University View – How UWP is embracing modern changes in the publishing industry
Publishing has undergone dramatic changes over the last few years, all driven by the digital revolution. Books were one of the consumer goods to be sold most successfully online, giving rise to that most ubiquitous of online retailers, Amazon. Digital printing methods brought both advantages and challenges to traditional publishers, allowing for smaller print runs for specialist books whilst simultaneously giving rise to a whole new phenomenon, self-publishing. Then came the first digital readers such as Kindle, Nook, Mobi and others which changed the reading habits of many; the result is that novels now routinely sell as many, if not more, digital copies than print.
The University of Wales Press, one of the oldest University Presses in the UK and now in its 92nd year, has had to embrace all of these changes and it should be added that almost all have created more opportunities than actual threats. None more so than the capacity to market and sell books online, first through online retailers, and now through its own website.
Thanks to a grant from the University of Wales, the Press was able to build a completely new website last year (www.uwp.co.uk). After eight months of intense work it was launched in January 2014, with an e-commerce functionality added this summer. When the project was first discussed, both staff and the Press’s board members were unanimous in their views that the Press should have a fully bilingual website to adequately represent its position not only as the largest academic publisher in Wales, but as the only Press with a sizeable academic Welsh language output.
Of course the Press has always published popular non-fiction books as well, particularly on Welsh history and culture, and the challenge faced was to create a website which would engage a number of different audiences, would work seamlessly across two languages, would be mobile enabled, visually attractive, rich in content, offer new ways to market books, easy for staff to use… the list goes on. It was the dedication and tireless efforts of the staff at the Press that ensured that all of the above (and more) were realised.
The press now publishes regular blogs on industry topics, academic events and other subjects, and was fortunate to have Lord K O Morgan, whose book From Revolution to Devolution will be published this month, write a three part blog about his own particular relationship to the Press.
Ultimately any website’s success will depend on the people who use it regularly because they find it useful and informative, and perhaps who also want to support a not-for-profit publisher, such as the Press. The wealth of content presented in our website is testament to the uniqueness of Wales and is another window which will help the world to better understand this small but proud nation of ours.
Director, University of Wales Press
This article was published in the Western Mail on Thursday the 18th of September, 2014.