Welcome to our latest fortnightly eBulletin, posted here on 3 April 2018. In this issue:
Travel publishers have been hit harder than most by online competitors, with Trip Advisor, Booking.com and mobile apps threatening to make guide books redundant.
In a recent article in The Bookseller, Lonely Planet’s MD Piers Pickard said the firm considers itself ‘a travel media company’ rather than a publisher. DK publisher Georgina Dee said: ‘Being able to fit the internet in your pocket on a smartphone means curation in a book is more and more crucial.’
Travel publishers have had to reinvent themselves from necessity, focusing on where they can add value over and above what’s freely available online – eg themed travel, such as best walking or cycling routes in a country. Bradt’s guides have always given prominence to cultural, environmental and social context and this is serving the brand well, helping it to grow in a sector where many rivals are struggling. Lonely Planet has been very savvy at making its website a travel hub with curated content, exploiting the strength of brand recognition to make it a trusted gateway for travel planning, and steadily increasing the revenue from advertising to offset the decline in ‘traditional’ guidebook sales.
This is simplistic (comments welcomed!), but I do think that other sectors can and should learn from travel publishers as the inexorable eroding of our markets by non-publishing competitors continues. This and the ever-increasing demand for instant chunks of content rather than whole books are here to stay.
On our Profitable Commissioning Workshop Josie Dixon takes a long hard look at how to maximise profitability in academic and specialist book publishers. Runs in London on 12 July.
Open access for scientific journals is logical and established. But bringing OA to monographs in humanities and social sciences is a very different proposition. At the REDUX Conference in London in February Steven Hill of the Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE) put the case for why the 2027 round of the Research Excellence Framework (REF) will require monographs written by UK academics to be OA to be eligible. In other words, if an academic wants their research to be recognised, then publishing it OA will be a requirement.
If you’re an academic publisher in the UK you won’t need me to tell you this is a hot topic at the moment, and you will doubtless be following (and contributing to) recent articles in The Bookseller. But here are a few points which have stood out for me to sum up the issues.
1. As Steven Hill points out: ‘We are charged with spending taxpayers’ money and making sure it is used as effectively as possible, and the push towards OA is driven by that’. Whether or not the ordinary taxpayer has any desire to access scholarly monographs is not the point for HEFCE; the principle of ‘if funded by taxpayers it should be freely available to them’ is.
2. ‘Why give [research] away to overseas countries where the taxpayers haven’t funded it, when you can get them to pay for it? The government is telling universities they must have economic impact’ pointed out Ivon Asquith, chair of Edinburgh University Press.
3. Many UK academics currently choose a US publisher, but with a wide range of US and other international publishers not pursuing an OA model, where will this leave them? And will UK academic publishing end up being a trailblazer for inevitable change internationally, or become an anomaly? What impact will it have on international academics who currently comprise a significant % of our authors?
4. HEFCE is accused of not consulting with academic publishers, and of basing its reasoning solely on the models of new entrants like UCL Press, whose OA publishing is made possible by the financial support of the University of London. It’s a fantastic model, but hardly the norm. Hill accepts that new models must be sustainable but nobody yet knows where the money will come from if not from sales.
This debate is likely to rumble on for some time, but doubtless we’ll also be discussing it on our next Academic Marketing Workshop.
Our next Copywriting Workshop will run in London on Tuesday 22 May and eBulletin subscribers can book at the subscriber special offer price of £299. So if this has been on your wishlist for a while, or if you’ve a new member of staff struggling to get to grips with how to adapt their writing skills to blurb writing, why not head over to the website now and bag yourself a place? Just choose the ‘other price’ field on the booking form and enter code EB299 to claim the discount.
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One of the commonest challenges raised is that of simply getting started. We all know the feeling of staring at a blank screen, conscious of precious time draining away unproductively, which makes the impasse worse.
The moment you start writing, you’re on your way. So just dive in with key words and phrases. They may be unpolished but as you warm to your task you’ll edit and hone. Doing it this way is much MUCH quicker than waiting for fully-formed inspiration to strike.
Our next Copywriting Workshop is the place to be for more like this.