From Shakespeare to Trump: How Palgrave Macmillan has evolved over 150 years of scholarly publishing to inspire 21st century researchers.

By: Kristy Gjertsen, Wed Jun 27 2018
Kristy Gjertsen

Author: Kristy Gjertsen


With a string of Nobel prize-winning authors and a backdrop of 150 years’ publishing heritage, Palgrave Macmillan now has its eye firmly on the evolving research and socio-cultural climates to inspire its global academic audience. 

In an interview with Felicity Plester - Editorial Director for Palgrave Humanities – and the Commissioning Editors of the Literature, Cultural and Media Studies collection, we explore how publication formats are being adapted to support changing research practices; how the team balances an established, traditional publishing reputation with innovative research and ground-breaking content; and what the portfolio might look like a few years from now.

Palgrave Macmillan content has been included in Springer Nature eBooks Collections since 2015, with 10 different collections available within the Humanities and Social Sciences.  This includes the Literature, Cultural and Media Studies eBooks Collection.

What are the most prominent book formats in the Literature, Cultural and Media Studies collection and are there any new book types emerging?

Around 85% of the collection is made up of Monographs and Edited Collections. That said, we’re actively working on expanding into new formats, not only to meet the evolving needs and habits of our traditional audiences, but also to appeal to emerging groups of readers.  

The collection also includes a number of Palgrave Pivots, a format which has become increasingly popular with both authors and readers over the past few years. Handbooks are also attracting high numbers of users and we’re planning to expand the list of titles published in this format. Our goal is not only to inspire new and emerging research, but also to publish in the most practical and engaging formats for our readers. 

What is the core readership for the collection?

The Literature, Cultural and Media Studies collection is geared towards academics and post-grad students, and we know that many of the authors of these titles are also the end users. We’re also starting to see increased take-up from practice-based students and researchers for some of our Film and TV studies titles.

Which authors and titles have generated significant attention across each of the three collections recently?

These are some of our recent award-winning titles and prize-winning authors. 

Have there been any noticeable usage or citation trends for individual HSS collections or subject areas in recent years, and why do you think this is?

Our most popular titles in the Literature, Cultural and Media Studies collection are generally interdisciplinary in nature. Palgrave has always performed well in the ‘in-between’ areas and the usage trends bear this out. What we’re finding is that a lot of the most interesting and exciting work in humanities research is taking place in these intermediary spaces and we want to support that as much as we can.

Handbooks are generally a more highly cited format because they offer useful overviews of a given subject. They work well as an entry point for scholars but also contain some of the most original, cutting-edge work on a subject, so appeal to a broader audience and are more influential as a result.

We also see high usage of titles that tie into popular culture, including: Ru Paul’s Drag Race and the Shifting Visibility of Drag Culture, Reading Lena Dunham’s Girls and Return to Twin Peaks.

How are readers typically consuming titles in the HSS collections and do you see these trends changing?

Monographs are more likely to be read cover-to-cover, but we’re also seeing the number of individual chapter downloads across all book types on SpringerLink grow quite significantly. Giving researchers and students the opportunity to access content on a more granular level in the form of chapter downloads has been a positive step towards tailoring content to the individual user’s needs and we SEO individual chapters to make them more discoverable.

Has demand for digital formats overtaken print in the Literature, Cultural and Media Studies Collection?

The print to digital ratio for all ten of the HSS collections is still holding at around 50:50 and print has remained prominent for longer than we originally expected. What we’ve found is that humanities academics and students are relatively traditional and still gravitate towards physical books.

The improvement in print on demand technology has been significant in recent years which means we can fulfil small print runs quickly and to a really high standard. Ultimately, we need to be mindful that when it comes to the print-digital balancing act, our readers very often want both formats and demand a very high standard from each.

What are your predictions for hot topics and emerging research trends across each of the Literature, Cultural and Media Studies collection?

Our commissioning editors are continually looking closely at the fringes of some of the more traditional areas to identify niche, interdisciplinary research topics that have the potential to become significant, such as: Literature and Medicine, Digital Humanities, Disability Studies, Theatre and Science and Theatre and Ecology, Game Studies and Comic Studies. It’s also extremely exciting for us, as a global publisher, to see a marked increase in books and chapters we are publishing written by authors from all over the world, reflecting the trend towards de-centring academia and a growing emphasis away from the traditional Anglo-centric academia.

Are there any subject areas or titles that have taken you by surprise with their popularity in recent years?

We’ve observed some standout hits in 2017 across all three subject areas in the collection, most notably Selfie Citizenship, Embodied Philosophy in Dance, and Memory in the Twenty-First Century. The growth in popularity of Dance Studies and TV studies - including British TV comedy - took us by surprise.

How does the commissioning process work? How are future collections designed and shaped?

A lot of our commissioning work actually takes place at global academic conferences which helps keep the lists topical, dynamic and forward-thinking. The 2018 programme features the first volumes in several new series and builds on the cutting-edge work we do in interdisciplinary and emergent areas, as well as a consolidating our traditional strengths. It’s been curated with an eye on range, variety, originality and represents contributions from early career scholars as well as more established authors across the world.

How do you see each of the collections evolving, expanding and pushing the boundaries of HSS research in the next few years?

We envisage making a significant move towards more diverse digital formats (individual articles and chapters) as well as more interactive titles incorporating video, audio and potentially even blogs. The Palgrave philosophy is to explore and innovate and we’ll be continuing to do this by working with trail-blazing authors, focusing on emerging areas of interdisciplinary research and analysing some of the bigger cultural and political themes including Trump, Brexit, gender politics and the cultural implications of AI.

Alongside our mission to further and push the boundaries of humanities research, sits our commitment to maintaining a long-established, trusted publishing reputation in traditional humanities subjects. Rigorous peer-review and publishing integrity lie at the heart of everything we do, regardless of subject area, readership or format.  

Felicity Plester is Editorial Director for Palgrave Humanities where she is responsible for the Film, Culture and Media Studies scholarly books programme, publishing high quality, cutting-edge research in a range of formats, including monographs, edited collections, scholarly Handbooks as well as our new short-form monograph initiative, Palgrave Pivot.

Kristy Gjertsen

Author: Kristy Gjertsen

Kristy Gjertsen is a Senior Content Marketing Manager on the Institutional Sales & Marketing team based in New York. She brings to the Academic and Government markets insights and activities specific to the Librarian community, whilst raising awareness of Springer Nature’s products and services.

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