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Hypermedia Online Publishing: the Transformation of the Scholarly Journal

3.3.3 Publishers

Publishers in the print world require a range of things in order to function: presses, skilled staff, consumables (paper, in and so on), increasingly complex technology to lay out the print work, salaries for the staff, rent for accommodation and so on. This requires a revenue stream, and the market for many scholarly publications is quite small. A subscription base of less than 1,000 copies per issue is not uncommon.

Scholarly publishing contains two types of publishers. For-profit publishers (typically in the STM area) have found that "scientific and professional publishing has become one of the most profitable - and competitive" areas to work in [Graham, 1992, p. 21]. On the other hand many scholarly societies continue to publish on a not-for-profit basis. The price differential between private and for-profit journals is very large, and may be up to three to one in some disciplines [Metz and Gherman, 1991].

Publishers may actively encourage the founding of new journals. Dale Spender [Spender, 1992] has argued that large for-profit publishers like the late Robert Maxwell's Pergamon Press actively map out profitable areas for new publications. Prestigious academics are approached to act as editors (and gatekeepers) for a new discipline or sub-discipline. Authors and referees then lobby their libraries to subscribe. As Spender puts it:

While Pergamon Press customarily bore the costs of printing and distribution, it was academics who ran the journal, provided the copy, promoted the journal and pushed for sales. And all this for no payment! [Spender, 1992, p. 19].

An alternative view of the contribution of publishers is that they add significant value to author contributions through a variety of means: management of the gatekeeping or peer-review function, editing, and typesetting and layout [Marks, 1995]. The journal also provides distribution of the published articles and publication as part of a recognised 'brand'. Lyman makes the excellent point that the relationship between authors and publishers should be seen as a "delicate symbiosis" [Lyman, 1995].

Last modified: Monday, 18-Sep-2017 03:27:52 AEST

© Andrew Treloar, 2001. * *