By Porter Anderson, Editor-in-Chief | @Porter_Anderson
Also today: Equality, Diversity, Inclusion: UK and Irish University Presses Vow to ‘EvenUP’
Nicola Ramsey: ‘Such a Strong Performance’As 17 university presses with installations in the United Kingdom and Ireland announce their new diversity-targeted “EvenUp” program this week, one of the group, Edinburgh University Press, is reporting that its total book sales in 2021 were up 9 percent over 2020.
Reflecting the fact that many university presses—like the commercial trade—have seen substantial gains in the second year of the coronavirus COVID-19 pandemic, the press reports that it published 256 new titles in 2021, while commissioning 355 books and nine new series.
Authors signed in those commissions include writers based in Australia, Israel, Iran, and Turkey. Indeed, 40 percent of the new authors on contract from 2021 are based outside of the United Kingdom and the United States.
The press saw an 11-percent increase in the number of authors returning to Edinburgh University Press.
In addition to its book output, the press published 50 journals in the 2020-2021 financial year (August to July), with revenues of £1.04 million, including rights (US$1.43 million). Two journals joined the portfolio in 2021: Burns Chronicle and Legalities. Journal output represents a total 1306 journal articles, just under 17,000 pages of journal content and a 26-percent increase in downloads over 2019.
In a prepared statement, Edinburgh University Press CEO Nicola Ramsey is quoted, saying, “In what was undoubtedly a challenging year, it is fantastic to see such a strong performance.
“In our previous business plan we had set the target of reaching the £4 million milestone by the end of July 2022. To have hit that goal a year early, and during a pandemic, speaks to the high quality of publishing across our books and journals programs, and to the hard work of all our staff in delivering this result.”
Ramsey has recently taken the helm as chief executive, succeeding Timothy Wright, who retired last summer after 24 years with the company.
In her opening notes in the report, Ramsey points out that during Wright’s tenure, the press’ “turnover more than doubled, as have the number of books and journals we publish, and the size of the team” publishing those works.
She also signals a powerful rise in digital publishing’s place in the success of the press. “The top line has been driven by tremendous growth in ebook sales (49 percent more than the previous year),” she writes, “where we have achieved revenues of over £1 million for the first time.
“This shift to digital-first purchasing among our library customers was in progress prior to the pandemic. Ebook sales accounted for 22 percent of our book revenue in 2018, 24 percent in 2019, 28 percent in 2020 and 37 percent in 2021. We are forecasting 41 percent in 2022.
“However it has been hugely accelerated,” she reports, “by the need to provide digital materials for students and academics who were unable to access print materials in person during lockdown.
“We were well-placed to respond to this need, making all our books simultaneously available in print and ebook formats since 2012, and having carried out a backlist digitization project over the past three years to make much of our older backlist available digitally. Of our 3,000+ books for which we have digital rights, 97 percent are now available in a PDF and/or ePub format.”
And Ramsey does point out that the big boost in digital sales “impacted our print book revenue, where we saw a decline of 6 percent over the previous year.” Journal sales, she reports, remained flat compared to the prior year.
She adds that a new partnership with the De Gruyter program “will see our frontlist and backlist digital collections hosted and distributed worldwide through degruyter.com.
The full annual report can be read here (PDF).
More from Publishing Perspectives on university presses is here, more on academic publishing is here, and more from us on industry statistics is here.
More from us on the coronavirus COVID-19 pandemic and its impact on international book publishing is here.