Friday, 13 February 2015

The Future of Reference Publishing

David Hughes from Wiley
Reference publishing has undergone a truly profound change in the last decade, from an almost exclusively print-based business to one where online delivery has become the norm, with regular updating, live integrated cross-references, multiple concurrent users, intelligent use of colour and increasing functionality.

David Hughes, Editorial Director for Major Works at John Wiley and Sons, outlined the challenges publishers face to ensure reference is to retain its place as an important gateway to knowledge and learning. The Ullmann's Encyclopedia of Industrial Chemistry was first printed in 1914 in the German edition. The first English language print edition was in 1985. It was first online in 2000 and the seventh print edition was published in 2011 (40 print volumes, 30,000 pages).

Online is now the driving force behind the project. It is updated six times a year and they introduce new initiatives (for example the 'smart article', shorter versions to entice people in). Online is the new norm for reference publishing now. They publish high quality, fantastic reference content, and do exciting and clever things they couldn't do in print. But is that enough for their librarian and end user customers? No. The main challenge for reference today is to ensure the use of reference mains relevant and important to a new generation of librarians, educators, students and researchers.

One challenge is that of free content, specifically, Wikipedia. It's not going away, everyone uses it. For many purposes it is good enough for what is needed. They need to articulate what makes their content better and more relevant.

Usage is a deciding factor for librarians. If they don't see products being used, they won't buy it. As a result, more thought has to be given about the pain points for end users to encourage usage. They need to articulate and enhance its value. Reference doesn't exist in a vacuum, and is not an end in itself. It is used more widely with other resources. End users need to see improved outcomes in their daily work whether finding information quickly or improved references in an end of term paper or research project. They need confidence in the content. Where does it come from, who from, is it up to date?

They have analysed and researched the student workflow for the Blackwell's Encyclopedia of Sociology. The key parts where reference came into play was when they get background information and narrow the topic down and then when they move on to research via the university library database. In the former, they want to make sense of the topic, play with keywords, feel confident in the subject. It has provided insight into how to improve the reference product: fitting into the workflows of end users is critical.

Wiley StatsRef: Statistics Reference Online was developed to be an dynamic online reference resource for the global statistics community, covering fundamentals and applications areas. They used Wiley's rich statistics reference portfolio as a starting point, carefully editorially curate and enhance the content to develop a product much greater than the sum of its parts. It was launched in 2014 with more than 6,000 articles with a bespoke taxonomy to help users have a logical and straightforward way to browsing through the content. They plan to grown and enhance by regularly adding new and updated articles, add whole new topic areas and develop new functionalities e.g. to enable users to interact with charts and data.

For the future, they will develop a bespoke new platform for reference publishing to host all major reference works to make it easier and more intuitive to use, more discoverable and to enhance the collections. These elements go hand in hand with user needs and individual collection development.

Hughes feels confident about the future of reference content. High quality is crucial, but not enough. We need to address end user workflow requirements and to be differentiated from freely available content.

Thursday, 12 February 2015

Books. Pah! It's all just stuff

Toby Green from OECD. And sheep.
Digital puts the user in the driving seat, and from a user's perspective, the content in books is no different from the content in journals, grey literature or even databases. It's all just stuff that answers a question the user has or gives them tuition or the tools to do their work. But why do publishers still insist on presenting their stuff online in containers that replicate those determined by analogue processes?

Toby Green, Head of Publishing at OECD explained how after user research, they created a new portal for datasets that allows users to discover all of OECD's data-driven content, and especially the content found in its books. http://data.oecd.org

The OECD has lots of stuff that they produce. It might be a journal article, a dataset, a working paper, book or not-really-sure-what-it-is. Generally, the books they produce are written and produced in two weeks. The Secretary General of the OECD needs to turn things around very quickly to make available for national governments. People don't want a product, they just want the relevant stuff on a topic. So they went out to talk to users to see what their tasks were.

