I ALWAYS LOVE veteran author and publisher Joe Esposito’s thoughts. He is a witty and astute observer with the valuable eye of an experienced and passionate participant in research and scholarly publishing.
This year Joe has done a lot of work looking at society publishing, which is all well worth reading. The extent to which a professional or scientific society relies on publishing as a way of fulfilling its mission can vary greatly; some societies see their journals and books as the very core of their offering, whereas for others they are cash cows to support other member activity. Either way there are a bewildering range of options and new challenges thrown up by the digital shift. Commercial publishers have a lot to offer.
In this article Joe describes neatly what commercial publishers can and do offer societies (in addition to the obvious: sometimes enormous sums of money).
Looking at this from the publisher’s point of view, there are also untapped benefits (as well as the obvious financial return, “bulking up” and niche domination) from associating with societies. These include acquiring credibility, access to domain expertise, the creation or strengthening of communities or networks of authors, and perhaps strategic growth into new geographies and subject areas.
Of course there is also a very human side of this. Staff in publishing companies often come from academic backgrounds and look for the personal validation that comes from rubbing shoulders with society grandees. For a while I was, though a pretty humble physics grad, the publisher of the outstanding Landau and Lifshitz series of textbooks – The Course of Theoretical Physics. It makes me proud still, though all I did was keep them in print for a few years.
Club Elsevier, as mentioned at the end of Joe’s blog post, is much more fun when the disco floor is full of big-name society people and famous authors.
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FIRST, LET’S AGREE – Amazon is not a bookseller, though that is how it began life. It is a multiple retailer, a Walmart of the web and an internet chainstore of everything.
Amazon is one of the dominant commercial powers of our age, though not consistently profitable it has the ability to be so at the flick of a switch. It can and does put competitors out of business. It has ambitions and has made forays into product development as well as retailing. It is a behemoth, straddling the world right now. But can it be a successful book publisher? A new article in the New Yorker discusses its progress in the world of books.