According to the press release:
All books will be made available free of charge online, with free downloads, for non-commercial purposes immediately upon publication, using Creative Commons licences. The works will also be sold as books, using the latest short-run technologies or Print on Demand (POD).
The imprint will initially publish in the Social Sciences and Humanities building thematic lists on pressing global issues, with approximately fifty new titles online and in print by the end of 2009.
The new imprint has its own Website where the FAQ contains answers to questions you might think of asking, such as:
Is this like the open access model for journals where authors (or their institutions) have to pay for the publishing process?
No, Bloomsbury Academic finances the publishing process and expects to recover its costs through sales of hardback copies.
This is an interesting development, which we shall watch with interest - Bloomsbury is taking a chance on the potential for profit from demand for print copies, which it will produce on demand. Given the usually small print runs of academic books, and some anecdotal evidence on the scale of this kind of demand, Bloomsbury may well be right.