About Digital Economic Model Innovation in the Publishing Industry: shifting the business model, or the ecosystem?

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Academic monograph publishing is stuck in a conundrum. Library budgets are increasingly squeezed, while publishers struggle to sell enough copies to at least cover the origination costs. At the same time, the digital bandwagon is fast gaining momentum, as evidenced by the growing popularity of e-books and open access on the Web. These have radically changed the way value can be created, delivered and captured in the industry, and thus carry profound implications for publishers’ value creation strategy.

 In the light of these game-changing developments, the penny has begun to drop as publishers increasingly accept that without an innovative and effective business model, they may find attempts to create rents from even their best titles or most respected authors at best arduous and at worst futile.

 Knowledge Unlatched, sprung from Bloomsbury Academic, has taken a ‘whole of market’ approach to analysing players in the ecosystem to coordinate an innovative shift in the business and economic model for academic monograph publishing. Our case study will shed light on how KU’s innovative variant of the freemium model seeks to leverage on digital technologies to coordinate the market in an innovative and efficient way to ensure a win-win outcome for libraries and their users and publishers and their authors. In particular we discover the strategic and market-related antecedents that led to the spawning of this business model and the value drivers underpinning the new model. Established as a community interest company, KU is one-of-a-kind initiative that is founded with a clear social mission, and may well be the catalyst of a transformation within the wider publishing industry.

 Going forward, there are also plans to investigate how the newspaper publishing industry, too, is reacting to similar challenges in the digital age and seeking to reshape its ecosystem. It is hoped that this can be done by using the Guardian Media Group as a case study.

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