Selling Online Academic Content: New Business Models

Most scholarly publishers have been feeling the adverse effects of difficult market conditions over the past few years. Libraries have on the whole been investing more in online products that provide access to more content than traditional books-on-shelves would. Academic publishers are rethinking the ways in which they package their content. Digital products such as University Press Scholarship Online (Oxford University Press), University Publishing Online (Cambridge University Press), SAGE Knowledge and Wiley Online Library (John Wiley and Sons) mean a thousands of books are at the fingertips of researchers, students and academics at institutions around the world. However, the collections that these products are split into are still prohibitively expensive for many smaller institutional libraries, leaving a chunk of the potential market untapped. So, what are academic publishers doing to make these products accessible for all?

The answer lies in the models which publishers are adopting to make these products appealing for smaller libraries. Over the last few years, several models have been adopted to allow libraries to continue expanding their e-book collections, answering their patrons’ content needs but remaining within budget. Two of the more common models are evidence-based acquisition (EBA) and demand-driven acquisition (DDA) (or patron-drive acquisition, PDA), which allow libraries to purchase access to e-books that their patrons will actually use. Under these models, the patrons’ use of resources (which is monitored by the library and the publisher) ultimately decides which titles are purchased for perpetual access. The difference is that under the DDA/PDA model patrons make recommendations and collection data is reviewed, whereas EBA allows for a full title-by-title analysis of usage at the end of an access period.

How these models work is that a library purchases access to a collection of e-books up-front for an extended period of time (normally six to twelve months). Throughout the access period, usage is monitored, to ensure the library’s patrons are getting as much out of the collection as possible. The library will at last decide, based on usage statistics, which titles they wish to include perpetually in their e-book collection.

Early trials of these models proved to be unconvincing in arguments for libraries to change their purchasing habits, as libraries spent too much too quickly and the models were rather more complex than purchasing print. However, as more information and evidence is available, purchasing content is this manner is becoming more desirable. Experiments are still being conducted with how to attain ultimate cost effectiveness for libraries (e.g. this pilot at the University of Central Florida Libraries), aiming to understand how patrons use scholarly content and how publishers can best deliver it.

Digital platforms for scholarly publishing will continue to gain in importance, and publishers need to recognise this by adapting sales models to answer this demand. With EBA and DDA/PDA, there is a slow change in this. Time will tell whether these models become the norm in accessing academic monographs from leading publishers.

More information about these models can be found in the white paper Demand Driven Acquisition of Monographs prepared by the National Information Standards Organization (NISO).

Tamarindo Communications Intern and Graduate Evening

Considering a career in communications? Enthusiastic about energy? Please join Tamarindo Communications on 22nd February 2017 at the Turl Street Kitchen. (Rumour has it there may be free beer.)

Tamarindo Communications are on the search for new talent as part of their Internship and Graduate programmes.

They are a strategic, commercially focused PR and communications advisory based in central Oxford. They provide consultancy and advice to established global businesses and fast-growing young firms within the renewable energy, maritime, and financial services sectors.

It's free to join, but please register at the link below:


Welcome to Scion

March will see the publication of the third instalment in Samantha Shannon’s Bone Season series. The books are a must-read for fans of the urban fantasy or supernatural dystopian genres.

Shannon published the first book of the series in 2013 at just 21 years old, acquiring a six-figure deal for a potential seven-book series that aspiring authors would be envious of. Since then the film rights have been picked up by Imaginarium Studios, owned by Andy Serkis and Jonathan Cavendish.

Samantha Shannon’s work is influenced somewhat by Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale as well as George Orwell’s books, and centres on Paige Mahoney, a ‘dreamwalker’ living in a high-security society called Scion, located in London in the year 2059. The first book sees her kidnapped and taken to Oxford, now turned secret prison camp for people like her who go against the system. Here she meets the Rephaim, a community of otherworldly beings and one in particular, Warden, who is placed as her keeper and soon appears to have a secret motive when it comes to Paige’s abilities. The subsequent books in the series see Paige embrace her abilities and challenge the Scion government, further exploring her relationship with the Rephaim and allowing readers to experience the world Shannon has created in more depth.

Shannon has been likened to J. K. Rowling which isn’t surprising when you look at the rich, multi-layered fantasy world she has created. Her characters feature in an alternative land as unique and three-dimensional as those created by the likes of Philip Pullman and C. S. Lewis. With its seven orders of clairvoyants, alternative slang, and an entire alternate history of wars, uprisings and factions, the Bone Season series displays an extensive amount of world-building and research that has gone into this project.

Interestingly, the idea for the novel came to the author while she was interning at David Godwin Associates literary agency, the very same agency that went on to represent her completed first novel. After promoting the novel at the London Book fair the agency sold the rights to Bloomsbury, and Shannon has made her home there ever since.

Samantha Shannon, having studied at Oxford University, has visited the city on occasion to talk about her books and carry out book signings, so here’s hoping next year will see her return after the publication of The Song Rising—watch this space!

SYP Oxford Needs YOU! – applications now open for 2017 committee

Applications for SYP Oxford's 2017 committee are now open! Want to be part of it?

Click here to see what positions are available and apply.

The committee roles are open for all applications, although some roles require a member to have been on the committee for at least a year before applying.

The Oxford committee term runs from January 2017 to January 2018.

Applications for all committee roles advertised are open to all, although some roles require a member to have been on the committee for at least a year before applying.

Applications are open until Friday 20th January and successful candidates will be contacted after the deadline. Good luck!



A look back at our Innovation Revolution event


2016-06-15 16_48_40-Oxford SYP (@Oxford_SYP) _ Twitter

Last week team SYP headed to Oxford's Art Cafe ready to be inspired by two very innovative and ambitious publishers.

Anna Jean Hughes of Pigeonhole Press came up with her idea out of the tendency for large publishing houses to pigeonhole books into categories rather than selecting books to publish out of sheer passion.

Xander Cansell, head of digital at Unbound is equally passionate about promoting exciting new literature. He told us all about how Unbound works with authors to promote and celebrate their books as well as using crowdfunding to ensure that the books they publish are what their audience really wants to read.

Digital is as important as ever in uniting books with readers. Both Anna and Xander spoke about how vital user analytics are in discovering which books are most widely read and enjoyed by their readers, and it was interesting to learn that most readers of e-books don't make it  beyond page 18!

Of course, innovation was the order of the day and both Anna and Xander spoke passionately about the need to keep innovating in publishing. As Anna pointed out, in digital publishing there is never a point where you can sit back and think that you've made it, there is always more to be done.

What's different about what Xander at Unbound and Anna at Pigeonhole are doing is that they want to "publish books that sing" and to "keep innovating".

Thanks so much to Anna and Xander for coming along to talk to us - we learnt a lot about what it takes to put your ideas into practice and how digital can be a great tool to unite authors with publishers, and readers with books!

See you at the next event!

Carol Ann Duffy at Shore to Shore


We can't wait to attend Blackwell's latest Shore to Shore event with Carol Ann Duffy, Gillian Clarke, Imtiaz Dharker, Jackie Kay, John Sampson plus local poet, Bernard O'Donoghue.

What's more, we have a special offer for SYP members - just use the code OXSTUDY to receive 50% off tickets!

Tickets are available from the link below:

Tickets include a copy of the Shore to Shore commemorative tour programme. There will be a book stall at the event which is followed by an author signing.

We look forward to seeing you there!


The Bailey’s Prize 2016


The Baileys Prize, formerly known as the Orange Prize, was launched in 1996 after the Booker shortlist of 1991 failed to include a single woman. It goes to the best piece of full-length fiction written in English by a woman from anywhere in the world.

