It seems an important time to talk about where we are as an industry and where we should focus our efforts going into 2014.
Dramatic changes in the industry have marked 2013 as perhaps yet another watershed year: the rise of mobile versus web apps, the beginning of the end of Impact Factors in scholarly publishing, an increase in article-level metrics, and continued publisher consolidation—notably the Penguin Random House trade mega-merger in the English-language markets.
Looking forward, what do we see? What should we look out for in the STM, education and trade markets?
In STM and education, the open access scenario will continue to be debated internationally among academic publishers vis-à-vis dictums of various governments based on funding. And while the big question remains whether to publish as open access or not, the whole debate is challenging insofar as it forces one to consider different business models, different delivery mechanisms, changes in user expectations, leaving publishers to seek new ways to commercialize content or accentuate their relevance and hence commercial value. Expect some innovative thinking
To better and more quickly take advantage of the changes in the industry as they arise, publishers are going to start to invest heavily in efficiency within their infrastructures. In the historical context of several hundred years of the printed product, many new delivery mechanisms and models may be viewed as mere “fads,” which is much the world we live in now with new platforms and disruptive influences. Without being able to guess what comes next and whether these fads should last one year or ten, one can only get ready to respond both in terms of staff skill sets and technology infrastructure.
We will also see an evolution of business models in the trade sector. Amazon recently announced their first steps toward the bundling of ebooks and print books through their Kindle MatchBook program, but that is just the beginning. One-off book sales will continue to dominate for a while, but publishers will need to stretch their minds and systems towards commercializing everything from chapter-level buying, to micro-purchases, to even considering subscription models. Some digital publishers are already going towards a subscription model, while other publishers, both academic and trade, are building online communities to create direct relationships with their readers.
The survey of online communities that we commissioned earlier this year demonstrated that publishers are headed in this direction. Of the publishers who responded, one quarter of them expect to have seven or more networks up and running by 2015, with many more respondents predicting a huge growth in the number of online communities for their company, from a current average of 2.1, to more than 5 over the next 2 years.
As the tumultuous 2013 comes to a close, publishers appear to better understand the challenges ahead and are on a better footing to adapt and change as needed.