Emerald hosts exciting Academic Book Week "unconference"

Jenny McCall, a Publisher responsible for commissioning social science content for Emerald's expanded book publishing division, introduces the ‘unconference’ Emerald will be hosting as part of Academic Book Week 2017

Jenny McCall.

It’s a truly fascinating time to be working in academic publishing. Changes are coming thick- and-fast, often prompted and necessitated by external drivers such as the funding bodies’ open access mandates, squeezed library budgets and reduced print sales, and the importance of demonstrating impact of research.

Publishers have responded by launching new publishing formats, such as short-form, and new ways of measuring book usage (BookMetrics). New players have entered the fray with innovative business models and ways of working (Knowledge Unlatched, UCL Press). We’re seeing big changes in the world of traditional publishers with larger publishers consolidating and acquiring smaller houses, bringing scale and reach; while we also are witnessing the emergence of more progressive publishers, such as Emerald, who see the opportunity to offer something a little different to the scholarly community.

Our authors face challenges of their own: demonstrating and achieving true impact with research; how to truly achieve the elusive goal of interdisciplinarity; how to safeguard academic freedom; and how to satisfy the demands of regulatory requirements such as the REF in the UK.

Creating the Future of Academic Publishing: Strengthening the Research Ecosystem is the theme of Emerald Publishing’s event to be held as part of the 2nd Academic Book Week event, where we have created a forum for lively discussion between academics and publishers; and to – we sincerely hope – lead to some practical ideas to be adopted by the industry.

I’m especially pleased to be involved in this event, as a continuation of my work with AcBookWeek – the book I published for Palgrave on The Academic Book of the Future in time for the first Academic Book Week in October 2014.

The process of publishing this short book (in double-quick time) exemplified what AcBookWeek is all about – a collaborative effort from those working in all corners of our particular world, resulting in a great sharing of ideas, knowledge and perspectives. Looking at what’s lined up for the 2016 Book Week, it promises to be equally exciting and such a great opportunity to foreground the challenge and exciting opportunities for the Academic Book in the 21st century for academics, publishers, librarians and booksellers.

At our event, we’ll be following an unconventional format for our evening, to free up discussion and encourage us to share ideas in a lively and stimulating way. An "unconference" is "a loosely structured conference emphasizing the informal exchange of information and ideas between participants, rather than following a conventionally structured programme of events". Delegates are encouraged to submit their questions ahead of the evening, with our line-up of introductory speakers – John Holmwood, Martin Eve, Katharine Reeve, and our Chair, Richard Fisher – circulating throughout the evening, taking part in the breakout sessions. After an initial, short, panel discussion from our three speakers, we’ll run three mini-sessions concurrently, themed around our key themes of interdisciplinarity, impact and innovation.

We don’t want the discussions and ideas to stop there. This event gives us all the opportunity to free-think our way to new ways of publishing and for different ways in which publishers can take a collaborative and vital role within the academic book "ecosystem" in partnership with academics, libraries, and booksellers.

Book week banner.

Ahead of the event on January 23rd, two of our key speakers – John Holmwood and Martin Paul Eve – discuss some of the key questions around academic publishing and the research ecosystem.