My friend and colleague Ronald Snijder has written a very interesting forecast related to academic publishing. He asked me to publish it here, which I am happy to do. I would also like to draw your attention to the very interesting article Ronald wrote, entitled ‘The profits of free books: an experiment to measure the impact of open access publishing’ published in Learned Publishing. This article is the culmination of the research on Open Access and books he did for Amsterdam University Press.
You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org
In April 2020, professor Snijder publishes a title on rubber ducks. It comprises of a discussion of monograph length and a data file. After 6 months it becomes clear the chapter ‘Metafysical Ducks’ is read extensively at Californian universities and pictures of red rubber ducks are downloaded frequently in South East Asia. Based on this, professor Snijder received a grant for research. Working title: ‘Religion and color in bathing rituals’.
In 2020 all scholarly titles are published digitally. This has several implications. Firstly, the publications must be formatted in such a way that it is readable on many different devices, ranging from phones to cinema screens. Secondly, it becomes much easier to attach research data, or the data becomes part of the publications. Whether these will be called books, is unclear. To enable this, the publications will not contain one big mash of words; the contents must be saved in a structured format, with separate formatting instructions for screen display. Whether this structure is called XML, ePub, RDF is not really relevant. At the very least, the structure must be understood by all devices; it must follow global standards.
Publishing all information digitally enables the publisher to make it globally available without much trouble. In my opinion, one of the main tasks of the publisher is to make sure that the publications are used by their intended audiences. This is nothing new, but in 2020 usage can be measured in minute detail. At this moment, Google Books enables publishers to measure the amount of pages read, and in which countries those readers reside. This will only become more sophisticated, and that offers new opportunities for publishers. The publisher who can promote its publications to the right audiences better than the competition, has an enormous advantage. This will not only matter for the authors, but also for granting organisations.
Structured publications also lead to other possibilities: it is possible to measure the use of smaller parts of the publication – such as a chapter. Mostly, the term ‘granularity’ is used. Based on this, publishers can give detailed feedback to their authors; again an opportunity. We did see that data are becoming part of the publications. Consequently, publishers need to take the data also into account when organising the peer review process. This is a different specialisation, and publishers may need to expand their list of available reviewers.
A final remark on Open Access. Given the current rise, it will probably be normal practice in 2020. While some publishers have fully embraced OA publishing, it will not remain a distinguishing feature. If a publisher wants to stand out, it is now time to build up expertise on reviewing research data, but mostly on usage statistics.