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FW: [SSP-L] Should university presses adopt an OA model for all of their scholarly books?

Heather's posting was originally sent to an SSP list. I replied 
to the posting and Joe Esposito commented on my reply. For the 
benefit of liblicensers both are pasted below.

-----Original Message-----
Sent: 20 November, 2008 1:19 PM
To: ssp@lists.sspnet.org
Subject: RE: [SSP-L] Should university presses adopt an OA model for all of their scholarly books?


Thanks for drawing attention to this article, which I've read 
with interest.

Author-side funding is an potential revenue-earning model for 
book publishers - but it's not easy. We have an author-side 
funding business model available at OECD, but we've found that 
the scale of the funding needed introduces a barrier to publish. 
Authors, their governing bodies and funders, have a very 
simplistic view about the costs of publishing (tending to think 
the costs are limited to typesetting and printing) and take some 
convincing that they need to find $10,000 or so to cover 
publishing costs - even when we're using POD alongside our core 
online model. We're finding that we have to work with them 
upstream, when the funding is being negotiated for a project, to 
make sure adequate funds are available to cover the costs of 
publishing. This, of course, is a challenge since publishers are 
not usually involved at the conceptual stage of a research 

I think the analysis and conclusions in the paper don't reflect 
some of the realities of scholarly book publishing. Here are some 
reactions which might be helpful to UPs considering their next 

The analysis shows that University Presses have been missing some 
big opportunities. Let me highlight a couple:

1. Export sales (estimated at 2%) are astonishingly low. If true,
    this suggests to me the UPs have been missing out on a large
    potential revenue stream (quite apart from missing out on a
    broader audience). I would have thought a US-based UP should
    be able to find at least 33%, if not 50%, of its market
    outside the US (leaving aside local interest titles, like the
    Civil War).

2. The impact of commercial publishers. The article shows that
    UPs were 'out-gunned' by commercial publishers. In the
    scholarly journal world, many learned societies (similar in
    many ways to UPs) responded by partnering with these
    publishers in order to retain/grow their market share. Maybe
    UPs could have done the same, retaining editorial control as
    learned societies do with their journals, but exploiting the
    financial muscle of their partner.

Looking at Greco & Wharton's recommendation for the future, I 
think UPs need to think through the business model assumptions 
and the options further.

1. Marketing costs - they've cut marketing costs from $1000 per
    book to $100. In my experience, marketing costs do not fall
    when a book is available OA. You still need to promote a title
    as much as possible if it is to find a broad readership.
    Authors who have paid $10,000 will expect their work to be
    promoted or they'll take their 'business' to another

2. They've cut the trade discount to 0% - POD publishing still
    requires trade partners and they need to earn a cut on the
    deal to cover their costs. Trade costs will not change because
    of the printing technology used.

3. Net sales - just 25 POD copies! This is far too low. Our
    experience shows that demand for printed editions does not
    evaporate if a book is available OA. (Equally, they don't
    increase either!)

4. The overhead has been cut to $3,000 from $8,200 - beats me how
    this is possible when the complexity of offering a dual-track
    online-with-POD service is higher than a traditional,
    single-track, print-only service.

5. The authors assume deans and provosts will not take an OA
    monograph 'seriously' when considering an author for a
    position/promotion. If the book is properly published and is
    available in a traditional way (albeit printed digitally
    rather than offset) AND online, then deans and provosts will
    not be able to tell the difference (at least, our equivalents
    don't see it when we take this approach). OA does not demean
    the content - look at PLoS!

6. The authors seem to think e-book readers (like the Kindle) are
    linked to an ability to publish monographs online. Can't see
    this myself when monograph readers have access to the best
    reading device of all - the PC and laptop. I have yet to have
    a reader or librarian ask when our monographs will be
    available on a reading device - the only people who are asking
    seem to be the manufacturers.

Toby Green


>From Joe Esposito on 20th November

Two footnotes to this exchange on university presses.

Heather Morrison asserts that most university press books are 
sold to libraries.  This is not true.  Estimates for sales to 
libraries (almost always through intermediaries) range from 10% 
on the low end to 25% on the high end, with most press directors 
I have spoken to quoting a figure around 15%.  Most press books 
are sold to individuals.  Even when journals, a small component 
of American university press publishing, are added to the mix 
(where most sales go to libraries), libraries are simply not at 
the center of the university press world.

Toby Green's memorandum is a welcome corrective to misconceptions 
of the economics of press publishing.  I wish, however, to 
question one figure, the speculation that presses could or should 
have more than 50% of their business outside the U.S.  The 
highest figure for international sales that I have seen 
(including Canada) is 30%.  Most successful book publishers have 
international sales around 6%; 11% is quite an achievement. 
Many factors here, not all of which can be laid at the feet of 
press management; the single largest is simply that higher 
education is, after defense and Hollywood, America's most 
dominant industry internationally, comprising perhaps 40% of the 
total market.  (Yes, it depends on how you put the statistics 
together.)  Presses can and should work to improve international 
sales, but let's not set the bar out of reach.

Joe Esposito