Cover page

Table of Contents


Title page

Copyright page

Figures and tables





Part I: The Publishing Business

1: Publishing as an economic and cultural practice

The publishing firm

The publishing cycle

The publishing chain

The economics of publishing

2: The social structure of publishing fields

The publishing field and forms of capital

The differentiation of the publishing field

The linguistic and spatial properties of publishing fields

Publishing and adjacent social fields

3: The publishing field since 1980

The growth of title output

Concentration and corporate power

The transformation of the retail sector

The globalization of markets and publishing firms

The impact of new technologies

Part II: The Field of Academic Publishing

4: Academic publishing under pressure

The field of academic publishing

The decline of the scholarly monograph

The differentiated pattern of monograph sales

The changing structure of the library market

Institutional pressures on university presses

5: Academic publishing in transition (1): changing organizational cultures

Reduction of costs

Increase of prices

Changing publishing strategies

Greater selectivity in title acquisition and list-building

Growth of marketing concerns

Changing organizational cultures

6: Academic publishing in transition (2): list diversification and field migration

The pursuit of diversification

The pull of the textbook market

The lure of the trade

The attractions of the region

Exiting the field

Sequestering the monograph

Some consequences of field migration

7: Academic publishing at the crossroads

The transformation of the field

Uncertain times

Conflicting logics

Academic publishing in the face of an uncertain future

Part III: The Field of Higher Education Publishing

8: Higher education publishing in the US (1): the formation of the field

The field of higher education publishing

The rise of the textbook conglomerates

The package wars

The growth of the used book market

Some consequences

The problem of sell-through breakdown

9: Higher education publishing in the US (2): the differentiation of the field

Differentiated markets for textbooks

The BYTES study

University presses in the field of higher education publishing

The coursepack business

The future of higher education publishing in the US

10: Higher education publishing in the UK

Differences between the fields of higher education publishing in the UK and the US

The changing structure of the field of higher education publishing in the UK

Intensifying competition at the lower levels of the curriculum

The reorientation of UK publishers to international markets

The impact of the RAE on higher education publishing

11: Globalization and localization in the UK field of higher education publishing

The rise of globalizing firms in higher education publishing

Three stages of global expansion

The competitive advantages of the global players

The importance of local knowledge

The future of higher education publishing in the UK

Part IV: The Digital Revolution

12: The digital revolution and the publishing world

The impact of digitization on publishing

Technologies, markets and added value

Technologies and forms of content

Technologies and types of publishing

13: Academic publishing and the digital revolution

Academic books as digital content

The virtual library model

The digital warehouse model

The scholarly corpus model

The scholarly community model

Lessons, problems and prospects

14: Higher education publishing and the digital revolution

Textbooks, companion websites and e-supplements: the evolution of the package

The rise of the customized textbook business

B2B partnerships with higher education institutions

The development of pedagogically oriented databases

Lessons, problems and prospects

15: The hidden revolution: reinventing the life cycle of the book

The rise of the digital workflow

The management of digital assets

Digital printing and print on demand

Reinventing the life cycle of the book


Appendix on research methods



Title page

Figures and tables


1.1The book supply chain
1.2The publishing value chain
1.3Functions of the publisher
2.1Key resources of publishing firms
3.1US book title output, 1971–1997 (old method)
3.2US book title output, 1997–2002 (new method)
3.3UK book title output, 1980–2002
3.4Concentration in the UK book retail sector
4.1The research process
4.2The scholarly monograph supply chain
4.3Size of university presses, 2000–2001
4.4Monograph and serial costs in ARL libraries, 1986–2000
4.5Breakdown of expenditure on information provision in UK higher education libraries, 1991/92 to 1999/00
4.6Acquisitions spending in all UK universities and higher education colleges, 1994/95 to 1999/00
5.1Formats of new titles published by American university presses, 1986–2000
5.2Average number of new titles published annually by the large American university presses, by format, 1986–2000
5.3Traditional linear model
5.4Circular model
6.1The trade publishing supply chain
7.1Returns as a percentage of gross sales for American university presses, 1969–2001
7.2Compound growth rates of the American university presses
8.1The pedagogical process
8.2Traditional textbook model
8.3The knowledge triangle
8.4The textbook model in the context of the used book market
9.1Enrolment in accredited colleges and universities in the US, 1965–2000
10.1Students in higher education in the UK (full-time and part-time), 1975/76 to 2002/03
12.1Forms of content (1)
12.2Forms of content (2)
12.3Technologies and types of publishing
13.1The digital warehouse model
14.1Market share of custom publishers in the US by number of products, 1995
14.2The traditional business model of textbook publishing
14.3Site licence business model for B2B partnerships between publishers and higher education institutions
14.4Tuition fee business model for B2B partnerships between publishers and higher education institutions
15.1The digital workflow
15.2Comparison of manufacturing costs for traditional offset and digital printing for various print-runs, 224 pages, 2004
15.3Comparison of unit costs for traditional offset and digital printing for various print-runs, 224 pages, 2004


