In 2016, self-publishing pioneer Lulu.com introduced Glasstree, a new service the company hopes might begin to reshape the academic and scholarly publishing market. Ahead of the London Book Fair, PW caught up with Glasstree's Daniel Berze to learn more about the company's plan to crack the academic publishing market wide open.
In announcing Glasstree, you noted that “the existing academic publishing model is broken.” You’re not the first to make such an observation—but explain why you think the market is broken and why Glasstree might be a solution.
The traditional publishing model is broken for a number of reasons. First, because academic authors traditionally have so little control over their own content. When they hand it over to their publisher, they often assign their copyrights and hand over legal ownership. And they have no power to set the market price. Traditional publishing often compels purchasers to obtain content with restrictive policies, at often-extortionate levels.
This is also true for open access content, which usually requires the author to pay unfair processing charges in order to publish. More generally, traditional academic publishers also lack transparency: it is impossible to obtain any insight into the costs associated with the production of a book—or the profit margins earned by the publisher and/or the author. Speed to market is also an issue, as academic content can sometimes take years before being published. Glasstree aims to put power back in the hands of the author.
One of the primary motivations for academic authors is career advancement and one of the factors in choosing a publisher is prestige. Is the lack of reputational pull a problem that you anticipate for Glasstree?
Ultimately, we believe that status should be afforded to the author and not the publisher. The “reputational pull” should be directed back to the content generator. At Glasstree, we also plan to support journal publishing in the future by providing editorial boards, and the universities that ultimately support them, with the tools they need to publish journals without the need for traditional publishers. Again, the reputation should be directed at the editorial board and the content generators, rather than at the publishers.
As a sort of academic self-publishing, how do you see the service fitting into the current open access environment?
Very well, and we have already started to publish open access works. Our principle advantage against all OA repositories is our price point. We deliver full-gold OA at a fraction of the costs of any other OA book publisher. For example, the price necessary to publish a completed open access monograph with Glasstree is $80. For full service support—including peer review, editing, etc.—the price is $2,000. I am not aware of anyone who can provide this service at this price point.
The biggest purchasers of academic works are academic libraries. How will Glasstree reach libraries?
There are several ways. We have started to contact libraries—already we have emailed more than 25,000 librarians worldwide—informing them of the opportunities that Glasstree makes available to them. And we have started to visit libraries personally, and will continue to do so the coming year. We have also completed an arrangement with Clarivate (formerly Thompson Reuters) to index Glasstree content. And we are about to complete agreements with several other content discovery platforms to bring awareness of our content to the library community. We also plan on attending several conferences in the U.S. and Europe.
What do you think the main selling point for Glasstree is? And where do you expect the service to be next year, and then, say, five years out?
I think that the biggest selling point is the ability to provide authors and universities with the tools that they need to publish, print, and be successful at a price level that would be unfathomable even a few years ago, with a specific orientation to academics and educators—for example, the ability to track bibliometrics with a DOI, discoverability tools, creative commons licensing, and so on. This year, we will introduce a print API to the market.
As or the future, next year, we plan on introducing article-based publishing. And, in five years’ time? We hope to be a significant player in the market to facilitate authors and universities to publish their own content, and I have plans to introduce an entire range of services for the academic community.
If you are at the London Book Fair, Glasstree will be hosting the a session entitled “Is There a Place for Independent Publishing in the Academic World?” on Wednesday, March 15, 5:30–6:30 p.m., at the Faculty.