Emerging digital environments and online-solutions have created lots of challenging opportunities for academic publishers. They have changed the game for researchers, libraries, and publishers alike, and led to several new business models. In the long run, the most radical of those models will rise from a niche to sustainable market shares creating the future of academic publishing. Three major changes will boost this development: service based business models, findability oriented platforms, and format free content storing.
Marcel Knöchelmann, July 20th, 2015
Acknowledgement: This is an older essay, which I wrote before attending the Masters at UCL. Yet, it bears the foundational ideas that are currently discussed at several events and conferences. It comprises three ideas, condensed into a short essay, which was submitted for the application for the UCL/Wiley Scholarship 2015.
Innovation Focusses on Services
Firstly and most importantly, academic publishing houses will shift from a content seller to a service based business. The prevalent linear structure of processes will vanish as the needs of writers, readers, and libraries diversify. Authors vary in their professionalism in writing or their needs of how and where to disseminate content. Some need the fastest possible pace to publish without any marketing or sales service. Others may want advertising and a digital solution to edit complex data sets. And still others may have nothing to publish yet but have research data which did not lead to any paper while it may help other researchers around the world. In addition, the services will extend to libraries and institutions as sales models are changing too. With the rise of Open Access, subscription fees will decline while other services will be monetised. Offering solutions for every kind of problem will be the future for academic publishing houses. They have to build a portfolio of services to serve each customer individually–whereby customers are writers, readers, and institutions alike. By deploying new technologies as mentioned below, the service based business will be viable without exploding costs or inefficient organisational structures. Thus, the publishing house will become a customer focussed service provider with a brand which is referred to as a dynamic publishing partner.
Secondly, the future of academic publishing will consist of platforms which are accessibility and findability oriented. For many researchers, content is worth nothing if it is not findable through search engines. Therefore, meta-data, search engine optimised abstracting and reliable indexing are of more value than a traditional brand signalling high quality content. Publishing houses will ideally adapt to these developments with platforms which offer a clear structure for every kind of product, individual access, and automated data services for libraries.
Finally, in most stages of the academic publishing process content will be media independent. Content creation, editing, and selling will no longer have a connection with a possible product which might be derived from the content. Thus, processes will become much more efficient. As all content will be stored via XML, single source publishing can be deployed so that formatting and layouting will become completely automated and standardised. Thus, the customer is in the position to choose within a broad product range. He knows best which product might be the appropriate solution for his work. As an example, he may have a subscription and receives new articles on an RSS basis similar to a blog. He will have the option to get Pdf- or Epub-files as well as to buy printed copies on demand. Creating customised products with individual selections of articles or chapters will be feasible too. In effect, publishing processes become sleeker and lean as content will be held and referred to as content as long as possible. It is only to the customer of interest how and on which device he wants to access content.
Diversity and Infrastructure
In conclusion, the future of academic publishing will be more diverse and IT-backed than ever before. The increasing demand for individual products and services must be served with a dynamic portfolio. Libraries are already co-operating with tech companies which implement new functions and services for their institutions and patrons. Publishing houses have to compete with these new market players as they not only question the prevalent system of how content is provided but challenge the overall role of a publishing house. Economies of scale diminish to a minimum while agile structures and continuous innovation become new core criteria. This requires organisational restructurings and a focus on processes rather than on the search for high quality content. In the end, the connection between content and publishing brands will decline, making way to reposition the publishing house as a service provider. Thus, the needs of customers will define the future of academic publishing. These who serve best will gain the biggest market shares.
Download the essay “The Future of Academic Publishing” here: