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Publishers need to learn via libraries
19.03.10 | Catherine Neilan
Publishers must actively engage with university libraries if they are to successfully target the student readership, particularly in light of likely funding cuts, delegates at the APSBG conference were told.
Christine Fyfe, pro-vice chancellor with special responsibility for students at the University of Leicester (UoL), urged publishers to make use of "all kinds of mechanisms" to make contact with libraries to help improve understanding of what kind of books the student population wanted and make "better-informed decisions" about what to produce or sell into a certain institution.
While admitting "it certainly happens more than it used to", she told The Bookseller after the event that there was still only "a small minority of [book] publishers" which had direct contact with the UoL. Fyfe said "some" journal publishers were already active.
"There are a number of ways it could happen—publishers could visit libraries, or attend the kind of events that attract libraries. For regional libraries, instead of trailing around 150 different campuses, they could work with one to arrange a group meeting. There are all kinds of mechanisms," she said. "It could be that libraries in Oxford and London, where there are lots of publishers, experience things differently, but from my own experience it's only a small minority of publishers who make the effort."
During the presentation, Fyfe also advocated the inclusion of the cost of some core texts within the fees of postgraduate courses, as these can be set by the individual institution, as part of a discussion on the perceived value of books. UoL was already implementing this in a small number of cases, mostly with distance learners, she said.
For those concerned booksellers in the audience, she later explained: "It wouldn't be replacing everything, of course—students would still be expected to use the library for broader reading, and certainly purchase their own books, but it is a model for a small number of core books. In our case, the university owns the shop, so we could source through that, which would be a win-win situation."