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Academic publishing

The Academic group publishes some of the world’s finest scholarly writing, research and higher education teaching materials. Our books include research monographs, academic reference, higher education textbooks, and books for professionals and graduate students. We publish nearly 400 peer-reviewed journals. Both journals and books are accessible through Cambridge Core, our online platform.

The Academic group enjoyed a year of strong growth, award-winning publishing and a raft of digital innovations designed to help our communities of researchers, librarians, authors and learned societies.

The good financial performance came despite continuing change across the industry as academic publishers grapple with the effects of squeezed library budgets, price sensitivity in the higher education textbook market, and threats to copyright posed by the illegal sharing of academic papers online.

However, we believe that the Academic group, benefitting from the efficiency gains of recent years, and with a firm focus on investment in high quality publishing and the needs of our customers, is well placed to take advantage of the opportunities created by the digital revolution and respond to its challenges.

This is the more so because we are part of one of the world’s great research universities. Our increasingly close collaboration with other Cambridge departments informs our strategy, helps drive our intellectual creativity and underpins our brand. This year, for example, we launched an online executive education course with the Judge Business School, attracting participants from across the globe.

The ‘Cambridge Advantage’ also means Cambridge University Press has an important and positive role to play in debate about the purpose of a university press in a digital era, when the academic community wants the widest access to online research material while publishing needs a model that is sustainable. We feel it is important to think creatively about the best way forward for our communities, and to embrace and support change.

The year’s financial highlights included a very good year for print titles as well as digital...”

Investment in digital technology is at the heart of our strategy and was underscored in 2016–17 with the successful launch of Cambridge Core, our digital publishing platform, which brought together over 34,000 academic books and one million journal articles in one online home. Over the past year it has built strongly on its initial success, with content usage increasing by 19 per cent in the last six months of 2017–18, compared to the same period in the prior year, and user registrations up by 10 per cent this year on last year. Some 80–90 per cent of our Academic publishing is now disseminated to researchers via the Cambridge Core platform.

The year’s financial highlights included a very good year for print titles as well as digital and both the US and Europe saw strong growth in higher education textbooks.

The US enjoyed a particularly strong year, with success in e-books, journal archive deals and the introduction of the evidence based acquisition model for library purchases. Pioneered in the UK, this model involves a library paying an up-front sum that gives it access to a wide range of electronic content and allows the librarian to use the evidence of usage to guide their permanent acquisitions. 

The high quality of our publishing was underscored by another very successful year for awards, including six category winners in the Professional and Scholarly Excellence Awards (PROSE), presented by the Association of American Publishers (AAP), and a really strong performance in the Outstanding Academic Titles awarded annually by Choice magazine, a publication of the Association of College and Research Libraries (ACRL) in the US, where no less than 30 Press titles were chosen.

We also had great success at subject specific awards, including 18 American Political Science Association Prizes, five International Studies Association Prizes, and winners at the British Medical Association (BMA) Book Awards.

Book publishing highlights during the year included the growth in our undergraduate textbook programmes across the arts and sciences, with particularly strong growth in psychology, management, mathematics and physical sciences; the three volume Cambridge History of Communism and, right at the end of the year, the four volume Cambridge History of Ireland.

Our main focus remains on academic institutions but we also believe reaching a broad audience is an important element in being a leading publisher in key subject areas, making high quality information widely accessible. Well reviewed titles include Brexit (a copy of which was eaten by its author live on network news, fulfilling a promise he made if he failed to predict the outcome of the United Kingdom’s June General Election correctly).

Professor Stephen Hawking


Stephen Hawking, who died on 14 March 2018, made ground-breaking contributions to the field of cosmology and in particular to our understanding of the nature and behaviour of black holes. He held the post of Lucasian Professor of Mathematics at Cambridge from 1979 until 2009, thereafter becoming Director of Research at the Centre for Theoretical Cosmology at the Department of Applied Mathematics & Theoretical Physics in Cambridge. Professor Hawking published several books with the Press, including: The Large Scale Structure of Space-Time (1975) with GFR Ellis, and Three Hundred Years of Gravitation (1987), with W Israel. An extraordinary scientist and inspiration to millions, he leaves a unique and remarkable legacy.

