The scientific, technical and medical professions possess publishing strategies and solutions that have fully embraced the digital paradigm. STM publishers' status as digital pioneers is well-earned and only fitting, considering the advanced nature of the topics these researchers are covering. As the years have gone by, it has become clear that e-journals can be more than imitations of their paper-and-ink forerunners, and this sense of freedom has become a guiding force behind the industry. With the rise of interactive STM journals and cutting-edge distribution methods, it's clear what members of other industries see when they hold academia and research up as models of great content production.
"There's inspiration to be found in the scholarly journal market's transformation."
The view from trade publishing
A recent The Bookseller piece by Alastair Horne, serving as a manifesto for the FutureBook industry conference, laid out the gains made by academic publishers as they transitioned to digital. Horne framed his view as inspiration for the trade publishing market as it faces the forces of a digitizing world. However, the points therein should hold currency with all corners of the industry, even the scholarly sector itself. After all, leaders in the STM world could be well served by reminders of how far they've come and all they've accomplished - there's inspiration to be found in stories of the market's transformation.
Horne highlighted the fact that academic publishers have gracefully moved to a digital subscription model, something that has been causing growing pains in fields such as music. While record companies and trade publishers have been forced to find their way digitally due to market pressures including piracy, the scholarly world went before these factors emerged. Horne pointed to The Bookseller's own research, which indicated that while digital-only e-journals have become the main product of academic publishing houses, this hasn't hurt revenue. With digital income up 6 percent year-over-year in 2014, academic world publishers must be satisfied with their progress.
"Breakthroughs have emerged in response to changing preferences."
Even the challenges that have beset scholarly journals over the past few years have held inspiring and interesting lessons, according to Horne. He pointed out that breakthroughs in publishing emerged in response to changing preferences among researchers. Expectations have inevitably shifted over the past few years, and every time, a new publishing tool or managerial strategy has emerged to help the industry keep going, changed but not diminished. It's these kinds of movements that Horne insisted trade publishing organizations should emulate. He noted that these companies often only look at themselves and each other, while academia already possesses solutions for many of their problems.
Pioneering worldwide distribution
Another way in which scholarly publications have leaned into their new digital paradigm involves international content publication. A Digital Book world editorial by Tom Chalmers pointed out that researchers around the world now have access to STM data that would be hard to acquire if there were more limitations on its regional publication. Chalmers, like Horne, holds up the scholarly field as an example of tactics that can thrive in the publishing world at large. The international aspect of STM publishing is indeed a powerful element of the market making peer review and collaboration practices stretch beyond geographic boundaries.