User profiles were generated with typical tasks. What they also said is that they don't want a data portal, they just want to find the answer to their query. They knew it was there, but didn't know how to find it. It was a big change to the project as they had to change the scope. They ended up with a data rebuttal engine. Within a few minutes you can get answers to so many questions or assertions.

The OECD iLibrary enables people to download, embed and share data. If they want premium content to print and download they can pay. Green calls it premium open access, which he believes is a much better model than other existing ones. They offer web, spreadsheet, book, chapter and document. By allowing embedding, they aren't giving away content, they are gaining usage statistics on traffic as well as promotion. The idea of letting go of content which is a vital part of their mission, but also of their business model so they can be sustainable and pay the bills.

They have a technical term for their programme: Russian Doll publishing. It has had an extraordinary impact on their readership. They have seen growth in chapter downloading, but they still see strong demand for books.

Transforming the RMM: A case study in health sciences

Antonia Seymour from Wiley
There has been significant investment in digital transformation of book content in the health sciences. Antonia Seymour, VP and Publishing Director for Professional Practice and Learning at John Wiley and Sons, explained how they had developed the Royal Marsden Manual of Clinical Nursing Procedures (RMM) for the nursing community.

With the RMM, they are simultaneously publishing in 1.0, 2.0 and 3.0. The book is published against a background where the NHS is in a challenging environment. Hospital admissions are growing every day, there's an ageing population, patents have complex conditions, more people are waiting (and queuing) in A&E departments. Important to understand nursing requirements within that.

The Nursing and Midwifery Council states that nurses have the knowledge and skills for safe and effective practice without direct supervision. Nurses also have to keep knowledge and skills up to date throughout their working life. The RMM is designed to address these needs and pain points.

The Royal Marsden Trust is a Centre for Excellence for cancer. Wiley have a publishing partnership with them. RMM started out as an in-house manual of best practices. An astute editor suggested this could be useful more widely and that it should be published. It is now the nursing bible for clinical skills. Evolved over 30 years to be the market leader.

In 2004 after extensive research, they went into four different editions, in colour, in a pocket book to take round the ward, in a ring binder with laminated procedure cards. These may seem parochial now, but were all about portability on the ward. They now have the professional edition, student edition (full of pedagogical features), and a truly online edition which is increasingly favoured by the market, which includes a workflow tool. The success has been based on continuous refinement in response to research with nurses.

Market research is conducted with newly qualified nurses, experienced staff, mentors/preceptors of students and newly qualified nurses, ward managers and clinical governance nurses. It is a multi-million dollar product so they invest a lot. The market wants quick and easy answers to their question.

There are over 200 procedures (including hand washing) which has been tabulated online so you can get to equipment, procedure or medication part of it. All content is graded by level of evidence. They've made an incredibly google-like search on the home page. Customisable content is included so Trusts can clarify local policy, annotate procedures guidelines and support information to reflect local practice. The online edition is now contributing just over 60% of revenues. For hospitals and trusts is sold on a three year licence based on number of beds. In academic institutions, it's based on number of students.

Institutional sales team, roadshows, webinars, case study in journal, corporate marketing and telemarketing all tools used to sell and market the product. In the future they will continue with market research, look to expand the franchise, develop the online edition, continually update and hopefully include broader Wiley content.

What next for humanities books?

Anthony Cond, Liverpool University Press
Many publishers now spend less time understanding the underlying cultures of the specific research communities they serve. The humanities has been accompanied by rhetoric of perpetual crisis, with contemporary concerns over utility, research income generation, the allocation of resources and the quest for impact, all in a digital context. Anthony Cond, Managing Director of Liverpool University Press, asked how publishers can speak to these concerns, support authors, build readership and understand how innovations are received by the community.

When it comes to understanding the present, we need to take into account the historical performance of humanities students. As a discipline it peaked in the 60s. What we're seeing now is a fairly consistent level. Today, in the UK just over 10,000 full time equivalent researchers were submitted to the REF 2014 with quality coming third.

