University Presses and the Digital Universe
Changes and challenges
Maikowski has recently noticed some significant changes impacting this segment of the industry. Among the largest he notes are:
• declining sales of print books, especially monographs and scholarly books … to the library marketplace;
• libraries ordering paperback copies of books rather than hardcover copies, and either rebinding them or shelving them as paperbacks;
• high returns in college-adoption sales as students purchase used books or books online, or use library or other shared copies;
• declining print review space allocated to book reviews, resulting in fewer reviews of trade books and higher trade returns from brick-and-mortar channels; and
• the open-access movement and the demand for published content to be made available to consumers for free.
Will Underwood, director of The Kent State University Press, has been working in the university press segment since 1985, and says that one challenge, in particular, stands out. “The move toward digital/online delivery of content and declining sales of traditional scholarly monographs and print journals [has been the biggest challenge facing the market segment],” he says.
Bill Clockel, chief technology officer at Integrated Book Technology (IBT), an all-digital book manufacturer based in Troy, N.Y., believes one of the challenges that university presses are facing is a lack of access to sufficient cash to publish their front-list titles, which is strained by diminishing initial sales of these same titles.
“There are a few strategies to address this,” says Clockel. “One is to utilize digital printing that can economically manufacture short-run first printings. While the unit cost may be a little more for this shorter run, you will spend less money overall for the initial printing because you are ordering less. A second strategy for some titles is to enter a print-on-demand (POD) mode for the reprints of these titles.”