News: Academic Publishing Weekly

This week, we take a look back at the top stories of 2021—acquisitions, open access, and more

By Choice Staff
Academic Publishing Weekly: the latest curated news from around the industry. Purple background, white lettering.

Look Back at 2021: Acquisitions

To ring in the new year, we thought we’d take a look back at the biggest stories of 2021. First, acquisitions dominated the scene. In January 2021, Wiley acquired Hindawi Limited, and J&J Editorial and Knowledge Unlatched followed in the fall. Of course, Penguin Random House’s move on Simon & Schuster made waves in the trade world, though it recently faced a hiccup this past November. What commanded the academic market, however, was Clarivate’s purchase of ProQuest, which Clarivate announced in May and closed this past month. Other acquisitions include: Hachette’s purchase of Workman PublishingBloomsbury and ABC-CLIOOverDrive and Kanopy, and HarperCollins and the trade division of Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.

Look Back at 2021: Open Access

What’s next? Open access, of course. To start, Plan S officially began in January 2021, ushering in a new era of open publishing—and think pieces in response. In March, MIT rolled out Direct to Open (D2O), a library collective action publishing model; this past month, MIT announced plans to openly publish its Spring 2022 monographs in accordance with D2O. Next, the University of California entered a four-year transformative agreement with Elsevier following their division in 2019. Read and publish deals abounded in 2021—Cambridge University Press formed read and publish deals with over 100 US institutions last spring. Finally, Springer Nature surpassed one million open articles, touting the benefits of gold OA over green in the process.

Look Back at 2021: COVID-19

Could we really reflect on 2021 without bringing up COVID? With one year of the pandemic behind us—and the promise of vaccines around the corner—many hoped that scholarly conferences would resume in person. However, with the rise of the Delta variant (don’t you miss the pre-Omicron days?!), pundits expressed caution. In September, Inside Higher Ed reflected on the mix of in-person, online, and hybrid conferences of the past year, while this Ithaka S+R report underscored the importance of virtual meeting options. In other news, last April several outlets discussed how the pandemic impacted the book industry thus far, surfacing the importance of backlist titles and flashy book covers. Other big stories involved declining print-use, the rise of preprints, and the staying power of online learning. Finally, more cerebral questions were pondered, including the future of library spaces and office culture.

Look Back at 2021: Video, Audio, Ebooks

It’s no surprise that ebooks, audio, video, and other digital options exploded in 2021. One hot topic included the debate over controlled digital lending and whether the current library technology market could support CDL. Many predicted that e-content will continue to trend upward as streaming video and other mediums proliferate. Next, Maryland passed a new law that will restrict ebook embargoes for libraries; the Association of American Publishers filed suit in the hopes of overturning it. Speaking of lawsuits, Amazon and the Big Five faced antitrust suits on claims of conspiracy and ebook price fixing. These came in the midst of librarian complaints over ebook prices and licensing practices. Last, both University Affairs and Inside Higher Ed discussed the merit of scholarly podcasts and introducing diverse media forms into the classroom.

The Committed book cover

Look Back at 2021: Most Popular Stories

Finally, let’s take a look at the most popular stories from the APW newsletter in 2021 based on your clicks. First up, we have a comical look at academic publishing (link to the comic strip here). Next is a deep dive into how librarians can fight against misinformation. News over Clarivate’s purchase of ProQuest was another hit, via Scholarly Kitchen. Fourth, we have Inside Higher Ed’s take on how the pandemic altered course materials, revealing a significant move to digital options. Last, we have Slate’s Best Books of 2021, which has a robust collection of nonfiction and fiction titles. Other juicy stories included: Ithaka S+R’s report on “Big Deals”, the New Yorker’s feature on OverDrive, a look at whiteness in scholarly publishing, and tips on publishing an academic book.

One Final Roundup of Book Lists

To close out this spectacularly weird year, we wanted to highlight a few final book lists. Literary Hub sorted through dozens of year-end lists to count the number of times a title surfaced, therefore creating “The Ultimate Best Books of 2021.” LitHub also provided two other compilations, including the New York Public Library’s most borrowed books of the year, and “81 Writers on the Books They Loved in 2021.” The New York Times asked its readership to select the best book of the past 125 years, creating an interactive webpage of the winners—do you agree with the picks? To conclude, in commemoration of the passing of author Joan Didion, NYT made a guide to her books from over the decades. Here’s to a healthy and happy 2022.