Library Issues
Editors: Ann P. Dougherty, Mountainside Publishing; Richard M. Dougherty, University of Michigan, Emeritus
Contributing Editors: Mignon Adams, University of the Sciences in Philadelphia; Steve Marquardt, South Dakota State University; William Miller, Florida Atlantic University; Maureen Pastine, Temple University
Vol. 23, No. 2 November 2002

Changes in Scholarly Communication: University Presses, Libraries and the Campus

by Maureen Pastine and Charles Ault

Rapid changes in scholarly communications are leading
our universities in new publishing directions. University presses and academic
libraries still perform vital roles in scholarly communication while suffering from increasing budgetary constraints and increasing pressures, both internal and external, that tend to result
in conflicting and frustrating concerns. A hybrid version of what is now being called an
institutional repository model may help threatened monographs survive.

Continuing, and often increasing, financial constraints make it difficult for university presses and university libraries to fulfill their evolving roles to provide access to scholarly publications in both print and electronic form. In order to maintain or stem the tide of reductions in acquisitions, libraries want publications to be more affordable. They expect new, electronic editions to be accessible at lower costs. To make up for subsidy cuts from their parent institutions and declining sales to libraries, university presses want their own books and journals to be more profitable. They wonder where the resources will come from to develop new electronic publishing models.

The Future of University Presses

The shifting landscape of the publishing industry has seen the consolidation of scientific, technical, and medical publishing in the hands of commercial publishers. Such developments have had a wide-ranging impact and have threatened the viability of scholarly publishing itself. Rising prices, especially for journals, have squeezed library budgets and resulted in fewer scholarly monographic purchases and a much smaller market for university press publications. At the same time, university administrations have begun demanding, perhaps unrealistically, that scholarly publishing stop generating deficits.

Ohio State University Press Director Malcolm Litchfield has opened a serious dialogue with his thoughts on the future of university press publishing, which include taking advantage of university libraries and technology to create a more efficient system for scholars than the current publishing climate now offers. According to Litchfield, the presses’ role is to foster scholarly communication and that may not always mean traditional book publishing. Facilitating scholarly communication is the mission; what’s less important is the means.1

There is no doubt, however, that some university administrators will no longer support the deficits incurred in scholarly publishing as it is practiced today. One has only to look at the news items and literature of the higher education, university press, and library worlds – in The Chronicle of Higher Education, Publishers Weekly, Library Journal, the AAUP listserv, and similar venues – to find that a few presses have been eliminated or sold. Others have endured staff reductions.

Threats to Scholarship

The response of many university presses has been forays into trade publishing, often emphasizing the publication of titles with strong regional interest. While such “niche publishing has improved the financial position of some presses, it apparently has not been successful enough to stem the erosion of publishing in certain academic disciplines, e.g., literary criticism. So what is needed now, perhaps, is a rethinking of the role of scholarly presses as businesses.

The notion that university-based presses function as a “business and therefore have the potential, at least, to make a profit, seems misguided. The fact that much scholarly publishing in science, medicine, and technology is now controlled by profit-making businesses, we have seen, is actually part of the problem. It doesn’t seem reasonable to expect that turning university presses into profit centers will somehow lower the cost of scholarly publications. Rather, the scholarly publishing engaged in by university presses needs to be seen as an integral part of the mission of higher education, just as the chemistry department or the library. Few universities expect their libraries and academic departments to become profit centers.

Litchfield reports that “statistics from the AAUP suggest that scholarly communication remains unattractive from a commercial standpoint. He suggests that “a marketplace of ideas is better than a “marketplace of books and journals. He is taken with the idea of the university library as a portal to all knowledge generated at a university and asks: “How would such a portal system affect scholarship? For one thing, there would quickly develop a need for a search engine that could successfully peruse and access information within all these repositories. He also notes that there “would be significant hurdles to overcome in making this kind of portal system a reality….Tenured professors would have little reason to comply with the request to grant non-exclusive electronic rights to their institutions.2

Simply changing the mindset of faculty and university administrators won’t reduce the cost of scholarly communication, of course. But it might help to correct unrealistic expectations. For instance, it is a myth that creating an electronic publication is substantially cheaper than its print counterpart. The cost of paper, printing, and binding represents less than 10 to 20 percent of the retail price of most books, even short-run scholarly monographs. The costs of acquiring manuscripts, editing them, and designing a user-friendly interface — not to mention the costs of marketing, fulfillment, and administrative overhead — do not diminish. The real advantage of electronic publishing is distribution. Given the electronic infrastructure represented by the Internet and smaller localized networks, e-books and e-journals can be easily and cheaply disseminated from remote locations to multiple access points. The technological infrastructure to support all this is not free, of course, but often “hidden“ or simply taken for granted. Will universities continue to fund the infrastructure and the software, hardware, and support systems to implement these new alternative publishing ventures?

