The business model of University of Ljubljana, Faculty of Arts Press. Last updated April 2021.
“The main fear was that when we started to publish books open access, we wouldn’t sell so many printed books, but this has not really happened.” (M. Rudolf, personal communication 18.02.2021)
University of Ljubljana, Faculty of Arts Press is a publishing unit of the Faculty of Arts, which is the biggest department of the UoL. The press was officially established in 2007. It specializes in books from the areas of social sciences and humanities. It publishes both books and journals, both in open and closed access. The press is dedicated to research produced at the Faculty of Arts and welcomes proposals from affiliated authors.
*The press is currently in a transition state, as all twenty-six departments of the university are coming together to form the University of Ljubljana Press. The following case study focuses on the publishing unit associated specifically with the Faculty of Arts.
Number/ type of OA books published per year: Around 50 OA titles per year. About 25 of these are academic monographs, and 25 are edited volumes. The press publishes about 20 textbooks per year, in closed access.
Fully OA? Academic monographs and edited volumes are published OA, textbooks are not. Textbooks are only offered as print, with no digital editions available, even for purchase.
Language of publications: Slovenian
Legal status: Faculty press, associated with the Faculty of Arts, supervised by the dean of the university.
Personnel: Three FTEs, one of whom is fully dedicated to OA books. Proofreading and copyediting are outsourced. Typesetting is partially done in-house, partially outsourced.
Licences used: CY BY or CC BY-SA, exceptions allowed for more restrictive CC licences, especially for books with a lot of third-party material in them.
Formats offered: PDF and print. Some experimentation with EPUB, but on a small scale (10 titles).
Hosting platform: The press runs on the Open Monograph Press software, including the submission system. It uses the university's server.
The press made the decision to publish books OA in 2015. It was influenced by a national OA policy that was being developed in Slovenia at that time, calling for all books to be OA by 2020, in line with the Horizon 2020 principles. The representatives of the Faculty of Art Press met with the UCL Press in order to discuss their business model. They decided to adopt a similar model to the UCL Press for themselves, which was presented to the University Dean and accepted.
The press, as part of the university structure, is under the aegis of the University Dean. The Publishing Dean represents the interests of the press to the University Dean. The press also has an Advisory Board, composed of scholars coming from different departments on the UoL. The role of the Advisory Board is to look into problematic areas, should they occur, provide guidance and suggest solutions.
Authors affiliated with the Faculty of Arts reach out to the press with proposals for the books they would like to publish. Each department of the faculty has its own Publishing Advisory Board. All book proposals have to be reviewed and accepted by a relevant Publishing Advisory Board of the department that the book’s author is affiliated with. Once approved, the proposal is then sent to the Slovenian Research Agency in response to their call. Authors are required to help the press in preparation of the submission to the SRA. It is not until the successful application is confirmed by the SRA that the production process starts.
The production process is heavily outsourced: with copyediting and proofreading done by partners. Typesetting partially takes place in-house and is partially outsourced. Print copies are produced by a partnering printing house.
Print editions are available for purchase through the faculty’s bookstore. Currently the press does not have its books listed in the Directory of Open Access Books. Issues in OA book distribution are something that the press would like to explore more in the future.
The press makes use of social media to market their books (Twitter account). Releases are announced on the Facebook account of the Faculty of Arts and through departmental mailing lists to the faculty. Authors are encouraged to promote their books in their circles.
Digital editions of each book are deposited in the University of Ljubljana repository. They are also sent to the Slovenian National Library which preserves the books in its own digital library.
All books published by the press rely on subsidies coming from the Slovenian Research Agency (SRA). The SRA issues a funding call for academic publishers on a yearly basis. Presses can apply for funding for their upcoming titles. The press has to prepare submissions for this call every year. The books compete for subsidies individually. The exact amount of funding per project varies, depending on the length of the book or any special requirements it might have, but generally fall within the 2,000–3,000 EUR range. If the application is successful, the book needs to be published within a year of receiving the funding. The SRA’s publishing subsidies are occasionally combined with Faculty of Arts research project funding, which ultimately comes from the same source: the SRA.
The total annual revenue associated with OA books for 2020 was around 200,000 EUR. The largest part of the revenue stream (estimated at 60%) is composed of the publishing subsidies from the SRA. Other revenue streams include research project grants (estimated at 20%) and print sales (estimated at 20%).
The largest cost components of the press are associated with printing, typesetting and proofreading.
The model is perceived as sustainable, as it breaks even, provided no changes in the Slovenian Research Agency funding scheme occur. However, if such changes should take place, it would put the model in jeopardy, as around 80% of its current budget comes from the SRA. As most of the books are published in Slovenian, the market interested in purchasing print copies is restricted, therefore the press would not be able to sustain itself from print sales only.
The main challenge of the model is the fact that, in large part, it depends on funding coming from the Slovenian Research Agency, which provides subsidies to the press and also sponsors research grants. Should this source be cut, the model would have no chance of survival.
Among other pressing challenges, the press mentions the lack of infrastructure in handling OA books and praises the fact that OMP is an open-source solution they are able to use.
Scarcity of human resources dedicated specifically to OA book-related questions also slows down the development of the press and limits the scope of its activities.