Continuum: The Australian Journal of Media & Culture
Vol. 4, No. 1, 1990
The Media of Publishing
Edited by Albert Moran

"It's Academic": Imperialism and the Australian Tertiary Book Industry

Glen Lewis

1989's biggest media news was the dire financial straits facing the major l commercial TV networks. With large staff retrenchments and the imminent introduction of Pay-TV the industry rarely was off the front pages. However the year also saw some spirited public discussion about the usually much lower-profile book industry. The release of the Prices Surveillance Authority report horrified, though probably did not surprise, publishers, by recommending the deregulation of the "closed market" system, via which British companies had controlled the Australian trade for many years.

Then, just before Christmas, Attorney-General Bowen brought down his report, based on the Sheppard copyright committee. This was a compromise between publishers and their critics. Booksellers were divided: a majority led by tertiary booksellers had voted in favour of accepting the PSA report, but the ABA Executive and President Mark Rubbo defeated this and later lobbied against it. 1 Whereas the PSA, some journalists, and the Australian Consumer's Association had argued for the opening of the market, their opponents included the Australian Book Publisher's Association (ABPA), the Australia Council's Donald Horne, the Australian Society of Authors, and some prominent authors, including Peter Carey and Tom Keneally. Bowen's compromise reduced the "reasonable time" for the import of new overseas titles from 90 to 30 days but retained copyright protection for local authors. The Sydney Morning Herald thought this was a "dismal compromise" - the decision preserved the right of British publishers to overcharge the Australian public. 2

However while the 1989 debate about the book industry highlighted longstanding monopolistic practices on the part of British publishers in the trade book area, it did not succeed in considering other equally important parts of the industry. Reducing the debate to questions of book prices and delays in supply has drastically over-simplified many other related questions. Industry takeovers have been neglected, for instance, despite the inclusion of the Angus & Robertson's list into Collins, or Greenhouse into Penguin. Further, the state of educational publishing was not discussed at all, though here USA and British- publishers occupy equally strong monopoly positions. This article accordingly will highlight some of the main features of the Australian tertiary book industry and argue that a condition of neo-colonial dependence still characterises academic publish-

Imperialism and the Book Industry

Arguments about media imperialism in the last ten years have mainly focussed on the international flow of movies, TV programs, press news, and telecommunications services. 3 Yet, so far, comparable arguments about imperialism and the book trade have not been made. When they have, the focus has been Anglo-US relations with third world countries. A 1978 study by Golding, for example, critically examined the dominance of British publishers like Longman and Oxford in Africa and India, and USA educational giants McGraw-Hill and W.B. Saunders in Latin America. 4 Golding was sceptical of the possibilities for the development of indigenous publishing industries in those areas. Similarly, Altbach's work on South-East Asia has emphasised the many obstacles to scholars in those regions gaining access to international knowledge networks in the field of academic publishing. 5

Countries like Australia, New Zealand, and Canada, and perhaps South Africa, however, cannot be considered either as third or first world countries. Following the lead of Dallas Smythe, Lorimer has argued that USA multinational pressures produced an inferior brand of Canadian textbook that left out questions of regional culture, ethnic values, and national history. 6 Similarly, Wilson's study of the Australian book industry raised concerns about the long-term influences of major British and USA publishers, though it also commented favourably on the role of some branches of overseas publishers in developing Australian materials. 7

What is at issue is that if the book industry - along with other media industries - has been part of the process described as cultural imperialism, then what are the effects of this hegemonic process on first, the structure of the tertiary book industry, and second, on the process of academic publishing? The broad answer, as put by Mattelart globally, and by Wilson, and by Wheelwright and Buckley for Australia, is to stress the nature of overseas publishing companies' traditional dominance in the national market and to argue a case for the negative consequences of the post-war cycle of takeovers. 5

This general argument about the impact of imperialism on the book publishing industry seems accurate but also requires elaboration. Plainly, publishing culture varies from country to country. The main qualification suggested here is that the argument needs extending to include the contribution of tertiary educational hierarchies to academic publishing practices. The main limitation of the Mattelart - Lorimer - Wheelwright position is that it is critically focussed primarily on the commercial dynamics of the media and publishing industries; that is, it neglects the equally important role in tertiary book publishing of inbuilt professional academic hierarchies which make their own contribution to the maintenance of cultural inequality.

Detailed studies of academic publishing in Australia so far have considered mainly science, and to a lesser extent, economics, finance, and politics. 9 In contrast, the following treatment examines selected historical examples of the development of educational publishing in the Humanities-Social Sciences-Communication markets (H-SS-C), and on aspects of intra-industry organisational communication, following the arguments of reproduction theorists, such as Apple. 10 The general theme is that the positioning of Australian academic publishing in the wider, global Anglo-American publishing marketplace contributes to a subordinate place for Australian scholarship.

Academic Publishing: The Industry Perspective

Three main generalisations can be made about the comparative structure of the educational book industries in the USA and the UK. First, exports have always been a major concern for British publishers, whereas the relatively greater size of the USA domestic market has delayed their interest in developing a major export trade. In the mid-70s, circa 40% of the total value of British book sales came from exports, though by 1984 this level had declined to 30%.1l Second, where the typical British tertiary book in the postwar period has been the monograph, the textbook has been the main agent of USA export growth. Third, in the H-SS-C field, USA publishers have concentrated most on social science and, to a lesser extent, communication, where the British houses are more comfortable with the humanities, especially history and literature.

The boom years of British tertiary publishing were the 1950s and especially the 1960s. This happened for several reasons. First, in the USA, Canada, and Australia, tertiary enrolments reached a new high. Student numbers in the UK rose from 105,000 in 1950 to 500,000 in 1970.l2 Second, UK school publishers were not so successful in selling to their own schools market because of the unwillingness or inability of local councils to fund textbook purchases. In contrast, the growth of tertiary education, combined with new national independence in many African and Asian countries and the link made between education and development, made a sales bonanza for tertiary publishers. As the exchange rate of the pound sterling also favoured sales, British textbooks "were pumped into the classrooms and lecture halls of the third world". 13

The biggest names in British educational publishing then became internationally known in most English language countries - Oxford and Cambridge University Presses, Macmillan, Routledge & Kegan Paul, Pitmans, and Allen and Unwin. While Penguin and Collins remained major trade publishers with strong lists of classic nonfiction titles, they were not positioned primarily as educational publishers. There was also an important, if less well-known group of other educational publishers, such as Edward Arnold, John Murray, and Harrap's. Similarly, there were other important university presses, though not on the scale of the Oxbridge models, such as Manchester, Liverpool, Leicester, Edinburgh, Bradford, and Sussex.

One of the main contrasts to USA tertiary publishing, in fact, was the very high profile of the Oxbridge presses. Oxford, the biggest of the two, was increasingly run as a commercial operation. When it was reorganised at the time of the Waldock report in 1970 it was recommended that senior OUP executives should get salaries on a par with other commercial publishing executives. In that year its annual turnover was 13 million pounds, it had seven branches in Africa, ten in Asia, and one each in Australia, New Zealand, and Canada. It had 17,000 titles on its list and stored some three million volumes in its Neasden warehouse. Though CUP was slower to establish overseas branches and retained more of a traditionally academic orientation, it also became increasingly market-driven. By 1967 it had worked cooperatively with Longman's and Associated Book Publishers to compile the first UK computerised mailing list which served all tertiary staff in the UK. 14

When the tertiary sales boom burst in the mid 1970s, and the years of constraint extended through the 1980s with ever-decreasing levels of public funding for library and education budgets, British educational publishers became involved in the same complicated cycles of takeovers as their USA cousins. Though levels of tertiary book output remained only constant, with the exception of spectacular growth in a few new areas such as computer texts, company profits could be boosted by clever, risky, rearrangements of ownership and control. The Murdoch group became 42% owner of William Collins and got a 20% stake in Pearson, while his arch-rival Robert Maxwell purchased IPC and Pergamon.

While educational publishing did not attract the glamour-coverage that mainstream fiction publishing often got, the same process of acquisition and staff redundancies affected it. With the restructuring of the Thomson group in 1987, for instance, it included Routledge, Chapman and Hall, Methuen, Tavistock, Croom Helm, Comedia, Sybex Computer Books, and Associated Book Publishers. The new divisions in the Thomson list covered business, politics, economics, geography, education, social science, humanities, reference, language and linguistics, and even "mind, body, and spirit". The Chapman Hall group became a separate but associated publisher of scientific, technical and medical books, and forty journals, and was the groups USA house name. 15

Though the British Council promotes British books, writers, and academics as representatives of English culture abroad, the activities of British trade associations do not seem as well coordinated as their USA equivalents. The National Book Council was founded in 1925, but did not become representative of the industry until after World War II. In 1944 the Council became the National Book League, which subsequently spun off the Book Marketing Council and the Book Development Council. 16 An Educational Publisher's Council was formed in the UK in 1969 primarily to lobby local councils to promote textbook sales, and in 1976 this was supplemented by a tertiary and professional sales group, the University, College, and Professional Publisher's Council, but these agencies keep a relatively low profile.

The USA organisations are more comprehensive. The Association of American Publishers (AAP) is composed of seven divisions. Those most concerned with tertiary publishing are the Higher Education Division, the Professional and Scholarly Publishing, and the International Divisions. There are also divisions for schools, direct marketing and book clubs, paperbacks, and for general trade book publishing. The Higher Education Division is most concerned with all aspects of textbook production and promotion in higher education. It provides an AAP-student service and a public relations program which publishes a range of student guides, such as "How to Read Technical Textbooks". There are also materials aimed at College faculty, including "An Author's Guide to Academic Publishing". The Division also runs a College bookstore liaison committee and provides a College Textbook Fiche service.

Another major difference is the more dominant role in the USA of commercial publishing houses. There is no real USA equivalent of OUP and CUP. Despite distinguished publication records of some University Presses, such as the Johns Hopkins University Press at the University of Maryland, or the programs of the Universities of Wisconsin, Philadelphia, North Carolina, Chicago, Duke, UCLA at Berkeley, and Texas, in general USA presses have not attempted to match the efforts of Oxford or Cambridge. The five largest USA educational publishers in 1988 were Simon and Schuster, Harcourt-Brace-Jovanovich, Macmillan (USA), McGraw-Hill, and Houghton-Mifflin. In addition there is Harper and Row, Random House, Addison-Wesley and Prentice-Hall, as well as a string of more specialist publishers, such as Scott, Foresman (behavioural science), Arno Press (film), and Praeger (science and policy). The two publishing groups of major importance to the field of communication studies are Sage (Beverly Hills and London), and Ablex (communication and information science series). The big publishers, however, are active in the industry at a range of interrelated levels.

The top ten USA educational publishers were reported by Publisher's Weekly as accounting for as much as 60% of the total USA book market in 1987. And because educational publishing is big business in the USA, there is a careful comparison of company stock prices made by PW, and a staggering succession of takeovers and attempted acquisitions in the marketplace. In 1987, for example, HBJ successfully defended itself against a takeover bid by Robert Maxwell, but to do so had to sell off one hundred of its business journals (HBJ Publications), its school supply business worth $334 million (HBJ - Beckely-Cordry Inc.), and its History Book Club to the Book of the Month Club for $25 million. 17 Of the top ten educational publishers that year all except Houghton-Mifflin had made major acquisitions. In one of the biggest deals of this kind previously in 1986, HBJ had acquired CBS educational publishing (which then included Praeger, among others), for $500 million. 18

Three other features of the USA educational publishing market deserve special mention. First, through the last decade there has been a growing degree of interaction between British and USA companies. After the dissolution of the Consent Decree in 1972, which had cosily carved up world English language rights between the two countries, one unexpected result was a strong drive by British publishers into the USA domestic market. Major cross-connections here are the USA branch of Penguin, Penguin-Viking, and the link between Collins (UK) and Harper and Row since 1987. There is also a New York branch of Oxford University Press, and there are a number of less high-profile interconnections across a wide range of the industry. 19

Second, USA educational publishing relies more heavily on detailed promotional and marketing strategies. This is true most of all of in its domestic market operations, and in some of its favoured export markets of which Australia is an uneven example, as McGraw-Hill and Harper and Row have become highly visible, but Sage still lacks even an Australian distributor. Whereas British bookselling of tertiary texts still relies primarily on personal representations, the USA method more often relies on direct-mail marketing techniques which have been conducted systematically over a longer time in the USA market.

Third, the production process of USA textbooks are more team efforts. They are more frequently written in joint authorship, where the British equivalent is still likely to be the single effort of a distinguished scholar. This team approach to text production is a long-standing tradition in the USA and carries over to the book making process itself. USA texts first penetrated the Australian market during the world war two years, when British books were scarce. Australian students found them easier to use and they have been firmly established in higher education since. 20

Academic Publishing: The Author's Perspective

This brings us to the point where the direction of this analysis needs to be reversed to look at the scholarly publishing process from the authors' position. Scholarly publishing in the USA has been the subject of more sustained study than in the UK. Booklength studies of USA practices have been made by Lindsey (1978), the National Enquiry on Scholarly Communication (1979), and more recently by Powell (1985) and Horowitz (1986). One outcome of the 1979 inquiry was the formation of the Office of Scholarly Communication in Washington, by the American Council of Learned Societies, which in 1988 published an annotated bibliography of writings on scholarly communication. 21

Lindsey's 1978 analysis of the scientific publication system in social science surveyed psychology, sociology, and social work. Concerning sociology, he chose six main journals - American Sociological Review, American Sociologist, Journal of Health and Social Behaviour, Sociology of Education, Social Forces, and Social Problems - and found that the typical article waited in the review and publication queue for more than two years! In contrast, because of different funding mechanisms, articles in USA biochemical journals were published at a much greater volume and rate. His careful study of the Social Science Citation Index counts of literature cross-referencing led him to describe the Index sarcastically as the Nelson rating system for social science. He singled out the need for greater attention to improving methods of author appeal procedures. 22

Surveys of scholarly publishing in the UK have been less frequent and searching. However when Singleton profiled the UK's journal publishing industry in 1986, one of his findings was that scholarly journal publishing was more concentrated in industry terms in the UK and Europe than in the USA. Where Machlup's 1978 work showed that the largest single producer of USA scholarly journals published sixty-four titles, in the UK and Europe the Pergamon/Elsevier groups produced 2-300 titles, Oxford produced forty-one, and Cambridge fifty. While the majority of UK scholarly books were published by commercial publishers and university presses, learned society publications played a relatively much more significant role in journal publishing. As in the USA the rejection rate for articles in UK journals was lowest in physics and chemistry journals, next highest in biomedicine and mathematics, and highest in the social sciences and philosophy. 23

These comments on Anglo-American academic publishing give some idea of the enormous scale and complexity of the field. It also highlights some of the recurrent concerns of writers on the area - the fact of differential rejection rates between disciplines, the concerns about the appropriateness of different procedures in manuscript assessment by peer review, and the interactions between commercial publishers and learned societies in communicating academic knowledge. When the apparently simple question about how individual academic authors get into print is asked, however, there is no simple answer. Only a few generalisations, most relevant to the H-SS-C area, seem reasonable. First, far more academics succeed in getting articles published than books. Second, there is probably a direct correlation between their chances of publication and their professional standing in their own disciplinary area.

This suggests that there are two supplementary sets of selection channels which academic authors must go through. The first are the channels operated by their own disciplinary peers; the second consists of two networks, those of decision makers in university book publishing, and also with the more socially removed world of commercial scholarly book publishing. In Bourdieu's terms, successful academics and publishers share a common "habitus" - a set of shared perceptions and dispositions which cross-link their different organisational positions. 24 It is not just the merit of an individual's academic research and writing, then, which leads to publication. That, in itself, may not be enough. It depends as well on their activity and visibility in their own professional associations; on their career ranking in their own organisations; on their own particular institution's status in the national educational hierarchy; on their level of membership in other educational and professional associations that impact on their professional credibility; and lastly, on the degree of their personal visibility in the wider public arena. The traditional notion of authorial autonomy may apply to fiction writers, but it has little relevance for academic authors.

Perceptions of the fairness of the academic publishing process therefore will vary with the position of the observer in the professional hierarchy. That is, those at the top - eg., the 1979 National Enquiry group - are less likely to discern serious flaws in the system, while those closer to the bottom - eg., Lindsey (1978) - are more likely to be sharply critical of existing practices. A 1986 American Council of Learned Societies survey also found that three out of four respondents thought the peer review system for journals in their field was biased, and nearly half said reform was necessary. 25 At the same time, there usually is a degree of consensus in any field that certain journals ( and probably publishers) are seen as the most prestigious in that area. So in 1985 one survey of USA Library School Deans found shared perceptions of the top journals in that area, with the journals College ~ Research Libraries, and Library Quarterly heading the list. 26

The publication cycle that prospective authors in the H-SS-C areas normally must seek to go through, usually over a long period of years, therefore, begins with placing articles in appropriately chosen professional journals. Success then may lead to them aiming at book publication, either in university press vehicles, or in commercial publishers specialising in higher education, or, in some circumstances, as commercial publishing house texts.

Powell has given a lucid account of interactions between USA academic authors and editors in commercial houses. Writing from an organisational communication perspective, he emphasises the close patterns of personal association between MS. acquisition editors in the industry and their authors. He stresses the role played by personal friendships and extended interpersonal networks between scholarly authors and publishers which shape the generation of publication decisions. In contrast to the naive view of academic publishing as an open market, he underscores the role played by the primacy of the publisher's existing program and backlist, and the centrality of established interpersonal networks in arriving at final publishing decisions. Because of the great numbers of potential authors involved, he concludes, it is impossible for editors to search widely or thoroughly for new manuscripts. 27

Academic Publishing and the Australian Tertiary Book Industry

There was practically no Australian book publishing industry in the 1950s, educational or otherwise. With the exception of Angus and Robertson, Australian publishers were essentially distributors for British publishers. This changed in the 1960s with the development of both general and educational publishing. Educational production began first for the school book market, then local tertiary publishing became important in the 1 970s. Currently the Australian tertiary book market is a highly competitive one with UK, USA, and Australian publishers in that order being most important. Australian Book Publishers Association (ABPA) figures for 1983 show this pattern:

Market Share by Nationality of Ownership (% of sales)













(Source: ABPA Statistics 1983)

The largest educational publishers are the UK groups Longman, Nelson, Heinemann, Macmillan (UK), Oxford, Penguin, Allen and Unwin and Pitman. The biggest USA groups are McGraw-Hill, Prentice-Hall, and Harper and Row. Angus and Robertson still remains an important local publisher, though now owned by the News Ltd. group, and the largest local university presses are Melbourne, NSW University, and Queensland.

The absolute size of the Australian educational market is much smaller than those of its major trading partners. Current annual production for all books in Australia is some 5,000 titles, as against 50-60,000 for both the USA and the UK. In 1986 the biggest local producers of new titles were as follows (ABPA Statistics 1986):

1. Longman-Cheshire 167
2. Macmillan 145
3. Penguin 133
4. Angus & Robertson 122
5. Allen & Unwin 112
6. Methuen 110

Of these six houses only A&R was Australian. The relative size of the Australian educational market to the general trade is similar to that of the bigger countries, some 40%.

In the absence of historical studies of the postwar Australian book industry generalisations are difficult but some key changes can still be identified. In the 1940s and 1950s there was little local publishing of trade or education books. This situation changed greatly in the 1960s, while the 1970s were the golden days of educational publishing. Then, as in the USA and the UK, the 1980s saw a general downturn in the market plus a growing cycle of takeovers. Like the Australian film industry, the national book publishing business seems to have gone through a postwar period of growth, boom, bust, and currently consolidation and stringency along with growing incorporation into trans-national markets.

One of the few published studies helpful in following this process through is Eyre's memoir about Oxford University Press in Australia. In the 1940s the only significant publishers locally were OUP, Melbourne University Press (founded in 1922), Pitman (Melbourne), and Angus and Robertson (Sydney). The ABPA was founded in 1949 and the strength of the association then was the booksellers, the ABA. Another important trade group in the 1950s was the Association of British Book Publisher's Representatives in Australia (ABBPRA). In 1956 a Publishers Advisory Committee was formed, comprising the ABPA, the ABA, and the ABBPRA. This lasted until 1963.28

Oxford's experience in Melbourne at that time was probably typical of other British based houses then seeking to establish more local autonomy. In 1950 the Melbourne office carried only 200 titles from a UK list of 14,000. This meant that the public was almost completely dependent on indented (specially ordered from overseas) stocks. Oxford Australia at that time was arguing for a policy of full stocking. This was achieved eventually by 1964, but this was also the time when the local industry decided to implement what was described as the closed market policy in Australia.

The exact circumstances of this are perhaps the greatest untold story about Australian postwar publishing. It appears that faced with growing USA competition (especially in the paperback market), the beginning of local publishing, and the move towards full stock policies by other agency companies in Australia, that the ABPA decided to close the market. This meant that a closed shop operation would exist whereby Australian booksellers were only allowed to purchase UK or USA titles from their specially delegated local agents and distributors. Through the 1960s the closed market system was consolidated, but it was also challenged both from within the trade and by the public. Rumours persisted that the closed market system meant that book prices were higher in Australia and that long delays in shipment resulted. These charges would eventually be heard before the NSW Prices Commission Inquiry of 1979, which never came to a conclusion, probably due to industry lobbying pressure.

Two further developments complicated this issue in the 1960s. One was the rise of the local university presses. ANU Press was established in 1966 and through the 1970s became the fourth largest local national publisher. Its activities in the 1970s were matched by the University of Queensland Press. With MUP, these three were the leading Australian university publishers.

The second complication was the rise of indigenous publishing houses of some size in the 1 960s and the beginnings of an apparently never-ending takeover cycle. Australian houses like Rigby, Horwitz-Grahame, Angus & Robertson, and the New Zealand publisher Reed all became important in the 1970s after getting started locally in the 1960s. Reed, for instance, came to Australia in 1964, while retaining its head office in Auckland, NZ. The promising growth of domestic university and trade publishing, however, was soon checked by the number of acquisitions that began. One of the most contentious of these was when Australia's oldest and most prestigious bookseller and publisher, Angus & Robertson, was acquired by transport and newspaper entrepreneur Gordon Barton in 1969. Barton's money came from his transport group IPEC and his populist left-wing weekly the Nation-Review. At that time A&R had a large education division and was also a publishing representative in Australia for the recently set up UK Open University. Barton, however, asset stripped the company. He sold the reduced education division to McGraw-Hill in 1974 and disposed of the A&R bookstores to Gordon and Gotch. 29

This sparked off public dispute about the book trade which spilled over into intra-trade discussions about the closed market. In 1971 the Australian federal government had introduced the Restrictive Trade Practices Act, which threatened the practice of retail price maintenance in the business. During inquiries about the practice, both Angus & Robertson and the Horwitz-Grahame groups had both given evidence against RPM, against the wishes of the majority of the British agency companies. This legislation was a local precursor to the subsequent decision made in 1972 by the USA Trade Practices Commission to end the Traditional Market Agreement that had existed cosily between USA and UK publishers since 1945.3ยก

Subsequently, Australian educational publishing boomed through the 1970s, but so did the number of industry takeovers. Sun Books, one of the most innovative paperback lists of local nonfiction in the late 1960s and early 1970s, were purchased by Macmillans; Grahame's-Bennett's library supplies, the largest in Australia, were sold out successively to Lonsdale Universal (UK) then to John Menzies (Canada); in 1977 John Wiley (USA) acquired the Queensland educational publisher Jacaranda Press; last, NZ publisher Reed sold off their educational list in 1979.

After the stripping of A&R, the most controversial takeover case involved the originally South Australian group Rigby's. They were the biggest local Australian publisher of the 1970s and operated as a primary school publisher via the Lloyd O'Neill group. At one stage, Rigby held 70% of the South Australian school market. In 1977 the UK group Octopus tried to take over Rigby, but was blocked by the Federal Investment Review Board, after sustained lobbying by the Independent Publisher's Association - a coalition set up in 1975. That move was stopped, but in 1979 Rigby was acquired by James Hardie, together with subsidiaries Lansdowne and Ure Smith. Hardie's, an Australian construction group, subsequently sold 50% of Lansdowne-Rigby to Kevin Weldon in 1984. 31 However the fight over Rigby was eclipsed by more public concern over the Murdoch group's 1981 acquisition of A&R and Gordon and Gotch, and of the group's purchase the same year of 41% of Collins in the UK. The News Ltd. company's links with Australian publishing extended further after their subsequent purchase of 20% of Pearson-Longman in the UK, which had already acquired the UK Penguin group. It seemed to be a never-ending game of musical chairs.

So the first downside of the exciting growth of the Australian book industry in the 1970s was the seemingly endless cycle of ruthless takeovers which enveloped the leading companies and linked them with trans-national markets in the 1980s. The second cause for dismay was the sharp decline in the fortunes of the university presses, which began with the Butlin report into ANU Press in 1980. They had seemingly over-extended themselves and would play a much smaller role in the 1980s. These 1970s trends effectively left two main groups in commanding positions in the tertiary publishing in the 1980s. Group One was first the British branch companies - Penguin Australia, Allen & Unwin Australia, and Macmillan Australia, followed by Methuen, Heinemann, and OUP. After them came the British based companies - Nelson, Collins, and CUP. Group Two were the USA branch companies - McGraw-Hill (1964), Harper & Row, Prentice-Hall, and Wiley (1977), followed by the USA based companies Collier-Macmillan, HBJ, and Addison-Wesley.

To simplify the industry-wide role of these groups: Penguin, and Allen & Unwin are now the flagship branch UK companies in Australia. Allen & Unwin has only been established locally since 1977, but even by 1985 it had produced some 500 new Australian titles. It then made half of its A$ 5 million turnover from Australian books. The profile of the A&U list locally leant heavily towards the social sciences, but also had the rather unusual combination of a women's studies list with a military history and science list as its best profit earners. Based in Sydney, and headed by Patrick Gallagher and John Iremonger, A&U is probably the single greatest contributor to the Australian H-SS-C area.

Penguin, on the other hand, has been established much longer as a local branch company since the 1940s. For years headed by Trevor Glover and Brian Johns (now Director of SBS Television), and based in Melbourne, the Penguin group, with Collins, is the most visible major publisher nationally. Though its lists lean more towards the humanities than the social sciences, and though it positions itself closer to the general than to the educational market, it has a knack for picking up some of the most readable local nonfiction writing, such as McQueen's New Britannia in the 1970s, or Reinecke's books on information technology in the 1980s. Penguin's greatest trade strength is its efficient national distribution system, which is matched only by Collins'.

The USA educational publishers in Australia, in contrast, so far have taken a lesser role in initiating Australian published material. With the exception of Harper & Row's stake in the fiction market (eg., the runaway bestseller The Thorn Birds in 1974), H&R, McGraw-Hill, and Prentice-Hall, have preferred to steadily produce solid, well-made, and up-to-date USA texts, especially in the sciences and business, but also in the social sciences and communication, and to increasingly look to Australian adaptations of these to consolidate their appeal. This strategy does not win them literary awards, but it works. Wilson cites the University Coop Bookstores in 1986 as estimating that 60% of tertiary texts sold in Australia come from USA publishers. 32

What, then, are the implications of these postwar changes in the domestic market for Australian scholarly publishing, especially in the areas of H-SS-C, and in particular, in communication? The simple answer is that the 1970s were a period of great opportunities for academic writers, while the 1980s were a time of sharply decreasing prospects. In the 1940s and 1950s academic publishers were rejecting about 90% of MS. submitted; that changed drastically in the boom years of the 1960s, but as early as 1976 Frank Eyre was predicting the end of the boom in educational publishing. Eyre identified three key factors in producing a future decline in academic publishing. First, and most important, the significant levels of overproduction in the 1960s and early 1970s, a recurrent problem for the book industry in general. Second, broadly contracting educational markets together with the impact of the photocopying machine, which soon became commonplace in most academic libraries. Third, the level of inflation in the late 1970s which radically increased tertiary book prices and which later was one of the NSW Prices Commission's concerns in initiating its inquiry into the book industry. 33

These constraints have impacted on the development of communication as a disciplinary field in Australia to a greater unfavourable extent than many in the field have realised. Where humanities departments like History and Literature, and social science fields like Sociology, Psychology, and Politics were reasonably well established in most Australian universities by the mid-1970s, the first national tertiary communication courses only began at that time. Despite the founding of Media Information Australia and the Australian Journal of Communication after 1977, no large scale Australian communication publishing program has yet developed, nor seems likely, and many Australian courses still rely heavily on Anglo-American materials.

Imperialism and Australian Academic Publishing

The pressures against the production of new Australian tertiary titles, especially in newer disciplinary fields, are quite intense. Publishers rarely take risks: they will wait for the education system to build up strong demands before responding to them. Though manuscript editors scout competitively for acquisitions, these are meant to fit their established lists. As the bulk of institutional purchasing power in the English-language market is in the USA and Britain, their successful academic authors can write books for students in their own countries and also expect to see them become available in Australian academic bookstores. The reverse process rarely happens.

More than ten years after the foundation of communication studies in Australia there are only a few Australian mass-comm. texts that can rival their USA and UK counterparts in comprehensiveness and scope. Except for the distinctive legal and historical features of the Australian scene perhaps even these would not appear. Kepars' listing of mass communication titles in the Oxford World Bibliographical series of 1984, for example, mentions only eleven titles published locally in the years 1974-84. 34 In other areas of communication study - interpersonal, organisational, and intercultural communication - there are no texts and few monographs. Film studies is perhaps the one area where Australian scholarship has been given a good run. If anything, that area suffers from overproduction.

The broad picture of cultural dependence, inequality of opportunity, and repression of alternative perspectives in local versions of overseas paradigms, as suggested by Lorimer for Canada, seems equally applicable to the Australian scene. This dependence on Anglo-American sources represses Australian communication research concerned with its own neighbouring cultures. The adjacent societies of Malaysia and Indonesia, New Zealand, Papua-New Guinea, and the Pacific Islands, mostly have been overlooked by Australian communication researchers. Despite the considerable number of Asian students that have studied in post-war Australia, there is no significant market for Asian scholarly books in Australia, just as their market is strictly limited in the USA. 35 Further, despite the close links between Australia and New Zealand, there is probably now less scholarly communication between the two in the H-SS-C area than there was in the pre-war period. The New Zealand Book industry, in fact, is locked into British networks still in the way that Australia was before 1939.36

This paper has argued that processes of monopoly and concentration in the educational book industry, and the culturally dependent position of Australian scholarship on more powerful Anglo-American networks, are essentially part of a modern continuation of neo-colonial relationships which remain unresolved in Australian society. As Gopinathan and Altbach concluded in a Singapore seminar on academic publishing in 1986: "The basic fact about the international system of knowledge is its inequality... the control over international scholarly communication is firmly in the hands of the Western industrialised nations". 37 Arguably, Australia suffers as much from this as its South-East Asian and Pacific neighbours. The wider arguments about Australian fiction publishing that have emerged recently need to be enlarged to include academic publishing. In an aspiring 'information society', the nurturance of a creative and independent educational publishing culture is equally important.


