TAA President: Publishing consolidation has consequences
Many trends are affecting the academic and textbook publishing industries. TAA regularly examines and reflects on these trends in its newsletter, during its annual conference, and in webinars and other communications with TAA members.
One of the trends currently affecting the industry is consolidation, as corporations purchase academic and textbook publishing companies and consolidate them under large corporate umbrellas. A recent Chronicle of Higher Education article discussed an example of this trend. Informa, a corporation that owns the huge scholarly publishing company Taylor & Francis, bought Ashgate Publishing last summer. By November, Informa had closed Ashgate’s U.S. office and laid off several Ashgate staff, according to a petition at Change.org. The Chronicle article noted that Informa “has become the latest adversary for academics worried about consolidation in academic publishing.”
One of these academics is English professor Julia Wright of Nova Scotia’s Dalhousie University. “Every time the large corporations buy a small publisher,” Wright wrote, “there are fewer acquisitions editors, fewer book series and so fewer voices in the discussion about what is worth publishing”.
The textbook industry has also been consolidating. Thanks to consolidation, there are far fewer textbook companies now than 20 years ago, or even just ten years ago. In fact, many of the companies that first published the books of many TAA textbook author members simply no longer exist.
Consolidation in the academic and textbook publishing industries has at least two significant consequences. First, consolidation reduces the publishing options for academic and textbook authors, making it more difficult for authors to publish their work than in years past when more companies and more editors were seeking their work. Second, consolidation probably drives up the prices for academic books and textbooks because fewer companies are producing them. Although I have not yet seen data confirming this effect, simple supply-and-demand economics make it very likely.
TAA will continue to monitor consolidation and other trends in the academic and textbook publishing industries and bring relevant information to the attention of TAA members. As always, our mission is inform members about trends in the publishing industries and to provide resources to help authors publish their work as effectively and efficiently as possible. If you have any comments about consolidation or other trends, please share them by emailing to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Steven Barkan, Ph.D.
TAA Council President