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Publishing trends

Knowledge Unlatched logo

Knowledge Unlatched (KU) is an organisation helping libraries, publishers and authors to work together for a sustainable open future for specialist scholarly books. Their vision is a healthy market that includes free access for end users.

KU asks libraries to choose titles they would like to support, and to pledge funding to make these books Open Access. In the pilot round, over 200 libraries from around the world paid around $60 per title to 'unlatch' 28 books, which are now globally available.

KU uses the pledge funds to pay a title fee to the publishers of selected books, to cover fixed costs and offset any decrease in sales that result from OA.

The books are licensed under Creative Commons licences - either CC BY-NC (no commercial reuse without permission) or CC BY-NC-ND (no commercial reuse or derivatives without permission). For more information on CC licences, see Creative Commons.

The current round of funding has two components - front list ( not yet published) and back list (recent releases) titles.

Publishers are invited to suggest titles for these collections. A selection committee of partner libraries then vote for the titles they would like to see in the collection. A short list of titles is then created, which libraries can view and 'pledge' to support.

Sydney University Press is always looking for new ways to reach readers. So this year, we decided to submit a few titles. This allows us to gauge if libraries around the world share the same enthusiasm for our books as we do. If our titles are selected, we can also assess the impact this has on citations, readership and sales. Stay tuned!

To see previous KU unlatched titles, see here for Round 2:
KU Round 2 titles

The Sydney University Press team – (L to R) Hannah, Agata, Phil, Denise and Susan

It had been tentatively planned for almost 12 months, but last Friday the Sydney University Press team finally got to see another side of the publishing industry.


Today, 8 March is International Women’s Day, a celebration of the social, cultural and other achievements of women. This year’s theme, ‘Pledge for Parity’, is encouraging people across the world to be aware of and take action to achieve gender parity.


For the final blog post in our series celebrating International OA Week, a lighter look at how OA can be promoted.

1. You won’t believe what these academics will do to get their research read!!
2. How to find all you ever wanted to know – FOR FREE!!!
3. This woman released her book chapter on the Internet, guess what happened next!
4. Here’s what happens when a researcher does something nobody else will…
5. You should really think about reading …


Open Access shopfront

Photo by Gideon Burton (9 January 2009) via Flickr. Attribution 2.0 Generic (CC BY-SA 2.0)

The Open Society (2015) describes ‘Open Access (OA)’ as a new publication and distribution model that takes scholarly research, predominantly funded by taxpayers, out of expensive ‘paywalled’, corporate owned print journals and places the research in freely accessible online journals and repositories. Open Access content is digital, available online, free of charge and free of most copyright and embargo restrictions.


Photo by K Alexander from PUYCELSI, FRANCE - AUGUST 13: These boxes of free books were scattered around the village=

Photo by K. Alexander (2011) via Flickr. Attribution 2.0 Generic (CC BY 2.0)

The challenges of OA are well documented. For publishers, perhaps the most obvious is the question of sustainability. OA aims to make research more accessible, but who will bear the cost of this? Publications still need to be peer reviewed, edited, typeset and distributed. How can a publisher maintain quality in all these areas while being true to the goals of OA? Although much discussion of OA focuses on the high profits made by large commercial publishing houses, small and not-for-profit presses are also grappling with the economics of OA. As Kate Worlock points out, some learned societies rely on journal sales to fund their other scholarly activities. Small presses may use income from traditional publishing to fund more innovative and risky ventures. If revenue from traditional sources decreases or dries up, these organisations will need to find new ways to cover their costs.


A lot of what we do here in Scholarly Publishing relates to the running of Sydney University Press, and although it’s a big (exciting!) project, there are many other interesting, smaller projects that come under our remit. With many of these publishing projects, there is more ability and impetus to provide the materials OA.

One such project went live last week – just in time for Open Access Week! – via Sydney eScholarship (SeS).


