Unconverted: outsourcing ebook production at a university press

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The University of British Columbia Press (UBC Press), like many other university presses (UPs), has been outsourcing ebook production since it first started publishing its titles in digital form in the late 1990s. For over a decade, these files have been created by foreign companies hired through third parties—initially, through content aggregators, and more recently, through the Association of Canadian Publishers. At first, outsourcing seemed a sensible way for UBC Press to enter into e-publishing: the practice was not only convenient and cost effective, but it also fit with the Press’s own freelance-based business model. However, by 2011, it had become evident that outsourcing to large conversion houses had a number of drawbacks. In its most recent outsourcing experience, UBC Press had to deal with poorly formatted files, protracted production timelines, and delayed distribution, which has in turn threatened the reputation of the press and the profitability of its ebooks. Added to these problems are greater, industry-wide disadvantages that may result from outsourcing en masse, such as a dependence on cheap overseas labor and missed opportunities for professionalization and skill development among Canada’s domestic workforce. In the face of these problems, individual publishers like UBC Press must put various short-term solutions in place and consider making changes to their own production workflows if they are to achieve greater quality assurance and control over their own epublishing programs.
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etd7501_LHumble.pdf 2.05 MB