Frances Pinter

Bloomsbury Academic

Rethinking The Role and Funding of Academic Book Publishing
24 minutes, 11mb, recorded 2010-02-24
Frances Pinter, Publisher, Bloomsbury Academic

500 years ago the Cambridge University had a collection of 122 volumes, each of which cost as much as a vineyard. Today, a book costs as much as a bottle of wine. With the advent of online publishing, customers want books that cost only as much as a glass of wine, and some times, not even that much. However, producing quality content comes with a cost.

This ho-hum attitude of expecting everything for less (or even for free) has discouraged the sales of monographs. As a result, the production of these pieces of scholarly work has become less viable. This is especially true of long-form publications such as those in the field of Humanities and Social Sciences (HSS) where there is reliance on the book form as the required length to convey an idea or present an argument.

What would be an economically sustainable business model to make these publications available as open access journals? Who would fund such a venture? Following the Scientific, Technical and Medical (STM) model of publication where the author pays to have the article published is not agreeable as the costs of getting to first copy (in long form publication) are prohibitive. Migrating all monographs to ebook form will not solve the problem either.

A new business model is needed. While options abound, none of them are economically justified. Frances Pinter thinks she has cracked the puzzle, with a bit of help from Albert Greco and Harold Wharton who gave her the idea. Her proposal is to form a coalition of libraries, pool the money from their budgets and use that money to pay the publishers to meet the first copy costs, let the publisher publish the content as open access, and then sell POD versions. By the way, here's a brain teaser. If you can come up with a better name than International Library Coalition for Open Access Books (ILCOAb) for the library consortia she envisions, she promises to send you a bottle of champagne.

Frances Pinter started her journey with books at 23, when she asked André Deutsch for a job. When he said he'd give her the job but without any pay, she took her £1,000 savings and set up her own company, Pinter Publishers. That was the first publishing company in the UK owned by a woman.

Today, she is the Publisher at Bloomsbury Academic, a new imprint recently launched by Bloomsbury Publishing Plc. She is also a Visiting Fellow at the London School of Economics. She has been a consultant to Creative Commons and ran an action research project for the International Development Research Centre (IDRC) called PALM Africa looking at Publishing and Alternative Licensing Models.

She was Publishing Director for the Soros Foundation Network (Open Society Institute). She founded EIFL (Electronic Information for Libraries), pioneering the consortium approach to the dissemination of electronic journals through countrywide site licenses. She also owned Leicester University Press and established Belhaven Press, an imprint devoted entirely to environmental issues.


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