With the 2016 winner announced on 8 June, here’s a quick rundown of the shortlisted books, including which you might fancy putting on the TBR list, and which one’s tipped to claim the prize.


Ruby by Cynthia Bond

Ephram Jennings has never forgotten the beautiful girl with the long braids running through the piney woods of Liberty, their small East-Texas town. For Ruby Bell, Liberty was a place of devastating violence from which she fled to seedy, glamorous 1950s New York.

Years later, pulled back home, thirty-year-old Ruby is faced with the seething hatred of a town desperate to destroy her. Witnessing her struggle, Ephram must choose between loyalty to the sister who raised him and the chance for a life with the woman he has loved since he was a boy.

SYP verdict: Ruby is one of three debuts on the shortlist this year. It’s got a captivating heroine, luminous prose, and is a page-turner on the redemptive power of love. Oh, and it’s also a New York Times bestseller.

Ideal for: Fans of American or historical novels with love and relationships at their core. This provides emotion and beautiful writing in spades.


The Green Road by Anne Enright

A darkly glinting novel set on Ireland’s Atlantic coast, The Green Road is a story of fracture and family, selfishness and compassion – a book about the gaps in the human heart and how we learn to fill them.

The children of Rosaleen Madigan leave the west of Ireland for lives they never could have imagined in Dublin, New York and various third-world towns. In her early old age their difficult, wonderful mother announces that she’s decided to sell the house and divide the proceeds. Her adult children come back for a last Christmas, with the feeling that their childhoods are being erased, their personal history bought and sold.

SYP verdict: Winner of the Irish Kerry Group Novel of the Year award, shortlisted for the Costa Novel of the Year, and longlisted for the Man Booker Prize, The Green Road has garnered glowing praise despite its less than original theme, and is the bookie’s favourite to win the Baileys.

Ideal for: If you like rural Ireland, fractured families, the fragility of life, or just being drawn in by a master of her craft. If you want to read one book this year to sound appropriately literary at publishing’s next wine-fuelled networking opportunity, pick this one.


The Glorious Heresies by Lisa McInerney         

One messy murder affects the lives of five misfits who exist on the fringes of Ireland’s post-crash society. Ryan is a fifteen-year-old drug dealer desperate not to turn out like his alcoholic father Tony, whose obsession with this unhinged next-door neighbour threatens to ruin him and his family. Georgie is a prostitute whose willingness to feign a religious conversion has dangerous repercussions, while Maureen, the accidental murderer, has returned to Cork after forty years in exile to discover that Jimmy, the son she was forced to give up years before, has grown into the most fearsome gangster in the city.

In seeking atonement for the murder and a multitude of perceived sins, Maureen threatens to destroy everything her son has worked so hard for, while her actions risk bringing the intertwined lives of the Irish underworld into the spotlight…

SYP verdict: The second debut and second Irish novel on the list, this one has caused huge excitement, and after The Green Road, is the most likely to win. It’s sweary, polarising and darkly funny.

Ideal for: If you’ve already read and enjoyed A Little Life and want another literary ‘gritty’ gem, or if you fancy an insight into current working-class Ireland.


The Portable Veblen by Elizabeth McKenzie    

Meet Veblen: a passionate defender of the anti-consumerist views of her name-sake, the iconoclastic economist Thorstein Veblen. She’s an experienced cheerer-upper (mainly of her narcissistic, hypochondriac, controlling mother), an amateur translator of Norwegian, and a firm believer in the distinct possibility that the plucky grey squirrel following her around can understand more than it lets on.

Meet her fiancé, Paul: the son of good hippies who were bad parents, a no-nonsense, high-flying neuroscientist with no time for squirrels. His recent work on a device to minimize battlefield trauma has led him dangerously close to the seductive Cloris Hutmacher, heiress to a pharmaceuticals empire, who is promising him fame and fortune through a shady-sounding deal with the Department of Defence. What could possibly go wrong?

