A production editor’s pride and woe

I have been a Production Editor for four years now. I have worked for Springer for the last three years, handled 25 journals of various disciplines and now is currently a Production Editor for Wiley.

Yesterday, our Offshore Manager called us in for a brief meeting. He shared with us the current situation of academic publishing, and it is both good and bad for us. Publishers are at the centre of this web. On one branch is Academic publishing, on the other branch, are the Libraries. The other branch is the government. Let’s take a look on all how of these players affect the Publisher.

Yes, it is all changing…

Academic publishing by authors is of course, usually funded for by the government, the universities or other societies. Authors need their research funding to go out there in the world to look for answers, and share their academic findings. Part of this need to publish has something to do with work promotion, as well. They need to publish articles so that they get their grants for their next project. But due to recent economic difficulties, budgets are slashed and research take a back seat. Not everyone can afford to go on a research expedition using their own bank accounts, therefore, the budget is needed. Without all these authors to publish, then, the publishers sure are in peril. Of course, research is not the only concern of the universities and colleges. The school is run by people you need to pay, the structures need repairs and maintenance, there are all sorts of things the budget is sliced for; and it all depends on how much they have, of course. But with the recent economic hardships… well…

And then there are the libraries. Of course, libraries buy the journals/serials released by the publishers. They do this mostly for academic purposes, for the authors, more than the archiving part. But lately, due to recession, the budget on spending and acquiring academic journals has been a bumpy ride. For the last 20 years, there was not much change in the budget and spending of libraries when it comes to acquiring journals, and of course, when that trend continues, the fate of the publishers might be in peril. A lot of the revenues come in from libraries subscription and acquisition of published works. Of course, acqusition is not their only concern, they have operations to do, people to pay, maintenance, etc. And with a cut budget, well…

The Government of course, no matter where you look at a picture, is always a major player. They hold the purse strings, so to speak. Without them allotting a considerable budget on education, research and other academic-related things, then boom. Bye-bye publishers. But we have been informed that the government of some countries are actively participating in talks on how they can find solution to this problem, and these players (authors, publishers, libraries and government) are all leaning toward options on online publishing.

What does this all mean for the Publishers? Well, it’s a 50-50 good and bad thing. Haha. First of all, the authors and the libraries are their primary sources of income. Without them, who are they publishing for, right? To minimise all these spending, these players are looking into the “Online Open” publication option. This means that there is an increase demand on publishing online only; without print. Digital archiving, digital publishing. With the increased progress technology has made these past years, it follows that publishers should adapt to these technologies as well. There have been a lot of talks about this, and it is a slow process – publishers could just not let go of all printed materials, instead, they are increasing the “Online Open” options for their journal titles. Some have also started digitalising their archives, as it is a move to further enhance the author/researcher experience in terms of easier searching for related materials, etc., plus, it is a huge back-up contingency plan should paper be eliminated as publishing material.

In this widely digital world, the publishers and the government are looking into furthering this “Online Open” cause. It is too early to tell where it is all heading. But for now, things are stable, we still have our jobs (haha) and things are progressing. The publishers are in a tremendous pressure to continue publishing in a very pressed economy. Academic publishing cannot stop; research cannot take a halt. These are the steps that further the understanding of things in the world and without it, we’d be living in the dark.

I have no doubt that in the coming years, publishing would remain an important player in the field. Perhaps there will be a decline due to economic reasons, but learning and going out there in the world in search for answers will not stop. It is all about coming to terms with the technology, coming up with solutions for the good of all.

As a part of the publisher’s circle, this is both good and bad news for me. There surely will be lay-offs and cutbacks everywhere; offices will be closed, operations will cease to exist; and the few strong will stand strong, or not, who knows? But we trust the academic world to continue on with their battle for knowledge and understanding. And we hope the government and other private organisations rise up to the challenge and continue helping these people in their quest. We benefit from all of it in the end, one way or another.

I am proud to be a part of this circle, and will always be – no matter what the future holds.

(photo from: http://blog.publishingtechnology.com/blogs/emerging-trends-scholarly-publishing-%E2%80%93-allen-press-seminar/)


11 thoughts on “A production editor’s pride and woe

  1. K. C. Mead says:

    Thank you for your insights here — this is a great blog. I was actually just speaking with an editor at the Michigan Journal for Community Service Learning the other day and he told me that he felt another major problem facing academic journal publishers today is simply the proliferation of academic journals when there is not a reciprocal proliferation of quality academic articles out there — this means that more articles are getting published than likely should be and that other authors are finding it even harder to reach their targeted audiences.

    Another point to consider is that many disciplines are turning more exclusively to article publishing than to book publishing — it’s faster, often produces better writing, and enables for greater and wider scholarly discussion/community. I’m an American Studies scholar myself and so, as I’ve been assured by several of my colleagues (though I’m not yet certain I agree), at least our discipline is still very dug into the academic book market though many of our sister departments like English and History have begun to publish more and more in scholarly journals as of late.

    • Hi K.C., thank you for finding the time to read, share and respond to this blog post. I am honored!

      In response, some publishers categorise articles depending on their discipline or topic, I am sure you are aware of this. Sometimes, they even cross-list other articles to reach their target audience. It is usually widely the EIC’s discretion whether to accept a paper or not; also, the guest editors’ as well, if there are any special issues. I am sure that they do all they can to accommodate these papers while maintaining the quality of articles accepted for publication. Let’s hope it continues. 🙂

      Yes, may authors go for article publishing for the reasons you have stated. Sometimes we cannot blame them; it produces results faster, and they’ll have to wait for future issue inclusion and that’s that. I am glad to know that your discipline still go for book publishing – nothing beats a book loaded with information. 🙂

      Good luck on all your academic endeavours, K.C.! I will be on the look out for your works! 🙂

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