The business model of Finnish Literature Society. Last updated April 2021.
“The main thing that interests us in open access is the fact that the books are available for everyone and that they are accessible from anywhere.” (N. Alén, personal communication, 19.03.2021)
The Finnish Literature Society (SKS) was founded in 1831 and has a long tradition of supporting and advancing studies in the Finnish culture and language. It is a learned society, which, among its goals, states its desire for “conveying information about oral and written Finnish cultures and their study” (“About the Finnish Literature Society (SKS)”). Looking into fulfilling this goal the SKS has, since the beginning of its existence, been looking into organizing its own publishing activities. Only three years after the SKS was founded, The Publishing House was created. Since 1834 the Publishing House of the SKS has been publishing textbooks, dictionaries and translations of classic literature into Finnish. It was also among the first to publish novels in Finnish. At present it focuses on publishing academic books under the series Studia Fennica.
Number/ type of OA books published per year:SKS is the largest publisher of scholarly monographs in humanities in Finland. It publishes monographs and edited volumes in the area of cultural studies, history, literature and Finnish language. It publishes around 20 OA books per year. Published books are organized into series. Published books are organized into series. Currently, SKS publishes 5 of them: Suomalaisen Kirjallisuuden Seuran Toimituksia.Tietolipas.Historiallisia Tutkimuksia, Historiallien Arkisto, and Studia Fennica The Studia Fennica series is divided into six sub-series dealing with the topics of anthropology, ethnology, folk studies, history, linguistics, and literature.
Fully OA? As of 2021 all books are published open access.
Language of publications: English and Finnish, estimate for 2021 is 21 Finnish language titles, 1 English language.
Legal status: The Finnish Literature Society is a non-profit scholarly society with the Publishing House being one of its six divisions.
Personnel: There are seven FTEs in the scholarly publishing department, four of which work solely on OA publications.
Licences used: CC BY-NC-ND
Formats offered: PDF, EPUB, Print on Demand
Hosting platform: The Finnish Literature Society is a partner of Ubiquity Press. Books are hosted on the Ubiquity Press’s platform. Printed works are purchased directly from the publisher.
In 2014 SKS started actively looking into the possibility of publishing open access. They did research into what benefits OA could bring them and were interested in the possibility of gaining a wider audience with OA. They decided to experiment, first with the Studia Fennica series (in English), which started its first OA volumes in 2016. Based on the increase of usage of the Studia Fennica that they have seen since 2016, SKS, as of 2021 decided to fully switch to OA. All books are also available in print.
In 2014 SKS started actively looking into the possibility of publishing open access. They did research into what benefits OA could bring them and were intrigued by the possibility of gaining a wider audience with OA. They decided to experiment, first with the Studia Fennica series (in English), which produced its first OA volumes in 2016. Based on the increase of usage of the Studia Fennica Series since 2016, SKS, as of 2021, decided to switch fully to OA (Tieteelliset julkaisusarjat, n.d.).
SKS as an organization is governed by the Board of Directors, which is elected by delegates. The Board is the highest decision-making body, while the Secretary General is in charge of SKS’s activities. There are six divisions of the Society, each looking into different activities: the Archive, the Library, the Research Department, the Administration and Finance Department, Finnish Literature Exchange, and the Publishing House.
The Publishing House is headed by a publishing director and it has three Editorial Boards responsible for publishing decisions.
Authors submit their proposals to a Publishing Coordinator, who does the primary check and sends them over to the series’ editorial boards for further evaluation. If the proposal is accepted by the series’ publishing committee, it is then sent out for peer-review.
Editing and typesetting work can be done in house or it can be outsourced. In-house editing is done by an editor and graphic design is carried out by a technical editor.
Distribution of digital copies is outsourced to Ubiquity Press, which makes sure that the books are included in DOAB and takes care of indexing. SKS’s books are available on their Society’s own website, through DOAB, JSTOR, Summit and Google Books. The Society’s library division is responsible for indexing OA books in the Finnish library catalogues.
The Society uses social media to promote the books. In addition, once per year the Society publishes a catalogue, in which all their new books are featured. This catalogue is sent out to Finnish libraries, bookstores, book fairs, SKS members etc. Print books are also marketed directly to bookstores and libraries.
The Society is required to deposit print copies, as well as digital editions of their books in the Finnish National Archive.
As a scholarly society the Finnish Literature Society bears the principal economic responsibility of its publishing activities. As such it covers the bulk of all costs associated with book production. There is a Book Processing Charge, fixed at 6,000 EUR per book. However, BPCs apply only to authors who have some publication funds. In most cases the Society applies its generous waiver policy (so far only one title has been published with BPCs). SKS is also actively looking into alternative funding models for their OA books: it experimented with a library consortia funding model, modeled after the Knowledge Unlatched scheme, yet translated into the national, Finnish context. The model proved to be unsuccessful: it could not sustain itself on the support coming from the Finnish libraries alone. The SKS is collaborating with national stakeholders such as the Federation of Finnish Learned Societies in order to help develop new funding models suitable to Finnish conditions.
Total annual revenue associated with books for 2020 falls in the €100 000-500 000 bracket.
Revenues come from diversified streams: among them the largest is funding coming from the Society, followed by print sales and state subsidies. State subsidies are granted to learned societies in Finland to be used for covering publications costs.
The largest cost components are associated with editorial processes, including typesetting (estimated at 60% of total costs). Marketing has been identified as the second largest cost component, followed by warehousing and production. Warehousing costs are mainly due to old stock.
While the model is perceived as sustainable for the time being for SKS, it has also been noted that it would not be suitable for smaller learned societies that depend solely on revenue from their publications.
CHALLENGES OF THE MODEL
The SKS states that one of the biggest challenges of the model is its reliance on Book Processing Charges. The Society would like to transition towards a model that does not involve BPCs and would welcome a national funding mechanism for OA books that would facilitate such a transition.
The lack of developed shared infrastructure relevant to the needs of OA book publishing has also been pointed out as a road blocker for smaller societies trying to adopt open access.