3.1Position of developed countries in worldwide book production, 1965–1995
3.2Ten leading book-producing countries in 1995
3.3US book title output, 1971–1997 (old method)
3.4US book title output, 1997–2002 (new method)
3.5UK book title output, 1980–2002
3.6Twenty largest book publishers in North America, 2002
3.7Top ten consolidated publishing groups in the UK, 2002
3.8Top five educational publishers in the US, 2002
3.9Seven largest US trade publishers, 2002–2003
3.10The expansion of Borders and Barnes & Noble, 1993–1994
3.11Number of branches of specialist bookstore chains in the UK, 1984–1989
3.12Sales by bookstore chains in the UK, 1983/84 to 1988/89
3.13Financial performance of, 1995–1998
4.1Monograph sales for UP1
4.2Monograph sales for UP2
4.3Elsevier journal price increases compared to industry average
4.4Breakdown of expenditure on information provision in UK higher education libraries, 1991/92 to 1999/00
4.5Acquisitions spending in all UK universities and higher education colleges, 1994/95 to 1999/00
5.1Formats of new titles published by American university presses, 1986–2000
5.2Average number of new titles published annually by the large American university presses, by format, 1986–2000
5.3Breakdown between total cloth sales and total paperback sales of American university presses
5.4Differentials in average list prices of cloth and paper editions
8.1Top five college publishers in the US, 2002
9.1Enrolment in accredited colleges and universities in the US, 1965–2000
9.2Enrolment in the ten largest college and university campuses in the US, fall 2000
9.3Publishers of fifty or more titles in the BYTES study, 2000
9.4Overlap of titles across schools in the BYTES study, 2000
10.1Students in universities in the UK, 1975/76 to 1993/94
10.2Students in institutions of higher education in the UK, 1994/95 to 2002/03
15.1Comparison of costs for traditional offset and digital printing for various print-runs, 224 pages, 2004


In the late 1990s I became interested in trying to understand the changes that were taking place in an important but hitherto largely neglected sector of the creative industries – the book publishing industry. I was struck by the fact that, while books were a pervasive feature of our social and cultural lives (and, for those of us in the academy, an essential part of what we do as teachers and researchers), we knew very little about how this industry is organized today and how it is changing. The digital revolution was fuelling (and continues to fuel) much speculation about the future of the book – and, indeed, about whether it has a future at all – but there was very little grounded knowledge of what was actually happening in an industry which was, for the most part, taken for granted.

It was against this background that I set out, in the summer of 2000, to try to gain a more systematic understanding of the book publishing industry in the English-speaking world; this book about books is the outcome of the research that preoccupied me for the following three years. I am grateful to the Economic and Social Research Council in the UK for the generous support which made this research possible. I'd also like to thank my colleagues in Cambridge for their willingness to grant me leave for two years so that I could concentrate full-time on the study. My research assistant, Alisi Mekatoa, was very resourceful in gathering data and tracking down relevant materials which have been used in various chapters, and I am grateful to her for her help. I am also grateful to Avril Symonds who transcribed a mountain of tapes with stoic perseverance and good humour; to Ann Bone who copy-edited the manuscript with extraordinary care; and to the many people at Polity – including Gill Motley, Sue Pope, Neil de Cort, Andrea Drugan, Emma Longstaff, Reitha Pattison, Breffni O'Connor and Marianne Rutter – who helped to steer this book through the publication process. Above all, my thanks go to the many individuals in the publishing industry who gave so willingly and generously of their time and who, over the course of the last few years, have shared with me their knowledge of and views on the industry of which they are part. Some of these individuals also very generously agreed to read an earlier draft of this text and commented extensively on it. In order to protect their anonymity these individuals have remained nameless, but many of the insights and ideas developed in this book belong to them. They deserve much of the credit for what follows, although I alone accept responsibility for any errors that remain.

