Visiting Speaker: Dr Simon Frost, Bournemouth University

November 14th, 2014 by Sarah Boyd | Posted in Blog | Comments Off on Visiting Speaker: Dr Simon Frost, Bournemouth University
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Simon FrostAs an extra addition to the Visiting Speaker series, Dr Simon Frost, Senior Lecturer in English at Bournemouth University, came to talk to us about his current research project. Entitled ‘Private Gains and Retailed Literature: Pathways to a Sustainable-Economic Account of Reading‘ (though Frost pointed out that his subtitle keeps changing!), this ambitious project is being undertaken in association with John Smith’s, the higher-education bookseller familiar to most students for their on-campus shops.
It’s probably worth mentioning at this point that Dr Frost’s project is quite a complex and, in some ways, esoteric one and that it is very much ongoing and developing, so at times it became a little difficult to take on all of the information he was conveying. The seven-and-a-half pages of notes I took during his presentation are testament to this! However, I’ll do my best to cover what he had to say.
First, Dr Frost outlined the aim of his project, to produce a defence of literature (the project is focused on fiction) in economic terms, rather than the cultural terms in which arguments for literature’s value are usually expressed. This was one of the trickier ideas to get our heads around but Frost put it in layman’s terms, saying that he’s trying to find out why a customer would choose to buy books, rather than booze! Essentially, his belief is that pointing to literature’s cultural importance does not mount a strong enough defence for the funding and resources allocated to it and that we require a discussion that engages with the economics of literature in sustainable terms or, in other words, attempts to discover what readers gain from the books they buy in more practical terms.
We then looked at the structure of Frost’s project, which is organised into three ‘threads’:
  • ‘theorisation’ – produce a model of how readers gain from books, bridging the literary and economic by investigating the idea that books meet intangible needs for readers.
  • ‘tuition’ – a number of students will be involved in the research for this project, particularly in compiling the results of an extensive survey, aiming for 750 completed surveys.
  • ‘professional practice’ – working in conjunction with John Smith’s, examine the shift from ‘bookseller’ to ‘book-based supplier of solutions’, in particular the move to provide new services based on outcomes/gains.

John Smith's BooksIn order to explain how he became involved with John Smith’s, Dr Frost gave us a potted pre-history of the current bookselling situation in Britain. John Smith’s has been around since 1751, so it has survived and responded to the major changes that have happened in the bookselling industry over the last several centuries, from the 1899 establishment of the Net Book Agreement (NBA) and its encouragement of dedicated bookstores, to the collapse of the Agreement in the 1990s which led to the downfall of almost all chain booksellers on the British High Street. More recently, the rise of online bookstores (themselves largely a result of the NBA’s collapse) has forced John Smith’s to rethink its business, as Amazon and its ilk have disrupted the traditional tutor-student-campus bookstore relationship. Their response has been to stop thinking of themselves as ‘booksellers’ at all and instead re-brand as a provider of solutions for students and Higher Education (HE) institutions. Indeed, their website is tagged as ‘John Smith’s Student Store’, with no reference to bookshops at all.

In effect, this has resulted in John Smith’s working with HE institutions to provide students with all the resources they need to successfully enter, negotiate and exit higher education. Their Stirling store, for instance, lists 15 departments, providing products from art supplies to bikes, mobile phones to university-branded clothing. They are no longer thinking about how they can sell the most books to students but about how they can meet all the needs that students might have, how they can become the main provider of solutions to students’ demands and problems (as well as aiding HE institutions to meet their outcomes). In this way, their rethinking of their business model fits neatly with Dr Frost’s project, as it relocates books as one part of a service that anticipates and provides everything that students will gain from appropriating. So, a copy of ‘Mrs Dalloway’ is no longer just a tool for education and cultural influence but also a product that can be analysed and quantified in economic terms.

aspireFor the final part of his presentation, Dr Frost went into more detail about how the relationship between students, their HE institutions and this new incarnation of John Smith’s works. An essential part of this is the distribution of bursaries to students in England (introduced as a mitigating response to the raising of tuition fees). Universities receive a sum of money from the government and parcel this out to selected students in bursaries, often around £300, which are intended to widen opportunities for students from low-income backgrounds (and, ideally, to be spent on university-related goods and services, rather than down the pub, though we did have a discussion of whether or not the social environment provided by pubs – and cafes, equally expensive though perhaps less stigmatised – is a valuable part of the university experience!). John Smith’s have become involved in this process via their ‘Aspire‘ smartcard, which can be pre-loaded with the bursary money and limits what it can be spent on. This allows for a number of interesting features, from each card being tailored to its recipient’s needs, to facilitating data gathering and feedback to the institution. Of course, as several members of the class pointed out, this has some moral and legal implications, particularly with regards to privacy (the idea of tutors being able to keep tabs on whether you’ve purchased their reading list or not is more than a little Big Brother!) and this is an area that Dr Frost will be looking into as his study develops. At the moment, though, his main questions in this area are:

