Oxford University Press (OUP), a department of the University of Oxford, dates back to the earliest days of printing. The first book was printed at Oxford in 1478, just two years after Caxton set up the first printing press in England. The University was involved with several printers in Oxford over the next century.
From the late 1800s OUP began to expand significantly, opening the first overseas OUP office in New York in 1896. Other international branches followed, including Canada (1904), Australia (1908), India (1912), and Southern Africa (1914).
OUP’s diverse program reaches far beyond traditional university publishing. OUP publishes in 97 languages in a variety of print and digital formats, with more than 6,000 titles a year covering a broad academic and educational spectrum. OUP’s books are aimed at all audiences, from pre-school to secondary level schoolchildren; students to academics; general readers to researchers; and individuals to institutions. OUP sells more than 110 million units each year, is present in 52 countries, and employs 6,000 people worldwide. As a worldwide publisher, OUP is committed to furthering the University’s objectives of excellence in scholarship, research, and education.
Analysis Key Developments
Oxford University Press was impacted by a challenging academic publishing market during the year. The Press closed fiscal year ended 31 March 2016 with 760.5 million GBP, a loss of 1.5 million GBP based on restated figures for 2015. Profit before tax slipped to 85 million GBP, compared to 96 million GBP in 2016.
During fiscal 2016 OUP saw difficult trading conditions in many regions and sectors. Overall the business in the emerging markets returned to growth, but conditions in Brazil, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Poland, Tanzania, and South Africa were tougher than expected. Students increasingly rented free textbooks and drew on free resources rather than purchase books, and declining dictionary print sales was exacerbated by the negative effect of ad blockers on advertising revenues online. Budget pressures, shifts in library ordering behaviour, and a drop in e-book demand also drove down academic book sales. Strategic investments from the Press’s journals business, academic publishing in India, dictionary licensing, and digital innovation helped to protect OUP’s long-term presence across its academic markets.
In February 2017 Timothy Barton announced that he will step down from his position as Managing Director of Oxford University Press’ academic division after 25 years in September 2017, with a successor to be named at a later date.
In November 2017 OUP India announced the launch of Oxford Advantage, a complete learning solution for schools, combining learning materials, assessments, digital learning platform, teaching resources and contact programs for product training and continuous professional development.
In January 2017 OUP and Silverchair Information Systems partnered to build a next-generation digital platform for OUP’s content and services. The new Oxford Academic platform is home to all of Oxford’s journals with online products scheduled to follow thereafter.
In April 2016 OUP took a 5% stake in Emerge Venture Lab, the parent company of Europe’s leading EdTech accelerator Emerge Education. The three-month, London based accelerator program for start-ups aims to improve educational outcomes worldwide.
In July 2017 OUP announced its partnership with the Law faculty of the Universidad de Chile. The agreement, which marks the first collaboration between the two Universities, provides unlimited access to more than 12,000 titles over a vast array of subjects, including law, humanities, social sciences, sciences, and medicine.
In August 2016 OUP signed co-operation agreements with China’s largest trade publisher China Publishing Group (CPG). The priority is to introduce more books with a focus on politics, culture, education and technology as well as fantasy fiction to the Chinese market. Furthermore, CPG intends to support a Chinese research and publishing centre at the university through the partnership.
In 2016 OUP sales from ongoing collaborative publishing projects in Central Asia, the Middle East and North Africa, especially in China, India, and Pakistan achieved double-digit growth. Moreover OUP experienced mixed results across Africa, with another drop in textbook sales in South Africa. Disappointing performances in Botswana, Mozambique, and Rwanda were offset by successes in Namibia, Zambia, and Zimbabwe. At the same time, OUP saw strong growth due to the education reform in Spain, which delivered 13% growth. Journals grew by 8% and OUP was very successful in the UK Secondary market.
Direct digital sales grew by 8% during 2016 and now account for 22% of OUP’s total turnover, or 167 million GBP. OUP reported rapid growth in digital sales in parts of Asia. In response to changing market conditions in Higher Education, especially in the US, where students resort to rental services and used books and where digital piracy reduced sales, OUP enhanced its digital offerings to reach students’ needs and anticipate their purchasing habits.