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Romance Studies: Presentation at Midwinter ALA


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A presentation on Pennsylvania State University's Open Access/print monograph series, Romance Studies. Examines the financial realities as modeled in an "average" publication based on past volumes.

A presentation on Pennsylvania State University's Open Access/print monograph series, Romance Studies. Examines the financial realities as modeled in an "average" publication based on past volumes.

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  • The Office of Digital Scholarly Publishing is co-directed by Michael Furlough, Assistant Dean of Scholarly Communication at PSU Libraries and myself. There are no other full-time staff, but six to eight other individuals from the press and libraries become involved in the print and online publication. The nature of the experiment consists of the following features [next slide].
  • Romance studies was conceived nearly eight years ago. After a lengthy gestation period, the first volumes in the series appeared in 2007. Currently eight volumes have appeared; another two will appear in 2010. The goals of the experiment are sixfold [next slide]:
  • The experiment set goals in keeping with the university’s overall mission, namely, to maintain peer review standards, to increase the dissemination and accessibility of scholarly findings, and to make scholarship available for classroom use. An emphasis on the first book also characterizes the goals. These “mission” goals, obviously, risk running counter to the practical goal of “sustainability.” Basically, the dilemma is: “How do a press and library collaborate to create a sophisticated publication exhibiting values of superior material quality, aesthetically designed, showing academic integrity, being rigorously edited, marketed to both academic and nonacademic markets, bearing a low price, made available for free in an online environment---how do they do that and remain in business? The following Key Assumptions shape the following presentation, and it should be remembered that although Romance Studies is truly a collaborative venture, my point of departure is that of a university press, committed to print as an essential medium in scholarly communication [next slide]
  • Without question, in the arts and humanities, monographs remain the principal criterion for professional advancement and tenure. If anything, universities’ demands on faculty to publish have only escalated, both in their quest for research funding and in universities’ efforts to more tightly control the number of tenured faculty. Libraries, of course, play a role in this enterprise when they purchase monographs and in doing so both disseminate and preserve knowledge and help support the whole enterprise by helping pay for the expense. It doesn’t take Warren Buffet to know that university press monographs are expensive to produce. But one may have to look more carefully to realize that their value is not restricted simply to the material “book.” The real value includes the scholarly content within and the quality standards without that reflect on the prestige and reputation of the author, press, and their respective universities. Regarding the third bullet point: Because the majority of Penn State’s publications are for the institutional markets, and because the lion’s share of costs fall on scholarly monographs, our press, perhaps more than most university presses, relies on the library market for its survival. Presses with inroads into a broader audience look to sales outside libraries to help defray their costs. With the above assumptions in the back of our mind, I want to use actual data about Romance Studies to illustrate what might be a typical financial scenario for a typical monograph [next slide].
  • This slide illustrates the actual print sales histories of eight Romance Studies titles published from 2007 through 2009 in both cloth and in paper. This information will help measure the financial consequences of publishing Romance Studies. As an exercise, I will take the averages of these eight titles and create an “average” monograph. Using the resulting lifetime averages, we’ll have a concrete, if imaginary, financial picture of monograph publishing, the cost of digital and print information, and the financial results of this experiment thus far. [next slide]
  • Each of these averages affects the financial results. It is important to keep in mind, for example, that “free copies” are not really “free.” Returns to a publisher have a cost. Pricing affects the financial success or failure of a project. Again, these averages are derived from actual numbers in our series [next slide].
  • So here’s an “average” RS title, charted in the earlier slide. This slide represents the physical description of an “average” book for our experiment: 256 pages, 6” x 9” paper/cloth/OA, list price for cloth/list price for paper. Also vital to note here are the last two bullet points: the average number of cloth copies sold in the RS series is 95. The average number of paperback copies sold is 279. We’ll use these figures later, when we make further calculations on our average monograph. Next I want to look at costs associated with a project [next slide].
  • “ First copy costs” involve those costs that can be readily identified for almost any project. Some vary, such as the cost of copyediting. Thus, in our “average” below, a 256 page monograph costs $5.83 per page to copy edit. That price varies based on the number of pages, obviously; but it can also vary based on the technical nature of a volume, whether the author is sloppy, whether fact-checking is required, whether there are nonroman languages, etc. Other costs remain fixed, such as the cost of filing for CIP. (I did not include the cost of (c) registration, by the way, which runs $35--$50 per title, though I should have. What may not always be obvious, however, is how quickly these costs add up before the first book is ever printed.
