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Adam Etkin

Director of Publishing, Academy of Management

Adam EtkinFirst, tell us a bit about yourself (hometown, current locale, family, hobbies, community involvement?)

I was born in Brooklyn, NY but grew up (with one younger brother) in Mt. Hope, NY.  My mother was born in Poland during World War 2 and relocated to the USA when she was 4.  I’ve been married to my wonderful wife Sara for 15 years, and we have two children.  My son Ozzie is 11 and my daughter Zoe is 9.  We’ve lived in New Rochelle, NY for 20 years.  We do some volunteer work at the local animal shelter fostering kittens and helping out as much as we can.  Our current furry family members (Sweetums the dog, and Tic Tac and Yankee, our cats) were all adopted from the shelter.  I’m unashamed to admit I am a huge SciFi/Star Wars geek, a trait I am passing on to my son.

Describe some of your responsibilities, and how you or your organization fit into the scholarly communications web.

As Director of Publishing for the Academy of Management I oversee every aspect of our entire portfolio of journals.  Everything from promotions, submissions, peer review process, print and digital delivery etc. You name it.  Fortunately we’ve got a fantastic team in the publishing department and at AOM HQ in general who make my job much easier!  In addition to the obvious responsibilities that go along with publishing journals, I also have to keep tuned in to industry trends so we make sure AOM is ready to adapt to serve our members in the best way possible.  Since AOM is a NFP Society we always need to be mindful that while we do everything a typical publisher does, we must balance that with how to best serve our members.  We also have to work with an Executive Committee and Board of Governors, who are incredibly knowledgeable and supportive, to make sure our publications remain among the top sources of knowledge in our field.  Access to our journals is still a big member benefit, and hopefully something that will continue to entice new members to join us.  Sometimes the needs of a NFP Society, especially in the area of Social Sciences and Humanities, is much, much different from those in other STEM fields.

What career path led to your current position?

I never would have imagined I’d be where I am today.  Believe it or not, after college I was considering going back to school to either get a teaching degree or to become a social worker.  I wanted to be sure I would be happy working with kids so I took a job at a non-secure detention center as a counselor.  I figured if I could handle that then the rest would be easy.  That led to my eventually working for the NYS Department of Corrections at Sing Sing as a recreation program leader.  I was there for five years and to this day working in that environment prepared me for pretty much anything.  This was in the early nineties when the web was really booming.  I became interested in web design as a hobby and found I had a knack for it.  Eventually I started my own part-time business building websites for clients.  This led to my being hired as the full-time web master at Mary Ann Liebert, Inc., a small STM publisher which was located not too far from my house.  Honestly I knew absolutely nothing about scholarly publishing at that point, but I knew I wanted to make web design my full time occupation.  I got that job and was at MAL for thirteen years.  While there my role expanded and I took on more and more diverse responsibilities.  When I found out about the opportunity to join AOM it seemed all the stars had aligned just right.  All of my prior experience seems to have prepared me well just for this role.  I could not be happier.  The point is, you never know where a career path might lead.  Get as much experience as you can and take on new responsibilities, even if it is something you’ve never done before.

Where do you see scholarly communications heading, and what new directions interest you most?

It seems the impact that open access will have on scholarly communications is still evolving.  Many among those who are strong OA advocates seem to have an “all or nothing” approach, which I think is unrealistic.  For many in HSS, funding requirements are not an issue, so any move to OA is driven simply by an altruistic desire to share knowledge.  That’s a good thing, but before any organization does that you need to be 100% certain you’ve got alternative revenue streams to make up the revenue you’re going to lose.  That’s something that interests me and should interest anyone in any type of business.  Where might we find new forms of revenue?  I’ve yet to see an OA author pays business model which allows a publisher to remain highly selective in what they publish that is financially sustainable.  We’ve got new players, such as PeerJ, who are offering new options.  In the end I think there is room for many versions of scholarly communications, with the cream rising to the top, as the saying goes.

The other area we are heading towards, too slowly for me, is the “death of print.”  We keep hearing over and over that print is dying (or dead) but it’s still very much alive, although perhaps on life support.  While publishers invest in digitizing content, optimizing for mobile, delivering via apps, there is still a significant percentage of people who want to hold that print journal in their hands.  The ability to more efficiently offer print on demand may make this easier to deal with sooner rather than later.

What are some of the surprises/obstacles that you’ve encountered during your career?

I think the biggest is trying to get staff who are very set in their ways to adapt to new technologies and work flows.  Oftentimes people are just so used to doing things one way that they cannot fathom an alternative, even if it makes their lives much easier!

What advice would you give to people interested in a career in scholarly communications? What new roles or opportunities do you see emerging in the field?

As I mentioned when describing my own career path, be open to everything.  Familiarize yourself with every single part of scholarly publishing.  You never know when a new skill you acquire might increase in value.  Just a few years ago e-readers and tablets did not even exist.  Now there are entire industries which revolve around them.  Those who educated themselves on how to best utilize these new tools are now indispensable.  Social Media is obviously an emerging area that’s growing in importance.  Scholarly publishers need to take advantage of that.  I also expect to see more and more use of multimedia, specifically video on the web and on mobile.  Again, a few years ago the bandwidth limitations made it hard to deliver high quality multimedia to your users.  That’s no longer the case.  Also, tools to capture and edit multimedia are much more accessible.  Anyone with a smart phone, basic software, and the desire to learn, can now produce professional looking videos.  I think it’s a really effective way to communicate and promote your organization and the research being produced.   I don’t think the average person interested in a career in publishing is aware of how many diverse opportunities there are in scholarly publishing.  There really are many different, interesting avenues to explore.

Academy of Management