Publishers Communication Group is commemorating its silver anniversary in 2015 by exploring just how far we have all come as an industry in the last 25 years. Our first look back features the recollections of PCG Senior Publishing Consultant, Janet Fisher.
Although I wasn’t at PCG 25 years ago, I was in scholarly publishing, new to the position of Journals Manager at The MIT Press. I vividly remember sitting in our manager’s meeting the first week of January and going around the room answering the Director’s question, “Where do you think we’ll be in ten years?” I hate to say this now, but the consensus was that we would be doing the same things we were doing in 1990. Whoa, was that wrong!
Thinking back to then, we were publishing print journals, selling print back issues, using five different typesetting methods depending on the type of content in the journals (Math? Straight text? Design-heavy? Heavy symbols?), and promoting our journal to libraries mostly through direct mail and on a title-by-title basis. We were not archiving electronic files for the future. What would that mean? Is any of that still happening today? And we would not have had any idea what was meant by a “publishing platform.”
In the mid-90s, work became more Internet-heavy. The editorial teams – those who worked on bringing in content for the journals and books program – saw the need to have an internet presence and we created a Gopher site. Anyone remember that? Then it migrated to Mosaic. Anyone remember that? Then it was a World Wide Web site. Ah, we remember that! Editorial knew that potential authors were looking for MIT Press on the Internet and we needed to be found. But the marketing department didn’t see the point. It certainly wasn’t the way individuals were going to buy books. So we got our website going by setting up a small department called the Digital Projects Lab. And the director mandated that all our books have our web address in the front matter and on the back of the book. I hate to admit it but we all thought that was a little beyond the pale.
I worked with PCG back in those days at MIT Press because it was the only way I could get any real feedback from the library community about the quality of my journals. I had a few journal editors who sometimes needed to be reminded that not every library in the world was going to subscribe to their particular journal. The best evidence I could give them was the PCG call-by-call reports.
Now PCG does so much more – selling collections and databases, offering sales representation, reaching regions I wouldn’t have thought of back then, and offering market research strategies of all types. We have all certainly come a long way in addressing the ever-changing needs of the scholarly publishing and library communities.