen Publizierens basiert auf Forschung; Forschung, die zu großen Teilen von EU-Geldern gefördert wird. Für britische Wissenschaftler ist es bereits seit dem Referendum 2016 schwerer geworden, an internationalen Projekten teilzunehmen, da ihre Finanzierung unklar war und ist. Die britische Regierung stellt nicht annähernd genug Geld zur Verfügung, um dieses Finanzloch in Zukunft zu stopfen. Inwiefern europäische Wissenschaftler in einem Nach-Brexit Großbritannien werden leben und arbeiten können, ist ebenso unklar.
Copyright-Direktiven finden auf EU-Basis statt – keiner weiss, in wie weit die erst in dieser Woche verabschiedete EU-Urheberrechtsreform in Großbritannien greifen wird. Von einer internationalen Kooperation bei der Durchsetzung von geistigem Eigentumsrechten außerhalb der EU ganz zu schweigen.
Die EU setzt Richtlinien – sei es im Bereich von Open Access (Plan S), der Angleichung von Mehrwertsteuern für digitale Bücher und Zeitschriften, oder den internationalen Markt von Online-Gütern und Datentransfer. Wenn dieses Land kein Teil der EU mehr ist, stehen alle diese Themen in den Sternen und die Unsicherheit, wie es in diesen Bereichen weiter gehen wird, ist in den Verlagen deutlich zu spüren.

Heute sollten wir aus der EU austreten, hieß es. Nun also doch nicht.

Zumindest nicht heute. Vielleicht in zwei Wochen, vielleicht in zwei Monaten, vielleicht in zwei Jahren. Vielleicht auch nie.

Die unsägliche Art und Weise, mit der die hiesige Regierung das Thema behandelt, lässt mich sprachlos. Selten hat das Wort „Fremdschämen“ eine bessere Anwendung gefunden; und ich bin dankbar, dass ich noch diese andere – nicht-britische – Identität habe. Und dennoch lebe ich gerne in diesem Land, das ich seit 13 Jahren mein Zuhause nenne. Deutschland ist mir in dieser Zeit fremd geworden – und ist mir doch so nah.

Annika Bennett, Gold Leaf

Digital Publishing, London Book Fair, Trends in Publishing

Vibes from the London Book Fair 2019

This year’s London Book Fair occurred earlier in the year than usual and was once again held at Olympia – an old favourite for those of us who remember Olympia as the venue for pre-Earl’s Court LBFs. Members of Gold Leaf attended on Tuesday and Thursday.

We were very impressed by the overall attendance, especially on Tuesday: there was a real buzz to the fair, with lots of ancillary activities going on right from the start. We applauded the decision of the fair organisers to ban wheeled laptop cases and suitcases from the aisles this year: it made moving around much less hazardous and increased the feasibility of working to the tight schedules that most of us have to cope with.

So what were this year’s big themes? For academic publishers, Plan S in particular and Open Access publishing more generally probably overshadowed everything except Brexit. (Comments on that, especially from European publishers, were fairly uniform: horrified, puzzled, dismayed by the events unfolding in Parliament while the fair was running.) ALPSP ran a seminar on Plan S and Open publishing on the Wednesday morning, at which David Sweeney, Executive Chair Designate of Research England, was the keynote speaker. Elsewhere at the fair, prominent themes included Fake News – or, rather, how to combat it; freedom of speech; and, on a less abstract level, the rise and rise of talking books (please follow this blog to read more about this in the next couple of weeks).

The PEN stand was mobbed by young authors demanding freedom of speech for all – which until recently would have been a laughable exhibition of preaching to the converted, particularly in such an environment; but recent events in both Europe and the USA, as well as further afield in the world, have now demonstrated very strongly the importance of not taking freedom of speech – not to say the accurate representation of the truth – for granted.

The importance of supporting creativity and allowing authors and other creative artists by maintaining copyright law was also the theme of this year’s Charles Clark Memorial Lecture, delivered by Professor Daniel Gervais, Milton R Underwood Chair in Law and Director of the Vanderbilt Intellectual Property Program at Vanderbilt Law School, which was entitled Copyright, Books and Progress. Professor Gervais’ central premise was that copyright should be fiercely defenced to incentivise the “right things” – i.e., matters central to the progress of human civilisation. He said that it was clear that in order to achieve its aims, new content must not only be created but made available, while finding ways not to disadvantage those who have spent their lives perfecting their creative craft. His message was that rules should be created and observed to maximise access to content, while providing authors with sustainable livelihoods. You will be able to read more details about the lecture on this blog soon.

Stephen Page, CEO of Faber, also spoke of the need to preserve the essential values of civilisation in one of the opening speeches of the fair. Like Professor Gervais, he depicted publishing and the laws and norms that underpin it as central to the development of civilised society. “We need to have the courage to fight for our values we believe in: free speech, respect for ideas and intellectual life, for copyright, and for the right of an artist to make a living; and for our local markets.”

The Author Centre was frantically busy, as usual; and several new amenities were provided for authors, including Author HQ, organised by Midas, which gave pre-chosen authors the chance to pitch to agents in a ‘Dragon’s Den’ kind of way.

Indonesia was the guest country of the book fair this year and some of the Indonesia publications were both exotic and wonderful. However, China seemed to have an even greater representation, and Indian publishers also enjoyed a much higher profile than in the past.

All in all, the atmosphere was joyful, celebratory and can-do. Although – as indicated in this summary – some of the underlying reasons for preoccupations aired at the fair were deadly serious, the end result was the display of an industry perhaps more united than usual about what it stands for.

Digital Publishing, Pedagogical Resources, Universities

It’s all in the metrics: Reading List Software and other measures

So, how are libraries measuring the success of a resource?

That’s a tricky question, and all the libraries we talked to used a mixture of “hard” metrics such as usage statistics and “soft” ones like student and user surveys. Even though most online resources provide usage statistics, these often are not particularly user-friendly, and don’t necessarily measure the effectiveness of a resource. Reading List Software can give a much better picture, with metrics providing a better understanding of resource use.  It is being used at all the universities we worked with. However, often academics do not engage with the software; it’s not a seldom occurrence for them to refuse using it because they say it’s not user-friendly or they don’t have time to get their heads round it. In most cases, it’s the Library that administers the software and provides the training – and often actually uploads the titles into the system on behalf of the academics.

There is a wide divergence of opinion about how long a reading list should be, and how much new material it should contain.  In some instances librarians use the software to steer academics and students to resources already held by the Library, rather than investing in new ones.

Overall, the evidence shows librarians have a much bigger impact on resource choice and use than they think. They tend to under-estimate their powers of influence: more academics agree than don’t agree that librarians influence reading list choices.

‘Virtuous circle’ of Librarian Influence, (c) Gold Leaf, 2019

For the last post about key findings of the study “How Are Students and Academics Using Pedagogical Resources Today?” (in partnership with SAGE Publishing), please come back to our blog tomorrow, when we will talk about Flipped Learning and OERs.