Bloomsbury have made an unconventional entry into Academic Publishing. It is not unconventional to start a new list: Bloomsbury Academic, but the business model that they outline is highly radical and very intriguing:
All titles will be made available free of charge online, with free downloads, for non-commercial purposes, immediately upon publication, using Creative Commons licences. The works will also be sold as books, using latest short-run technologies or Print on Demand (POD). From the News Release 5/9/08This could be the best way to publish academic monographs for the rapidly growing global network of universities and scholarly communities. Universities which are web connected to the core.
One senses that some aspects of their business model are not yet fully formed. They mention spending a lot of time with libraries, "exploring how best to serve the academic community". That sounds promising and the fact that they are commited to Creative Commons licenses and to making works available for free as downloads means that they can explore the project of offering publisher backed digital library service which delivers real value to libraries. Value based on service rather than proprietary exploitation of copyright exclusivity. The prices charged for such aggregated services will have to be modest if they continue to offer free downloads.
This may be an even more adventurous and bold model than the PLoS or BioMed Central propositions for scientific periodical publishing. I wonder if Bloomsbury can make it work without adopting the model of collective and open-ended sponsorship which PLoS and BMC are using, and which may be becoming rather indistinguishable from the conventional approach of heavy institutional subscriptions? The boldness of this approach is impressive. Bloomsbury Academic will surely attract important authors. Good news for academic monograph publishing.