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Modern Book Publishing: Websites for the Trade (August 2014): Associations & Societies

By John Rodzvilla

Associations & Societies

The book publishing industry has always been a tight-knit community.  The origins of the current British and American industries can be traced back to the Stationers’ Company, created in the early 1400s.  When it received its royal charter in 1557, the members controlled the production and copyright on all books in the burgeoning market in London.  It was not until the Statute of Anne that authors were granted control over their copyrights.  As the industry matured and printers and publishers diverged from the stationery market to focus on bound material, guilds continued to provide direction and standards on paper quality, methods of printing, and binding.  The power of the guilds may be long diminished, but the industry still relies on a variety of associations and organizations to provide networking opportunities, job boards, and white papers or other research on their facet of the book industry.

The Association of American Publishers  (AAP) is the main trade association for book publishers in the United States.  The 425 publishing companies that are part of this organization work in several different segments of the industry, including the general fiction and nonfiction trade market, professional and scholarly publishing, higher education, and the grade school market.  The association’s website offers little for the nonmember, but it provides members with tools like StatShot, a monthly net sales revenue report, and BookStats, an annual survey of U.S. publishing produced in association with the Book Industry Study Group.  The Association of American Publishers is also a member of the International Publishers Association (IPA), one of the oldest and largest federations for publishers throughout the world.  Through the IPA, they work with other national publishers’ associations to deal with issues affecting publishers, such as literacy and copyright.

Unlike the AAP, which tries to help all segments of the industry, the four organizations identified below focus only on academic publishing.  They are dedicated to helping develop standards and provide support for the unique issues that arise from publication of scholarly material.

The Association of American University Presses (AAUP) is an organization for nonprofit publishers who work to advance scholarship through their offerings.  It currently has over 130 members, mostly within the United States.  The association’s website provides information on the four main areas of policy for members: future of scholarly publications, copyright and access, intellectual freedom, and advocacy.  Its site offers policy statements and a rich list of resources in all four of these areas.  The site also offers information on its conferences and publications as well as a robust resources section that includes a job board, publishing research, discussion lists, webinars, and handbooks on best practices in academic publishing.

The Society for Scholarly Publishing (SSP) is another organization dedicated to scholarly publishing.  The society has a focus on professional development and the sustainability of this field.  Its membership includes publishers and other organizations as well as professors, librarians, and other individuals.  The organization is responsible for the Scholarly Kitchen blog, created in 2008 to keep members aware of new developments in academics and publishing as well as international policy changes.  The society also provides meeting notes and webinars dating back to 2009.

The Association of Learned and Professional Society Publishers (ALPSP) is the largest international trade association for scholarly and professional publishers.  The society offers members access to the journal Learned Publishing, a peer-reviewed journal published in collaboration with the SSP.  The site also offers members access to over twenty white papers and reports on scholarly publishing, peer review, and e-book creation.  The ALPSP Hot Topics page provides a rich list of links on specific topics like editorial work, copyright, and semantic web development.

For publishers specializing in the fields of science, technology, and medicine, the International Association of Scientific, Technical and Medical Publishers (STM) exists to help improve the dissemination, storage, and retrieval of their material.  The organization also works with the International Publishers Association (IPA) and is involved with the development of new information identification protocols and electronic copyright management systems throughout the international community.  The STM website includes information from various committees, including the work done in collaboration with the United Nations in providing developing countries with access to medical and scientific research.  The site also offers a video and document library for publications from the association and members of the association.

For smaller presses that might not be able to afford the costs of national distribution and marketing, the Independent Book Publishers Association (IBPA) provides low-cost cooperative marketing programs as well as educational programs on how a small, local publisher can compete on a national level.  The organization’s current mission is to provide its 3,000 members with information on marketing, distribution, and digital publishing services, and to encourage environmentally friendly practices.  Its website hosts a blog on industry news and a list of directories of small-press-friendly vendors.  IBPA provides basic information on the publishing process for new members.

Several city-specific organizations provide resources and information about the local publishing community.  The Book Industry Guild of New York provides educational forums and seminars for publishing professionals in New York City.  Bookbuilders of Boston is a similar organization; it also provides a job board and history of publishing in Boston.  For publishers on the West Coast, the Publishing Professionals Network provides services similar to those of its sister organizations in New York and Boston.  For publishers outside the major hubs of publishing, small state-specific organization like the Hawai’i Book Publishers Association or the Rocky Mountain Publishing Professionals Guild  can provide networking opportunities and resources for their region.

The associations listed above are there to support publishing houses as a whole.  Professionals involved in a specific aspect of publishing will find more valuable material from organizations dedicated to their particular niche.  For book designers, illustrators, and cover designers, AIGA, the professional organization for design, which was founded in 1914 as the American Institute of Graphic Arts, provides tools, a job search, and design material on its website.  Publishers who focus on children’s publishing will find resources and support from the Children’s Book Council.  The Women’s National Book Association was established in 1917 to promote reading and to support the role of women in libraries and the book trade.  It has partnered with some of the other associations and societies listed above to engage the publishing community on key issues including literacy and fair practices.  Likewise, the Society for the History of Authorship, Reading, and Publishing (SHARP) provides support for the global network of book historians who are studying print and book culture.  Its website provides members with a rich list of resources on journals, archives, and research tools.