Academic Libraries’ Relationships with Publishing

Meanwhile, spiraling serials’ costs, particularly in the sciences, technology, and medicine, have led libraries to explore their own alternative publishing models. Libraries are turning more and more toward electronic full-text databases and other electronic access to replace expensive print journals. They have expanded efforts to participate in consortia and other forms of resource sharing. In addition, they are assuming a major role in further developing alternative modes of publication to meet new needs, demands, and expectations of users.

Consortia. Many library and related academic organizations are collaborating to change the publishing marketplace. These include the Association of Research Libraries (ARL), the Council on Library and Information Resources, the Coalition of Networked Information, the Scholarly Publishing and Academic Resources Consortium (SPARC), and other similar organizations.

Resource Sharing. SPARC and the International Scholarly Communications Alliance (ISCA), in particular, are attempting to counteract the wave of publishing industry mergers that tend to reduce competition and increase costs. SPARC is, among other initiatives, developing programs to keep the scholarly publishing infrastructure within the university community, relying on not-for-profit university presses rather than profit-seeking commercial publishers. ISCA is a worldwide group of research organizations and libraries collaborating with scholars and publishers to establish equitable access to scholarly and research publications. The International Consortium for the Advancement of Publication is dedicated to furthering the academic and financial interests of editors, universities, and libraries. It provides a technological and professional infrastructure for scholarly communication on the World Wide Web. Other similar organizations are using online peer review to speed up access to manuscripts and electronic archives.

The ARL listserv, on February 6, 2002, reported on a “New International Scholarly Alliance for Broadening Access to Research.3 In December of 2001, the Knight Higher Education Collaborative stressed the importance of new shared scholarly alliances, not just within the sciences but in the humanities and social sciences as well.4 What is needed, the article maintains, is to make electronic publication of equal importance in all three disciplines.5

Joint Ventures. ARL and AAUP met in the spring of 2002 to discuss how they might better work together. From that meeting came a joint statement drafted by AAUP Executive Director Peter Givler which briefly outlines the roles of each organization in the scholarly communication system. The draft is intended to serve as an introduction to a larger document about strengthening the system of scholarly communication in the respective roles of presses and libraries, including what they are, or could be, doing together. His final draft statement recognizes that “what each of us does complements the work of the other and is necessary to complete it, for readers without access to scholarship are as crippled as scholarship without access to readers. This draft introduction is a stepping-off-point for development of an action plan to work on resolution of common concerns, problems, and issues that presses and libraries face in their futures. It is clear that both must assume a strong stance to reverse the continuing decline in output and access to scholarly communication. A highly visible role within and outside of one’s own institution is crucial to the future of higher education, fair use of educational materials, and continued growth of intellectual and cultural development.6

What’s Next?

Existing inadequacies and inefficiencies must be addressed, along with a reversal in potential and real loss of scholarly output in certain fields. There is a great necessity to speed up development of alternative publishing venues and to find widespread support for less-expensive modes of science, technology, and medical publication. Funds are needed to support crucial scholarly works in selected fields where little, if any, scholarly publication is now being accomplished.

University presses must find a way to use “the potential of electronic technologies to improve how they produce and deliver information to increase their visibility nationally and internationally and to streamline operations.7 But since the demand for printed publications is not likely to disappear any time soon, greater use of electronic technologies is only part of the answer. There is a continuing need to revamp the existing model of print publishing, to identify and implement operating efficiencies, to publish smarter, eliminate waste, and build on strengths.

Institutional Repositories. The more recent literature on publishing seems focused on partnerships among university presses, libraries, and others. Nancy Essig, director of the University Press of Virginia, urges presses to “build relationships with new players – electronic aggregators, online bookstores, on-demand printing services—and strengthen on-campus relationships.8 Institutional repositories are one way to provide the opportunity to build an improved publishing venue. Institutional repositories are an electronic archive of faculty publications of a college or university, allowing that institution and its faculty members to make their research, articles, gray literature, proceedings of conferences, and similar work easily accessible electronically to other scholars from anywhere, at any time and from any location. Access is usually free, or with small fees associated with the cost of printouts, all under the control of the institution and its faculty, so that intellectual property rights remain with the producers or the institution. Institutional repositories are therefore an excellent way to increase visibility for the campus and the faculty.

“the scholarly publishing engaged in by university presses needs to be seen as an integral part of the mission of higher education, just as the chemistry department or the library.”