J. B. T., Cambridge


For more than five hundred years, books have been a key feature of modern culture and one of the foundations on which education and academic life are based. It is difficult to imagine what Western culture would be, or indeed the culture of any major civilization anywhere in the world today, without the wealth of resources that are preserved, disseminated and handed down from one generation to the next in the form of the book. But in recent years there has been much speculation about the possibility that this object we have known and valued for half a millennium may be destined to disappear. The book publishing industry today is going through a process of change which is probably as profound as anything it has experienced since Johann Gutenberg adapted the traditional screw press for the purposes of manufacturing printed texts. One of the driving forces of this change is the technological revolution ushered in by digitization. No one yet knows exactly how this revolution will play itself out in the field of book publishing. Many have wondered whether the printed book will go the way of the vinyl LP and become a collector's item, a curious relic of a bygone age, while the content that was once packaged and distributed in books will be disseminated in other ways. Will books continue to have a significant presence in a world where the computer and the television have become pervasive cultural forms, cultivating cognitive attitudes and practices that are at odds with the kind of patient attention required to read an extended text? There has been much speculation too about whether the traditional role of the publisher will survive this re-volution, for why would publishers be necessary at all in a world where cultural producers could disseminate their work directly over the internet, in the way that Stephen King famously did with his novella Riding the Bullet? And why would consumers pay the extra premium that is likely to be charged for the content provided by publishers if they could get the content they wanted free (or much more cheaply) from other sources on the web?

In the heady days of the 1990s, speculation about the future of the book was rife. There were some commentators who claimed to discern a profound shift taking place in Western culture, one which would lead inexorably to the decline of the printed word and its eclipse by a world of electronic communication.1 Within the publishing industry, various consultants and self-styled experts were predicting the imminent demise of the book and urging publishers to reinvent themselves for an electronic future. But as the new millennium dawned, it soon became clear that much of the speculation about the future of the book had been misguided. By the end of 2001 the much heralded ebook revolution had faltered – it was beginning to look like one of those technological revolutions that had failed, but in any case it had most definitely been postponed – and the bubble that had pumped millions of dollars into online experiments of various kinds had burst. No one was talking seriously now about the imminent demise of the book in the face of the ebook onslaught. Publishers who had invested heavily in the 1990s in experiments in electronic publishing were counting their losses and closing down divisions. Third-party players who had hoped to ride the new wave of electronic publishing were scrambling to find alternative sources of revenue. And yet, despite the evident faltering of the ebook revolution, the book publishing industry was still going through a process of profound and turbulent change. The ebook has commanded the attention of journalists and others who like to tell dramatic stories and to speculate about the end of civilization as we know it, but the real revolution in publishing was taking place elsewhere.

So what are the key changes that are transforming the book publishing industry today? Technology undoubtedly has an important role to play, but it is only part of the story. The industry is also undergoing major changes of a social and economic kind, and we can understand the true significance of the digital revolution in publishing only by situating it within this broader context. Since the 1970s the book publishing industry has been the focus of intensive merger and acquisitions activity, and the structures of ownership and control in some sectors of the industry now bear little resemblance to the world of publishing that existed forty or fifty years ago. Today a handful of large conglomerates, many operating in an international and increasingly global arena, wield enormous power in the publishing world and harbour a growing number of formerly independent imprints under their corporate umbrellas. The idea of the gentlemanly publisher, who relied on his own cultivated judgements of quality and taste to decide which books and authors to publish and who was relatively unconstrained by such mundane matters as costs and sales, now seems like the figure of another age.

Just as some sectors of the publishing industry have changed beyond recognition, so too has the retail sector of the book trade. The independent bookstore serving a local community has not disappeared but, with the rise of the retail chains, it has found itself with its back against the wall. The dramatic expansion of the retail chains since the early 1980s has transformed the channels to market and altered the balance of power between publishers and booksellers. Today publishers depend less and less on the individual and varied decision-making processes of booksellers dispersed across the country and depend more and more on the hugely consequential decisions of centralized buyers working for the big chains. And at the same time as the bricks and mortar business of bookselling has been transformed by the rise of the retail chains, a new player, created by the digital revolution, has appeared on the scene – the online bookstore. The rise of online bookstores like Amazon has opened up new channels to market for publishers and helped to some extent to offset the decline of the independents, but it has also introduced new factors into the book trade which have disrupted traditional practices and injected further variables into a retail world in flux.

