Friday, July 24, 2009

Academic publishing online -- and increased sales

It's good to see Robert Cargill weighing in on the question of academic publishing online, where he is commenting on a new article in the Chronicle of Higher Education by David Wiley, Giving Away Academic Books Online Can Actually Help Print Sales. The great thing about that short piece is that it actually features some research suggesting that this might indeed be the case. The anecdotal case has always appeared strong to me, that greater online access leads to great sales, and there are parallels to the same kind of thing in other areas. People who watch poor quality versions of TV programmes on Youtube will often subsequently order the DVD. With academic books, I know that I have on occasion spent so long on Google Books or Amazon's "Search Inside" that I have gone on and ordered the book I am getting a taster of. But the key, presumably, is more research on whether free online availability of books will boost sales of the same.

Of course it may not be the case of all or nothing. I would be interested to see more publishers developing models like those found in the music industry, where buying an mp3 version of a song is cheaper than buying the same thing on CD. I know that where an electronic vs. a print edition of a book is concerned, I will go for the print edition every time, just as I still prefer good old CDs to mp3s when it comes to music. The fact is that we are still in the early days of the online revolution, and now is a challenging time to be a publisher, I imagine.


Charles Ellwood Jones said...
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Charles Ellwood Jones said...

There are strong and articulate voices within the publishing industry who argue that it is indeed an issue of all or nothing. Michael Jensen's controversial speech in Philadelphia "Scholarly Publishing in the New Era of Scarcity"is a good example - read it and watch it on youtube: