Kent Anderson has recently released his updated list of “Things Publishers Do”
Here’s some background on the list:
The first version of this list was created back in the summer of 2012, at a time when publishers were being repeatedly challenged to prove they added value beyond managing peer review and some basic copy editing and formatting. The first post outlined 60 things publishers do. The post was revised again in 2013 to reflect 13 more things, bringing the total to 73. In 2014, it was updated once more, to add nine more things and update others, bringing the total number of things most publishers do to 82. Now, after more than a year since its last revision, here we are with a new post, adding yet more things to what publishers often do for authors, readers, and as part of their work.
It’s worth noting that we are adding an average of just more than 12 new items per year. While some of this is capturing things I failed to include in prior lists, some of these additions represent efforts and work that was once hardly noticeable but which has quickly grown. At this rate, we will be doing more than 200 things by 2025. How pushing more work into the publishing enterprise squares with reducing costs and increasing efficiency remains a conundrum.
The past few years have introduced a new level of infrastructure building – ORCID, CHORUS, and FundRef are just a few examples. Moving more of the publishing workflow and infrastructure online is also creating opportunities for entrepreneurs like Publons and Overleaf. Publishers are constantly monitoring, integrating, and advising these groups, a new level of activity with unclear payback for publishers, but clear added costs to the publishing endeavor.
Often, authors are the ones asserting that journal publishers do so little, which is understandable, as authors only experience a small part of the journal publishing process, and care about the editing and formatting bits the most, making those the most memorable. In fact, publishers’ service mentalities often include deliberately limiting the number of things authors have to worry about, which further limits their view of what it actually takes to publish a work and remain viable to publish the next one.
While I do not hope to downplay the realities of scholarly publisher profit margins in the face of stagnant and dwindling library budgets, it is vital to be aware of the role publishers play in the scholarly communication ecosystem. This list explicates the multitude of invaluable functions that publishers play in the dissemination, access, and discovery of scholarly literature. I consider some of the most relevant items on the list for librarians, especially those exploring the possibility of library and consortial based publishing, involved the publisher’s role in maintaining technologies and digital infrastructure.