Open Access, Brexit and the upcoming post-18 review will all impact the industry in the next five years, the Academic Book Trade Conference was told.
Peter Lake, group business director of John Smith Group, said most of the market in the UK will face challenges in the immediate future, although he stressed the trade will weather the storm.
He told attendees on the final day of the ABTC in Kenilworth: "The next 10 years are not going to be as good as the last 10 years but with my publishing hat on, it's going to be the case that the market is going to have challenges in the UK in the immediate future. There's a lot to be excited about in some other markets whereas the UK will be one with more challenges. We are used to challenges and the businesses here have been around for a vey long time, have very deep roots and very good relationships with institutions. On the whole, it's going to be tough in some markets but I would be optimistic if I was a publisher with one caveat. I think Open Access is a one way bet - just assume it's going to have an impact on your business because thats a much better bet than asuming it won't. It could have avery profound impact. Start thinking about your strategy."
Speaking to booksellers, Lake said the trade must "up its game" to work better with publishers and universities.
"For booksellers they are much more constrained to a single market and the impact in the UK will be felt. We continue to have to up our game to stay relevant, we have to do better to be a better partner for publishers and universities. There is a role to be played and being the intemediary in the value chain we need to help universities get more out of resources."
HE commentator Louis Coiffat said British universities could face challenges in the short term with the upcoming post-18 review amid speculation tuition fees will be capped at £7,500 and warned Brexit uncertainty will affect university investments.
"There is a mix of optimism and pessimism. In the short term it's tough for British universities. In particular, the post-18 review, although it could deliver good things, but the leaks are scary with talk of £7,500 fees, some of those could be quite big but I'm hopeful it won't be massive but latest I've heard is 7.5 number caps and that would make a big difference to universities," said Coiffat.
He added the ongoing uncertainty around Brexit is not helpful to universities attempting to write strategic plans for the next five years. Coiffat, head of policy at London Metropolitan University, said: "I'm writing our six year stratgic plan at the moment and we're being asked to write a plan a,a plan b,and a planc. We are being cautious to get our fiances in order so whatever a b or c looks like we are in a position to respond to it. We are not going to be making huge investments but we are cautious."
Lake and Coiffat co-chaired the two-day conference which also hosted the ABTC awards with Oxford University Press awarded Publisher of the Year and Blackwell's named Chain Bookseller of the Year.
Earlier at the conference, Lynn O'Neill, chair of the Booksellers Association Academic Booksellers Group, urged the academic book trade to "work together in these turbulent times."
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