This post is the first of our two-part series on publishing trends to watch for in 2021.

Amid profound disruption, the future of publishing came into focus in 2020. What will the industry look like as we enter 2021? Here, we highlight expectations and predictions from CCC’s thought leaders on the trends and technologies that will play a critical role in the continued transformation of publishing.

Diverse Voices

Increasingly, publishers are actively working on initiatives that support Diversity, Equity and Inclusion. Publishers are proactive and deliberate when balancing their editorial board, peer reviewers, and authorship so that their publications represent a variety of diverse voices.

Virtual Shift

Society publishers in particular have been impacted by the shift to virtual events. Besides continuing to navigate the transition to open access in a sustainable way, they are looking inward to ensure they continue to help meet knowledge-sharing commitments and to offer the best member services they can.

Improved Workflows

The pandemic and increased volume of research output have put a spotlight on inefficiencies in workflows, leading many publishers to take a fresh look at pressure points and ways to solve them.

Emilie Delquie – CCC Director, Rightsholder Relations and Global Alliances at Copyright Clearance Center

Increased Investment in OA Infrastructure

The coronavirus pandemic will put continued pressure on publishers from funders and institutions to accelerate the creation and delivery of Open Access publishing models to help achieve open research goals.

There will be increased investment from publishers and other industry stakeholders in Open Access infrastructure that reduces the administrative burden for researchers, promotes transparent communications, and establishes clean, comprehensive data sets as the baseline for modeling sustainable institutional deals.

Jamie Carmichael – CCC Senior Director, Information and Content Solutions

Global Impact of Copyright

Copyright will continue to feature prominently in legislatures and courtrooms around the world in 2021. Many significant developments, some of them years in the making, are likely to be concluded or resolved within the next 12 months. China’s new copyright law comes into force in June. What will happen to South Africa’s controversial copyright bill now that the country’s president has sent it back to parliament for review? In Japan, we should see by mid-year the introduction of the remunerated copyright exception for schools that was part of the legislation passed by the Diet in 2018. We should also expect to learn more about the library exception that has been under consideration for some time.

Australia will continue to be a place worth watching. A decision from the Copyright Tribunal in the long-running universities case is expected by some and we should expect to hear more from the government about its copyright reform proposals. The battles between the big tech platforms and government about properly compensating news publishers will continue to be waged. And on the subject of long-running battles, what will we hear from the Supreme Court of Canada as it tackles the litigation between Access Copyright and York University?

Michael Healy – CCC Executive Director, International Relations

Print and Digital Will Coexist

Regardless of whether students are able to return to the classroom, school district buyers will increasingly focus on materials that, practically and legally, can be used at home as well as in the physical classroom. This means that successful products must be available in print and digital formats and designed for synchronous and asynchronous education.

Roy Kaufman – CCC Managing Director of Business Development and Government Relations

Asynchronous Learning Will Continue

The pandemic has accelerated the move to asynchronous learning. This will continue. The balance of out-of-class and in-classroom learning is shifting to more independent learning.

This means more and more delivery of content via digital means. While the impact of the pandemic directly on how we teach and learn may be short-lived (we hope classes will come back together in due course), the impact on publishing content will be longer.

Carl Robinson – CCC Senior Director, Presales, Consulting, Professional Services

Aligned Educational Assessment Programs

The dramatic shift in the K-12 educational experience from the classroom to fully, or partially, online, raises serious concerns about the continued academic progress of American schoolchildren. These concerns are most relevant for our youngest and most at-risk students.  With many states receiving waivers for mandated assessments last educational year, never has an accurate, comprehensive assessment program using curriculum- and standards-aligned materials been more important and more relevant in order to measure the impact of the Coronavirus pandemic on children. This will help ensure that steps are taken to identify and remediate any areas of decline before those areas become a drag on future educational progress.

Andrew Campana – CCC Director, Business Development

Accelerated Publishing Process

The COVID-19 pandemic quickly became a catalyst that advanced the speed of science and accelerated the digital transformation of scientific publishing. Going forward, we will continue to operate in a more open, more immediate, and more accessible scientific publishing ecosystem than we were before the pandemic.

Jennifer Goodrich – CCC Director, Product Management, Publisher Solutions

Investment in Future Growth

The year 2020 has made automation an imperative. As more businesses and publishers found their positions challenged by the pandemic, the discussion on, and acceleration of, digital transformation has surfaced as the priority. Digital transformation is now a question of survival: What do we need to do differently, where do we need to change if we are to survive beyond COVID-19?  There will be two approaches to digital transformation in 2021:

– Focus on what we do well digitally and maximize the value that we can get from our content by focusing on exploiting what we have already transformed.

– Invest in change for the future. See beyond the immediate pressures and take a risk on pivoting the organization to increase the strengths and minimize the weaknesses to favor of what will allow people to grow, not just now, but in the next decade. My prediction is that those prepared to invest right now, however hard that may be, will be the ones who thrive in the coming years.

Improved Work from Home Tools

The work from home move has challenged both employers and employees. Three things will happen in terms of tools and coping mechanisms to support continued work from home:

Better use of collaborative tools for working on projects beyond project management tools, such as Asana, Trello, or Slack. Content development and content management systems will allow flexibility, easier access to content repositories, and a move toward digital proofing, as well as synchronous and asynchronous approaches to content development.

The steep learning curve for using collaborative asynchronous tools such as Teams and Slack to work as teams and on projects has been difficult, yet valuable. I envision less email, fewer lost attachments in email, more effective use of chat, and increased understanding of shared repositories for more productive and less stressed working environments.

Webinar fatigue is rife. I see more focused, intrinsically valuable events on the horizon – more workshop-style with engagement and homework, perhaps even paid for with exclusive access to key people in the field. I challenge the notion that people will willingly make time to have another video call in the midst of all the video calls they are already having. Even when people join a webinar, it’s difficult to measure true engagement.

Carl Robinson – CCC Senior Director, Presales, Consulting, Professional Services

No Going Back

All of these transitions – the business process transformation, the digital transformation, things that we have been talking about for more than a decade – are coming home to roost. We are seeing truly epic challenges being met with humility and grace in the publishing industry in ways that only a crisis could spur. We must take lasting lessons away from the pandemic and emerge with more sustainable models going forward.

Diversity and inclusion, the acceleration of rapid open publishing, digital transformation, and the need to learn and work from home, are some of the trends that will drive systemic change for businesses and publishing in 2021 and beyond. Those who make big bets on new business models, new ways of working and new ways of thinking will be more adaptive and resilient to the disruptive forces that will characterize the years ahead. To sprint forward and grow, we must renew our resolve to digitally transform and turn these efforts into foundational investments.

One thing is for sure: there’s no going back to “normal” or “the way it was.” We are where we are and from here we will redefine the next normal.


Author: CCC

A pioneer in voluntary collective licensing, CCC (Copyright Clearance Center) helps organizations integrate, access, and share information through licensing, content, software, and professional services. With expertise in copyright, information management, artificial intelligence, and machine learning, CCC and its subsidiary RightsDirect collaborate with stakeholders to design and deliver innovative information solutions that power decision-making by harnessing information from a wide variety of data sources and content assets.
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