Digital transformation in the academic publishing industry


Academic publishing has been profoundly affected by a plethora of innovations that have shaped the way scientific knowledge is produced, evaluated and disseminated. Services such as SSRN, Google Scholar, ResearchGate,, Mendeley and the Open Access journals are only the visible tips of the iceberg of new players and indeed new services and modes of publishing. Innovations in this industry can be identified at different levels:

- Infrastructural level: the transformation of competition in the academic publishing market has been shaped by a) new entrants, b) disruptive innovations such as open access (Lewis, 2012), c) new digital-only formats and platforms for academic publishing, d) increasingly adopted social-based platforms of sharing and communicating, and e) innovative technology-based forms of ranking the “quality” of scientific knowledge. This might cause a shift in the market power of the actors.

- Firms and strategy level: firms in the sector are using new business models and strategies to offer their services. In this sense, the existing competitive strategies of the firms are heavily shaped by innovative forms of pricing, bundling and by new types of value proposition. The digital value chain gives strategic relevance to different phases and components compared to the old paper-based value chain. Furthermore, the growing attention given to the technology-driven forms of sharing and ranking of scientific work has pushed traditional intermediaries to consider these technologies and tools in their strategies.

- Actors level: the transformation of the production and consumption chain of scientific knowledge implies new roles and new linkages among the actors of the scientific ecosystem. The sector is changing as the stakeholders (authors, readers, reviewers, editors, publishers, libraries, universities, political institutions, etc.…) (re-)position themselves in a growing cybermediated market that emphasizes prosuming.