Friday 20 July 2012

Publish! New Players, New Innovations

Nico Macdonald from Media Futures welcomes all
Media Futures are interested in the potential of new technology to change the publishing industry. They believe that new technology, innovations and small start-ups are changing the way people engage with the written word. The Publish! New Players, New Innovations event held at St Brides’ Foundation last night was designed to focus discussion not just on big hitters like Amazon and Google, but also on small start-ups with a show and tell format and panel discussion.

Alyson Fielding, Managing Director, Pyuda, and Dave Addey, Managing Director of Agant, showcased the Timeline World War 2 app which was created in partnership with British Pathé, Windmill Books and Ballista Media, working with storyteller Alyson.

You always hear the phrase ‘this is the future of the book’, but it’s also the future of the documentary. The boundaries are blurring between different fields so collaboration is key. In this instance, Agant were commissioned by Ballista and they licensed content from British Pathé and other organisations. As there were 150 British Pathé videos included, they were involved from very early on, helping to shape the app and show their content in best possible way.

Lessons from the project include using international ‘names’ – trusted experts to give subject credibility and profile – Ballista's Dan Snow for the UK and Robert MacNeil in North America. They adopted a timeline format to group content together, but it has a multi-layered approach so readers can filter by battles or people, for example, dependent on what they are interested in. As far as they can tell, the interactive map of the world was a first, giving a new and engaging way of interacting with the information. The use of the content development tool allowed content developers to preview how it looked and so they could amend and adapt to make it work best for the experience. This was critical to understanding what the finished product would look like to the consumer.

Alexis Kennedy is Chief Narrative Officer of Failbetter Games. They are developing StoryNexus, a platform for playing and building ‘storygames’ such as Fallen London. They are also publisher and retailer of Varytale interactive books. They want to open StoryNexus up so people can create invented worlds. Kennedy believes the oft-quoted phrase “The greatest special effects budget of all time is the human imagination”. StoryNexus is a platform or worlds full of stories that are presented in tiny free floating chunks of narrative that the player selects. 

Why now? The rise of transmedia and storyworlds is the mainstreaming of ‘geek’. There is mobile ubiquity. Everyone is always on internet and there is disruptive opportunity in stories. Video on a mobile device is an unnatural act, but text on a mobile device is not. They are launching an open beta in August, but already have traction and validation from the existing 160k users from all Fallen London accounts. Kennedy was candid about the business model as well: they have achieved revenue of £250k over two years using one and a half dedicated people for writing and developing.

He too believes that collaboration is key. Publishers can use Storyworlds for revenue or marketing. Writers are the kings of text. And for coders who really want to be writers: here’s where you start. But bear in mind that writing interactive fiction is difficult and different from narrative linear writing.

Trevor Klein, Head of Development at digital agency Somethin’ Else, collaborated with Richard Dawkins and publishers Transworld to create The Magic of Reality app. It’s different designing for apps than book. You have to think about technology and design for your content. Don’t make things for yourself or publishers, but those who will buy them: the most important approach is to design for your users. When making a digital book, the book bit is the most important element. It is really important to work and collaborate with the author. For the science, every chapter had an interactive experiment everyone could do for themselves (e.g. grow your own frogs).

Klein provided insight into where in the market to pitch your app to make money. Android apps don’t make any money while 80% of iOS apps don’t make any money. For iOS, the top 1% make 36% of revenue; the next 19% make 61%; and the bottom 80% make 3%. And Klein’s advice? Don’t aim for Angry Birds territory - it won’t work. They focus on the 19% band. To be successful at this he suggests publishers: 1) design an awesome product (but be prepared to invest in it); 2) have (or get) a flagship brand/author; and 3) price it and market it property. In his view, that’s all you need to do to launch a successful app. 

One final insight was to understand the sales spike. The majority of app sales are on launch, with a long tail of sales. The illustration he showed demonstrated that when price promotions were used, they were effective. But only on the day they ran, with no long term benefits to sales.

Antonio Gould is a digital producer who worked with the Usborne Foundation on the development of the Teach Your Monster to Read learning game. It would have been impossible to develop the game without the use of Agile development. It was central to building and testing to change to make it work. They only knew of problems by testing in schools at alpha and beta stages. They also went through 150 illustrators to find the right person and using a team of freelancers enabled them to do this. They used a community based media model - different from centralised marketing messages. Gould believes that traditional marketing skills won’t cut it. Development and marketing were in the same team. The project wouldn't have worked otherwise.

The panel contemplate innovation and new players
We then turned to the panel to hear their thoughts on how new players can innovate and disrupt creating opportunities for publishers. Eric Huang is Publishing Director for Media and Entertainment at Penguin. They increasingly look at web products, toys, film and other media. He described the team as producing content for partners. This sounded more like agency talk rather than publisher talk. While they are known for Club Penguin and Moshi Monsters, they now launch picture book brands digitally and are also working with a new breed of author. 

Two such authors are Chris Mould and Matt Howarth whose book Edmund and Cecilie is digital first. The concept is of a little girl with a magical friend who is a dragon. The reader explores a magic forest that tells the story of ancient dragon in an interactive way. While it is a reading experience, it won’t feel like a book at all. With another project 'Ollie’s Edible Adventures' - the story of a boy who became what he ate - the metaphor of typography is replaced by the metaphor of props for a stage. 

Huang sees his division as storytellers who tell stories across multiple formats, not just in the one we love the most: books. He believes it is a great time if you are working in media (not publishing) to break down doors. The good news is that Penguin will talk to anyone. They are becoming more like TV/film producers and developers, but face the challenge of not having all these skills. That is where partnerships and collaboration comes in.

Kate Pullinger, a writer whose novel The Mistress of Nothing won the Canadian Governor General’s Literary Award for Fiction, and whose digital fiction projects include Inanimate Alice and Flight Paths: A Networked Novel says that one of the things that frustrates her about e-books is that they are interred and in silos. 

Peter Usborne, Founder and Managing Director of Usborne Publishing whose Usborne Foundation supported the development of the Teach Your Monster to Read learning game says his company doesn’t feel threatened by digital. But if he was a bookseller, he’d be jumping off a cliff. His view on apps is marketing first. They are quite easy to develop, but it is very easy for them to get lost. He does not see any advantage in being first, but is very happy to see lots of other people be first – and make lots of mistakes they can learn from.

Chris Book is Chief Executive of Bardowl, a digital streaming service for audio books. He feels it is genuinely the most exciting time to be working in publishing driven by all the technical possibilities and new thinking from authors and publishers. New players aren’t a threat: the big tech companies that own most of distribution and retail of products are. And publishers working with small start-ups can mitigate this as their business models tend to be adaptable. With Bardowl they charge £9.95 per month subscription. The payment companies take their cut and then there is a 50/50 share with the publisher and Bardowl. This is calculated by minutes of the book listened to in a month which is what differentiates from existing provider of audio books and links through to actual usage. With new models such as this, it’s crucial that publishers share some of the risk with new players to give consumers what they want.

While the focus of the evening was weighted towards children's and reference publishing, the principles of innovation, partnerships, skills and collaboration apply just as much to the scholarly sector as to trade. We're keen to hear about projects across ALPSP's membership that are exploring these areas.

Friday 13 July 2012

IET to Launch New Digital Library

  • New platform available autumn 2012 enabling full text access to over 3,000 eBook chapters and 185,000 journal articles
  • Library will contain all IET digital research content and house the recently announced open access journal

The Institution of Engineering and Technology (IET) is to further expand its digital offering with a significantly redeveloped and enhanced Digital Library.

The new Digital Library, developed on Publishing Technology’s pub2web platform, is designed to improve the speed and ease with which academic and corporate users can access the IET’s 3,000 eBook chapters and 185,000 journal articles, which stretch back to 1872. The redevelopment kick-starts the IET’s major digital strategy and is the first of a number of platform improvements to be announced over the coming months.

Launching later this summer, the Digital Library is part of the IET’s mission to facilitate access to essential engineering intelligence worldwide. All of the IET’s research content will be available on the new platform, including the IET’s newly announced open access journal which will contain articles from some of the world’s leading academics, free of charge. The platform will shortly incorporate access to and its archive of 3,500 videos.

New features of the Digital Library will include easier navigation and quicker access to relevant content. It will also allow for greater discoverability, improved librarian and customer support and communication, plus increased authentication options for the user. Ultimately, the platform will provide a much improved site for existing and prospective customers.

Daniel Smith, Head of Academic Publishing at the IET, said: “We know a big part of the future of academic publishing is online. The reason for this is clear when you consider that the IET attracts an international range of authors – online is simply the easiest way for users of our content to access the information we publish. The move towards digital also opens up new options when it comes to the content itself. Users of our platform can blend the content they require by accessing eBook chapters, journal articles or video on the subjects that they are interested in. In short, this new platform is a significant step forward and sets the IET up for future digital expansion.”

“As we add an open access model to our existing publishing operations, we expect our user numbers to grow,” commented Michael Ornstein, VP Sales, Americas at the IET. “We therefore need a digital platform that matches the needs of our growing audience while also allowing us to improve the experience of existing customers. Our mission at the IET is to promote and support essential engineering intelligence, and this means making sure research is reaching as many people as possible. We are delighted with the new digital platform and are confident it will play a key role in helping us achieve our goals.”

For further information and a demo of the developing site, please visit IET Inspec on stand 458 at SLA, Chicago on 15-18 July. 
Media enquiries to:
Lorna Hughes / Olivia Allen
Harvard PR
0207 861 2844 / 0207 861 3967

Wednesday 11 July 2012

Professor Nigel Brown elected as SGM President

5 July 2012

The Society for General Microbiology (SGM) is pleased to announce that its governing Council has elected Professor Nigel Brown as the next SGM President.  Nigel will formally take over from Professor Hilary Lappin-Scott in September 2012,at the Society’s Annual General Meeting.

