Academic Newsletter - May 2017

Alastair Horne
Opinion - Academic Tuesday, 23 May 2017

Alastair Horne, in association with the London Book Fair, rounds up the news from the academic publishing world


Academic conference and award winners
Oxford University Press was named Publisher of the Year for the eighth time in succession at this year's Academic Book Trade Conference Awards in Stratford-upon-Avon, ahead of Wiley and SAGE. Blackwell's took home three awards, named as top Chain Bookseller and winning Bookshop of the Year for its University of Sheffield branch, whose Glyn Littlewood also shared the academic bookseller of the year award with Hilary Piert of O'Mahony's at the University of Limerick. Julie Fisher of Palgrave Macmillan was Rep of the Year, while Roger Horton, outgoing CEO of Taylor & Francis, received a special achievement award.

After an opening keynote in which Blackwell's Scott Hamilton called for greater collaboration between booksellers and publishers on setting up deals and promotions, the conference was largely dominated by discussion of the forthcoming Teaching Excellence Framework (TEF). In conversation with Richard Fisher, the vice chancellor of the University of Reading Sir David Bell asked whether the TEF might increase university investment in libraries, since universities would look to acquire more textbooks, which are an important contributor to student satisfaction. Publishers Association ceo Stephen Lotinga also saw opportunities for the academic book trade in the TEF, as did Pearson publishing director Richard Stagg, who stressed the importance of publishers talking to students to ensure that their needs and expectations are met.

The role of digital content within the TEF attracted considerable attention. Peter Lake, group business development director for John Smith's, warned that the submissions he had seen had not mentioned learning resources, and encouraged attendees to lobby to get questions about them included in the TEF metrics. Linda Bennett of Gold Leaf, ending the day by presenting some highlights from the TEF survey the company had run in partnership with the Booksellers Association, pointed out that more than 50% of students and academics wanted to use more interactive content. While academics and publishers surveyed saw a future for academic bookshops - as did students who had access to one - admins and librarians were more doubtful. Bennett also noted with concern that few librarians appeared to have been involved in TEF submissions.

The second day saw Simon Walker of the University of Greenwich proposing that students be seen as partners rather consumers, and Mark Toole of Trent University exploring how data analytics can be used to increase student engagement and so reduce the likelihood of failure; Heather Sherman of Dawson Books suggested that library suppliers needed to respond to rising student expectations on resources by offering high quality data, support for reading lists and access to e-textbooks. A closing Strictly-style session saw a bookseller, librarian, and publisher present competing plans for the future of resource delivery to a panel of student judges: the victor was Martin Gill, head of academic services at the University of Huddersfield.

Knowledge Unlatched launches 2017 collection
Open access crowdfunding organisation Knowledge Unlatched has released details of its 2017 collection for the humanities and social sciences. The 364 books from 60 publishers comprise 151 frontlist titles, to be published between November and April, and 192 backlist titles published over the last 10 years. For the first time, journals are also included in the offering, with the 21 listed including some published by Brill, De Gruyter, MDPI, and Sage. In February, KU announced the successful unlatching of its 2016 collection, bringing to more than 450 the number of titles it has so far made available through open access.

Redux conference confirms return, announces dates
UCL Press has announced the dates for next year's second University Press Redux conference, which it will organise in partnership with the Association of Learned and Scholarly Publishers. The conference will take place on 13 and 14 February at the British Library Conference Centre, with speakers including Peter Berkery of the Association of American University Presses, Richard Charkin of Bloomsbury, and Jan-Peter Wissink of Amsterdam University Press. Last year's inaugural conference, hosted by Liverpool University Press, saw more than 150 delegates gather to discuss the "past, present, and future of institutional presses".

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