Burgeoning Bulgaria

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Eastern Europe is turning into a technological hub, and academic publishing in Bulgaria and the region is no exception, writes Iliyana Kuzmova

Having started at a rather late stage by European standards, STM publishing in Bulgaria is now taking a sharp turn on a high-tech development path.

Just under 400 years after the invention of the printing press, the first Bulgarian printing house was established in 1838 in a largely religious context; however some early linguistic and historical books were also among its outputs. Around 30 years later the Bulgarian Literary Society (BLS), now Bulgarian Academy of Sciences (BAS), published the first issue of its periodical journal and officially started the history of STM publishing in the country.

Since then, academic publishing has gone through highs and lows, alongside system shifts in country’s history. Currently, there are 162 internationally referenced journals published in Bulgaria according to data publicly provided by the National Centre for Information and Documentation. Out of these a substantial 71 are published in English, while the rest are available only in Bulgarian.

While most academic journals remain mainly functional within small societies, universities and institutes of the Academy of Sciences, some independent players have also entered the scene, securing international exposure and investment in new technologies.

Eastern Europe as a region is seeing an increasing interest for outsourcing from high-tech market players across sectors, and the STM Publishing industry is no exception. A number of big publishers work with companies across the region to outsource parts of their operations, relying on local expertise, especially with XML production and conversion, and semantic markup.

This year Bulgaria was represented by two academic publishing technology providers at the Frankfurt Book Fair Hot Spot Professional and Scientific Information, making serious claims about the country’s future path of development.

Founded in 2000 in Sofia, Ontotext was there to showcase 16 years of experience and innovation in semantic enhancements of content. With a mission to reduce the costs of data integration and content tagging and allow all types of information to come together, the company has already applied tailor-made solutions in media and publishing, life sciences, government and cultural heritage, and more.

Originally founded as a book and journal publisher, Pensoft has now entered the market as a technology provider with the ARPHA journal publishing platform. Offering an end-to-end white-label publishing solution, the platform integrates the publishing process from authoring, through peer review, production, semantic enhancement, hosting, archiving and dissemination.

With a growing experience in the technological sector and a vibrant startup environment in Bulgaria, it comes as no surprise that publishing services and software providers have started emerging on the scene, where competitive advantage is not only the cheap labor cost, but also the high investment in R&D.

With an increasing focus on technologies and software development, the country is now seeing a growing number of students and young professionals looking towards IT-related career paths. High-quality applied schools in the sphere pop up, alongside university degrees, ensuring more and more young people graduatе in this sphere.

With a growing number of qualified staff, investment in innovation and cost-effectiveness the country is attractive for innovators in any field, and publishing is no exception. The trend towards higher automatisation of processes and increased quality of outputs within the STM publishing industry has put a strain on smaller societies and publishers to remain competitive on the market and attractive to their readership. With increase of competition among providers and smaller players emerging on the map, however, outsourcing operations might become an option for the modest budget as well.

Iliyana Kuzmova is press office manager at Pensoft