Consolidation predicted in academic in 2013

Consolidation predicted in academic in 2013

Consolidation between academic publishing houses is one of the trends being predicted for the sector in 2013. Meanwhile, the chiefs of the academic houses themselves are predicting the next 12 months will see a rise in digital textbook sales, as well as continuing developments in the open access debate.

George Lossius, c.e.o. of Publishing Technology, tipped consolidation between academic publishers in the year ahead. He said: "The merger of Penguin and Random House hit the headlines in the trade sector at the end of October, and there is no doubt in my mind that the deal represents the first in a series of similar ventures which will alter the shape of trade publishing again. But consolidation is not the sole domain of the trade, and the consolidation of smaller publishers into the large groups continues apace, so I would expect to see an increase in merger and acquisition activity among the mid-sized and larger academic publishers in 2013."

Meanwhile Ziyad Marar, global publishing director for Sage, said he expects 2013 to be further characterised by the debate which erupted in 2012 on open access funding, which led to the publication of the Finch Report and the government's controversial implementations of it. Marar said: "This will be a year of ferment around open access as UK universities address and implement the outcomes of the Finch Report and the new Research Councils UK policy, and the academic community voices its own concerns about what these changes mean for scholarly communication."

Marar added that he thought the Global Research Council meeting in May would refocus energies on the Green route to open access, "raising questions for the UK on whether it makes sense to go it alone on the Gold route".

Sage managing director Stephen Barr said he predicted this year would see "a big movement" towards digital delivery for textbooks, particularly in the US. Barr also said he expected more universities to buy textbooks for their students as digital textbooks are increasingly presented within an integrated course solution.

A rise in digital textbook sales and production was also predicted by Cambridge University Press chief executive Peter Phillips, who said the opportunities for new digital educational services were "massive": "In many parts of the world, demand for traditional academic material remains high—even (don't say it too loudly) for old-fashioned printed books, especially with the benefit of decent print-on-demand in far more places," he said. "Boring it may appear, but excellent metadata will repay itself in spades." Phillips also tipped growth in the Chinese and Indian markets, while adding that Latin America "looks like it is regaining some of its sparkle".

Tim Williams, Edward Elgar Publishing m.d., said that the Middle East and Latin America markets were "the ones to watch", and predicted that textbook sales would continue to decline throughout the course of the year as more universities buy textbooks for students and more are available electronically. "Major textbook publishers will focus more effort on smaller portfolios of core textbooks to slash costs and leave leaner independent publishers to fill the gap for specialist courses," he said.

Fionnuala Duggan, m.d. of CourseSmart International, predicted that more students would own tablets than laptops, and that higher education funding changes meant universities would increasingly look to digital learning. "Structural changes in UK university funding have created a tougher, more competitive environment. Many are responding by taking leadership positions in their use of technology in teaching and learning," she said.