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Re: Rice University Press and University E-Press developments

Just a few brief comments:

1) Princeton University Press (where I worked for 22 years) was
founded in 1905, not 1895. It began as a printing operation before it
published books (and only abandoned printing in 1993). It is also
different from most presses in having always been a private
corporation, separate financially from the university, though related
to it in other ways. And for a long while it published the
university's alumni magazine. See a brief history here:
2) One might add to the group of pioneering e-presses in Australia
and New Zealand the University of Athabasca Press in Canada. They are
all pointing to a new model for funding scholarly publishing.
3) I'm a little leery of downloads as a metric for RAE purposes
because of how little they reveal about what type of usage occurs.
The really important feedback, to my mind, would come in the form of
reviews in the pertinent scholarly journals.

Sandy Thatcher

Several  more points in this rather sad development, in addition
to Sandy Thatcher's perceptive comments in Inside Higher
Education.  Was Rice right to rely on POD sales. Should a small
university press continue to publish material deriving from
scholars in other universities? As I wrote in my JEP 2008 article
in 2008, 'Scholarly Monograph Publishing in the 21st Century',
after all

"A number of university presses were originally founded to make
available the intellectual output of their own scholars. Thus
Manchester University Press was founded in 1904 to publish
academic research being carried out within the Victoria
University of Manchester. Princeton University Press, when it was
founded in 1895, had as its mission "the promotion of education
and scholarship and to serve the University." The University of
California Press in the middle of the 20th century was publishing
monographs mainly from UC faculty members. Presses evolved into
publishing manuscripts from any academic source, and also
ventured into trade publications. A number of the new open access
e-presses, because they are supported in whole or part from
internal funds, focus on the peer-reviewed monographic output of
their own scholars, available in digital format."

In that context, the Australian National University's ANU E Press
which is embedded within the structure of the ANU's Division of
Information, currently publishes around 57 titles, which had just
over 3 million individual or complete PDF downloads for 2009 and
1,535,848 downloads from 1 January to 30 June 2010. While POD
sales were just over 10,000 copies in 2009 this element is not
the be all and end all, as the Open Access monographs can be
downloaded and printed free of charge, anywhere in the world.

It may be of interest, in terms of E Press developments that two
other Australian universities have followed the ANU Open Access
peer reviewed monograph model. Thus, Monash University has
recently been rebranded as the Australian Weekly Book Newsletter

"Monash University's publishing unit, currently known as Monash
University ePress, is set to change its business plan with the
launch of Monash University Publishing on 8 September. From the
launch onwards, our books will have a short print run, followed
by print on demand,' marketing coordinator Sarah Cannon told the
Australian Weekly Book Newsletter. 'We're going with Griffin
Press, as they are at the forefront of printing in Australia, and
their turnaround time is amazing. Cannon said Monash University
Publishing books would 'all be open access'.... as we're a
university press, where dissemination of knowledge is our cause,'
The publisher is also planning to ramp up the number of books it
publishes each year to 'around 20 books a year' from 2011, up
from the three or four books a year it has been producing until

The University of Adelaide Press will produce 7 or 8 titles this
year, rising to 15-20 in 2011. Other relevant digital Presses in
Australia include Sydney, Melbourne and  the University of
Technology, Sydney.The direct costs of the ANU E Press staff of
3.5 FTEs are relatively small within both the total costs of the
ANU Library and even more so, within the Division of Information.
The distributed nature of editorial College advisory comittees
and copy editing costs spreads the intellectual infrastructure
costs across campus.We need to reconsider the role of the Press
within the totality of the costs of access to and distribution of
knowledge within the university.  Reconfigured university presses
need to be seen in the context of the total scholarly
communication process and thus costs of a university.

It was interesting to talk with Professor Cathy Davidson and Ken
Wissoker, the Editorial Director of Duke University Press, when
they were in Canberra recently, on these topics. We reflected  on
the perhaps illogical continuing 'gold standard' for physical
monographs in promotion and tenure and the seemingly permanent
shifts in library budgets, given the costs of the continuing Big
Deals for serials (even with economic downturns) with major STM
publishers in particular, and the lack of funds thus unavailable
for traditional monograph purchases. Multi-national publishers
can act nationally and globally much more effectively than single
libraries or even  library consortia because faculty have
traditionally been more interested  in getting published than
assessing the impact of their decisions to publish, while Vice
Chancellors chase citation impacts and university league table
rankings over the long term issues of scholarly communication on

Sally Rumsey, Project Manager  of the Oxford University Research
Archive (ORA), at the Open Repositories Conference in Madrid in
July, commented, however, on the growing synergies between
institutional repositories and research information
registeries/offices on campuses. This is particularly relevant in
the UK, Australia and New Zealand where Research
Assement/Evaluation Exercises call for the collecting and
preservation of publication data on campuses for all researchers.

The downloads from E Presses, should be a significant factor in
future research assessment metrics - perhaps more so than a
physical book publication given the average sale of a
university/academic press book of 200-300 copies, with its
content scattered across a relatively small number of libraries
and individuals globally. We need to continue working with new
models. In that context, the paper recently published by Eelco
Ferwerda, the Coordinator of OAPEN (Open Access Publishing in
European Networks), entitled 'New models for monographs - open
books' in Serials July 2010 is well worth reading.

Colin Steele
Emeritus Fellow
The Australian National University
Canberra  ACT 0200

Sanford G. Thatcher
8201 Edgewater Drive
Frisco, TX  75034-5514
e-mail: sandy.thatcher@alumni.princeton.edu
Phone: (214) 705-1939

"If a book is worth reading, it is worth buying."-John Ruskin (1865)

"The reason why so few good books are written is that so few people
who can write know anything."-Walter Bagehot (1853)