By Tom Chalmers, Managing Director at IPR License
Research published earlier in the year from International STM and Outsell valued the STM publishing market at approximately $25 billion, plus $10 billion in additional journal revenues. The number of published articles was also reported to be growing by 3.5% per year to stand at 2.5 million articles. The United States was suggested to lead the way with 36% of published articles with China said to publish 6%. It was also highlighted that since the beginning of journal publishing 350 years ago, the growth had been around 3 to 4% per annum.
These figures give some idea of the size and scale of this sector and the full report went on to highlight the value attached to licensing on a global scale. It pointed to the growth of article output from East Asia and particularly in China. China’s increased importance is especially evident in terms of generating revenue for journals in translation, mainly thanks to a flourishing pharmaceutical industry. India and Korea were also been pointed out as being markets of growing interest within this area.
The influence of technology was also stressed to be a major influencing factor in the rise to prominence of the STM sector. As such it was no real surprise to see that a keynote session in Academic Book Week last month was the Tech Tuesday’s event, hosted by London Book Fair, which focussed on Academic Book Discovery. The word discovery can be contextualized in a number of ways. Inevitably it remains vital to consider how readers can and should be discovering titles in a rapidly changing reading environment. However, in the content and context of academic books, however niche, discovery also means further education on what might be of interest to a broader audience than once imagined. After all the cross-over from the academic to non-academic worlds might not always be as large a gap as we might think.
Many academic publishers publish titles which now might be considered more general interest, rather than once simply pigeon-holed as being niche. This could mean narrative history, poetry or fiction translated from other languages. As commercial publishers increasingly turn away from books deemed not mainstream fiction, or big-sellers, university presses are finding new fields in which to publish and subsequently generate potential new audiences for their titles.
This closing of the gap can be further illustrated by some of the titles listed in the 20 Top Academic Books That Changed the World, compiled to mark Academic Book Week, the brainchild of the Academic Book of the Future project. The bookseller-friendly list certainly gave rise to plenty of controversy with some academics objecting that it was not a list of academic-authored titles, but this just emphasizes the point regarding the breadth of titles, and potential markets/audiences reachable from publishers within this sector
Focusing back on technology, STM publishing can rightly pride itself on its history of being an innovator and it will continue to lead the way for the rest of the industry in terms of discoverability and utilizing systems to generate licensing revenue. The STM community has long realized the importance attached to the licensing of their works and has been quick to grasp the concept of automating these transactions to broaden their international reach. The future remains challenging for all sectors within the industry. However, with more STM publishers utilizing services like the IPR marketplace, it’s clear that investing in and automating their rights and licensing business remains high on the agenda for many.