1. The Bookseller, Sept. 22 (1989), p. 949.

2. SMH, Dec.28 (1989) p.8.

3. H.Schiller, Who Knows? Information in the Age of the Fortune 500, (New Jersey: Ablex,1981).

4. P.Golding, "The International Media and the Political Economy of Publishing", Library Trends, v. 26, n. 4 (1978) pp. 453-69.

5. P.Altbach, "Access to Knowledge Networks", pp. 127-42 in S. Gopinathan (ed.), Academic Publishing in ASEAN, (Singapore: Festival of Books, 1986).

6. R. Lorimer, "Multinationals in Book Publishing", Media Information Australia, 29 (Aug. 1983), pp. 35-41.

7. H.Wilson, "Australia and the International Publishing Industry", pp.117-39 in E. Wheelwright and K. Buckley (eds.), Communications and the Media in Australia (Sydney: Allen and Unwin,1987).

8. Ibid.; A.Mattelart, The Image Empire, (London: Comedia,1984).

9. P.Jonson, "Who Publishes What?", Australian Economic Papers, v.19 (June 1980 ), pp.224-26; C.Manwell and C.Baker,"Evaluation of Performance in Academic and Scientific Institutions", pp.264-301 in C.M.Baker ( eds.), Intellectual Suppression (Sydney: Angus & Robertson,1986).

10. M. Apple, "The Political Economy of Text Publishing", Curriculum and Teaching, v. 1, Nos. 1&2 (1986) pp. 55-67.

11. J. Feather, A History of British Publishing, (London: Routledge,1988).

12. F. Eyre, "Scholarly Publishing", Public Policy Paper 8, University of Tasmania, 1976, p.3.

13. I. Norrie, Mumby's Publishing & Bookselling in the Twentieth Century, 6th edn. (London: Bell & Hyman, 1982) p. 140.

14. Ibid., pp. 140-45.

15. The Bookseller, Dec.11(1987), p. 2295.

16. Feather, op.cit., p. 191.

17. Publisher's Weekly, Jan. 8 (1988) p.32.

18. Ibid., Jan. 9 (1987) p.36.

19. Ibid., Sep.12 (1986) p.37.

20. F.Eyre, Oxford in Australia, (Melbourne: Oxford University Press,1978), p.46.

21. D. Lindsey, The Scientific Publication System in Social Science, (San Francisco: Jossey-Bass,1978); American Council of Learned Societies, National Enquiry on Scholarly Communication (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins Press,1979); W. Powell, Getting Into Print: The Decision Making Process in Scholarly Publishing. (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1985); I. Horowitz, Communicating Ideas (New York: Oxford University Press, 1986); H.Martin (ed.), Writings on Scholarly Communication and Teaching, (Washington: University Press of America,1988).

22. Lindsey, op.cit., pps.20,125.

23. J. Singleton, ''Journal Publishing", pp. 13648 in P.Curwen, The UK Book Industry (Oxford: Pergamon, 1981).

24. P.Bourdieu, Homo Academicus, (Cambridge: Polity Press,1988) pps.102, 279.

25. H. Morton and A.Price,"The ACLS Survey of Scholars", Scholarly Communication, n. 5 (Summer 1986), pp. 1-16.

26. D. Kohl, "Ratings of Journals by ARL Directors and Deans of Library & Information Schools", College & Research Libraries, v. 46, n. 1 (Jan. 1985) pp. 40~7.

27. Powell, op.cit., pp. 193, 202.

28. Eyre,1978, op.cit.

29. J. Prentice, "The A&R Story", Oral presentation, RMIT Conference on Library History and the Book Trade, Melbourne, Nov. 1987.

30. Wilson, op.cit.

31. Ibid., p. 121; V.Haye,"The Impact of Foreign Ownership on Australian Publishing in the 1970s", M.A Thesis, La Trobe University, Melbourne, (1981) p. 38.

32. Wilson, op.cit., p. 128.

33. Eyre, 1976, op.cit.

34. I.Kepars, Australia: World Bibliographic Listing of Sources, (Oxford: OUP,1984) p. 206.

35. K.Jolley,"The Australian Market for Academic Books from SE Asia", pp. 95-100 in Gopinathan, op.cit..

36. S.Stratford, " Adventures in the Book Trade", Metro (Auckland,N.Z.), v. 6, n. 69, March 1987, pp. 103-20.

37. Gopinathan, op.cit., p. 3.

Note: Since the completion of this article, in April 1990 News Corp announced it would divest itself of its book selling division to offset group losses on Sky Channel. See Print Media, May 1990, p. 11.

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