Academic publishing is in a state of swift and radical change. Under pressure from demands for Open Access and diminished library funds for book purchases – partly caused by the high cost of paying for electronic journal packages – leading academic publishers reject book projects that are not expected to reach wide audiences. Some 20 years ago, the initial print run for a new academic monograph might have been a thousand copies. These days hardback sales might reach 300. Even university presses must work within market considerations in order to survive in the long run.
Researchers are under pressure, too. Scholars in the Humanities and Religious Studies are told that they should no longer be writing books; instead, they ought to aim to publish articles in English with the leading international journals. Bibliometric models, where the value of research is calculated according to sets of figures, are weighted against books, especially if written in a language other than English. Books appearing from publishers whose output is subsidized by the authors themselves by way of publishing grants from various funds are held in low esteem, even when – as frequently happens in Sweden – they are in fact of high academic quality.
And yet the book lives on. Some topics call for the larger format, where perspectives are combined so as to yield a profound analysis of a comprehensive and complex issue. That is the function of the scholarly monograph. Anthologies form sets of approaches to large bodies of material, opening fresh paths for scholarly inquiry. Both forms of publication have proved indispensable.
This is the situation in which Lund University Press begins to operate. Our aim is to bring the best of Lund research to global audiences. Initially, operations comprise the Joint Faculties of Humanities and Theology (HT) only; but the HT Faculties would be glad to see other Faculties joining the enterprise. The first few years are funded by a special grant allocated in 2014 by the then-retiring Vice-Chancellor, Professor Per Eriksson; but as from 2020 onwards, the HT Faculties bear the full cost, with the support, we hope, of book-loving donors. A powerful reason for the decision to create the new Lund University Press was the realization, conveyed by the independent research evaluation HTRQ14, that the quality of Lund research is such that it deserves to be better known abroad.
Lund University Press publishes books in English only. Authors who wish to publish with the new press submit proposals or full manuscripts. If the submission leads to a contract, the publisher assumes responsibility for the translation or language-editing of the manuscript. The finished manuscript is then dispatched to our partner, Manchester University Press, who produces the printed volume and makes the book available Open Access by way of the OAPEN platform. Manchester University Press markets and sells the book all over the world on the same terms as its own books. It is quite a time-consuming process, with inbuilt quality checks along the way, and it will take several years for the new press to assemble a list of published works; from 2018 onwards, we expect to bring out between two and five books a year.
Some of the books published by Lund University Press will be freshly written in English for an international audience. Others will be translations into English by works originally written in Swedish (or another language represented among HT disciplines). Sometimes a book might have appeared in Swedish several years ago and achieved classic status in Scandinavia. All will have one thing in common: they are bearers of first-class Lund research, which is channelled straight into the global scholarly conversation thanks to appearing from Lund University Press. The English language is the medium, and the expertise, reputation and global dissemination provided by Manchester University Press are the instruments. An occasional book might not be of immediate interest to scholars in the English-speaking countries, but for a researcher in Seoul or Ankara it might point the way to a breakthrough. Some works will be conveying knowledge of Nordic phenomena to a scholarly world where the voice from Scandinavia has been missing.
Lund University Press books will begin in modest numbers. But they are going to make a difference.