Nigel is currently Senior Vice-Principal at The University of Edinburgh, where he is also Head of Planning, Resources and Research Policy and Professor of Molecular Microbiology. He will retire from this position later this year to focus on his Presidency and other work in science and higher education policy and science communication.

Nigel has worked in the fields of molecular genetics and microbiology for over 30 years and has published more than 150 scientific papers. Nigel is former Director of Science and Technology at the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC) where he had responsibility for the BBSRC science strategy and for competitive grant funding, as well as a number of Research Councils UK activities.

Nigel said, “I am delighted to have been elected as President at such an important time for the Society. We face a number of societal issues, such as new and re-emerging diseases, public access to research information, and the role of science in policy-making, as well as facing many scientific challenges. I hope to work with the membership in addressing these, and to take forward many of the developments initiated under Hilary Lappin-Scott’s presidency.”

Current SGM President Professor Hilary Lappin-Scott said, “These are challenging times for scientific societies and for the discipline of microbiology. I am delighted that the SGM will be led by Nigel Brown who, with his wealth of scientific, policy and leadership experience, is well-placed to respond strongly to these pressures and develop new initiatives to promote the art and science of microbiology to stakeholders. I have every confidence that the Society will flourish under his leadership.”

Notes for Editors

For further information please contact Laura Udakis, Press and Social Media Officer,Society for General Microbiology. Tel +44 (0)118 988 1843 Email

Professor Nigel Brown holds Honorary Professorships at the universities of Nottingham and Swansea. He is a member of the Scottish Science Advisory Council, Chair of the Edinburgh Consortium on Rural Research and former Chair (2010-2012) of the Deans of Science and Engineering in Scotland. He represents the UK scientific community on the European Science Foundation Life and Environmental Sciences Committee. He is a Chartered Chemist and a Chartered Biologist and was elected as a Fellow of the Royal Society of Edinburgh in 2011.

The Society for General Microbiology (SGM) is a membership organization for scientists who work in all areas of microbiology. It is the largest learned microbiological society in Europe with a worldwide membership based in universities, industry, hospitals, research institutes and schools. The SGM publishes key academic journals in microbiology and virology, organizes international scientific conferences and provides an international forum for communication among microbiologists and supports their professional development. The Society promotes the understanding of microbiology to a diverse range of stakeholders, including policy-makers, students, teachers, journalists and the wider public, through a comprehensive framework of communication activities and resources.

Tuesday 10 July 2012

IET launches OA Engineering Megajournal

  • Accepting submissions from autumn 2012 and available online in 2013, the megajournal will cover a full range of engineering topics
  • Existing 26 journals to add open access option
  • Announcement follows global research project canvassing opinion from 35,000 engineering researchers

The Institution of Engineering and Technology (IET) is to become the first engineering, not-for-profit publisher to adopt an open access model with the launch of a comprehensive, online-only open access journal. Open access options will also be added to its existing 26 journals. This is part of the IET’s continuing mission to make essential engineering intelligence available to the worldwide engineering community, benefitting researchers who contribute to or use this content.

The IET, which has 150,000 members in 127 countries around the world and has published engineering journals since 1872, will be inviting submissions for its new open access megajournal from autumn 2012, with the online-only publication expected to launch in 2013. As a broad-based engineering journal it will accept papers on a wide range of engineering topics, rather than focusing on a single specific field. The title and editor-in-chief of this new publication will be announced later in 2012.

From 2013, authors will also be able to choose to make their research free to view in any of the IET’s 26 existing engineering journals, which include well-known titles such as Electronics Letters and the newly launched IET Biometrics. Currently all research papers published by the IET’s journals are available in print and online to paying subscribers only.

The IET’s decision to adopt the open access model comes after a major global review with over 35,000 engineering researchers from academia and industry to gauge their appetite for open access. This research found that 87% of engineering researchers said they would continue to submit articles to a journal if it converted to an open access model, and around a third of them had previously published in an open access journal.

Daniel Smith, Head of Academic Publishing at the IET, explains: “The recent Finch report has further fuelled the public debate about open access academic publishing, which we believe is one of the most significant industry changes in recent years and yet is complementary to the existing subscription-based model.

“For authors it not only provides more choice in terms of where their peer-reviewed papers are published, but offers them more opportunity to publish high quality cross-disciplinary studies. This is particularly key in engineering, where many of today’s advances are being made at the interfaces between subjects. For readers, gaining quick and easy access to research is of course a major step forward and we are excited by the potential that open access offers.”

Tim Hamer, Director of Knowledge at the IET, adds: “Developing open access to quality engineering content which accelerates both research and innovation is a major pillar of the IET’s knowledge strategy. The introduction of our open access megajournal is an important element within this.  We believe the broad scope of the new journal and the opportunity to publish open access articles in existing journals will be a welcome development for the worldwide engineering community.”

Media enquiries to:
Lorna Hughes / Olivia Allen
Harvard PR
0207 861 2844 / 0207 861 3967

Thursday 5 July 2012


We're pleased to welcome Theatre & Performance Across Cultures (TAPAC) as a full member of ALPSP.