  1. Is the diversity of purchasing agency (i.e. those involved in the process of purchasing) now so great that it produces a break from the linear rational-choice model of purchasing?
  2. Do the limits imposed by the ‘Aspire’ model constitute an interruption of free will or free exchange? They limit the convertibility of one resource to another (the bursary can be turned into books or bikes but not beers) but do they also limit free choice? Such limits are common in the public world but how do they function in the semi-commercial and commercial spheres?
It was fascinating to hear about a project still in progress, with Dr Frost acknowledging that he is still in the process of gathering information and developing the theories and concepts that will form his ultimate conclusions. His observation that his ‘inner critic’ was working even as he spoke was one that I – and I’m sure most of us – identified with, but it’s reassuring to know that the pros suffer too. It was also great to feel that he was genuinely interested in our responses and in engaging in conversation with his audience – it’s always encouraging to feel that we’re being taken seriously by people already working! I’ll be interested to see the results of his project and how it shifts and develops as it progresses.

Publishing Showcase 2013

April 24th, 2013 by | Posted in Blog | Comments Off on Publishing Showcase 2013
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It’s already the end of another year!

Only a moment ago, our 2012-13 cohort of students were fresh-faced and eager to embark on their publishing studies.

Now, they may be a little more tired, and both excited and intimidated by the job search ahead, but more than anything they’re much more publishing savvy.

We’re celebrating their achievements on Thursday 2 May by showcasing their work from the Publishing Project. There also be invited guests from our Industry Advisory Board speaking on a panel on the state of the publishing industry.

You are welcome to join us – please let us know if you’d like to come so we have an idea of numbers.

3.15-4.45 Industry Advisory Board panel discussion (including Katy Lockwood-Holmes of Floris, Adrian Searle of Freight Books, Marion Sinclair of Publishing Scotland, Christoph Chesher of Taylor & Francis). Pathfoot B2

5pm onwards Publishing Showcase and Drinks Reception. Pathfoot Crush Hall.



AHRC studentships available for 2012-13

February 7th, 2012 by | Posted in Blog | Comments Off on AHRC studentships available for 2012-13
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Thinking of studying with us for one of our Masters in Publishing degrees in 2012-13?

If so, you may also be able to apply for a prestigious Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) studentship from our Block Grant Partnership. This year, we are able to offer two full studentships (ie fees and a maintenance grant) in our subject area. Please note that you must be a Home or EU student to be eligible. (Details of other funding possibilities are available here).

The deadline for studentship applications is 30 March 2012, by which time you must also have applied for a place on our one of our programmes. For more details see the Arts and Humanities Consortium website. If you are interested in more details about our courses, please use the details on our Contact page.

The Class of 2011-12 is here!

September 17th, 2011 by | Posted in Blog | Comments Off on The Class of 2011-12 is here!
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Every year, we welcome a new cohort of students to the Stirling Centre for International Publishing and Communication. Our students always come from far and wide to study with us, and this year is no exception. We have students registered across our three different masters programmes, the MLitt in Publishing Studies, the MSc in International Publishing Management, and the MRes in Publishing Studies, which can lead to a PhD in Publishing. They come from Scotland, England, Northern Ireland, Cyprus, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Spain, China, India, Taiwan and the USA. We also welcomed back to Stirling several graduates from a range of undergraduate programmes.

In our first session students brought in publishing products from their home countries. There were digital devices aplenty, but also a great range of very high spec printed materials, including art and fashion magazines. We also had some very Scottish products: an Oor Wullie annual from Dundee publisher D C Thompson. It’s already clear we’ve got a class of students with divergent interests in terms of publishing products, but all united but their fascination for and desire to get on in the world of publishing.

We’re very much looking forward to working with them. If you think you might be interested in joining us next year – please get in touch via our Contact page!

AHRC studentships available

May 16th, 2011 by | Posted in Blog | Comments Off on AHRC studentships available
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If you’re thinking of joining us to study in the Stirling Centre for International Publishing and Communication, we’re pleased to announce that Publishing is included in the Arts and Humanities Consortium of the University of Stirling and the University of Strathclyde.

We have fully funded AHRC studentships available for study in 2011-12, including for the MLitt in Publishing Studies, MSc in International Publishing Management, and MRes in Publishing Studies.

For more details on the awards, see the Consortium website:

The deadline is Friday 10 June 2011, and please note that you must have made a full application for a place on the course by that date.

