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Thomas Dowling's picture

DRAFT - January 2014 report to LITA Board

LITA Publications Committee


Report to the LITA Board



On January 15, 2014, the Publications Committee held an online meeting. The bulk of the meeting was, first: to hear a proposal from Patrick Hogan of ALA Publishing (http://connect.ala.org/node/216816) that would migrate much of LITA publications to ALA online courses; and second, to discuss that proposal and alternative paths forward for LITA publications.



Proposal from ALA Publishing


The committee's response to this proposal is sharply negative.  The premise of the proposal is: "Recent sales suggest that libraries and librarians prefer elearning format to books for technology-related professional content."  This runs counter to what we see with LITA Guides,  what we see in our own libraries, and our own experience.


The proposal also suggests that writing a LITA Guide and developing an online class are equivalent experiences for authors, including authors trying to establish a publication record for promotion and tenure.


While the proposal agrees to continue publishing LITA Guides under the current royalty arrangements, we believe the ultimate intent of the proposal is to diminish or eliminate LITA Guides at some point in the future. The proposal makes it clear that, on average, ALA Publishing loses money on LITA Guides.


Under the proposal:


  • LITA authors would generate electronic course content for ALA Publishing's Moodle platform and teach at least the first session of the course (other instructors could be rotated in for further sessions).

  • "Popular" courses may be repeated after 6 to 12 months.

  • Authors would receive a royalty of 10% of registration revenue, plus a $500 fee for developing the course (taken out of LITA's royalties)

  • LITA would receive a 5% royalty, minus the author's $500 development fee.


We note that LITA would be in the red for each electronic course, until and unless it reaches $10,000 in registrations.  According to the proposal, the average course makes $12,000 in revenue, which would pay $100 to LITA.


The committee's initial response is that this proposal is not in the best interests of LITA or LITA authors, and would work to move revenue away from LITA toward ALA Publishing.


We believe the core problem in working with ALA Publishing is that they are not marketing our titles adequately, not that the market is inherently turning away from either books or e-books in favor or e-learning opportunities.


At almost the same time the committee received this proposal, publications editor Marta Deyrup was informally approached by Charles Harmon.  Charles was formerly at Neal Schuman, where he was our editor, and is now at Rowman and Littlefield.  He is offering us an opportunity to publish LITA Guides through Rowman, with the same royalties we have now, on a system that generates every title in both electronic and print formats, with the electronic format capable of embedding audio or video content. Rowman would be able to market our title through their catalogs, conference exhibits, e-mail advertising, and other channels.


The committee recommends to the Board that Mary Taylor, as Executive Director, negotiate with ALA Publishing for a revised proposal, but we are not optimistic they can or will change their original proposal enough for us to accept it.



We also ask the Board for permission to solicit a more formal proposal from Rowman and Littlefield, to compare against both the status quo and any modified status within ALA Publishing.




Other Business


Marta Deyrup presented a list of LITA Guides that have been proposed and that are currently in process.  She reports that ALA Publishing has been slow to advance new Guide proposals through the pipeline.


Mary Taylor provided a report on LITA Guide sales.  While not as profitable as in the past, they are making money.  She also noted that the majority of sales are for print copies, not e-books.  The committee believes this is a further indication that the Guides are not being marketed well.



Zoe Stewart-Marshall asked the committee to examine the value of LITA publications, both to the organization and to authors.  With a future in which we cannot expect publications to generate revenue on levels seen in the past, what other types of value can we offer, and what metrics are available to quantify that value?  We need to find answers to these questions, both for monographs and for ITAL. The committee will hold another online meeting after Midwinter to focus on this topic.   As part of that discussion, we will contact the Assessment committee for advice.



Additional Documents


Proposed and In-Process Guides, January 2014

Executive Director's report, January 2014


Respectfully submitted,
Thomas Dowling
Chair, LITA Publications Committee