Managing Director, Palgrave Macmillan
ATG: In the original press release introducing Palgrave Pivot you claimed that it “liberates scholarship from the straightjacket of traditional formats.” What does that mean?
SB: It refers to the fact that academics now have an option to publish their research at its natural length, rather than make it fit the traditional formats of journal article or monograph. Most scholarly journal articles are between 7,000 and 8,000 words in length, whilst scholarly print books are published between 70,000 and 110,000 words. Sometimes research doesn’t fit to those lengths, and Palgrave Pivot was designed to provide academics with an alternative option to those formats.
ATG: What role does Palgrave Pivot play in Palgrave Macmillan’s overall publishing strategy?
SB: We’re committed to user-focused innovation across all our publishing areas and want to work closely with our community to develop the tools and services it needs. The development of Palgrave Pivot was a direct result of an ongoing program of research we are undertaking to explore the needs of the scholarly market. We questioned over 1,000 researchers across the Humanities and Social Sciences (HSS), and the research revealed insights into the way academics both consume and produce research. We learnt that 36% of journal article authors and 50% of monograph authors were not satisfied by the publication formats available to them and so developed Palgrave Pivot to meet those needs. We want to continue to challenge the traditional boundaries of publishing, and Palgrave Pivot is just one example of several new initiatives that we are committed to delivering to the scholarly community over the coming year.
ATG: You just mentioned some additional Palgrave initiatives that may also challenge the boundaries of traditional publishing. Can you share with us what else you are planning?
SB: We have just announced our latest initiative, which is the option for open access publishing across all our outlets: journal articles, Palgrave Pivots, and monographs. We are offering open access under a CC-BY license and are currently the only commercial publisher to do so across all its formats.
Beyond this, the survey we undertook explored much more than just research format, and identified further pain points that researchers have with publishing. We are developing our plans to break down further boundaries to meet the needs that they have expressed. Watch this space…
ATG: The Palgrave Pivot format is new for the humanities and social sciences. How are authors responding? Not everyone would be comfortable writing in this new format length. Have authors expressed concerns about this? How have you responded? What editorial services are you offering your Palgrave Pivot authors?
SB: Authors are responding extremely positively. We knew from the research there was a need in the community for this format, but the response and enquiries we’ve received has been better than even we expected. We’re proud that Palgrave Pivot has attracted some big names in the humanities, such as Akira Iriye, whose Global and Transnational History was one of our launch titles.
We offer our Pivot authors the same service that we do our journal and monograph authors. All Palgrave Pivots go through our normal peer-review processes and can be cited and included for research assessments in the same way as traditional academic outputs. We are conscious of the need for Palgrave Pivot to publish the same kind of highest-quality academic work we have always been renown for.
Of course, academics are still very welcome to publish with us using traditional formats too.
ATG: According to your Website, each of your titles undergoes complete peer review within 12 weeks of acceptance. That’s a pretty tight schedule. How are you defining complete peer review? How are you recruiting reviewers? What qualifications do you require of your reviewers?
SB: Titles are published within 12 weeks of acceptance. Acceptance takes place only after peer review and once we have the final manuscript. Peer review plays an important role as part of our quality assurance, and thus we use the same rigorous peer-review process that we use for our monographs.
There is some variation in the peer-review process depending upon the academic/professional area. For the standard process, initial proposals that qualify for publication are peer-reviewed (single-blind) by at least one academic or expert. Upon receipt of the complete manuscript it may be peer reviewed by at least one more academic or expert, who writes a review. Commissioning staff discuss the review(s) with the author, and if necessary another reviewer may be sought, and revisions will be made.
We have a broad network of reviewers that we know and trust, but reviewers are sought on a title-by-title basis, to ensure reviewers are knowledgeable about the subject area. Reviewers are typically Associate Professor or Lecturer level and above.
Speed is of the essence when it comes to publishing topical research, and this is appreciated by our authors. Sporting Times by Kath Woodward was one of the first pieces of academic research to be published in the aftermath of the 2012 Olympics, which was particularly relevant given that she was examining the idea and importance of time in sport.
ATG: You claim that Palgrave Pivot is a market-changing initiative. How so?
SB: We believe it’s market changing because it’s providing researchers with an outlet for their research that we know they need, and that previously hasn’t existed. By breaking the traditional publishing boundaries of format and enabling research at its natural length, a new type of publishing emerges.
ATG: Palgrave Pivot Launched with 21 titles in October 2012. How many titles do you have now? How many are you projecting by the end of 2013?
SB: To date we have published 28 titles. We expect to publish more than 100 titles in 2013 across the humanities and social sciences, and many more in the years thereafter.
ATG: How are you making Palgrave Pivot titles accessible to the marketplace? Are they primarily available for title-by-title purchase? Can they be purchased as part of a subscription database? What should interested readers and libraries expect to pay for a title?
SB: For institutions, Palgrave Pivot titles are available on Palgrave Connect, our award-winning eBook platform, via the 2013 Subject Collections and Connect’s Build Your Own Collections option.
In addition to that, Palgrave Pivot titles are available as individual eBooks from ebooks.com, GoogleBooks, and Amazon and are priced between $30 and $45. Libraries can also purchase them from library suppliers.
ATG: Are academic libraries your main market? Or are individual scholars/students your primary focus?
SB: Researchers are our main focus, via whichever route they choose to purchase or access Palgrave Pivots. We expect that most will access titles through their libraries, via Palgrave Connect. So far, we have also been pleased with the response to the individual eBooks.
ATG: We notice that Palgrave Pivot titles are optimized for use via ReadCube. Can you explain what that means for our readers who are not familiar with ReadCube? Does this have any impact for users who want to download Palgrave Pivot titles onto handheld devices?
SB: Palgrave Pivot titles have been further optimized for use on Palgrave Connect with ReadCube, an interactive PDF reader. ReadCube allows the reader to add electronic notes and highlights, hyperlinked references, and more. ReadCube is currently actively developing a mobile reader app which should be released in the not-too-distant future; however, Palgrave Pivot titles themselves are already accessible through handheld and tablet devices.
ATG: Print-on-demand also seems to be part of your strategy. Why? Can you elaborate?
SB: Our ongoing dialogue with researchers worldwide, together with the sales patterns of our monograph program, shows us that many researchers are still keen to purchase research in print, and print-on-demand is the most effective way to do this for our customers.
ATG: Sam, we’ve been asking all of these serious, business-related questions. What about your personal interests? What are your favorite activities outside of publishing? What do you like to do for fun?
SB: I love to read, learn, travel to new places, and find different perspectives. Great food, good friends, and laughing with my daughter are all top of my list of priorities.
ATG: Thanks for taking the time to talk to us today. We really appreciate it!