Academic publishing facing "unprecedented challenges"

Academic publishing facing "unprecedented challenges"

Academic bookselling is experiencing “unprecedented challenges” with the rise of digitally available content and an impending hike in university tuition fees for students, according to the Booksellers Association.

The trade body’s annual Academic, Professional and Specialist Bookselling (APS) Group Conference, running from 14th-15th March at Barcelo Walton Hall Hotel in Wellsbourne will discuss how to combat these challenges, as well as looking at what impact innovations such as Apple’s new textbook app will have on the industry.

Alan Staton, BA head of marketing, said: “With the rise of digitally available content and the increase in university fees, the academic bookselling industry is experiencing unprecedented challenges in reaching the student market. It is important that booksellers and publishers work together to meet the changing needs of students and the demands that makes upon the academic market.”

Waterstones, John Smith & Son, Marylebone Books and BML Bowker will be among those present at the conference, which will feature a panel discussion dedicated to understanding what students want and how the industry can meet their needs.

A ‘speed-dating’ session, giving publishers and booksellers a dedicated space for face-to-face discussion, will also take place again this year on the first morning of the conference, which will be chaired by Oliver Gadsby, c.e.o. of Continuum; and Dr Mark Kerrigan, senior lecturer in Educational Development Unit, Greenwich University.

The event will culminate in an awards ceremony, which will reward excellence in bookselling and publishing across six categories including Publisher of the Year, Distributor of the Year, Rep of the Year, Bookshop of the Year, Chain Bookseller of the Year and Bookseller of the Year.

A recent survey by Kerrigan found that students are split on the necessity of physical textbooks in a digital world, but a majority of undergraduates want to have the ability to rent textbooks and customise content for their own requirements. The survey found that out of 226 undergraduates polled, 37% said they were "not interested" in physical books, but slightly more (39%) disagreed with this view, while 24% were neutral.