The business model of FF Open Press. Last updated April 2021.
“It is nice to have a stable source of revenue. At the same time, I guess it is a problem…” (I. Melinščak Zlodi, personal communication, 16.02.2021)
FF Open Press is a faculty press associated with the Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences (FHSS) of the University of Zagreb. It was established in 2002. It publishes OA books in the humanities and social sciences. Its model relies on subsidies from the Ministries of Science and of Culture and in-kind support coming from the FHSS. Each year, in response to a call sent out by these Ministries, the press submits a funding request for books it would like to publish. Funding is granted on a per-title basis. The publishing offer is geared mainly towards the faculty affiliated with the FHSS, but the press also welcomes submissions from authors from different institutions. In 2019 FF Open Press, a platform for OA publications, was established.
Number/ type of OA books published per year: 30–40 titles per year, mostly edited books and conference proceedings, about 10 monographs per year. The faculty also publishes 10 open access journals.
Fully OA? While journals are all fully OA, books are not. FF Press started publishing OA books in 2019. The decision on whether to publish a book OA is made by the authors or editors (in case of edited volumes). The proportion of OA versus non-OA books is about 30%. Proportion might change depending on the authors’ interest in OA.
Language of publications: Mainly Croatian, with some titles in English or other European languages (some titles are bilingual).
Legal status: FF Open Press is a “faculty press”, strictly associated with the Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences of Zagreb University. The press, when it comes to the development of its OA publishing activities, relies on the department’s library.
Personnel: Four FTEs work for the FF Open Press, however their tasks do not involve OA books specifically. The library’s personnel (five people) deals with the OA books submission processes, editing and production, yet their responsibilities involve areas other than OA books as well.
Licences used: CC BY-NC-ND (for OA-borne books), with other CC licences sometimes used, if the author insists on a different type. For books made OA retrospectively, the press does not apply Creative Commons licences, but rather applies the InCopyright statement, as used by Europeana.
Formats offered: The books are offered as PDF files. Some books are also available in print, some are digital only.
Hosting platform: The FF Open Press books are hosted using the Open Monograph Press software. The FF Open Press uses the Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences’ server.
Open access for journals in Croatia has gained momentum with the introduction of HRCAK: a national repository for academic journals. Journals want to be included in HRCAK as it boosts their visibility, and it is easier to get funding for OA projects in this realm. While OA publishing in the realm of journals has become the norm, it is not the case when it comes to books. However, books are also slowly adopting the open access publishing mode, and a specific national circumstance enhances the transition of long-text scholarship towards OA. This circumstance is the fact that most Croatian scholarly books are published in the native language, and as such do not stand a chance in reaching a big audience so that publishing them is not financially sustainable without heavy reliance on subsidies. Print sales are not high enough in these cases to make the model viable. Since there is already funding coming for book publishing on the national and institutional level, FF Press decided to use these funding streams and invest them in making their books OA. The decision was also determined by the promise of the greater visibility that comes with making a book open access.
There are two main stakeholders involved in OA book publishing: the faculty press and the library. While the press is responsible for the editorial tasks, production and distribution of print copies, the library deals with the development and maintenance of the FF Open Press platform, as well as with uploading books to the platform, creating metadata and online disseminations. The press has a Publishing Board which consists of scholars representing different areas of humanities and social sciences. The Board is responsible for the beginning of the publishing process, namely submissions and reviews. The Board members, based on reviews, decide which books to publish. They are supported by thematic editors, who, in agreement with the Board, choose reviewers for monographs and, together with conference organizers, review conference proceedings.
Authors are encouraged to submit book proposals to the press, most titles are acquired that way. They are then reviewed by external editors chosen by internal thematic editors (for conference proceedings).
PDF files for both print and digital editions are produced within the FF Press, while production of print copies is outsourced. The press works with several Croatian printing companies. Books are printed in small print runs. Print on Demand option is not available, there are no POD service providers on a national level.
Currently, there is no organized workflow for distribution. The press is starting to list their OA books in the Directory of Open Access Books. Distribution mechanisms are on the list of issues to explore in the future for the press.
Chosen books are promoted via social media (Facebook) and are promoted in conferences. Since the majority of books are written in Croatian, promotion is geared towards a national, rather than an international audience.
All books are deposited in HAW, the Croatian Web Archive, under the aegis of the National Library.
All books published by the FF Open Press (including OA and non-OA) rely on subsidies coming from the Ministry of Science and the Ministry of Culture. The press has to prepare submissions for the yearly call out from the ministries. This call out, rather than being specifically geared towards open access projects, is for books in general. It operates on a national level and is open to all kinds of publishers: be they university or faculty presses, or commercial publishers. The books compete for subsidies individually. For each title, the press has to submit an application, which includes an overview of the book’s content, two reviews and planned publication costs. If the funding application is successful, the title will get published and the author gets to decide if it will be open access and if it will be offered as a digital file only, or as a print edition as well.
Total annual revenue associated with books (both OA and non-OA) falls in the 50.000-100.000 EUR. Most of this sum was acquired through national subsidies. The second biggest revenue component was in-kind contributions coming from the faculty and library. Subsidies are allocated for books in general and then some of them are published OA, therefore the press cannot estimate the exact revenue stream associated with OA books only. Print sales make up the smallest component of the revenue structure. The press does not generate profit; subsidies cover its costs.
Printing and typesetting are stated as being among the highest cost components.
The model is perceived as sustainable, as no major changes in the subsidy system in Croatia are expected in the coming years. In order to secure more funding dedicated specifically towards OA books, more commitment from funders (for example OA mandates for books) would need to be developed.
The main challenge of the model is its dependence on one sole source of revenue: subsidies coming from the ministries. While this funding stream is perceived as stable, it can also be seen as a threat: if the funding is cut, the press would not be able to sustain itself.
Current low library budgets in Croatia undercut the possibility for experimentation and investment in collaborative funding models.
Presses also face the challenge of limited human resources: there are few specialists in the area of OA books in the country. These specialists divide their time between numerous OA projects meaning that their expertise is not easily accessible.