The death of the academic book and the path to Open Access

By Roxanne Missingham | October 24, 2013

by Roxanne Missingham

Is publishing academic books a dying trade? And if so, are free e-books from universities likely to deal the final blow?

The future of book publishing in general is hotly contested, but particularly so for university presses. Louise Adler, the head of Melbourne University Publishing recently suggested that the book industry is failing and university presses publishing “Open Access” – or free, reproducible – books are second rate publications which threaten intellectual property rights.

Her analysis is pointed, but ultimately flawed.

Is the scholarly book industry dying?

It is true that print scholarly book sales have declined. Recent research published in the Journal of Electronic Publishing finds that sales now average 200 for each title, as opposed to 2000 in 1980.

Downloads from relatively new university E Presses tell a different story however. Titles published by ANU E Press had an average of over 1,000 downloads this year alone. Studies such as Indigenous expert Adam Shoemaker’s Black Words White Page, the first comprehensive treatment of the nature and significance of Indigenous Australian literature, has been downloaded over 18,800 times so far this year, reaching a wide audience around the world.

Read full post here. (Originally posted October 22, 2013)