Scientific publishing is undergoing major changes driven by the shift to digital publication – and the digital revolution will continue to change the way that AAPG disseminates our science.
A look at the BULLETIN circa 2000 would show a scientific journal published in a form and on a media (paper) that was essentially identical to the first scientific journals of the mid-17th century. Move forward 15 years and the BULLETIN, for most of our members, is distributed and accessed online.
Over the next three years we plan to upgrade this delivery system to use an app, which will allow subscribers to read the BULLETIN on their smartphones or tablets. In a digital format we have the opportunity to publish more elaborate color images at no cost to the author - and in the future we can include video and animation.
While digital delivery opens the door to more interactive presentations of geologic data, it also comes with new challenges. As with other media (books, video and music) free sharing of content becomes easy, and there is constant pressure from the consumers to receive content for free or at a nominal cost.
Of course, a significant portion of the cost of publication of any journal is related to the pre-print editing and layout - and selling papers to non-subscribers is a significant source of revenue for AAPG publications, which helps to offset losses in other areas (such as books; more on that later).
The bottom line: In the world of scientific publication, our model of selling papers to non-members is threatened by the Open Access movement.
This publication model - where the authors pay publication costs and the publishers give digital contests away for free - started in part as a reaction to the large profits made by for-profit publishers like Springer and Elsevier from selling subscription to journals in biomedical fields, where much of the research is funded by public money.
This is aggravated more by reduced library budgets.
While we have enacted an Open Access policy that is compliant with U.K. law, most of our researchers are funded with industry money, and few authors have used this option to date. GSA is going completely Open Access with its journals, at significant cost to their society.
It remains to be seen if the market will force other journals, including the BULLETIN, down this route.
While the BULLETIN has benefited from digital technology and is reaching an ever-larger audience, books sales were dropping even before the current oil price crash.
While we have published over 200 books, CDs and map titles, most only sell 200-500 copies - and our total sales are dominated by a few very popular textbooks. For example, Basic Well Log Analysis has sold over 12,000 copies in the last 10 years alone.
The technology exists to do small print runs and print additional books on demand. Undoubtedly, more of our books in the future will come out digitally or use on-demand printing, which will allow us to break even on smaller print runs.
We also are starting to sell papers from our books digitally through Geoscience World. However, given current trends, it’s an open question if there will continue to be a market for the Memoir series in the future.