Founded in 1999 by three Berkeley professors, bepress (formerly Berkeley Electronic Press) spent the first decade of its existence building up a portfolio of peer-reviewed journals — much like any scholarly publisher. In 2011, however, it took what might seem like a surprising decision: it decided to sell all its journals to De Gruyter and reinvent itself as a technology company.
Instead of publishing journals, bepress is now focussed on developing and licensing the publishing technology it created for its earlier publishing activities, and its flagship product is a cloud-based institutional repository/publishing platform called Digital Commons.
Digital Commons is currently licensed to more than 320 academic institutions, who use the software to publish over 700 journals, 94% of which are open access. This publishing activity is invariably managed by the institution’s library, and often includes the publishing of books, conference proceedings, data sets, audio-visual collections, and other digital content types too.
Is this a sign of things to come: Publishers becoming technology companies and librarians becoming publishers? President and CEO of bepress Jean-Gabriel Bankier believes it is. As he puts it in a Q&A just published, “Library-led publishing is an integral strategy in the university taking back ownership of scholarly communication.” As such, he adds, the future of scholarly publishing now “lies in the hands of libraries and scholars.”
To support his argument Bankier cites a US study in which 55% of the universities and colleges surveyed said that they are offering or considering offering library publishing services.
What all this means, he says, is that if publishers “want to continue to play a significant role in supporting the changing needs of the research community” they will need to consider following the example of bepress, and morph from content provider to technology company.
The interview with Bankier can be read here: