The business model of Language Science Press. Last updated April 2021.
“There were a couple of linguists (…) and they decided that it just couldn’t continue like that.” (S. Nordhoff, personal communication, 16.02.2021)
Language Science Press was established in 2014. It is a scholar-led, fully OA press, publishing books in the area of linguistics. Its model relies on a collaborative funding coming from libraries and library consortia, facilitated via Knowledge Unlatched. Books are published in thematic series (as of March 2021 there are twenty-six active series and three in incubation).
Number/ type of OA books published per year: 30, mainly monographs and edited volumes, sometimes textbooks, no trade books.
Fully OA? The press publishes open access only.
Language of publications: English, German, French, Portuguese, Spanish, Chinese, + 2 chapters in Italian
Legal status: charitable Ltd company: gemeinnützige Unternehmergesellschaft (haftungsbeschränkt). Non-profit.
Personnel: The press has two part-time employees (50% each), working on OA books only.
Volunteers coming from the linguistics community are used as proofreaders. Proofreading takes place on the Paperhive platform, where the community can collectively review manuscripts in a sneak preview option. The proofreader community consists of more than 400 members. Most active ones are listed in the LSP’s “hall of fame”.
Licences used: CC-BY. LSP permits exceptions from the preferred licence. These cases are very rare (one book CC-BY-SA and one anthology CC-BY-NC-ND).
Formats offered: PDF, Print on Demand hardcover. Books are written in LaTex.
Hosting platform: Zenodo, with Open Monograph Press as a frontend. Additionally, hosted at the repository of the Freie Universität Berlin
The idea for setting up Language Science Press stemmed from a certain frustration expressed by academics in the field of linguistics. The frustration had to do with the state of scholarly publishing, where scholars are not paid for rendering services to publishers (such as reviewing books) and lose rights to their own work. In the latter case, the work can then be sold and re-sold by publishers, who set high prices on print copies of books, which, in practice, restricts access to produced knowledge.
The company is owned by three associates (Müller, Haspelmath and Nordhoff). The former two act as press directors and are responsible for scientific quality, while the latter is the managing director and responsible for administration. The press has an Advisory Board consisting of 13 members (as of January 2021). The Advisory Board has the power to decide on acceptance or rejection of series proposals (Advisory Board | Language Science Press, n.d.).
Acquisitions are done by series editors, with a number of unsolicited submissions being received directly by the press. Authors are expected to submit book proposals to one of the 26 thematic series. Proposals are reviewed by the series editors. Series editors acquire titles and are responsible for reviewing and accepting or rejecting submitted manuscripts. Additionally, the first five titles in a new series must be vetted by the press directors.
Manuscripts are first made consistent with the in-house style by LSP’s employees, then they are run through community proofreading tools. The final typesetting is undertaken in-house, using templates for covers.
Production of print copies is outsourced to Books on Demand (BoD). LSP converts the original PDF file to PDF/X, produces a cover and uploads the PDF and
XML-metadata to the BoD FTP-server.
Digital copies are available from langsci-press.org. They are also available on Zenodo, DOAB, OAPEN, GoogleBooks.
Print copies are distributed by BoD. Print copies cannot be purchased directly from the LSP website, the LSP’s website links to Amazon for print copies purchases.
Social media and discipline specific mailing lists are used for promotion. Print copies are not promoted.
Books are archived on Zenodo and in the repository of the Freie Universität Berlin.
LSP primarily applies a collaborative funding model, in which libraries come together to finance the press. The model relies on Knowledge Unlatches as a middleman. Libraries pledge support every three years. In addition to that, LSP benefits from four other revenue streams: individual memberships, donations, BPCs and print copy sales. These additional revenue streams do not contribute significant figures though. BPCs are generally not applied. If a project has funds available, a BPC can be applied. The amount varies and is adjusted according to individual projects’ financial capacities.
Total annual revenue associated with OA books for 2020 was 120,000 EUR. Most of this sum (90%) was made up from institutional memberships (libraries participating in collaborative funding via Knowledge Unlatched, 105,000 EUR). The second biggest revenue component came from BPCs and print sales, while donations supplied the smallest part of the total revenue.
The largest expense is associated with the two part-time employee’s salaries and accounts for about 90,000 EUR per year. Other main cost components are associated with printing (mandatory print copies that need to be sent to national libraries) and distribution (assigning DOIs, ISBNs, etc). Further costs were associated with author support, manuscript processing and typesetting, and finally with overheads.
The model seems to be solid. LSP is not envisioning any major changes to its core set-up and plans to continue using the current model.
In the first years of the press’s existence the main challenge lay in the financial area, as the press struggled to break even. The process of achieving this took about five years.
Once this goal had been reached, the main challenge became growth. The press’s revenue is fixed for the period of three years (Libraries commit to financing the press for the period of three years, with each pledge round facilitated by Knowledge Unlatched). If within this period demand increases, LSP is not in a position to generate additional revenue to handle the demand.