We’ll have similar awards for entry in 2012 and 2013, so if you’re not ready to join us yet, do check back next year!

For details of Saltire Scholarships for students from Canada, China, India and the USA, please see this News item.

Meet our current students…

December 21st, 2010 by | Posted in Blog | Comments Off on Meet our current students…
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Back in September, we introduced you to our new cohort of students who joined us from around the world to study at the Stirling Centre for International Publishing and Communication.

Well, everyone is now taking a very well deserved rest after a busy semester gathering publishing skills, knowledge and experience, and hearing from an exciting range of visiting speakers. They’ve also been introducing themselves on our website, and you can find a range of student profiles here. As you’ll see, we’ve managed to attract students from around the world as well as tempting our own undergraduates one of whom, after surveying a number of different publishing courses, decided with great pleasure that she favoured Stirling most, and so decided to stay another year.

If you’re interested in coming to study with us for 2011-12, please do look at our study pages, and don’t hesitate to get in touch.

What’s the Value of a Masters in Publishing?

June 24th, 2010 by | Posted in Blog | Comments Off on What’s the Value of a Masters in Publishing?
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What’s the value of a publishing degree programme? Well, according to a recent job advert, it’s equivalent to ‘1 or 2 years experience in a publishing environment’. The advert, for a production assistant at Atlantic Books, welcomes applications from graduates of publishing courses as well as those with existing industry experience.

So, very good news for our students who have recently completed their MLitt in Publishing Studies, some of whom have already been offered publishing jobs in companies including Oxford University Press and Palimpsest Book Production. It is clear from this advert – and from the evidence we have from our industry contacts and from the employment successes of our students – that publishing courses are taken very seriously indeed by employers.

If you’ve recently graduated from a first degree in another subject and are looking for a route into publishing, planning a career change, or want to improve your existing publishing career, take a look at our courses. We’d welcome an application from you.

More scholarships available for September 2010

May 28th, 2010 by | Posted in Blog | Comments Off on More scholarships available for September 2010
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A number of scholarships and bursaries are available to applicants who will be studying for a postgraduate degree in the Stirling Centre for International Publishing and Communication from September 2010.

The scholarships available include:

  • One £3000 and one £2000 tuition fee award for the MSc in International Publishing Management (available to both Home/EU and International students)
  • Five £1000 Master’s tuition fee awards for the MLitt, MSc and MRes programmes (available to both Home/EU and International students)
  • Two bursaries equivalent to the value of fees for full-time home/EU postgraduate students (available for both taught and research applicants)
  • Four £2000 Research tuition fee awards available for MPhil and PhD applicants (available to both Home/EU and International students)

More details of these scholarships are available on the Department of English Studies postgraduate funding page. Please note the deadline for all these awards is Friday 2 July, and applicants need to be holding a conditional or unconditional offer by that date.

New and Revised Programmes of Study

May 24th, 2010 by | Posted in Blog | Comments Off on New and Revised Programmes of Study
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From September 2010, the Stirling Centre for International Publishing and Communication will be offering new and revised programmes of study.

Our programmes now include:

MLitt in Publishing Studies: This course has run since 1982, and among our graduates are some of the leading publishers in the UK and abroad. Substantially overhauled for September 2010, the course now includes new optional modules (Skills for Publishing Management; Publishing, Literature and Society; and Publishing in the Workplace) and revised teaching, learning and assessment methods relevant to the digital 21st century publishing environment. More details are available from the programme page.

MSc in International Publishing Management: This innovative course is aimed at those already working within publishing and publishing-related industries and organisations, and works via purpose-writte case studies. From this year, the programme will run from September (rather than February). More details are available from the programme page.

MRes in Publishing Studies: This new course is specifically focused on research in the fields of publishing studies, contemporary or historical, and is aimed at students wishing to pursue a substantial research project at Masters level. It can lead to PhD study. More details are available from the programme page.

PhD: It is possible to study for a PhD in the Stirling Centre for International Publishing Studies, with opportunities for co-supervision with staff from other Departments in the University. More details are available from the programme page.

Please do contact us should you require more information about our courses, or advice about which course might suit you.

UNESCO World Book Day Publishing Showcase

April 18th, 2010 by | Posted in Blog | Comments Off on UNESCO World Book Day Publishing Showcase
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The Stirling Centre for International Publishing and Communication is holding a showcase of current student work from the MLitt in Publishing Studies and the MSc in International Publishing Management on Friday 23 April 2010 (UNESCO World Book and Copyright Day) in Pathfoot B2.

From 10.30am, there will be a display of student project work, and from 11am there will be talks from staff and students on publishing around the world, including reports on China, Kazakhstan, India and Wales.

You are welcome to join us. For further information, please contact Alison Scott (