The question of how the world of book publishing is coping with this process of turbulent change is a question to which we do not yet have a clear and detailed answer. Like all sectors of modern industry, the book publishing industry produces a constant stream of reports on its own state of health2 – this kind of ‘institutional reflexivity’ is, one could say, a characteristic feature of modern societies.3 Occasionally the book publishing industry has been surveyed, as one sector among others, in studies which have looked at how business organizations cope with economic and technological change.4 Moreover, the book publishing industry is sufficiently large and important to command the attention of governments, which from time to time have commissioned their own reports on the state of the industry and its competitiveness.5 But there have been very few recent attempts to study systematically the modern book publishing industry and to look in depth at how particular sectors of this industry, and particular firms within these sectors, have changed in recent decades. There is a large scholarly literature on the history of publishing and the history of the book, from Gutenberg through to the nineteenth and twentieth centuries,6 and there are many works which recount the history of particular firms. But in the sphere of scholarly research, the contemporary world of book publishing has, by and large, been ignored. Why this neglect?

To some extent this is due, no doubt, to what one could describe as the ‘lure of the audiovisual’: for those scholars who are interested in contemporary media and cultural industries, the audiovisual sectors tend to exercise a particular fascination. Compared with the film and television industries, or with the emerging industries linked to new technologies and the internet, the world of book publishing seems rather old-fashioned – like a throw-back to the past. It hardly seems like an industry of the future. But this attitude is quite misguided. Publishing is a major industry in its own right – in Britain, for example, the turnover of the publishing industry as a whole (which includes all sectors, newspapers and magazines as well as books and journals) was £18.37 billion in 2000, of which books and journals represented about a quarter; this is significantly larger than the pharmaceuticals industry, which had a turnover of £12.03 billion.7 Moreover, publishing underpins many spheres of contemporary culture and is a major source of content for other sectors of the media and cultural industries, including film and television. The audiovisual sector and the high-tech industries may have more glitz and glamour, but to focus on these domains at the expense of the publishing industry would be very short-sighted indeed.

While the publishing industry has received relatively little attention compared to other sectors of the media and cultural industries, it has not been completely ignored by academic researchers. Probably the best attempt to provide a detailed analysis of the modern book publishing industry is the now classic study by Coser, Kadushin and Powell.8 This was a study of the American book publishing industry with an emphasis on nonfiction, ranging from the New York trade (or general interest) publishers to the university presses. Coser and his associates gave particular attention to editorial decision-making and used the concept of the ‘gatekeeper’ to analyse the publishing process: publishers were viewed as ‘gatekeepers of ideas’ who, by virtue of their organizational positions, decide which books will be made available in the public domain and which will be excluded from it. This is an exemplary piece of social scientific research, rich in detail and perceptive, and it sheds a great deal of light on a world which, to the outsider, seems clothed in secrecy and governed by the most arcane practices. But however insightful, the work of Coser and his associates is no longer satisfactory for various reasons – let me highlight two.

In the first place, the notion of the gatekeeper is not really adequate as a way of characterizing the selective activities of editors and publishers. The idea of the gatekeeper suggests that there are authors queuing up to get through the gate, and the gatekeeper's job is to decide who can go through and who will be turned away. This model may have been a reasonably accurate reflection of what happened in some sectors of the publishing industry some decades ago, but it doesn't bear much resemblance to the role of an editor in most publishing firms today. Of course, there is a certain amount of this activity of selection – every publishing firm is flooded with unsolicited proposals and manuscripts from would-be authors and from agents, and many editors do spend some time wading through the pool. But in most publishing firms, the ‘slush pile’, as it is commonly known, is more of a distraction than a source of serious projects. Most editors – and certainly most successful editors today – are much more proactive than the notion of the gatekeeper would suggest. They actively come up with ideas for the books and authors they want to publish, and they actively go out and try to commission them. Of course, the extent to which editors are passive or proactive will vary from individual to individual and from firm to firm; it will also vary from one sector of the industry to another. But even in those sectors of the industry where the role of the editor might have looked something like that of a gatekeeper twenty or thirty years ago, such as the world of the university presses, this is less and less the case. Today editors know that their jobs depend more and more on their ability to sign up the kinds of authors and books that will do well, and to do so in the face of growing competition from other editors who would love to sign up the same authors and books. The idea that they could simply stand by the gate and decide which of the queuing projects would be allowed to pass through bears less and less resemblance to the increasingly pressurized and competitive world in which most editors work today.

