Fremtiden for Aalborg Universitetsforlag i den digitale verden

Studenteropgave: Kandidatspeciale og HD afgangsprojekt

  • Orsolya Kolonics
4. semester, Interaktive Digitale Medier, Kandidat (Kandidatuddannelse)
The motivation for this master thesis came from my internship at Aalborg University Press (AUP). The focus of my thesis is the current situation and the possible future of the academic publishing in Denmark. I use Aalborg University Press as a case study. The objective is to understand the relations between the Internet, digital media and the academic publishing.
AUP is one of the privileged publishers in Denmark, which receives financial support from the university in order to publish scientific books. This support though does not cover all the expenses of AUP, and this is why it needs to have some complementary activities in order to increase its income. However, AUP as an academic press is a non-profit organization. AUP has to be selective with its publications, which have to fit into a defined profile and have to pass the peer-review process. Furthermore AUP is a publisher with an important roll in the Danish academic publishing field, and it is important that it fulfills this roll and develops further.
In the same time there are several challenges AUP has to face. First, they publish more and more titles every year, but the number of sold copies has decreased. Second, it is a general belief that by increasing the number of electronic books the risk of piracy increases as well. Thirdly, after publishing their works, many authors fail to take an active roll in selling their books.
It seems that all these challenges have their origin in the Internet and its dissemination capabilities. Therefore, first I investigated the nature of the Internet in order to understand better the paradigm shift it has caused. The Internet has become a common and natural part of everyday life, and it has also caused major changes in the publishing industry. In my study I have identified four main areas of changes: (1) copyright issues, (2) business models, (3) paper book vs. e-book, (4) communication and marketing. I studied them separately and provided suggestions for accommodation in AUP’s activities.
The copyright issues in book publishing are not something new, and have always existed in publishing. The special aspect in the age of Internet is that now it is mostly users who are pirating both by using peer-to-peer platforms or by sharing files with acquaintances on the Internet without making them pubic. There have been different attempts at stopping this and protecting digital books, for example, DRM, social DRM and digital watermarks. None of them are 100% safe, and some of them even cause usability problems for trustworthy users who paid for the e-books.
My suggestion is that instead of focusing on the technical protection, there should be offered legal alternatives, which can successfully compete with the distribution of pirate copies because they are easy to find, the online platform is user-friendly and the price is affordable.
By using the Business Model Canvas, a practical tool to describe an organization, I found that AUP operates according to a traditional business model based on the idea of paper books. Consequently I analyzed newer business models regarding publishing, some of them incorporating digital media. Even if AUP is an academic press, and cannot implement the newer business models of commercial publishers, it is still possible to get inspired by them.
In my view, the Long Tail theory, indicating potential non-diminishing user interest even for the older publications, can be applied if AUP would make use of the ‘streaming to online readers’ service, run by Publizon, a distributor of e-books in Denmark. This service is basically an online subscription model, where publishers can upload their e-books. This is a beneficial solution for AUP books which do not exist physically anymore, or in cases when the users do not want to buy the paper books, but they need the content.
The ideas of print on demand and self-publishing suggest an online self-service platform, which could be run by AUP. This approach would be mostly for the benefit of the students, who could upload the content of their university projects or theses, shape them with interactive layout templates and eventually get a printed version of them.
Digitizing books does not mean that there is no need for paper books. Both physical books and e-books have advantages and disadvantages, and the choice between them depends on many things. Paper books can be used by themselves, while e-books are complicated in a way that they need a device to be readable, and not all e-book formats are available under all programs or applications.
During my project I performed 6 qualitative interviews with 8 persons from the target group of AUP. All of them have something to do with the academic world, they are either students or were students in universities in Denmark. I asked them about their reading habits, patterns of buying and borrowing books, preferences for paper books or e-books, and opinions about protection of e-books. I also interviewed the directors of Publizon and Aarhus University Press about their publishing businesses. The collected responses partly justified my suggestions above, and partly inspired me in my focus on communication and marketing.
With the spread of the Internet, communication has been democratized. Marketing in the digital age does not mean one-way communication with a target group. Instead, individuals communicate with each other using social media sites or applications and social networking platforms. Since AUP is a mediator between authors and readers, it is essential to have a well-planned communication with both groups.
My suggestion is, that AUP could take advantage of social networking platforms by helping and motivating authors to promote their books. Many of AUP’s authors who are also lecturers in the University give talks outside the University. These events could be used in a more effective way to promote AUP’s books.
In addition, AUP could produce short concept videos, which would be used to inform readers about the roll of a publisher in the university system and in the book economy generally.
In conclusion, a well-planned and well-formulated strategic communication combined with a better visibility of the activities can result in a more successful AUP operation in the digital age.
Antal sider72
ID: 76957482