In 2014 the JISC survey found 95% of humanities respondents viewed writing a monograph as important or very important for career purposes. Half felt it was difficult or very difficult for someone at their career stage and in their discipline to do so. Only 10% found it difficult or very difficult to access a monograph. There was also an even preference for print and digital books.

Is there an issue around understanding (or not) of DDA or STL? The primary purpose of DDA is to align library purchasing with scholarly activity. Not about saving money. Social scientists are more likely to buy a book, humanities scholars more likely to borrow from the library.

When understanding impact, publication is dissemination, impact is about getting outside of the academy. In the UK, research publications have to have a wider application. They need to be written to be read. This shows the editorial craft value that publishers can add. They need to capture its use, citation and influence. Consider having an impact section on your book proposals.

The humanities remain viable and the monograph is still important. Scholars will want books with greater potential for impact, greater editorial input, available in print and digital. Cond closes by quoting Rick Anderson: it's not about innovation, it's about relevance.

Frances Pinter, Manchester University Press
Frances Pinter is CEO of Manchester University Press and Founder of Knowledge Unlatched, a new approach to funding scholarly research.

She reflected on the challenges and opportunities afforded by the impetus towards digital research tools, digital output, multiple formats and open access in a humanities context.

Characterising the humanities is difficult because the boundaries are least well defined. Everything about digital means that these boundaries are being redrawn. As publishers, we need to better understand what is happening to the knowledge infrastructure in and between disciplines.

What's changing? Selecting and analysing data is transforming how humanities can describe what they do. Control of dissemination is evolving and changing. With scholars and scholarship, using digital techniques is not new, but it's becoming more visible. In the US, there is more recruitment in digital scholarship, peer review is changing and there is a new role called 'Alt Ac' - not tenured and happy with that. Part teaching, part practical, part interdisciplinary. Crucially, interdisciplinary is not on the table, it IS the table. How do scholars go about managing that?

There is a real opportunity with the long tail of humanities publishing - the ongoing longer life of sales. Publishers can lead in helping with new forms of peer review. They can be clear about the value of brands. They can help authors in this transition to be better communicators. Not everyone can be a Brian Cox, but publishers can help with initiatives such as Thema (a new coding structure to deal with interdisciplinarity), Kudos, etc.

Paul Spence, Digital Humanities, King's College London
Paul Spence is a senior lecturer in the Department of Digital Humanities at King's College London. He observed that it is often stated that the humanities have been slower than other academic sectors to react to the information age. Yet they have the most to gain from digital innovation.

With a background in collaborative scholarly resource projects in the humanities, often with a strong emphasis on modelling and XML and semantic web type technologies. He doesn't have a particular vision as the longer he's worked in this area, the more questions he realises there is.

Web technologies are increasingly open so that humans and machines can analyse. In the humanities, when compared to huge transformations in society, this isn't the same in these disciplines.

The biggest criticism of digital humanities at the moment is that it mimics non-digital version. They also tend to be very textual without connecting to geospatial evidence for example. There's also not much evidence of the performance related (e.g. for drama). There is potential to develop new visualisation using textual and historical data. There was much made of the social potential breaking down walls between creator, writer, audience. That's not really come to fruition.

In the digital humanities, a lot of time is spent trying to enrich what is essentially inert information, meaning that it's not that dynamic or engaging for the user. We should also consider if there is more potential for aggregation and disaggregation?

Integrating Digital Papryology is a Mellon funded project that attempts to document group collaborative peer review. Another interesting aspect is the idea of the enhanced publication model. Rich internet publication is not limited to report the results, but also allows interrogation of underlying data sets and models. Not common at the moment, but may become more prevalent in the future. They have a number of ongoing partnerships - including with publishers - that are very important in rethinking the future of the scholarly book. 

