The Academic Book of the Future

Date: 20/06/2017

Two major new reports published demonstrate that the future of the academic book is at a major crossroad. With the number of new book proposals growing rapidly but sales per title continuing to fall, the future of the academic book looks uncertain.

The findings of the two-year research initiative, funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council in collaboration with The British Library, and led by Dr Samantha Rayner (UCL), are being unveiled today at the British Library.

Image of books
According to the report, between 2005 and 2014, the sales of academic books fell by 13 percent, and university press revenues from print have fallen by 25 percent between 2008 and 2015

Researchers on the Academic Book of the Future project have recommended that academics and publishers work together to develop a new vision for the sector that embraces technology and focuses on the enhancing the readers experience.

The project involved speaking to academics, libraries, publishers, sales agents, booksellers, intermediaries to explore the rapid changes and growing pressures of scholarly communications in the arts and humanities. The report highlights that collaboration and dialogue are vital for the future of the academic book.

Dr Samantha Rayner, academic lead for the project, commented: “One of our key aims in this project was to engage as broad a community as possible. What the project has above all proved is that those communities which connect through the academic book are willing to work together to continue to bring research to readers as quality-controlled, accessible content. The value of the academic book, in all its many forms, is still very much a key currency in arts and humanities research.”

The report also stresses that, while there are already diverse examples of digital innovations transforming academic book publishing, more research is needed to understand reader behaviours in online environments, to capitalise on the true potential of digital technologies, and to address concerns around the preservation of digital texts.

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