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More Publications Moving To Digital Only
Newspaper publishers to librarians discuss implications of digital
William Pollard (will789)     Print Article 
Published 2009-12-15 11:18 (KST)   
The Online Information show at Olympia earlier this month coincided with a decision by the Guardian newspaper to cease print publication of the Technology supplement. From next year this will be available online only. So far there has been very little comment about this except for some extracts from Twitter and blogs that the Technology Guardian has republished in print. However the event could be seen as marking a new confidence for online publishing.

The show and conference at Olympia included a launch of the Financial Times (FT) archive to 2006 (see YouTube video) and there was also an FT stand promoting the new offers packaging services such as Factiva with online subscriptions. Since 2007 the FT has offered three news stories online without charge. Print newspapers rarely report much about their own issues but the FT presence at Online Information demonstrated a model for the future of news organisations.

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Academic journals have been moving towards a digital default for several years. Highwire Press, based at Stanford University Libraries, have started to promote e-books as well. They offer a hosting service for many university presses and journals. Oxford University Press (OUP) have added some handbooks alongside journals. OUP is also about to launch a series of online bibliographies with Web links selected by experts.

At a seminar presentation, Kristen Fisher Ratan explained (see YouTube video) that while it is important to make journals easy to discover, it is also important to make e-books more visible. They need to be seen within the workflow of students and professionals needing knowledge.

Books have several disadvantages at present as they are only published once and are not yet seen as a bundle of sections. Each article in a journal can be the subject of links and discussion, but an e-book is only published once. Highwire is currently working on ways to include book information withing social network conversations. I got the impression that the risks around copying might be accepted if it made the titles better known. It is recognised that interest from individuals is now significant alongside decisions by libarians to buy packages of titles. Highwire have experimented with making journal articles publicly available, sometimnes with a time delay since original publication. In a recent survey of librarians there was consistent opposition to Digital Rights Management (DRM) as this causes difficulties and makes it much harder for e-books to be discovered.

Cambridge University Press (CUP) announced a new range of books online, starting with 6,000 titles. My impression was that this is intended mostly for sale through libraries, though single titles are also available through other suppliers. Taylor and Francis offered a free e-book for every visitor, clearly wanting to expand beyond journals. However they still emphasised packages as the show is intended mostly for librarians. The Economics, Business and Management package for example includes over 2,000 backlist titles and an estimated 250 new titles during the year. The CRCnetBASE titles will be available to individuals from February. My own concern is that a digital trend may make book content less available for the general public. When journals were usually in paper format it was possible to visit a library are read them. Now universities only issue an ID and password for staff and students. I spoke to people on the British Library stand who told me that local UK libraries are able to request journals in print. Perhaps things will change in this area. It would be restrictive if new book content was only available through packages for libraries and rarely discovered through general bookshops or web browsing.

There could be more connections with social networking sites such as Scibd and Mendeley. Scribd is based around documents, Mendeley around academic references. There are probably many more that were not part of the event though somewhere in the background. Mark Mattison from the Kansas City library for the University of Missouri described how he used Facebook and Twitter to communicate what the library offers. Issues around how to make it easy to discover books seemed similar to those concerning Highwire. Furure conversations could be around the extent to which sample content can be made more widely available.

XML Pavilion
©2009 Will Pollard

Scribd did have a stand at the London Book Fair earlier this year so perhaps thet are aiming at a wider audience. The technology though at Online Information was more extensive than the e-book area at the London Book Fair. An XML Pavilion showed a complete workflow from author to publication, with the ePUB e-book format as one option as well as online or archiving. Typefi showed a workflow based on the Adobe InDesign server and Adobe were invited for one presentation about their approach to e-books. This is a rare event as Adobe are concentrating on Flash for video and animated web pages. My impression is that a device such as the Sony Reader is not yet capable of displaying the design potential of InDesign so some other XML options may be more suitable. But it was impressive how a Flash video could be embedded in an InDesign page and then viewed on a computer screen. ePUB is promoted as a format that can reflow on small screens better than PDF. There was no mention of the MARS project to rewrite the PDF format in XML. There was no Adobe stand, and my impression was that the Flash and mobile devices were the most interesting aspect from an Adobe point of view. The world of flat pages and text does not have much of a future, perhaps, or else is too close to becoming a commodity item. There was a stand from Foxit, offering PDF creation at what seemed a reasonable charge. Foxit also displayed an eSlick Reader that has an E-ink screen and software to convert any printable document to PDF.

©2009 Will Pollard

The future for mobile phones was also mentioned by Neil John Burton from Web Spiders. He claimed that there are 73 million users for the mobile internet and mentioned iPhone applications from UK supermarkets Tesco and Ocado. Although WiMax is on a "distant horizon" for the UK, at ITY Telecom in October there was much discussion around Yota in Russia and Packet One Networks in Malaysia. Burton suggested that areas without fixed lines for broadband would be the most likley to establish a mobile internet. He showed a guide for Online Information designed as a mobile web site. This was too late to be advertised in the printed catalogue but worked well, including a zoom floor plan. Autonomy showed how searching could include video. They recognize some faces and also scan text. Voice recognition finds keywords to link to particualr sections. So a future of mostly video on phones is a possibility.

Online Information 2009 made a strong impression. Traditional print media will continue but there is now also a viable Web system. Olympia will also be the location in January for BETT, an education technology show, and Learning Technologies intended for adults. All three shows are international but show the current situation in the UK. News organisations may report these developments in more detail once they work though the implications for newspapers as such. Charlene Li, one of the keynote speakers for the Online Information conference, was interviewed for Computing. She observed that most media could survive alongside social networks but mentioned newspapers and magazines as "the most vulnerable" because new income streams from online have not offset lost revenue such as classified advertising in print.

In the Media section of the Guardian recently Jane Martinson commented on the retirement of Lord Heseltine as Chair of magazine publishers Haymarket. She pointed out that two of its media-focused trade titles, Media Week and Revolution, are now largely online-only. Haymarket also publishes Printweek, very unlikely to become online-only and retain the support of loyal readers from the printing industry.

Perhaps Printweek will report and comment on the decision to move Guardian Technology online? Print journalists seem reluctant to explain their own situation even when there are significant news developments. From 2010 there will not be a Guardian Technology section in print. Following Online Information 2009 it will be interesting to see how other events at Olymoia such as BETT are reported. As well as online the print could include Media on a Monday and Education on a Tuesday, unless they move online as well.
More video links and background will be in the learn9 blog - http://learn9log.blogspot.com Future story on the semantic web, still more to discover.
©2009 OhmyNews
Other articles by reporter William Pollard

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