Books and scholarly communities: retrospect and prospect

Richard Fisher, formerly CUP
Academic books are a rather more complex and variegated subset of scholarly communication than is often articulated. Publishing has often remained fragmented and sometimes defiantly artisanal in approach, particularly in the arts and social sciences. Have book publishers drawn the right inferences from the digital transition, and have they forgotten some of the most important early impacts of that transition which nonetheless retain significance today?

Richard Fisher, formerly Managing Director of the CUP's Academic Division considered these issues while looking ahead, to the myriad of disciplinary, institutional, financial and access issues with which academic book publishing is confronted.

He noted that we have a curiously unchanged publisher landscape. There hasn't been a PLOS or BioMed Central in the arts, humanities and social sciences. Why is this? High entry costs relative to publishing opportunities. Long term gestation, scholarly conservatism and the complex interaction of career tenure and the continued rise of American University Presses might be other factors.

Is there a crisis in scholarly book publishing? Monograph outputs have doubled in the past decade. It is impossible to read all of them. So what is the crisis if there is still plenty to publish and read? So far, e-publishing has not yet disturbed the continuum of publishing formats in these disciplines. What has happened to the course-book used for graduate and undergraduate teaching. Small scale adoption is possible with short print runs. The retail presence is chipped away by Amazon. Is this type of research book facing extinction or will it carry on? (He suspects that latter). What caused the shift of focus even more onto the backlist? How much emphasis is placed on the backlist with marketing and sales efforts?

Are these factors indicative of a blip or part of a more fundamental shift and evolution of the research book market? Why do we discuss non-institutional customers so little? The majority of sales come from institutions, and yet we don't engage with the readers/users of monographs.

Is there a transatlantic divide in open access? The role of UK governmental agencies in OA and other initiatives within EU/ESF, HEFCE and RCUK/Wellcome research funding is counter to the international structure of publishers. Academic book publication in the UK is fundamentally an export activity, and potentially only viable in that context. It is often undercapitalised and under digitised. International markets and translations are also at risk with the uptake of Creative Commons.

Fisher cites how emphatically scholarly books can be cross-over trade books. Serious historical research, for example, can have a popular appeal unmatched by any other subject. If you look at the conclusions of the agent Andrew Wylie and HEFCE/RCUK (who both want the widest possible dissemination) they draw vastly different conclusions.

Much of the most powerful and polemical OA advocacy come from those outside the formal academy, or the marginalised within: for those inside, different motivations need to apply. Fisher believes there still needs to be a step change in consumption of and enthusiasm for long form e-outputs among humanities and social sciences scholars. Yet the rate of transition is very slow.

Intellectual Property is a growing arena of contest. It is a huge issue for humanists and social scientists. Arguments are fierce around licensing (including Creative Commons). It's sets authority against collaborative working. You also need to bear in mind that law does not necessarily mean US or California law. US and UK law are very different. This needs to be taken account of.

Fisher is a great advocate for campus calling and going to see people in the institution. We need to look afresh at what we do and ensure that we ask the right questions. In a world of scarcity (above all of time) we must ask ourselves, is it any good?

What next for social science books?

Daniel Pollock from Jordan Publishing
Legal practitioners have different needs to scholars, so where does a book fit into a world of online services and workflow support? Daniel Pollock, Publishing Director at Jordan Publishing considered the opportunities in the post digital world.

Based on his experience working in an agency environment in the past, Pollock learnt many lessons that apply to publishing. First, you need to articulate your core proposition. If you're aiming for a forward looking market, products and services, make sure you reflect that in what you do.

Pollock cites Practical Law Company as one of the most successful legal publishers who focused on a customer focused strategy driven by need. Grew from £6 million in 2003 to £60 million in 2013. They were lawyers, not publishers. By talking about the future of the scholarly book, you're at risk of putting the cart before the horse. You may or may not need it.

Alison Shaw, Publishing Director at Policy Press provided a refreshing view of how scholarly publishers have to provide new solutions for their readers' changing needs.

