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Helsinki University Press

The business model of Helsinki University Press. Last updated April 2021.

Published onFeb 15, 2022
Helsinki University Press

The BPC model treats researchers in a very unequal way, and so that's why we didn't want to adopt it.” (L. Kaakinen, personal communication, 18.02.2021)

WHAT?

Helsinki University Press (HUP) is a young press, founded in 2017. The first OA book was published by HUP at the beginning of 2020. 

It is a fully open access press, publishing both books and journals in all academic disciplines. They publish three OA journals and two book series, alongside individual book titles. Authors wishing to publish with HUP do not have to be affiliated with the University of Helsinki, the press welcomes proposals from researchers all over the world. 

Number/ type of OA books published per year: HUP publishes academic monographs and edited volumes. In the first year of OA book publishing, HUP published six books. In 2021 they are expecting to publish ten books.

Fully OA? All books are published OA

Legal status: University press, associated with the University of Helsinki. The legal owner of the press is the university’s library. HUP operates under the aegis of the library in cooperation with Gaudeamus publishing house, which is responsible for the publishing operations of HUP. 

Personnel: Two FTEs, plus one employee working 60% for the press and one working 50% for the press. All employees are dedicated strictly to working with OA books, with different areas of responsibilities. 

Language of publications: English

Licences used: CC BY-NC, other CC licences allowed on authors’ requests

Formats offered: Books are offered in PDF, EPUB, MOBI and Print on Demand.

Hosting platform: HUP partners with Ubiquity Press, books are hosted on the Ubiquity Press’s platform.

 

WHY?

Before deciding on publishing books OA, HUP had completed a three-year research project looking for a viable publishing model that would suit their and their authors’ needs and that would not be based on the Book Processing Charges (BPCs). They have initiated best practice exchanges with other existing presses publishing OA books. Their priorities were to create a publishing opportunity that would be available for authors coming from different backgrounds, regardless of their economic circumstances. The HUP model combines the publishing experience of the press with the metadata, indexing and discoverability experience provided by the library.

 

HOW? 

Governance structure

Publishing decisions are made by the HUP Academic Board. As of April 2020, the body consists of 17 members, coming from international institutions. The board meets regularly to choose titles that will be published from proposals presented by the press editors.

Publishing workflow

  1. Acquisitions

Acquisitions are done both by the press editors and by the members of the Academic Board, using their professional networks. HUP also receives a number of unsolicited submissions. Press editors are responsible for the reviewing process: they need to find two external reviewers for each book. The results of the reviews are presented to the Academic Board which makes the final publishing decisions based on them. Books in books series are reviewed by the series editorial team. 

  1. Production

The production process is outsourced yet supervised by the press personnel. Print editions are offered as a Print on Demand option. HUP partners with Lighting Source for the POD services.

  1. Distribution

The distribution of print and digital copies is handled by Ubiquity Press; they ensure that the books are listed in DOAB and JSTOR. HUP does not engage in the process, leaving it to their partner. 

  1. Marketing

HUP makes a marketing plan for each title, based on conversations with the author who is asked to identify potentially interested audiences, networks and mailing lists that could be used. Social media platforms are the most prominent tool for marketing. HUP also sends print copies of their books to be reviewed by a journal relevant to the book’s topic. Marketing activities are done completely in-house. 

  1. Preservation

Preservation is outsourced and lies within the responsibility of Ubiquity Press, which uses CLOCKKS.

 

BUSINESS MODEL

The press relies on subsidies coming from the university, combined with funding from researchers’ grants. Authors are not charged BPCs. In the case of book series associated with a specific institution, funding is ensured by the institution owning the series. 

Revenues

Total annual revenue associated with OA books for 2020 was falls within the brackets of 100.000- 500.000 EUR. The largest source of revenue (estimated at 75%) is university subsidies. The second biggest funding streams come from specific research grants, where publication money is available, and from subsidies from institutions publishing book series with HUP. The smallest revenue stream comes from subsidies from print sales.

Costs

Main cost components are associated with editorial activities and acquisitions. Next in line are distribution and marketing. The lowest cost component lies in printing and warehousing, which are very low or non-existent, given the fact that HUP uses the POD option. 

Sustainability

HUP finds its current model to be sustainable. It relies on mixed revenue streams, of which the largest one – university subsidies – is stable in nature. Mixing different funding sources allows HUP to be more flexible. Although satisfied with its current model, HUP is also exploring other potential models and is interested in collaborative approaches. No major changes to the existing publishing model are expected in the most immediate future. 

 

CHALLENGES

Among the challenges encountered with the current operating models, HUP lists administrative hurdles as one of the main road blockers. Setting up the press required engagement and coordination between the various in stakeholders involved, agreeing on the amount of university funding provided, and the allocation of human resources proved to be challenging during the first stages of establishing the OA book operations of the press. 

The lack of infrastructure suitable for OA book publishing also proved to be challenging and was one of the determining factors that influenced the decision to use external partners for hosting, distribution and preservation.

Moreover, among challenges of a more general nature relating to OA publishing (not its own specific model), HUP points to the scarcity of institutional funding for OA books, as well as to academic recognition systems, which do not encourage researchers to publish their books OA. 

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