The Future of the Academic Book: Five Questions with Charlotte Maiorana

At the upcoming Charleston Library Conference, Emerald’s Charlotte Maiorana will appear on the preconference panel, The Future of the Academic Book: Strengthening the Research Ecosystem.  In this blog, we catch up with her on innovation, impact and interdisciplinarity in the world of scholarly books. Follow her on Twitter, @charlotteCus


Tell us a little bit about yourself and the exciting projects you're working on 

Here at Emerald, I am the Senior Editor overlooking the North and Latin American academic and professional book programs. This year has been a very exciting one for Emerald books, as we’ve seen our new program in these markets bear fruit; and I am lucky that I get to work with some of the brightest minds across business and the information sciences.

Publishing Q1 next year is Broken Pie Chart, by Derek Moore, which demonstrates the failures of classical diversification and asset allocation, pointing out how the current methods used by traditional financial professionals will not work going forward. Meanwhile, Mastering Business for Strategic Communicators - which is publishing Q4 this year - is a great example of a book helping to bridge the gap between academia and practice. It's a collection of over 20 essays from current and former CCOs, featuring expert advice from CEOs, presidents, and CFOs from names like GE, GM, Southwest Airlines, Starbucks, and Vodafone. Those are just a couple of examples of the exciting projects in our pipeline.


In your Charleston Conference session, the panel will be discussing new formats, players, and business models in the evolving research ecosystem.  What are some examples of innovations in your book programs?

We are directly focusing on how we can support our authors. We know we won’t be successful in the communities we serve unless we help authors make an impact with their research. For instance, we launched Emerald Points this year, a short-form book program that publishes new research with a fast track publication, allowing our authors to respond to current affairs and contemporary issues free from length restrictions and accessible via print, ebook and OA.

In terms of business models, we recently began experimenting with Emerald Select, allowing libraries to purchase titles that meet their needs across our collections while helping support local authorship.

Across the business, we are particularly focused on the role our authors and their research play in the face of grand challenges. In September 2015, the U.N. and its Member States adopted an agenda to end poverty, protect the planet, and ensure prosperity for all. These Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) are a set of 17 Global Goals, that in order to be reached need us all to work together across government, the private sector, and civilians. I think the academic book plays a unique role here, as it is a little freer from the confines of citation concerns and co-authorship like you see at the journal article level. A book by nature can therefore be more interdisciplinary and bring together the kind of minds and research needed to examine and solve the grand challenges of our times.


What other developments will the session cover?

We’ll be discussing research impact measures, both qualitative and quantitative, including the role of the publisher and students, book citations and altmetrics . We’ll also delve into the library as publisher like Michigan Publishing, how integrated media and visual storytelling are an important part of our landscape (via 3D content, custom platforms and rise and pause of Books in Browsers), and we’ll discuss subject portals like MIT’s CogNet, and collaborative/author-driven publishing platforms like PubPub. No talk about the future of scholarly publishing would be complete without discussing OA—we’ll focus on cross-collecting OA content—and we’ll delve into open education resources for classroom use (like what Clemson is doing).


You mention the unique place books hold in supporting Sustainable Development Goals and solving Grand Challenges. How important is it for researchers to consider the impact of their work beyond academia?

Very important! Emerald is especially passionate about that - our brand strapline is Nurturing Fresh Thinking that Makes an Impact. But what counts as impact? You could say that there are three kinds: 1) influence, meaning academic (citations), 2) attention, as in wider awareness through the media or consultancy, and 3) change, demonstrating public, industry, and policy engagement, where research can realize measurable change in the real world. 

I think we're seeing a big shift at this point in scholarly publishing - for example, the UK now has a national assessment of the relationship between research and its impact and societal benefit via the Research Excellence Framework (REF). While presently there is no parallel in the US, the REF funding body appeals to a mission to embed 'a culture in which excellent research departments consistently engage with business, the public sector and civil society organizations, and are committed to carrying new ideas through to beneficial outcomes.' 

This movement toward institutions actively managing their impact will increasingly link government, industry and private sources in terms of funding, and channel how academic research is launched, packaged and disseminated with an eye toward success and positive change outside the ivory tower.


What else are you hoping to learn at this year’s Charleston Conference?

It's my first time attending the conference, so I’m looking forward to everything!

I'm also really excited (and a little nervous!) to be sharing the stage with such industry heavyweights as Peter Brantley (UC Davis), Beth Bernhardt (UNC Greensboro), Gita Manaktala (MIT Press), Charles Watkinson (University of Michigan), Andrew Wesolek (Clemson), and Ann Beynon (Clarivate Analytics). I feel lucky to be sharing ideas and learning from them. I’m also looking forward to hearing more about global purchasing trends, measureable collection outcomes outside of regular usage statistics, and how outside funding fits into the OA publishing ecosystem and future landscape. And I’m looking forward to networking at the receptions and enjoying the Lowcountry cuisine, of course!