Image: Andre Pattenden

Research monographs remain at the heart of scholarly publishing in humanities and social sciences. In 2018 we published well over 700 monographs written by a mix of first-time authors and senior scholars. Virtually all monographs are published simultaneously in print and digital formats, with digital revenues now accounting for a big proportion of total monograph revenues. The quality of that publishing is underlined by the exceptionally high number of book prizes awarded to Cambridge titles. Special mention should go to Nukhet Varlik’s Plague and Empire in the Early Modern Mediterranean World. It won five prizes, including the Rosen Prize awarded by the American Association for the History of Medicine.

In journals, we continued to expand our prestigious list with the addition of seven new titles, all to begin publishing in 2019. The new additions include two journals of the Canadian Mathematical Society (Canadian Journal of Mathematics and Canadian Mathematical Bulletin) and Renaissance Quarterly, which has achieved enduring success as a flagship multidisciplinary title for the humanities.

Our commitment to supporting new and emerging areas of scholarship was showcased in the launches during the year of four brand new titles – Modern American HistoryBehavioural Public Policy, and two open access titles, Personality Neuroscience, and Global Sustainability.

Meanwhile, reflecting our global presence, we and the editors of the Journal of Fluid Mechanics, one of our leading titles, held a successful roadshow of mini-symposia in India, visiting Mumbai, Bangalore and Chennai. These brought together leading researchers from across the discipline.

In November we launched an important new element in our open research agenda, becoming the first university press to build a sharing service, Cambridge Core Share, on its own platform...”

As a university press, Cambridge University Press supports all sustainable forms of open research publishing. We have long been a strong supporter of open access models and we respect scholars’ desire for the widest sharing of content. In November we launched an important new element in our open research agenda, becoming the first university press to build a sharing service, Cambridge Core Share, on its own platform. Authors and subscribers can generate a read-only link to a journal article which can be shared anywhere on the internet, allowing anyone to read the final published version of the article for free. Article usage is recorded, allowing authors to demonstrate the impact of their work.

There remains, however, the problem of illegal online sharing and we have been involved in industry-wide initiatives to prevent copyright theft.

In many countries the progression towards open access has increased pace, with the EU building towards their ambition for all member states and EU funded research to comply with immediate Open Access as the default by 2020. In the UK, the Higher Education Funding Council for England announced that it will extend its current open access requirement for journals to long-form scholarly works and monographs for its 2027 Research Excellence Framework. Open access for monographs comes with different challenges, because the funding and life cycles are different, but there is a clear need for us to work collaboratively with funders, institutes and researchers to think imaginatively about how best to support their needs.

Nobel Prize-Winner

The 2017 Nobel Prize for Chemistry was awarded to Joachim Frank (Columbia University), Jacques Dubochet (University of Lausanne) and Richard Henderson (Medical Research Council Laboratory of Molecular Biology, Cambridge) for developing cryo-electron microscopy (cryo-EM). This technique makes it possible for scientists to freeze biological molecules and ‘catch them in the act’ of chemical reactions, allowing us to visualise and understand key processes in our cells for the first time.

Joachim Frank edited Molecular Machines in Biology for Cambridge University Press, a book which explains how a number of important molecular machines work and highlights how cutting-edge imaging techniques like cryo-EM help us understand how these tiny ‘motors’ carry out all of life’s essential molecular processes. Cryo-EM has been described as ‘Google Earth for molecules’, taking us down to the fine detail of atoms within proteins. With images now available of everything from proteins that cause antibiotic resistance, to the surface of the Zika virus, cryo-EM is already starting to change our basic understanding of the chemistry of life.

Executive Education

A prime example of the benefits of the Press’s partnership with the research and teaching departments in Cambridge was the October launch of the first of a series of online courses we are co-developing with the Judge Business School’s Executive Education department. The course took place over six weeks and attracted participants from across the globe and from a diverse range of industries, including banking, pharmaceuticals, oil & gas and telecoms. It featured a range of learning activities from interactive case studies and animations to moderated forums, peer review and synchronous live sessions. Feedback on both the content and design of the course was overwhelmingly positive. The students particularly valued the opportunities for peer learning and the high-quality contact time with Cambridge academics that the course afforded – both of which they saw as differentiators compared to similar online courses.

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