The future of UK university presses in the electronic environment
Scholarly communication of all types is changing dramatically with the
introduction of electronic technologies. This new environment means that standalone
print publishing risks being left behind, and as many STM journals acquired
or launched by commercial publishers have been subject to dramatic price rises in
the last few years, there has been much talk of ways to by-pass commercial
The scholarly publishing market is fertile ground for innovation and there has
been a lack of objective research regarding the UK university press. Despite the
many changes that have occurred in the scholarly publishing industry in recent
years, university presses in the UK that have not been in the forefront of
innovation have remained minor players. The research focused on the university
press, it's current situation and it's role in the electronic future.
The research included: case studies that were conducted at both UK and USA
university presses, along with the corresponding libraries, a questionnaire which
was sent to academic authors that had published with both a university press and a
commercial publishing house, and both qualitative and quantitative questionnaires
sent to all operating UK university press directors.
The thesis argues that university presses (in particular the smaller presses), as notfor-
profit organisations, are in a prime position to increase their power in the
scholarly publishing system and can make changes to provide valued services to
the Higher Education Community.
Findings show that university presses, both in the USA as well as the UK, have
faced, and continue to face change. Lack of funding and HEI support continues to
make the traditional publishing role of the university presses difficult, and, in
many cases, has caused the closure and sale of university presses in the UK. The
university press continues to play an important role, and will continue to do so in
the near future. However, in order for smaller university presses in the UK to
remain sustainable, they must continue to adapt to, and take advantage of, change,
recognise the value they add to the scholarly communication system and not rely
on others to improve their situation. They cannot remain static in a changing
Through the work with university presses three potential business plans are
proposed for a UK organisation of university presses, along with two business
models to help the presses adapt to the changing environment and continue to
play a role that is required by the HEI.
Based on the results and conclusions of the research recommendations are made
to stakeholders and ideas for further research are identified.
Key Words: University press, scholarly publishing, electronic publishing, Higher
Education Institutions, institutional repositories, business models.