Libraries are already supporting the education, management, integration, organization of information, and rights controls within these new institutional repositories. Ohio State University Libraries has established a regional repository. The MIT Libraries has its own campus repository for faculty publications.

Other projects such as the Open Archives Metadata Harvesting Protocol initiative—to attach metadata codes (background keywords) to online research publications to help search engines pull out desired information—are being considered to provide access to institutional or consortial repositories.

Value-added Services. If the current system is to survive, university presses must continue to play a major role in scholarly publishing and libraries must continue to provide access to their publications. University presses have highly developed expertise in the production of scholarly information that must not disappear from view. And presses, like libraries, are powerful advocates that scholars depend on for the publication and dissemination of their work.

Scholarly publishers, and university presses in particular, provide expertise and perform vital value-added services in the scholarly communication enterprise:

an acquisitions capability (“product development),

gate-keeping (to maintain a consistently high level of published scholarship),

editorial development (copy-editing, proofreading, indexing),

design (to make publications user-friendly, whether viewed in print form or on-screen,

production (expertise in managing the editorial, design, and output process),

distribution, especially to trade markets (sales, marketing, and order fulfillment expertise),

administrative and financial management of the entire publishing enterprise.

If university presses were somehow excluded from the picture in some radical new model of scholarly publishing, someone would still have to perform these functions. Commercial publishers could fill the gap, it might be argued, but under such a scenario the “profit premium remains, and the control of scholarly communication is still not brought back within the academic community.

Distribution issues. Although we have seen that alternative electronic models of publication do not eliminate or substantially reduce all of the costs listed above, electronic distribution is an area where very sizeable cost savings, as well as greatly improved research techniques, can be realized. Distribution is widely recognized as the Achilles’ heel of the conventional publishing industry. Distribution costs represent up to 50 percent, or more, of the list price of books. And the curious trade practice of “returns — allowing wholesalers and retailers to return unsold books to publishers for full price — introduces enormous waste and inefficiency.

A Hybrid Model of the Institutional Repository

University libraries are, for the most part, ahead of university presses in purchase and use of digital technologies and electronic access to information. If university presses are to play the role they are uniquely suited for in partnering with libraries to build alternative publishing ventures, university administrators will have to recognize and address the need to bring presses up to date as well.

This alliance with libraries can be a hybrid model of an institutional repository. Quality print-on-demand capacities can be provided. Elimination of costly returns for the press and the university will be an asset. In the proposed hybrid model of scholarly publishing, university presses and university libraries do what each does best:

presses acquire, edit, and design,

libraries distribute to the academic market,

both collaborate on production functions,

both share marketing functions.

Presses have much to learn from libraries in the electronic arena, and libraries will benefit from a better understanding of how quality publications are actually produced. At first glance, it may seem odd to have libraries share in the marketing function. But marketing, in this case, is simply another term for publicizing, for letting the academic community know what new scholarship is available. And this is something libraries know quite well how to do.

Financial models for the hybrid system could be based initially on current university press and university library staffing and operating costs. What gets cheaper is the product, the publications and research results, by attacking the inefficiencies in the distribution system and driving down the spiraling inflationary pricing of commercial publishers – eliminating the profit premium. Bringing university bookstores into the hybrid partnership will allow for rationalization of course adoption sales on campus through the use of print-on-demand, which reduces waste by ameliorating the problem of returns. Admittedly, there is much to be done to develop workable models. But the stakes are too high not to explore radical departures from the present system.

A Win-Win Result

Working together, university presses and libraries have a great deal to offer each other, the academic community, and global information networks. Some university presses and university libraries are already working together in new publishing ventures or through administrative structures. Such collaboration is a real asset in ensuring greater understanding of each other’s roles, duties, and responsibilities. Even more importantly, it offers new opportunities to share staffing and technologies. Together, libraries and presses can promote initiatives to educate the entire academic community about the vital role scholarly communications plays in learning, teaching, and research. Faculty and administrators, just as much as presses and libraries, are stakeholders in this process. Maureen Pastine <> is University Librarian, Temple University, and Charles Ault <> is Assistant Director, Temple University Press, Philadelphia, PA.


1Litchfield, Malcolm. “For University Press Directors, Tough but Rewarding Times, Library Journal Academic News Wire: August 15, 2002]

2Litchfield, Malcolm. “…But Presses Stress Ideas, Not Markets, The Chronicle of Higher Education. (June 28, 2002).

3“New International Scholarly Alliance for Broadening Access to Research, ARL-ANNOUNCE [listserv] February 6, 2002.

4“Op.Cit., Policy Perspectives. The Knight Higher Education Collaborative Supported by the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation. Volume 10, Number 3 (December 2001).

