Frances Pinter on the (Academic) Value of Sharing

Posted by Eric Steuer

Frances Pinter is the publisher of Bloomsbury Academic.

In academic publishing, the volume of what is published has increased phenomenally in recent years, because the higher education sector has increased globally quite a lot; there are more academics, more people writing, and so more material is coming out. And its all very competitive as to whose voice is being heard.

Bloomsbury Academic is a very new imprint. We started it last September and the business model is a very simple one: We want to give academics what they want and expect from a quality academic publishing house. Firstly, that means all the pre-publication work-selection of peer review, editing, formatting-and then, coming closer to publication, we are talking about the marketing function. At the time of the publication itself, we are putting the work online with a Creative Commons attribution, noncommercial license at the same time we are producing the print copy. Looking at the post-publication phase, we are going to be keeping books in print for as long as there is a demand. We have a lot of options at our disposal for print: we can publish it in the conventional way or, if it's a slow seller for a small audience, then we can start out with print on demand. That allows us to reduce the risk of holding large amounts of books in warehouses. So we are trying to marry the old with the new by using digital technologies, and by using creative commons licensing, but also giving the academic what they want, which is a quality publication.

So much of academic output is now available on the web, and when you talk to academics they are not 100 percent happy with how difficult it is becoming to find their works. They are looking for tools; a digital means of selecting, filtering, and ranking the materials they are using and recommending. We are actually in a period of transition where we are still relying on the old, but wanting to experiment with the new. People like myself who spend a lot of time with the open access crowd can kind of forget there are a lot of academics who aren't so vocal, who are primarily interested in producing their content, getting materials in front of their students, and getting their promotion and their recognition for work that they produce.

In this period of transition there is a lot of investment required in experimenting with new technologies. And with the experimenting of new technologies, we have to make sure the recognition and the openness is absolutely essential and part of it. Many of the big companies have got the resources to do this, but they are also the companies that have the biggest investments in the old ways of doing things. The smaller companies don't have the money, but they have the inclination. With Bloomsbury Academic, I'm extremely fortunate because I'm working with a company that hasn't been known in the past for its academic publishing, it doesn't have a huge infrastructure for academic publishing, but is still one of the 10 largest companies in the United Kingdom in publishing terms. The general publishing infrastructure is all there, so we can take a new path without having to jettison the old way of doing things, and we can set up our systems to be open from scratch.

Story as told to Eric Steuer. Click the play button below to listen to the interview on which this piece is based.



Eric Steuer is the creative director of Creative Commons, a nonprofit organization that works to make it easier for creators to share their work with the rest of the world. It also provides tools to make it easier for people to find creative work that's been made available to them-and the rest of the world-to use, share, reuse etc., freely and legally. This is the third in a series of edited and condensed interviews called "We like to share," in which Steuer talked to people who work across a variety of fields who use sharing as an approach to benefit the work that they do.

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