De Gruyter, www.degruyter.com
To follow is a conversation (by phone and email) between John Long and Sven Fund and Michiel Klein Swormink of De Gruyter.
JL: De Gruyter encompasses a remarkable span of history beginning in 1749 to our contemporary e-everything environment (De Gruyter’s innovative one platform, 500 paid and open access journals, 800 new eBooks published each year, 40 large d-bases). Could you take a few moments to comment on that?
SF: It’s true, De Gruyter and its preceding publishers have an impressive legacy. Today, we strive to live up to this tradition and work hard to transform our traditional strengths into the digital age. Even if the medium changes more and more from print to electronic, values like quality of content, the ability to discover and broaden trends in research, and the international span of a publishing program prevail.
JL: I am fascinated by the scope of your publishing program and, of course, you are a truly international publisher: humanities & natural sciences, theology & philosophy, biology & chemistry, linguistics, literature, mathematics, physics, history, archaeology, law and medicine — it all began in the humanities!
SF: Yes, still today, De Gruyter is a universal academic publishing house. We virtually publish in all fields — from Algebra to Zoology — and in three product types: journals, books, and reference works. The breadth of our portfolio is not without the risk of overexpansion, and we constantly and carefully evaluate our publishing programs. Today we focus ever more on what we feel makes most sense to support science and research: important monographs and series, authoritative and state-of-the-art reference content, and high-quality journals. And we have just added open access as an important publishing model.
JL: I understand you have exciting news for our ATG readers regarding De Gruyter and Harvard University Press; in addition, could you talk about your partner, TriLiteral, and its 155K sq. ft. distribution center?
MKS: Yes, exciting news, indeed. Beginning this year, De Gruyter will distribute Harvard University Press’ eBooks to the institutional market worldwide. Our programs largely cover the same subject areas and are complementary in terms of content. We believe that the combined offering of both our lists on one and the same platform through De Gruyter’s library-friendly and proven business model for eBooks will be a very attractive proposition to the market. We like to call this partnership an “alliance” the sum of which is larger than its parts; for libraries, end-users, authors, and De Gruyter and HUP. At the same time, we are moving our physical distribution and the invoicing of all our products in the Americas to TriLiteral starting January 2013. TriLiteral, as you may know, is a distribution company jointly owned by Harvard University Press, Yale University Press, and MIT Press. We are very happy to have found a distribution partner who understands our needs and has excellent customer service.
JL: I understand that De Gruyter moved its offices (about a year ago) from NYC to Boston and that this allows you to be much closer to many friends of De Gruyter, authors, editors, and scholars. Could you tell us a little about the very successful Open House reception at your High Street offices?
MKS: New York is, of course, a great city and it has outstanding universities, but — all in all — in the relatively short time that we have been in Boston, we have found that this is a better environment for us. We are certainly close to many of our authors and important customers here, but we have also succeeded in attracting very good and motivated employees. And Boston has certainly proven to be a very productive place to work from. The Open House we organized last fall was visual proof of that. I think it really marked for the first time our presence here as a full-fledged publishing company which is growing fast and is very active in marketing, selling, and acquisitions in the Americas.
JL: De Gruyter is doing very important work toward making your archive digitally available (some 60K books), and you make special efforts to find out-of-print titles (print copies and/or as eBooks) for your readers and customers.
MKS: I personally find this, as a publisher, a very exciting topic. We have made available for purchase in print and electronic format all our publications since 1749. This is not just re-commercialization of out-of-print or supposedly dead content; as a publisher we have taken active control again of our intellectual legacy. It inspires me in developing new products. This so-called e-dition program is so successful that we had to allocate extra staff to fill all the orders. Managing the order and reproduction process is sometimes very time-consuming, because we have to track down physical copies of books of which we don’t have a copy in our archive.
JL: De Gruyter is listening to librarians, and working very hard to achieve a business-friendly model for the library community. Could you elaborate on that ongoing effort?
SF: We believe that the best guarantee to create and deliver products for our customers is to understand their needs. In past years, we have formed Library Advisory Boards, not to unduly influence librarians, but to listen and learn. This has shown great results, and many of the innovative business models we have launched over the years are a direct result of that. e-dition, the retrodigitization project for all titles of our backlist spanning back to 1749, is an example of this.
JL: Thanks so much for taking time out your hectic schedule so that ATG readers can be apprised of new developments and the dynamic work going on at De Gruyter.
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