A second reason why the work of Coser and his associates is of limited value is that it is now very dated. The research was carried out in the late 1970s, before the most recent wave of mergers and acquisitions which transformed the landscape of the publishing industry in the 1980s and 1990s and before the digital revolution had taken hold. In the two decades that have elapsed since their study was carried out, the industry has changed dramatically, and the key problems faced by different sectors of the industry today are simply not the same as they were in the 1970s and before. The markets for books have changed in many profound ways, the industry has become increasingly globalized (a factor that is of particular importance for any publisher working in the English language) and the digital revolution has transformed many aspects of the business of publishing. The study of Coser and his associates was path-breaking in its day, but it no longer provides a satisfactory account of the publishing industry at the beginning of the twenty-first century.

In more recent years, there have been a few scholars and commentators on both sides of the Atlantic who have gathered data on the book publishing industry, monitored market trends, provided useful overviews and analysed some sectors of the business.9 But perhaps the most probing accounts of the book publishing industry in recent years are those offered by publishers themselves. André Schiffrin was the managing director of the American trade publishing house Pantheon for thirty years; he led a mass resignation from Pantheon in 1989 after falling out with the new corporate owners of Random House. (Pantheon was acquired by Random House in 1961, and Random House, which was bought by RCA in 1966, was sold to the media entrepreneur S. I. Newhouse in 1980.) Schiffrin went on to found a small independent publishing house called The New Press in 1990. In The Business of Books Schiffrin offers a critical, impassioned reflection on what has happened to publishing in the age of conglomerates – an age, argues Schiffrin, when the judgement of editors has been increasingly displaced by the profit-oriented priorities of accountants and shareholders and when intellectual quality and literary merit have been sacrificed on the altar of the market. ‘Books today’, writes Schiffrin, ‘have become mere adjuncts to the world of the mass media, offering light entertainment and reassurances that all is for the best in this, the best of all possible worlds. The resulting control on the spread of ideas is stricter than anyone would have thought possible in a free society.’10 Schiffrin sees in the work of small independent publishers and nonprofits some hope that a culture of critical debate nourished by books will not be completely extinguished, but he knows very well that the future of many of these small operations in an age of conglomerates is by no means guaranteed.

A somewhat similar broad-brushstroke account, although written from a very different perspective, is offered by Jason Epstein, for many years editorial director at Random House and one of the most distinguished editors in American trade publishing. In Book Business Epstein reflects on the rise of the conglomerates and the retail chains, which together, he argues, have pushed publishing in a direction that clashes with its very nature. For trade book publishing is by nature a cottage industry; it is essentially a craft, a vocation that depends on the commitment and judgement of editors and on the unpredictable tastes of the public. It is not the kind of business that lends itself to corporate synergies and high returns on investment – ‘a cottage industry within an industrial conglomerate makes no sense.’11 Hence the growing concentration within the industry is bound to damage publishing and to disappoint the corporate chiefs. But Epstein is optimistic about the future. New technologies and the rise of the internet will, he surmises, enable publishing to become once again a cottage industry of diverse and autonomous units, able to create and disseminate content to readers on ‘the global village green’ of the web and to bypass the big conglomerates and superstores that have come to domi-nate the modern book business.

Schiffrin and Epstein are very thoughtful commentators, and their long careers in the heart of the American publishing industry have given them unique vantage points from which to view its recent history and its current troubles. But their accounts are inextricably entangled with their own personal experiences and career trajectories. These are not well-rounded and even-handed accounts of an industry in the midst of change, nor do they purport to be: they are memoirs with a critical edge. They are personal and sometimes opinionated accounts – gracefully written, rich in anecdote, tinged with a shade of nostalgia – of an industry as seen from the particular perspectives of two protagonists who have charted their own courses through the complex and turbulent world of publishing. That the protagonists have charted their courses so successfully and recounted them so eloquently is a tribute to their remarkable talents as publishers and authors, but this does not alter the fact that their accounts are, by their very nature, partial. And Epstein's vision of the kind of publishing future that will be ushered in by new technologies is, it should be said, laced with a strong dose of wishful thinking.

So how can we develop a more systematic account of the changing structure of the book publishing industry today? To begin with, it is important to see that ‘the book publishing industry’ is an enormously complex and varied domain. There are many different kinds of book publishing, and many different kinds of books and markets, and it would be misleading to treat them as a single whole. Commentators like Schiffrin and Epstein are writing primarily about American trade publishing, and much of what they say would apply with equal force to trade publishing in Britain, France, Germany and elsewhere. But the extent to which their accounts are relevant to other sectors of the publishing industry, such as academic or textbook publishing, is much less clear. So the generic notion of ‘the book publishing industry’ must be broken down. How should we do this?

