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Categories: Book printing >> Printing Blog
Book Printing in Learned Journals
Origin:Image Printing  Data: 3/18/2011  Keywords: book printing field

The book printing field of referred or peer-reviewed learned journals, sold on subscription to libraries, is a major adjunct to academic book publishing. In STM publishing the revenues may far outweigh the publishers' subject-related book operations. Historically, the higher profits and gross margins derived from journals have in effect cross-subsidized their book publishing, which earned lower profits. The learned societies and associations also publish their own journals, or may have their journals produced and marketed for them under contract by the publishers. For many societies, journal publishing keeps them a float. The constant rise in scientific and other kinds of research (for example in China) is putting great pressure on the peer review process and on library budgets.

The journal publishers, especially in STM, have been at the forefront of driving their businesses online. Throughout the 1990s, the printed journals became increasingly available in electronic format. At first, the journal publishers tried to charge extra for the electronic version in an effort to recoup their additional costs. However, subscription rates to the printed journal came to include the e-format for free, mainly because of the UK Value Added Tax (VAT) anomaly whereby electronic materials attract VAT and printed materials do not. More recently some publishers offer discounts on electronic only subscriptions. The major publishers have developed their own e-platforms. For instance, in 1997 Elsevier launched the first large-scale e-platform, Science Direct, which allowed the STM community full online access to its journals and other databases (for example abstracts). In 2001 it had introduced the first online peer review system and by 2003 had completed the digitization of its back issues, the first back file collection to be made available online. Wiley's InterScience had a similar programme, due for completion in 2007. The major publishers are large enough to deal directly with the institutional librarians or purchasing consortia (some at state or nation state level), through which the institution's subscriptions to journals (and ebook collections) are negotiated.

Platforms such as ScienceDirect are brands. The book printing company compete on the usability of their platforms, such as reliability, speed, and ease of use and browsing. However, the strength of the platform is based on the brand value of the individual journals. Publishers without their own platforms may use companies like Ingenta or HighWire. The smaller publishers, in the main, use subscription agents, such as Blackwell's Information Services and Swets, through which libraries obtain their journals from a vast number of publishers. The US aggregators of journals and content databases, such as EBSCO and ProQuest, provide library access to the output of publishers. The subscription agents are developing their businesses in many directions. Online access offers additional functionality over the printed page (such as search facilities or click-throughs to other articles via references). In many cases, the concept of the journal itself is being eroded and the unit of currency is becoming the individual paper - papers may be released when ready rather than waiting for a complete issue. Services have also been developed to serve discrete subject areas (known as portals or communities), drawing material from different journals and publishers.

The brand value of many journals is reflected in their impact factor, a measure of the citations to journals, calculated by the Institute for Scientific Information (ISI), which is part of of the major US publisher Thomson. It should be appreciated that different disciplines use citations in different ways. Some of the highest-rated journals are published by societies and associations in the UK and US, not by commercial publishers. Nevertheless, a major strength of a commercial publisher's business is expressed by the number of leading journals they have created over long periods and own outright. Since researchers' careers are often evaluated on their publication record, they try to be published in the highest ranked journals in their subject they can attain. Academics from the world's top research universities mainly populate the leading journals.

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