SYP verdict: Described by one reviewer as Wes Anderson-esque, this book is frankly bonkers and was a surprise inclusion on the list, but if you’re craving something light and quirky, this could be perfect.

Ideal for: Fans of talking squirrels.


The Improbability of Love by Hannah Rothschild

When lovelorn Annie McDee stumbles across a dirty painting in a junk shop while looking for a present for an unsuitable man, she has no idea what she has discovered. Soon she finds herself drawn unwillingly into the tumultuous London art world, populated by exiled Russian oligarchs, avaricious Sheikas, desperate auctioneers and unscrupulous dealers, all scheming to get their hands on her painting – a lost eighteenth-century masterpiece called ‘The Improbability of Love’.

Delving into the painting’s past, Annie will uncover not just an illustrious list of former owners, but some of the darkest secrets of European history – and in doing so she might just learn to open up to the possibility of falling in love again.

SYP verdict: The third debut, from the only British author on the shortlist, this is perhaps the most accessible of the novels, but by no means does that diminish the writing; it recently won the Bollinger Everyman Wodehouse Prize for Comic Fiction and was chosen as a Waterstones Book of the Month. It’s perhaps best been described as Michael Frayn meets Bridget Jones.

Ideal for: Art lovers, and people who want a laugh (but not The Portable Veblen).

A little life

A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara         

When four classmates from a small Massachusetts college move to New York to make their way, they’re broke, adrift, and buoyed only by their friendship and ambition. There is kind, handsome Willem, an aspiring actor; JB, a quick-witted, sometimes cruel painter pursuing fame in the art world; Malcolm, a frustrated architect at a prominent firm; and withdrawn, brilliant, enigmatic Jude, who serves as their centre of gravity.

Over the decades, their relationships deepen and darken, tinged by addiction, success, and pride. Yet their greatest challenge, each comes to realize, is Jude himself, by midlife a terrifyingly talented lawyer yet an increasingly broken man, his mind and body scarred by an unspeakable childhood, and haunted by a degree of trauma that he fears he will not only be unable to overcome – but that will define his life forever.

SYP verdict: Also shortlisted for the Man Booker, this novel has divided opinion over the unrelentlessly upsetting scenes concerning the character of Jude. However, it’s also a Great American Novel with brilliant characterisation that completely draws you in, so don’t be put off by its 700 odd pages. The SYP’s sneaky personal favourite to win.

Ideal for: Fans of Donna Tartt or David Foster Wallace, but steer well clear if you’re looking for a light-hearted read.


Georgie Carter


Image is Everything: A look back at our Design Event

Back in April we huddled into Oxford’s Turl Street Kitchen to hear Stewart Larking speak about all things book design. Design in publishing often proves to be a heated topic of conversation as we debate the suitability of book covers and whether we should judge a book by its cover at all!

Stewart Larking is now Head of Design at Osprey, but began his career at HarperCollins. Starting out, he was involved with contacting illustrators, arranging photography for covers and everything in between. Part of Stewart’s job involved finding models, shopping for clothes and arranging photo shoots and one of his main highlight’s was working with Ian Banks for his book covers. Stewart then worked on a series called ‘Saddle Club’. The books were supposedly set in Hawaii but the covers were, in reality, shot on a rainy winter’s day in the English countryside..!

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Stewart’s move to Transworld lead him to work with Jilly Cooper and Andy McNab: popular authors who required engaging covers that would sell and help commercialise lists. He later worked on children’s titles including Enid Blyton’s ‘Famous Five’ series.

When designing book covers Stewart always asks the question ‘is it fit for purpose?’  Does it do what you need it to do, is it for the right audience and sending the message you need to send. Most importantly: is it going to make somebody in the book shop pick yours up among all the others?

He then talked us through the changing landscape of design in the industry. Eventually photo shoots became too expensive, £1000s of pounds in today’s money, and so they faded out. Then saw the introduction of stock libraries where a cover design could cost as little as £150.

