Case Study: Open Access Yields Solid Growth for Hindawi
by Marji McClure
At first glance, Hindawi Publishing Corp. appears to be just like any other STM publisher. It publishes a healthy slate of peer-reviewed titles and has a relatively large staff that runs the operations typical of a traditional publishing house.
Hindawi, which was founded in 1997 and is headquartered in Cairo, Egypt, was just like any other publisher for its first 10 years of business. But that changed in February 2007 when Hindawi, which had started to test the waters of open access (OA) journal articles a few years earlier, completed its full conversion to an OA publishing model.
The Alliance With SAGE
Hindawi’s OA initiative and the company’s commitment to the process received a boost last November when it formed a partnership with SAGE, an international publisher of academic, educational, and professional journals and books. The alliance calls for the publishers to jointly publish a collection of OA journals. When the alliance was first announced, SAGE was publishing nearly 500 journals in the humanities, social sciences, and STM fields, while Hindawi was publishing more than 100 OA journals.
“The rationale for this partnership is that it combines SAGE’s experience and reputation within the scholarly publishing industry and Hindawi’s efficient publishing operation in order to develop very strong open access journals that achieve high standards in terms of editorial quality, production quality, and technological support,” says Paul Peters, head of business development for Hindawi.
Each company will have a specific role in the joint publishing process. SAGE will develop and market the journals, while Hindawi will provide the technological, editorial, and production infrastructure that will run the journals, according to Peters. He says the companies will each have 50% ownership of the journals and will equally split revenues generated by the publications. Chances are the collaboration will enhance the reach of both publishers in the marketplace.
The companies will begin by publishing a collection of STM titles and will consider adding titles in other areas in the future. Their journals will be accessible online through Hindawi’s platform.
More Alliances to Come
Peters adds that Hindawi doesn’t have any other partnerships in place, but the company is interested in building additional alliances that can combine Hindawi’s strengths with those of potential partners.
On its own, Hindawi currently publishes more than 100 peer-reviewed journals in the STM space and expects to publish roughly 3,000–4,000 journal articles in 2008. Hindawi’s titles include the International Journal of Aerospace Engineering and the Journal of Biophysics.
The company’s publishing house, with nearly 300 employees, is divided into five operating units: production (handles production of all articles in-house), customer relations (manages editorial aspects of the journals), information systems (includes IT and content management department), business development (houses journal development, marketing, graphic design, web design, and product development), and business (includes internal functions such as human resources, finance, accounting, and administration).
The Strength of OA
Hindawi’s journals are published under the OA model, meaning that the full text of the journal articles is freely accessible to all interested readers. Since OA journals can be viewed by anyone, no subscription is necessary. They are distributed under the Creative Commons attribution license, which allows for the unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction of the articles. Article authors maintain the copyright to their work.
Hindawi’s journals are available on the company’s website (www.hindawi.com), and biomedical journals are also accessible via PubMed Central. A print-on-demand service enables readers to access the journals in printed form. However, most journals have only a few print subscribers, according to Peters. Authors pay for the publication of their work through article processing charges, which can range from € 400 to € 1,000 (about $600 to $1,500) per article, says Peters.
“Apart from their business model, these journals are run much the same way that traditional subscription-based journals are run,” he says. “All of our journals have a thorough peer-review process, and we reject about 60% of the articles that are submitted to our journals.”
Reaching Out to Authors
To keep in touch with authors, Hindawi uses an electronic manuscript tracking system that manages the peer-review workflow process from the submission of an article to its final acceptance. Authors can submit article manuscripts as a PDF or Word (.doc, .docx, and .rtf) file. The editor-in-chief of a particular journal then reviews the articles and determines whether they will be accepted. Typically, at least two external reviewers are required to recommend an article before acceptance is granted.
“In addition to facilitating the peer-review process, our manuscript tracking system lets us keep a close eye on the health of our journals by analyzing certain key indicators [such as] average review speeds and acceptance rates,” Peters says. The authors attracted to Hindawi and its OA model are located throughout the world.
A Powerful Business Model
Hindawi began publishing OA journal articles in 2003 and steadily increased its number of published works annually. Still, the company has grown substantially since the total OA conversion. Hindawi received about 6,000 submissions in the 12 months after the conversion, a 60% increase from the previous year, Peters says. Hindawi also launched about 40 new journal titles during that time. It’s a pace that Hindawi expects to continue.
“We have been very pleased with [our] ability to grow since converting to open access, and we expect to maintain very rapid growth over the next several years,” he says.
Based on the increase in submissions and customer feedback, Peters says that the journals have been well-received by the marketplace in a short period of time.
“Although many of our journals are only a few years old, we have seen quite a few of them become very successful in terms of visibility, prestige, and reputation,” he says.
Immediate and Long-Term Growth
Hindawi expects to continue its rapid growth during 2008 as it develops its existing journals and the launch of new journal titles.
“Some of the first open access journals that we launched during 2005 and 2006 are now beginning to really take off within their communities, and we are excited to see how these titles will develop over the next couple of years,” says Peters.
Hindawi, which plans to continue developing its collection of STM titles, is contemplating an expansion into the social sciences and humanities as well.
“It is difficult to say how many journals we will be launching since some of the journals we develop take more work than others,” Peters says. “But we certainly expect to continue aggressively developing new journals for the foreseeable future.”
“I believe we are very well-equipped to deal with whatever challenges we may face since we already have a strong infrastructure in place—in terms of our workforce and management, our technological development, and our journal collection,” Peters says. “Because of our efficient and cost-effective operation, I believe that we are well-prepared for whatever changes may be coming to the scholarly publishing industry.”
And during the next 5 years, Hindawi expects to see more growth. Peters adds that Hindawi feels it is well-positioned for long-term growth as well. He says the company will continue to build on the solid framework it has already established.
“We are certainly pleased with how things are going, but we still have a long way to go before reaching our medium to long-term objectives of becoming one of the largest scholarly publishers in the industry,” he says.