SUP has been engaged with open access (OA) since the press was re-established in 2003. Over the years, we have published some books in OA on release, while others were embargoed for a year or two depending on the author’s preferences, the nature of the material and the funding model. Many remain behind a ‘paywall’, but we continue to make sure that our books are inexpensive to buy, especially when compared to other scholarly monographs. We also make part of each book available OA, usually the introduction. SUP’s OA books and book chapters are housed at the Sydney eScholarship Repository.


Futuristic Simultaneous Reading Machine by Michael Hara. A complex machine fashioned from old technology displays books on a viewscreen, a typewriter and two books at the same time.
"Simultaneous Reading Machine" via michaelhara.com

As the technology for robotics, digitisation and artificial intelligence improves and becomes more prevalent, many occupations are at risk of being replaced by technology. But those in the business of scholarly publishing aren't yet at risk of complete replacement by robot authors, automated printers and copyediting software.


On Friday 26 June I attended ‘Turning digital: delights, dangers and drama’ a digitisation seminar for the GLAM (Galleries, Libraries, Archives and Museums) sector at the State Library of NSW.

The featured speaker was Rachel Frick from the Digital Public Library of America (DPLA). Her presentation started with her upbringing in Nitro, West Virginia, and referenced something I have heard many times in recent years – how people from every kind of background have had formative experiences in free public libraries that were accessible by public transport. Although her talk was mostly about metadata (a topic that can cause even librarians’ eyes to glaze over) she held the audience spellbound with stories of making library, museum, gallery and even government agencies’ collections accessible to the world through a single searchable metadata store.

The DPLA is a network and a platform – a way of aggregating information about the digital resources of libraries, archives, government agencies, museums and more across the USA. Metadata about items digitised is fed into the platform, and the aggregated data can be downloaded and manipulated using an Application Program Interface (API). This allows members, or in fact anyone, to analyse the digital collections. Rachel showed examples of data visualisations that had been done using the API – the scope of material about ‘western Pennsylvania’, images using the colour ‘navy’, and an interesting one which showed the variety of permission statements used. This led to a wider discussion about the need for greater understanding of the rights inherent in digital copies of collection materials, particularly for those where the original item is in the public domain (out of copyright).


Photo of Isaac Gilman=

By Isaac Gilman

Peter Givler observes in his history of university presses in the United States that “Universities have been publishers for at least as long as there has been moveable type.” For over 100 years in the United States – and for over 90 years in Australia – the most prominent expression of university publishing has been the university press. Over the past two decades, however, shifts in technology and the economics of publishing have created an opportunity for university libraries to take an active role in fulfilling “one of the noblest duties of a university”: the publication and dissemination of useful knowledge.


Despite what Louise Adler says in The Australian, the future of monograph publishing in Australia is looking well and the opportunities for Australian academics to publish their research have actually been growing.

Adler is calling for the government and the university sector to support the ‘traditional livelihood’ of four university presses: Melbourne University Publishing, UNSW Press, University of Western Australia Publishing and University of Queensland Press. The management of these four presses, by and large, abandoned the ‘traditional livelihood’ of academic monograph publishing years ago in an attempt to make the presses commercially viable and save them from closures. The transition into trade publishing was a visionary thing to do and the four presses have become established cultural institutions that contribute greatly to the intellectual life of Australia. But … these contributions rarely belong to the world of scholarly publishing as defined by the requirements of HERDC (Higher Education Research Data Collection) and ERA (Excellence of Research for Australia).

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Unsurprisingly for a university press, we did not jump into the world of Twitter without doing research, or putting it simply, checking out what other publishers were up to. At the beginning of 2009 very few scholarly presses or trade publishers outside the US were active in the Twitter-sphere. But the publishers that were on Twitter, were doing interesting things.


Everyone who has gone a reasonable way through school has been introduced to the idea of writing an essay – defining a topic, building up arguments, and drawing a conclusion. If you’re lucky (or well-organised), you will also have time to re-read your essay, refine your language, add new examples and improve the final product. Writing a non-fiction book is an extended and expanded form of this process, with a lot more people involved.


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