Academic “Book” Selling: A Misnomer in the Making?

By Helena McNish, on 2 March 2017

With Pearson making headlines earlier this year with their announcement of falling textbook sales, people in the industry are yet again speculating how academic book industry will change. What is not being discussed so thoroughly is how academic publishers are moving away from the traditional idea of ‘book’ selling altogether.

Pearson rebranded early January 2016 to show that “Pearson is 100% focused on global education”. What people got less excited about was, as the The Bookseller noted, how this rebrand was also designed to reflect ‘Pearson’s transition from traditional book publisher to a digitally-minded, services-led learning business’.

Pearson are not alone in this change of model. Elsevier now describes itself as ‘a world-leading provider of information solutions’ before discussing its journal and book offering. While Springer Nature still identifies as a publisher, they say that they offer a ‘range of innovative product and services for the research’ as opposed to books and articles. This digitally-focused, holistic business model continues to be adopted across the industry.

Yet this is more than a case of diversification of business and products; it is a fundamental change in what materials are required for education in today’s world.

One aspect of this is that publishers have realised that they can no longer only sell books as their sole carrier for education. As lessons and lectures are on the way to becoming more dynamic in both content and tool use, so do the materials. The need remain competitive in the field, has led to academic publishers selling a package of education materials, rather than books in isolation. This can include countless extras, such as training, online support, lesson plans, case-studies, all geared towards meeting all the needs of the educator.

The second aspect of this is that, while books are still available separately from publishers, as publishers become more digitally-minded we see that the inherit nature of the book is also open to change. ‘Enhanced eBooks’ are books that are infused with multimedia, something becoming more common in journals publishing. Videos, interactive media, sound, and other customisation are common. With these enhancements, books may move so far beyond the traditional idea of the ‘book’ may be fundamentally different to what we know today.  Jaki Hawker, academic manager of Blackwell’s Edinburgh, notes that the most successful products have been “mixed media creations, available on at least two platforms, containing text which includes a high degree of personalised content [and] structured towards active rather than passive reading”

As evidence points to the benefits of enhanced eBooks, many companies and publishers are looking to expand in this field. One example is Apple’s iBook, who are focused solely on providing enhanced eTextbooks. They have already partnered with publishers such as Pearson and Oxford University Press.

Yet there is resistance to these developments. In 2016 a study found that 92% of students preferred paperback to eBooks, especially for serious reading. A Scholastic study published a few months later showed that the children set to replace these students will follow the same trend, as number of children aged 6-17 who are ‘always wanting to reading books in print’ had increased from 2012 to 2016. This is on top of the commonly accepted fact that budgets for academic institutes are being slashed, leaving less budget for wider and/or enhanced materials.

Ultimately, this means innovation in the academic bookselling industry may not be driven by the potential of the ‘book’ at all.

Lauren Ferreira is a student with UCL Publishing – you can find her on twitter @LaurenAFerreira

Rounding Up Towards March

By Helena McNish, on 28 February 2017

Happy Monday, all! Here is your weekly dose of course and industry-related news, updates, and fun stuff to keep you occupied through to that ever-elusive day, Friday.

Course Updates

For all those in Bookselling and Booksellers, there is an optional trip running to bookshop Libreria on the 8th of March at 10am. Note that places are limited to 15, so email Nick to register your interest!

Remember that the London Book Fair is running 12th – 14th March over in Olympia (and to register for your free ticket on their website, since some of our classes will be taking place there!)

Industry Events

Waterstones Piccadilly are hosting a lovely evening of wine and chat for two upcoming debuts, Hold Back the Stars by Katie Kahn and Elan Mastai’s All Our Wrong Todays, futuristic love stories that ‘freewheel’ us through space and time together. It’s this Thursday, March 2nd, starting at 7pm, and tickets and more information can be found here

Come to think of it, Waterstones Gower Street also have plenty of events coming up! Check it here

And, as ever, check out BookGig for industry events!

Industry News

Pearson reports a £2.6bn loss for 2016

Can booksellers help combat loneliness?

Is nostalgia in storytelling the way forward to a brighter future? Mohsin Hamid suggests yes, and storytellers have a responsibility to it

The rise of ‘toilet books’ – Claire Armitsed questions the popularity of the Ladybird-style book, and what impact it is having on the traditional children’s brand (and how long this popularity can last)

Buzzfeed Listicle Fix

What is the Beast (from Beauty and the Beast)’s favourite book???

What sci-fi book should you read?

21 thought-provoking books

Well, that’s it from us! As ever, get in contact with us if there’s anything you want to chat about or for us to feature. We’ll get back to planning our dissertations now…


Helena and Emily

Reading Week Round-Up

By Helena McNish, on 13 February 2017

Happy Half-Term/Reading Week (however you choose to see it) everyone! This also serves as a casual reminder not to come into school this week 😉 But, as ever, the Publishing world is still out there and we still have news (not fake, we promise) to share…

Course Updates

Dissertation Proposals are due on Friday 24th February (i.e. Friday of next week). Make sure to email your personal tutors with any questions or concerns!

Course News

The UCL Publishers’ Prize has closed their submissions box and is preparing for the judges! Thank you from the team to everyone who has submitted – more news should be coming soon, so keep an eye on their Facebook, twitter, and website! (As well as this, ebook versions of the past prizes will soon be available at your favourite online retailers! All proceeds support the prize, both present and future)

Other than that, it’s reading week! Go have fun!

Industry News

The Faber and Faber CEO has opened up about his opinions on the house’s success following their win of independent publisher of the year

So you might have seen that J. K. Rowling and Piers Morgan were locked in a twitter battle over the last few days – and now the Big Green Bookshop in North London has decided to give Piers Morgan the chance to read the entirety of The Philosopher’s Stone… through tweets. Need a crash course in how to be a tweeting activist and one of the most popular authors on earth? Follow @jk_rowling (we love her)

Thoughts about translation from the Jaipur Book Festival

Need some thoughts about writers to watch in Spring 2017 for any essay/research/interest purposes? Publishers Weekly have some ideas

The CWA Short Story competition is open for submissions here. They’re looking for crime and mystery (ooer)

In a similar vein, cat-burglars have abseiled into a warehouse full of rare books and made off with £2m worth of tomes – reported the Guardian

Lots more fun news on BookBrunch!

Buzzfeed Listicle Fix

Thoughts about Viet Thanh Nguyen’s book The Refugees and its application to 2017 America

Fifty Shades Darker (the film version) is out – and it’s insane

Which unimportant Harry Potter character are you?

Want to win books/get them discounted?



That’s it from us this week! As ever, please let us know if you have anything you want us to write about, any news to share, or any comments!


Helena and Emily

The Wellcome Library: A Place to Reignite Your Curiosity, by Emily Martin

By Helena McNish, on 1 February 2017


Editor’s Note: This is the second in our series on our Wellcome Library visit, providing a different perspective on the room and coming commended by our blog post judge, Anna Faherty. 

While the Wellcome Collection may be best known for its fascinating exhibits, it’s also home to a unique Reading Room, the Wellcome Library, and Blackwell’s Bookstore. These spaces are special because they are all designed around the idea that removing the traditional divisions between disciplines opens up opportunities for creative discovery.

After browsing the exhibits, be sure to step into the Wellcome Reading Room. It’s the library you’d build for yourself if you were an eccentric millionaire. Instead of stiff rows of wooden tables decked in green lamps, the first thing you’ll see as you walk in are intriguing art and artefacts, such as the 1920’s dental station and the medical paintings on the wall.

A closer look at the bookshelves reveals another surprise: the books are not arranged alphabetically or by subject. Instead, each bookcase has a theme. A bookcase might have, in no particular order, a book on infectious diseases, books on the history of witchcraft, a travel journal, and novels such as The Wizard of Oz. This arrangement means there’s always something new to discover, and it’s up to you to think about how that book sheds a new light on the theme.

Once you’ve found your book, the room invites you to make yourself at home in any of its cosy corners. Perhaps you’ll write some notes at the vanity, cosy up for a nap in a beanbag on the stairs, or settle into a comfy armchair.