  • “ Invisible” costs at the library are difficult to nail down; nonetheless, they are very real. The chief cost, staff time, required initial, start-up money to learn and implement the publishing software, DPubS. There were unexpected “invisible” costs when there was staff turnover. In particular, having to “relearn” DPubS because of staff turnover inhibited smooth development of the project. Please note: These costs are not factored into this scenario but they are nonetheless real.
  • This slide reflects “invisible” overhead costs at the press. Again, they may be hidden but real costs facing any operation. In the university world of grants, donors, and gifts, such costs seem more easily attained because the university is often absorbing them. To be fair many universities absorb costs for many university presses, both directly and indirectly. For presses, however, such costs become a little more real since presses are expected to “generate income” to pay for this overhead by selling monographs, among other things.
  • “ Overhead” refers to the “invisible costs” in the preceding slides, namely, monies an operation needs to stay in business and pay for all those invisible costs. That overhead and the project costs are the same reflects an assumption of a typical relationship between the two. Thus here is a 50% “margin.” A 50% margin is a low average and will vary from place to place, depending on the subsidy levels or the operating expenses, or in the case of a commercial publisher, on stockholder expectations. One would not be surprised to find a commercial publisher aiming for a margin of more than 70%. So, if these are the costs for the first book, why not just have an OA edition? Keep in mind what I said earlier: university presses and our markets depend upon print sales. That is, no print is hardly an option for us.
  • I’m using round numbers in the totals. Also, I want to remind you that “frees”---books that are sent to journals for review, to authors/editors, and contributors, to museums and to rights and permissions entities, to newspapers, to universities, and so on are not free. So, what happens when we plug in the costs of these printed copies to the first copy costs in our financial picture? [next slide]
  • Note that the overhead for the total includes overhead for the first copy ($5,188) and overhead for the additional print copies ($3,498). So, based on our average in this series, each title runs a deficit of $9,898. How accurate is this? Let’s be clear: this is a scenario based on averages, averages from a pool of eight titles in a highly specialized field. Nonetheless, it is a fairly accurate representation of what is happening to this series, even though it is not some vatic tool to prophesy what will happen to any series run along similar lines. Also, we need to keep in mind the OA component, both in terms of costs and in terms how OA fulfills the mission of the university.
  • Interpreting these figures is speculative, a Ouija Board if you will, for we really don’t know how people are using the material, where they are coming from, how many hits track me looking at the books, or how many people land there looking for Fabio. The number of unique, brief page views suggests caution is wise. Nonetheless, a couple of figures stand out: The hits for Rogers, esp. in the 6-month period from June 2009 to January 2010 reflects ongoing access of the online version. With Rogers having been published in 2007, one of the first published in series, one might not expect sustained interest, if I were thinking in terms of how books perform: 80% in the first 9 months, and then the remaining 20% over four years. Green is another instance that gives me pause: it is the last book posted (2008), and it has the second highest number of page views. While it’s tempting to suggest this is because the cloth is so expensive, it’s in the top three number of paperback copies sold (335). It also has the most text adoption sales, beating every other title by a factor of three or four. So there is some hint that OA may be fulfilling aspects of mission that might not otherwise have been realized by a print-only medium. **In mid-2009 the Libraries began using Google Analytics to collect and report usage data. **Low figures for Sapega reflect a delayed electronic publication for the title.
  • So, how does this project measure in financial terms? READ SLIDE
  • READ SLIDE. We need more data on how the OA version is being accessed. We need also to try this experiment in a field that has a larger market, and we need to continue to experiment with pricing models. The project did attain five of its six goals. Whether this model is sustainable, in the words of Bonnie Raitt, is “too soon to tell.”
  • Transcript

    • 1. The Pennsylvania State University’s Office of Digital Scholarly Publishing: An Experiment in Online Open Access and Traditional Print Monograph Publishing
    • 2. Nature of the experiment
          • peer-reviewed monograph series following standard review policies
          • prepared for print (POD)
          • simultaneously printed in paper and cloth
          • and digital delivery (OA and modified OA)
          • goals of the experiment
    • 3. Goals of the experiment
          • maintain peer review standards for P&T
          • outlet for first book for tenure
          • support for an underserved discipline
          • dissemination/accessibility (online OA)
          • classroom adoption (paperback editions)
          • sustainability
    • 4. Key assumptions
      • Monographs, in print form, remain the keys to the kingdom of academe. Presses play vital role in this realm.
