Nisha Doshi, Digital Development Publisher

Chris Fell, Digital Strategy and Partnerships Director


Why do we need to innovate?


The publishing industry is going through a period of considerable change and experimentation; although Cambridge University Press has over 400 years’ experience and success in academic publishing, we can’t rest on our laurels and we need to keep thinking about ways to do things better. As a not-for-profit university press, we operate alongside both large, long-established and resource-rich commercial publishers and new, nimble and disruptive entrants to the industry – it’s important for us to innovate to remain competitive in this landscape, while also remaining true to our historical strengths and values. Most importantly, though, we need to provide an excellent service to our customers, whether they are authors, editors, librarians, readers or publishing partners. It’s becoming increasingly acknowledged in the academic publishing industry that our users have frustrations with some parts of the publishing process, for example author submission of manuscripts, speed of peer review and models for accessing academic books and journals, and so we need to think about new ways of doing things to improve the service we provide. Ultimately everything we do is about producing the best learning and research materials and supporting our customers with continually improved content and experiences.


What do we at Cambridge University Press mean by innovation?


Innovation is often thought about in the context of technology and the two of us both work in digital publishing, so our own focus tends to be on digital innovations. But for us at Cambridge University Press, innovation can and should be any way of doing things differently to increase revenue, or improve efficiency, or reach new markets, or provide a better service or product for our customers.


Innovation can be categorised according to Naggi and Tuff’s innovation ambition metrix as Core, which is about improving processes and products for existing customers and users, Adjacent where the aim is to reach into new areas within the same broad terms of business reference and Transformational or Breakthrough which are self-explanatory terms. The Press tries to look at all of these, bringing our core capabilities forward as quickly as possible but also looking at more radical change. The emergence of digital publishing in the print world has resulted in recognisable activity in all these categories from the evolution of standard practices, which have made great strides but still have anchors in print processes, through Open Access to experiments in areas such as overlay journals, preprint servers and scholarly collaboration networks.


What are we currently doing?


Looking at how to manage specific innovation alongside the rapid change of our business; balancing cross-platform and portfolio benefits with individual product, persona and partner needs; deciding what we are going to do (and what we are not); reviewing our strategic framework to help validate new proposals and focus our efforts; clarifying the roles and processes needed to support all this change.


Part of Nisha’s job is to gather digital publishing requirements from colleagues across our academic publishing business and make recommendations for how we take these forward – this can vary from proposals for new subject-specific digital products to meet the needs of a particular market, to scalable features for our book and journals online platform, to opportunities for partnerships with 3rd party tools and service providers.


We are both part of a digital tools, services and innovations group which meets monthly to review the increasingly complex landscape of 3rd party tools and services, and evaluate potential pilots and partnerships in the context of our business needs. Most recently we announced a pilot with Overleaf, an online tool which streamlines the process for authors to write, collaborate and submit scholarly articles. We’re also experimenting with ways to publish dynamic and regularly updated online content, particularly for our clinical and professional readers – moving away from static edition cycles that typically characterise book publishing.


Again though, innovation isn’t just about digital publishing. Colleagues throughout the company are innovating, whether that’s new production workflows, new sales modules or content that takes a novel approach to a topic. We are also experimenting with new formats, for example Elements – a hybrid approach that offers the best of both books and journal publishing.

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