'Experimentation crucial', says CUP's Phillips

Upping experimentation and being prepared for some projects to fail if it helps the learning process is critical for academic publishers facing unclear future business models, Cambridge University Press chief executive Peter Phillips right has said. "All of us are looking at experimenting, no one knows the end point," he told The Bookseller.

"We're upping innovation, trying more things, being prepared for things to fail if you can learn from them. It's all part of what we need to do to reinvent ourselves."

Phillips was commenting as CUP reported an 11th successive year of growth, increasing revenue in the year to end April 2013 by 7% to £261.7m.

Phillips attributed CUP's "strong" performance to CUP's commitment to quality, plus its significant investment in digital now paying off, with digital revenues over 20% of the total and showing a rate of growth "in the 50%–60% range". The business' international spread also helped during uneven global growth, he said, singling out South Africa, Mexico, Turkey and China as strong areas for CUP over the year.

Phillips said the company was developing new editorial teams outside the UK, as part of a fundamental shift of the business' axis. "Three of the four new members of our board who are publishers are based outside the UK—that's a big statement about the globalisation of the organisation," he said. "We have deve loped ac ademic commissioning significantly in India over the past year, which is a good indication of the direction we are moving in. [The publishing in India] is for both local and global products—the quality of research from the top Indian universities is world class, and we need to be close to those markets."

However, he said overseas editorial teams were not being developed at the expense of the UK editorial team, which is "growing rather than shrinking".

Instead operational areas, such as printing and warehousing, have taken the brunt of the changes.

Phillips defended CUP's actions in closing its in-house printing operation, despite the fact that former CUP staffers lost their new jobs when MPG—to which the printing was transferred—went into administration in June. "With 90% of sales outside the UK, our in-house printing wasn't viable," he said. "MPG was a wellestablished and profitable company and we thought it would be a long-term employer. The responsibility rests very clearly with MPG. We made sure our people were no worse off than if we had made them redundant rather than MPG [through a financial support package] and they had one extra year of work."

However he added: "I certainly wouldn't say I was happy. On the contrary I was unhappy."