Astrid Bovell on December 1st, 2011
by Simon Strong & Ari Dyball
What does the UoM Custom Book Centre do?
CBC offers a range of book production services to the University and the general public. We do pretty much everything from full commercial publication of academic content from University (via our Cussonia Press imprint) through to private printings for the general public: poetry, family histories, etc.
We also offer support services (such as editorial and design) to our clients and offer fulfillment and distribution via Melbourne University Bookshop. Our services are as affordable as possible and we try to price our books as cheaply as we can.
What distinguishes the CBC from a traditional publisher?
Because we don’t deal with initial print-runs, we can work much faster and more economically. Where traditional publishers now specialize in editorial and marketing services, we generally leave those book-specific aspects to the client. Where traditional publishers like to outsource wherever possible, we do as much as possible in-house to minimise marginal costs and cut overheads in job management. We are fortunate that CBC staff possess a depth of book-trade experience and a wide range of specialized skills. In cases where we need advice and assistance, we can count on help from the University Library and the University in general.
How does copyright legislation affect services offered through the CBC?
More generally, “How does 19th century legislation impede 21st century technologies?” It’s inevitable that there will be delays between technological innovation and legal measures to address the impacts of the technology. This delay creates uncertainty and its synonymous attendants risk and opportunity, both of which favour smaller and/or newer players. Very often, the delay is prolonged as the established players engage in a futile campaign to influence legislation to offset the inevitable effects of technology.
Because the CBC started with a blank slate, we were able to dispense with the canon of conventional wisdom and predicate our services on established trends in the industry and technology, viz: increasingly democratic access to technology and knowledge (qv the Open Access movement); lower barriers to entry; internationalization of commerce and content; and much more!
In our experience, the most significant disjoints in copyright legislation arise, firstly, from its obsolete assumptions of viabilities arising from economies of scale and, secondly, from its failure to address increasing efficiencies in communication and distribution.
How does the CBC manage its copyrights?
It doesn’t. We are not interested in acquiring content. There are big players in that field and there would be nothing gained in trying to compete. We insist that authors or their representatives retain the copyright in their publications and we manufacture under license, even for our own publications. This has the added advantage that we do not have to make subjective assessments as to the potential commercial value of the content.
How does the CBC fulfill its obligations?
We require all of our clients to provide an undertaking that they have the relevant copyright (or permission or exemption) to the book. If we have any reservations, we follow up and if we still have doubts we would reject the job. We ’re very grateful to the University Copyright Office for initial advice and ongoing support.
What’s the best thing about working at the CBC?
Being on the right side of history.