They used to disseminate research and were embedded in a department so understood the needs of researchers. Since then, priorities have changed. Researchers want ownership of their work, they want to share it, they want career development. They want a publisher with high esteem who can publish in a timely way and disseminate it. But they also want impact and in a sense, to change the world - or our understanding of it.

Alison Shaw from Policy Press
For many people in the social policy world, books are still very important. The book may have changed, but the need to have a long form argument is still important. There is a current trend for consolidation into massive companies. As a tiny publisher they have had to compete and add value in innovative ways. One approach has been to launch a trade list. Getting By by Lisa McKenzie is a title from an early career academic who approached them with her PhD. They encourage her to combine her passion for campaigning for social equality with her research specialism. Massive media coverage has resulted. Using trade and media as well ebook format giveaways on other titles help research have a wider impact.

With Revisiting Moral Panics, they have 18 different versions for whole, part, chapters and so on. it's an experiment to see what will happen. Policy Press are experimenting with short and mid form publications with a 12 week turnaround. Shaw sees a work as not just a book, but a core piece of content with related content all around it. It could be free policy briefings, practice guides, reports, social media content, data sets. It's about dissemination in the round. Some parts are static, some are interactive. They are thinking about supporting an author to maximise their reach and impact. Discoverability is key with tagging, data, analytics tools. they're providing free shareable content marketing, but everything links back to the book.

Shaw noted that often the journal world is often ahead of book publishing. They are monitoring and seeing what can be adopted to enhance what they want to do. There are many issues to iron out with monographs when it comes to open access. In social science, there will be many who won't have access to funds. Patron Driven Acquisition presents a challenge with low usage. Looking at models for different ways of selling, bundling print and e, freemium/premium, portals, subscription and so on.

Tim Williams from Edward Elgar Publishing
Tim Williams, Managing Director of Edward Elgar Publishing asked whether is it inevitable that technology and business models for ebooks seem to be converging with journals. Trends include long term decline in print runs, the growth in ebook aggregators and new business models, pressures on publishers to justify value they add and disseminate widely. There is a shift in customers and authors from West to East and the looming question on what will happen with Open Access. However, the convergence of book and journal content is key for Edward Elgar.

Digital migration is happening - 30% of the book revenue is now digital. Books are now included alongside journals in the same discovery technology. Citations are increasingly being counted and used for books. There is a move away from one book one price to lots of books with variable pricing. Books are longer than journals, are more diverse in purpose and audience, more of a relationship between the reader and author, and the author/publisher act is more of a partnership.

The potential benefits from convergence are huge including discovery and use, citation recognition and greater access. But there are things to think about and learn from. The journal business model plays an advantage to scale publishers who are 'unavoidable' to libraries. There are higher barriers to entry and potentially less diversity in innovation (in sense of content). If books no longer succeed on individual merit. Will they just become agglomerated into large collections? Will they stand out and will authors still want to write them? It's a huge undertaking. Will it also become too easy to publish as publisher hoover up content to feed collection sales? What about the impact of the Impact Factor? How will books be measured and incentivised? By applying one measure for journals to a book, will it affect schools of thought, relationships between author and publisher? And what strategies can smaller publishers adopt to compete? Food for thought...

What next for science and engineering books?

Liz Martin, Head of Production at IOP Publishing
IOP Publishing launched their born-digital ebook programme in 2013 (and won the Silver ALPSP Award for Innovation in Publishing in 2014). Liz Martin, Head of Production at Institute of Physics Publishing outlined how by not being constrained by the need to digitise an existing print programme, they were able start from scratch thinking about what readers, librarians and authors in the STM community wanted from books.

IOP Publishing sold their whole programme to Taylor & Francis in 2005. They got out of books, so why launch books again in 2013? It came from their mission. They wanted to engage with their community in a different way, with different content, levels and media to reach out to a wider audience. Unlike journals, authors can express views, which is a subtly different way of engaging the community. It allowed their communities to buy what they want, where they want, how they want. It also provided a financial channel.