One way of doing this is by introducing the concept of publishing field: the world of book publishing can be conceptualized as a set of publishing fields. We can then proceed on the assumption that each of these fields has its own characteristics and dynamics, and each has its own history that differs in some respects from the histories of other fields. The individuals who work in the publishing industry are usually embedded in one of these fields, and they may know very little about what goes on in fields other than their own. The world of publishing is like a set of games, each of which has its own rules, like chess and checkers and monopoly: you can be very good at one game but know nothing about the others, having never played them and perhaps never taken much interest in them either. So if we want to understand the world of publishing and how it is changing, we have to focus on the different publishing fields and try to reconstruct the distinctive properties and dynamics of each.

So what is a field? A field is a structured space of social positions; it is a structured space of resources and power with its own forms of competition and reward.12 Markets are an important part of fields, but fields are much more than markets: they are also made up of agents and organizations and the relations between them, of networks and supply chains, of different kinds and quantities of power and resources that are distributed in certain ways, of specific practices and forms of competition, etc. Part of what I shall try to show is that each field has a distinctive dynamic – what I shall loosely call ‘the logic of the field’ – which is the outcome of a specific set of forces and pressures and which shapes the activities of particular agents and organizations. The logic of the field defines the conditions under which agents and organizations can participate in the field and flourish or falter within it – that is, it defines the conditions under which they can play the game. But this logic can also have unintended consequences and can throw different agents and organizations into conflict with one another, as we shall see.

There are many different publishing fields ranging from general trade publishing to a multitude of more specialized fields – the field of scholarly publishing, the field of college textbook publishing, the field of children's book publishing, the field of illustrated art book publishing, and so on. Each of these fields has its own distinctive characteristics and dynamics. Of course, these fields overlap in many ways and the boundaries between them are often blurred. The picture is further complicated by the fact that many individual publishing firms operate in several fields at the same time. Nevertheless, as I shall try to show, each field has its own peculiar properties and forms of competition. Even if a particular firm operates in several fields at once, it does not operate in these different fields in the same way. Most publishers realize that if they want to be successful in different fields, they must become experts in each: they know they cannot apply the principles of trade publishing to the field of college textbook publishing and hope to succeed. Hence the larger firms which operate in different fields tend to differentiate themselves internally and to create specialist divisions that can build up the knowledge, skills and expertise to compete effectively in particular fields. Publishing firms compete with one another only in the context of specific fields, for it is only in the context of specific fields that they run up against other firms who are seeking to acquire similar content or to sell books of a similar kind.

It is also important to distinguish publishing fields from other social fields to which they are related in various ways. For example, the field of academic or scholarly publishing cannot be understood without considering the relations between this field, on the one hand, and the field of higher education (including the world of university libraries), on the other. These fields are not the same, they have different social and institutional characteristics, but they are locked together through multiple forms of interdependency. So too with the field of college textbook publishing: this is a field that cannot be properly understood unless one takes account of its relation to the field of higher education, which provides both the principal source of content for textbook publishers (in the form of authors who are often academics employed by colleges and universities) and the principal market for the content produced by them (in the form of students who are taking courses at institutions of higher and further education). Similarly for schoolbook publishing, professional publishing, illustrated art book publishing, etc.: all of these publishing fields are linked to other social fields on which they depend and which depend to some extent on them. But these fields, while mutually interdependent, are also shaped by different interests and governed by different logics. The field of higher education, for instance, has its own structures and constraints and its own mechanisms of reward and success, and these do not coincide with those that prevail in the fields of scholarly or textbook publishing. So while the fields are closely linked through relations of mutual interdependency, they are also governed by different logics which can give rise to tension, misunderstanding and conflict.

While we can understand the world of publishing only by understanding how specific fields of publishing work and how they are related to other social fields, at the same time we can also see that there are certain broader developments that have affected the world of publishing as a whole in recent years – and, indeed, some of these developments have affected other sectors of industry as well. The particular ways in which these broader developments have been played out in the world of publishing varies from field to field. Some developments are more significant in some fields than in others, and in each field where these developments are significant, the specific ways in which they are manifested are always shaped by the distinctive properties of the field. So what are these broader developments? There are four which are particularly important and which will feature prominently in the chapters that follow.