180 years in the making: a publishing evolution

By: Guest contributor, Thu Nov 17 2022

Author: Guest contributor

In May 2022, Springer celebrated 180 years of supporting researchers to advance discovery. Now, a new report explores Springer’s evolution from its humble beginnings to the high-impact publisher it is today. In this blog, we’ll take a look at some of the key highlights.

To uncover the origins of Springer – now part of Springer Nature – you need to go all the way back to Berlin in 1842 when 25-year-old Julius Springer founded ‘Springer-Verlag’. His son Ferdinand Springer then grew it from a small firm of just four employees into Germany's (then) second largest academic publisher – with 65 staff in 1872.

From these small beginnings Springer, and then Springer Nature, has evolved into the world’s foremost academic publisher and a pioneer of open access publishing. Working with over 100,000 external academic editors, we now have 9000+ staff in 200 offices, located in 50 countries across the globe. All of this has only been possible because of the academic communities we partner with – authors, editors and librarians.

Our new report, Springer: Serving the global research community, explores the impact of 180 years of Springer and our work with those communities. Here, we take a look at just a few of the highlights.

180 years of community-focused innovation

From Julius Springer’s work to improve copyright law at the German Booksellers Association in the 1840s to the championing of open access policies and sustainable publishing routes today, our work continues to be community focused. Our communities of authors, editors and librarians have been the inspiration behind the innovations and developments that have characterised the last 180 years at Springer.

In that time, we’ve paved the way in digitalization and discoverability, building and launching one of the earliest online information services dedicated to scientific research – LINK (now SpringerLink).

We’ve also striven to become the largest open access (OA) publisher. Following the acquisition of BMC in the mid-2000s, we launched SpringerOpen and established one of the first OA book programmes. And since then our work in OA has continued to push the boundaries of traditional academic publishing.

By co-founding ‘Scientific Publishing Services’ – a service provider for publishers focusing on production and copy editing – we were also able to streamline publishing models to better support authors and editors.

Pioneering the eBook revolution

Since 1842, Springer has published over 240,000 books, and we now add around 11,000 books every year to that number. We pioneered the models and approach for creating eBooks and were the first publisher to digitise our entire back catalogue – dating back to the 1840s – which included over 100,000 book titles.

Springer not only publishes more scholarly books than anyone else – including some of the world’s most important books – but leads in making those books accessible. Our approach makes our eBooks available anywhere, anytime, and without digital rights management (DRM) restrictions or limits on concurrent users.

The goal is for researchers and students to find and use these books when they’re looking for them and when they need them, without having to wait or jump through unnecessary hoops.

“I cannot but mention the impact that the acquisition of Springer eBooks has made on our collections”

“As Springer celebrates its 180th anniversary, I cannot but mention the impact that the acquisition of Springer eBooks has made on our collections,” says Hweida Kammourié from Lebanese Academic University (LAU) in our report. “LAU Libraries were among the first institutions in Lebanon to add Springer eBooks (2005-2008 collections) and have not missed any of their English titles since then.”

“During the last decade, around 113,000 eBooks were acquired solely from Springer, with chapter  downloads amounting to approximately 800,000. The diversity of the collections allowed our users across disciplines to benefit from DRM-free eBooks that they can access anywhere, everywhere, anytime, allowing the Libraries to be present outside their walls, reinforcing LAU's image as a student-centred institution.”

20 years of advancing OA

As early as 2004, Springer pioneered the ‘hybrid’ model, which allowed authors to publish open access (OA) in subscription journals. Not long after, BMC – the world’s founding OA publisher, launched in 1998 – joined Springer, and that pioneering spirit is still the foundation of our drive to transform research into open science.

Springer Nature's first fully OA annual report was published in August 2022, to measure the collective reach, value and tangible impact our OA journals are offering authors, readers and the wider research community. In 2021, we launched OA options for even our most selective journals, including Nature. And we also celebrated an incredible milestone – publishing our one millionth OA article.

Supporting librarians

Libraries and Springer serve the same communities: researchers, students, and teachers. And to serve these communities well, we know the vital importance of working closely with librarians.

We work to provide librarians with the essential tools and services they need to enhance their libraries. Ensuring they have the most valuable and relevant content and resources to empower researchers, students, teachers, and professionals to advance discovery every day. This includes supporting librarians as the role of the library changes and helping to reduce the burden of the transition to open science.

“Our relationship [with Springer Nature] has been transformed from a commercial one to a relationship between partners who collaborate with each other,” says Marcela Rivera Cornejo of Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile in our report. “We have received a range of content alternatives that have allowed us to migrate from print to electronic while maintaining the quality of the content and the quality of the support.”

As a progressive partner to libraries and researchers, we reinvest revenues to support these communities. You can see this investment in new technologies, outreach, and support for the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals.

The next 180 years – and beyond

For almost two centuries, Springer has been focused on advancing knowledge. From its origins in political caricatures and treatises to its growth into journals and books in the natural sciences, engineering and medicine – publishing the likes of Albert Einstein, no less.

As part of Springer Nature, we will continue to support our authors to pass on their knowledge to the next generation of readers and to deliver the most comprehensive content to the academic, research and professional communities. No one can know for sure what the next 180 years will hold, but we’re looking forward to finding out.

Read the full report: Springer: Serving the global research community

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Author: Guest contributor

Guest Contributors for THE LINK include Springer Nature staff and authors, industry experts, society partners, and many others. If you are interested in being a Guest Contributor, please contact us via email.