IOPscience is their delivery platform. It has good usability and discoverability. They also had their platform in place. They have two collections: Expanding Physics (highly developed texts from leading names in the field) and Concise Physics (short, concise 'first' books in a subject that are written and published quickly). They adopted a born digital programme. They offer PDF, HTML and ePub 3 of absolutely everything. It is device independent and fully functional. Equations are used to make it readable and accessible. They provide a seamless reader experience with click through to exercises and embedded colour media. They have a no-DRM model so librarians can share content freely. There is a fee based model for authors so no legacy issues. They have a collections based purchasing model. They use their existing experience and contacts for production and workflow, quality and SLAs. They have an XML workflow to enable all formats. The biggest challenge is around author education. The opportunity is to use their journals.

Roheena Anand, Publisher at Royal Society of Chemistry
The Royal Society of Chemistry's main objective is to advance excellence in the chemical sciences. Roheena Anand, Publisher for Books, talked through how their publishing strategy meets the needs of the global chemical science community, where digital fits in, and their focus for the next five years.

Why do they still publish books? Because their community tells them they still want them. They find them trustworthy and knowledgeable. Books are the best way to learn a new topic and go beyond a review article to present coherent body of knowledge. They also cover different levels of knowledge. As chemical science research output is browning, it provides ways to disseminate.

One of their key offers to the community as a Society is that all surplus from their programme is reinvested in science. The RSC is a specialist in chemical sciences and they cover different levels of knowledge from popular science to engage the public, through student materials to post-grad specialist researchers. There are synergies with their journal programme, they have an ePlatform, eBook Collections and high quality titles with recognised authors and editors. It helps time poor researchers with a fast track to relevant, quality materials.

They have achieved 50% growth in output and a concomitant increase in revenue. More titles are originated themselves with new book series and editorial boards. They have nearly 1500 ebooks in their eBook Collection. They have also reduced publication times by 10 weeks (around 20 weeks). They've diversified formats so ePUB and HTML and they have diversified revenue streams including pay-per-view, pick and choose eBooks and eBook aggregators.

Their focus in the future is on quality and has to be relevant for the international community as their membership is global. Subjects need to be in line with organisational priorities for the wider Society. They will extend formats and try to improve existing (e.g. print/POD? E-textbooks?). They will explore access routes to content and consider open access (which has not been a focus to date, but signs are this is changing).

Ian Stoneham from The IET
There has been a relatively recent resurgence in book commissioning activity, perhaps driven by institutional purchase of ebook collections or in some part as a reaction to rebalancing income from traditional society journal publishing revenues. The IET's Ian Stoneham questioned how secure the future of the book is as a discrete entity?

The IET publish a range of book products including monographs, professional reference, Standards (regulations), major reference works, conference proceedings and commissioned content. They have made a strategic decision to invest in programme expansion with a focus on core areas of IET activity and proposition as a learned society. They focus on quality, relevance and authority with established series and focus on edited multi-contributor monographs. They are looking for sustainable offering with depth and breadth, with a focus on digital that works for their community. Their standards publishing is now digital first with print 'squirted out at the end'.

Commissioned content is key to their knowledge offering. It can be an access to point to all other areas of their knowledge products or services. It can be repurposed and repackaged for CPD programmes and other activity. In engineering journal articles are important for career and funding,  but there is a different imperative to write books. Books can bridge the gap between primary research and practical application. Engineers are very pragmatic and having a book to wave in front of a client is a good thing for business.

In the future, they plan to open up their content for semantic enrichment e.g. auto detection of proper nouns, key terms in the text, linking to internal/external sources, etc. They also hope to improve community engagement (which isn't traditionally great in their field). Challenges included automated search, Patron-Driven Acquisition and protecting IP from third parties innovating around their content. However,  if you don't have the content, you can't meet the challenge of disruptive technologies.