      • Printed books bear on the reputation of editors, authors, presses, and universities and demand and deserve the highest standards of quality.
      • A university’s press’s survival depends on generating revenue from publishing monographs and selling those monographs to institutions as well as individuals. For most presses, markets outside libraries are significant.
    • 5. Lifetime print sales (net) for Romance Studies 2232 29983.51 756 22909.42 358 25.00 4031.25 132 39.00 2515.50 Territories of History 270 35.00 3530.45 88 65.00 3198.00 Rewriting Womanhood 401 25.00 5888.30 106 65.00 4134.00 Reconstructing woman 197 39.00 3865.14 51 75.00 2467.50 Love Cures 275 35.00 1866.20 108 60.00 2799.00 Imperial Lyric 189 30.00 2445.81 81 45.00 2290.50 Consensus & Debate 207 30.00 3158.21 111 39.00 1887.60 Career Stories 335 25.00 5198.15 79 75.00 3617.32 Book of Peace qty paper price PAPER qty cloth price CLOTH
    • 6. Lifetime averages 124 average # returns paper 29 average # returns cloth 4 average # free copies, paper 10 average # free copies, cloth 279 average # copies sold paper (net) 94.5 average # copies sold cloth (net) $30.50 average price, paper $57.88 average price, cloth
    • 7. The “average” monograph
      • 256 pp.
      • 6  x 9  (paper, cloth, or OA)
      • list price digital copy $0
      • list price $57.88 cl.
      • list price $30.50 pbk.
      • 95 copies cloth sold
      • 279 copies paperback sold
    • 8. “ Visible” first copy costs associated with the “book” in print or digital $5,188 Subtotal $45 CIP filing $9.84 unit cost, cloth $300 design (interior) $4.74 unit cost, paper $1786 composition type-setting $150 design (cover) [a template] $1493 copy editing $1000 marketing $400 readers’ fees
    • 9. “Invisible” costs at the library
      • implementation of the project (learning to work with DPubS publication software)
      • validating metadata
      • setting up PURL
      • ingesting pdf files to DPubS
      • hosting
      • software upgrades
      • hardware upgrades
      • personnel (the most expensive aspect)
    • 10. More invisible costs: overhead
        • university support (includes staff, ongoing tech resources)
        • office space, utilities, lights
        • personnel (acquisitions, editorial assistants, production, sales, marketing)
        • phone, fax
        • computers and tech support
        • web development and maintenance
        • postage/office equipment, office supplies
        • travel
        • staff development
        • exhibits
    • 11. Costs for the first copy of our average book $10,376 $5,188 invisible costs (overhead) $5,188 visible project costs
    • 12. Added project costs based on our average result: 95 copies cloth, 279 copies paperback CLOTH PAPERBACK $3,498 TOTAL $1431 $2068 subtotal $278.00 cost of returns, cl $123.00 cost of returns, pbk $178.70 author royalty, cl $276.56 author royalty, pbk $934.80 mfg cl $1322.46 mfg pbk $39.36 free copies, cl $346.02 free copies, pbk
    • 13. Financial results RS average 95 cloth | 279 pbk. overhead print copies $3,498 ($9,898) shortfall subtotal $17,372 subtotal $7,474 overhead 1st copy $5,188 print copies $3,498 cloth sales $3,574 1st copy $5,188 paperback sales $3,900 COSTS INCOME
    • 14. Web access 66 66 N/A Sapega 1596 310 1286 Rogers 985 177 808 Kelly 1157 166 991 Green 931 130 801 Beckjord Total Page views June 2009--Jan. 2009 Page views Mar. 2007--June 2009 Author
    • 15. Measuring success in financial terms
          • A “hard row to hoe,” but it may have less to do with the model than with the goals
          • Digital offers limited savings, minimizing inventory, reducing materials costs.
          • Digital may potentially add additional, ongoing costs (site maintenance, software and hardware upgrades) as users’ demands change.
          • Digital delivery does not satisfy all the market demands for print (markets outside libraries, P&T requirement, university branding and prestige).
    • 16. Measuring success according to project goals
      • project did attain 5 of 6 goals:
        • outlet for first book for tenure
        • maintain peer review standards for P&T
        • support for an underserved discipline
        • dissemination/accessibility (online OA)
        • classroom adoption (paperback editions)
        • sustainability
    • 17. End
      • Office of Digital Scholarly Publishing
      • The Pennsylvania State University