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For Stewart, book design is exciting and fun but challenging at times. He is now involved with the entire design of the publications he works on and considers himself a jack of all trades. Knowing how to work on illustrations, photography, XML and much more is desirable in today’s modern publishing industry and those interested in a career in design should be prepared to get stuck in to all aspects that the job can bring.

Thank you to Stewart for talking us through the wonderful world of design in publishing.

XML Summer School 2016 in Oxford

The XML Summer School is a unique event for everyone using, designing,
managing, or implementing solutions using XML and related
technologies. The courses are taught by recognised experts and
practitioners of XML in a relaxed atmosphere. The emphasis is on
proven practical techniques, so that delegates can use what they learn
when they go back to the office.

This year's XML Summer School takes place at St Edmund Hall, Oxford,
the week of the 11-16 September. You can attend for individual days,
or go for the whole week of XML. There are classes at all levels,
starting with a primer and Hands-on Introduction to XML, and including
XSLT and XQuery, XML in Publishing, Linked Data, and Hands-on Digital
Publishing. For details see

There is a 10% discount until 30 June with the code SPY16 at

The Oxford Literary Festival: A Bookseller’s Perspective

Bookselling had always seemed to me to be a dream job. My vast experience of the industry, based on countless viewings of a certain London-based rom-com featuring Hugh Grant, had left me envisioning a quiet existence revolving around cups of tea, gentle walks around Notting Hill, and chance encounters with gorgeous actresses looking for a travel guide. For a guy who counts washing-up as hard labour, the profession sounded rather ideal.

All I needed was a chance to prove that I had what it takes.

So when I heard that Blackwells were looking for temporary staff to help out at the Oxford Literary Festival I seized my opportunity for a louche literary life and signed up immediately. Application successful, I swiftly found out that there was rather more to bookselling than I had first assumed…

The Oxford Literary Festival celebrated its 20th Anniversary this year, and from the outset Blackwells has been a major part of the event. Responsible for running the box office as well as maintaining a gigantic marquee bookshop and venue bookstalls, you can imagine how much setting up was involved. For two days a small army of people, including the troupe of keen and blissfully unaware Brookes students of which I was a part, descended on the square between the Bodleian Library and Sheldonian Theatre. There my illusions were abruptly shattered as we were challenged to transform a large white tent into a fully-functioning hub of bookselling and literary events.

My contribution was bookshelves. Mile upon mile of bookshelves built with a potent mix of determination, testosterone, and Allen keys. Combined with the relentless, week-long task of lugging crates of books from venue to storeroom and back, there was a chance that my bookselling dream would be quashed by the physical strain on my ordinarily desk-inhabiting body. But when the first eager customers filtered into the marquee on the opening weekend, there was a chance to step back and reflect on what it meant to take part in such an event.

Despite the bruises, aches, pains, and niggles I was burdened with, we had contributed to a truly international coming together of writers and booklovers. Speakers from more than twenty different countries came to share their work and ideas, including the likes of Mary Beard, Ben Okri, Jacqueline Wilson, Garry Kasparov, and Sir Ian McKellen. The range of subjects and formats was dazzling, and for the first time children’s literature was featured strongly to recognise the Festival’s alignment with the Easter holidays. There was such a buzz around the quality of content on show that even the occupation of Catte Street by a Hollywood production team featuring Tom Cruise didn’t empty the marquee. Perhaps we shouldn’t be surprised that the residents of Oxford were more captivated by coffee and free lectures in our Shakespeare Lounge (sponsored by OUP) than by former A-list celebs. However it was still encouraging to see how central books and reading were in the lives of the thousands of people who visited the festival that week.

And what did I learn about bookselling?

That bruises and backache are always worth it when you see a smile on the face of a satisfied customer when you have found the last signed copy of their favourite author’s new book. Although I never did get to help Julia Roberts find some holiday reading

Ben Horton

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