5The “Op. Cit. essay is based on the Roundtable on Scholarly Communication in the Humanities and Social Sciences, jointly convenened in March 2001 by the Association of Research Libraries, the National Humanities Alliance, and the Knight Collaborative, along with financial support from the National Endowment for the Humanities.

6Case, Mary. “Draft AAUP and ARL Joint Statement on Roles of Press and Libraries in the Scholarly Communication System, Email to ARL Scholarly Communication Committee. (October 5, 2002).

7“Publishing and AAUP: A Career, AAUP and a Diverse Workforce. [AAUP URL]

8Opinion. “Scholarly Publishing in an Electronic Age: 8 Views of the Future, The Chronicle of Higher Education. (June 25, 1999).


Related Articles on Library Presses


The Northeastern University Press (NUP) gave the scholarly publishing community a bit of good news, celebrating its 25th anniversary with a recent reception at the Massachusetts Historical Society. And for William Frohlich, who started the press and has guided it as both director and editor-in-chief through its 25-year history, there was more than 25 years of good publishing to celebrate. NUP Press officials report that 2002 was the best sales year in the press’s history, with revenues topping $1.7 million. Of course, as Frohlich would note, that success was somewhat bittersweet: those numbers were boosted by NUP’s THE NEW JACKALS: RAMZI YOUSEF, OSAMA BIN LADEN, AND THE FUTURE OF TERRORISM, by Simon Reeve, which spent four weeks on THE NEW YORK TIMES bestseller list in the aftermath of 9/11. The mood at the reception was upbeat, however, as those assembled recalled the creation and maturation of one of the nation’s highly respected academic publishers.

Frohlich, who came to Northeastern in 1976 after 16 years in commercial publishing, said that the press began with his proposal for“ an experiment in scholarly publishing” to the university. NUP’s initial efforts began with reprinting out-of-print titles, as well as searching out new manuscripts. There were some hurdles.“ One renowned historian would not let us reissue his books,” Frohlich recalled, “because we had no reputation.” Things have clearly changed. Since the NUP’s start in 1977, with an initial budget of $15,000, the press’ s sales and success have grown steadily, as has Frohlich’s role as a publisher.“ In 1977, I managed five university departments in addition to the press,” he said. “Now I struggle to keep up with the workload of the press.” He has shepherded the NUP through a remarkable transformation, from a shoestring operation that produced a handful of scholarly titles to a nationally recognized house that publishes and distributes more than 30 titles annually in a wide array of disciplines.

from Library Journal Academic News Wire: October 31, 2002


In an all-too-familiar refrain, Stanford University Press this week announced that it was reducing its workforce, including its editorial staff, and slashing the number of books published. According to a report in the STANFORD DAILY, Stanford’s student newspaper, publications to be cut include European translations, from ten titles per year to three; literature, philosophy, history and religion, from a combined 38 titles to 35. Regional and general interest books, roughly eight titles annually, will be dropped almost entirely. The press will also cut one of its two humanities editors, and three permanent positions were cut, two to be replaced by freelancers. “Our aim has been to protect the core of our scholarly program while responding to the accelerating erosion of the market for scholarly books,” SUP managing editor Geoffrey Brun told STANFORD DAILY reporters. “This has been driven in large part by consolidation in the retail trade, the implosion of the superstores, and the significant reduction in library budgets.” Brun also cited the increasing financial pressures on colleges and universities in the weak economy. SUP does receive support from Stanford University.

from Library Journal Academic News Wire: October 31, 2002


Further Readings

Smallwood, Scott. “The Crumbling Intellectual Foundation, The Chronicle of Higher Education. (September 20, 2002): A10-A13.

McClemee, Scott. “University Presses Take Different Approaches to Making Cuts,
The Chronicle of Higher Education.
(September 20, 2002): A12.

Cronin, Blaise. “The Dean’s List: The University Press, Library Journal. (March 15, 2002): 60.

Bauerlein, Mark. “Ignore Fast-Track Assessment of Scholarly Books at Your Peril,
The Chronicle of Higher Education.
(July 19, 2002).

Pfund, Niko. “University Presses Aren’t Endangered…
The Chronicle of Higher Education Review.
Volume 48 (June 28, 2002).

Young, Jeffrey. “Journal Boycott Over Online Access is a Bust,
Information Technology Section, The Chronicle of Higher Education. (May 16, 2002).

“Value of a University Press, [AAUP URL]

Givler, Peter. “Scholarly Books, the Coin of the Realm of Knowledge,Point of View.

The Chronicle of Higher Education. (November 12, 1999): A76.


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last modified: November 2002


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