By Cheryl Johnson
After my first Book and Journal Publishing class, I discovered that not many of us knew that we always wanted to get into a career in publishing. We all shared stories about how we found publishing through a trial and error period in our lives, but that we had always held a special space in our hearts for reading, writing, and or editing. I was a little taken aback when an article found on Scholarly Kitchen suggests that everyone wants to become a publisher. The author proposes that people view publishing as a simple act comparable to that of pushing a button. This sentiment seems to make sense given how easy it is to self-publish through programs such as Amazon KDP, where all you have to do is submit a Word file from your computer and you have suddenly become a published author.
The Scholarly Kitchen article discusses the emergence of more university libraries entering the world of publishing. These library publishers would seek to reach students, scholars, and researchers. A little investigation into the operations of these publishers reveals the limits of these library publishers and shows that there are some cracks in the system. So despite the new eases of publication available, not everyone can become a successful publisher.
A quick look at the second edition of the Library Publishing Directory uncovers the small number of journals being published and an even smaller number of employees involved in the publishing process. These libraries do not appear to have a clear business model, which is essential to its potential success. The article argues that publishers that could be defined as elite or market-making publishers “[invest] money into content and then brings that content to market, with the aim of making money on the process–or at least (for many not-for-profit entities) breaking even.” The library publishers are constantly on the defense as they are dealing with a cost-recovery model of business. These libraries would be better suited to provide services to those properly equipped to act as the publisher.
Another potential fault with library publishers is that they function through a peer-review system as opposed to an editorial based way of decision making. Having a finely-tuned editorial team that is equipped with industry knowledge is essential to a successful publication. When these libraries utilize a peer-review system they are in a sense just proofreading for errors and might not know what kind of content would be more successful in the market.
While this article examines some the problems in this system, it would be interesting to see the areas in which libraries could excel as publishers and which other institutions will attempt to enter the publishing world.
Source: Scholarly Kitchen
Picture of the Library of Congress from: http://algonquinredux.com/love-books/