If the Reading Room doesn’t have what you’re looking for, or the photocopies of rare books found scattered around the room pique your interest, you can join the adjoining Library for free to gain access to the rest of the collection. The Library is the ultimate physical manifestation of the Wellcome Trust’s commitment to the interdisciplinary study of health. In the library you’ll continue to find books on everything from cutting edge research on neurochemistry to texts on botany and the occult. Venture deep in the stacks you’ll find one of the first modern-style cookbooks, medieval manuscripts, a beautifully illustrated manuscript by Carl Jung, and many more rare and wonderful pieces.

Finally, on your way out, stop by the Bookstore. Just past the canteen you’ll discover shelves piled high with office essentials: tentacle pens, giant eyeball beach balls, and finger puppets shaped like small hands. You’ll look up to see walls covered in books, postcards, and art. As you might have come to expect from the eclectic mix of titles in the Reading Room and Library, you’ll likely discover something you didn’t know you wanted, perhaps an illustrated book on birds, or a daring new novel exploring the current issues.

The Wellcome Trust provides a penicillin for apathy and an antidote to boredom: a visit to the Wellcome will give you food for thought and send you back out into the world feeling curious and inspired, ready to consider new perspectives and think creatively.

Round-Up Time!

By Helena McNish, on 31 January 2017

Happy last day of January, all! The time seems to have flown, and we are rapidly approaching reading week here at UCL Publishing – so, here is your weekly fix of Course and Publishing news, as well as a few other fun things…

Course Events

Dissertation Boot Camp is taking place Monday 13th February – the morning is compulsory and the afternoon is optional. Remember to bring along ideas for potential dissertation topics to discuss!

A History of Libraries seminar is taking place Tuesday 7th February at 5.30pm at the Warburg Institute. Jill Dye from the University of Stirling will be speaking on ‘The Library in the Middle of Nowhere: Innerpeffray Library, its Foundation, Collection, and Early Borrowers’.

Course News

As ever, the UCL Publishers’ Prize is still accepting both non-fiction and fiction submissions on the theme of METAMORPHOSIS. The deadline is approaching fast (7th February!), and there are prizes and guest judges, as well as a big launch event in June, so there’s plenty of reasons to submit (alongside the many metamorphoses our world is currently going through – what a thing to write about!) See the website here for more information, and be sure to check out their twitter and facebook!

Also, as always, with the most recent series of courseworks behind us, remember that the course reps, Jess and Lauren, are ready to take feedback to their next departmental meeting. Give them a bell with any thoughts/problems/suggestions!

Publishing News

Amazon is funding a legal challenge to President Trump’s controversial travel ban, with Jeff Bezos directly opposing it in an email to his employees – and other publishing companies are following suit, providing monetary support to their international staff

The Voice of Alexa – what might voice-searching mean for publishers?

Academic Book Week was going on all last week, with plenty of interesting events and discussions: see the website here to reminisce! One interesting wrapped-up debate was the title that most shaped modern Britain, won by John Maynard Keynes’ The General Theory of Employment, History, and Money. In a similar vein, our friends over at Edinburgh Napier hosted some great posts about AcBookWeek on their blog, particularly this one, written by Sarah Barnard!

The February 2017 cover design round up (drool!)

The Wellcome Book Prize longlist has been announced!

Industry Events

Harry Potter Book Nights will be taking place at Waterstones around London, celebrating the 20th Anniversary of the publishing of The Philosopher’s Stone, between the 2nd and 5th February

Indie bookshop Libreria will be holding a literary-themed drinks on the 29th March

Bookshop Crawl? Yes please!

Buzzfeed Listicle Fix 

What didn’t you know about your favourite childhood books?


Important novels about Muslim Life, perhaps pertinent for today’s politics

Tear up with some six-word stories

Want to win books this week?

Here (keep an eye out for Books on the Underground today!)



That’s it from us this week! As ever, do let us know if you have any content you’re interested in getting up on here, any guest posts you want to write, or any comments/suggestions! We’ll be hosting our next Wellcome Collection feature tomorrow, so stay tuned for that!


Helena and Emily