Monday 25 February 2013

ASA 2013: Herman Pabbruwe - Authoring and Publishing - It's Getting Better

Gabriella Karger introducing Herman Pabbruwe, CEO of Brill
Herman Pabbruwe, CEO of Brill, gave a talk that was optimistically titled 'I've got to admit it's getting better.' He provided a view from humanities publishing to contrast with earlier scientific sessions.

He believes that publishers are coming to grips with destructive technology. They are taking stock and thinking about whether people appreciate their roles including how sustainability. They are starting to take advantage of technology and the richer environment and mobility, while developing multiple business models (some of which have are revived from before).

There is a growing international demand and revival of unique library collections. There is increasing value in data so they have to reflect on how to bring all the necessary information together to enable appropraite validation. This is increasingly difficult and expensive to achieve and you need provenance and context: an essential step, otherwise it is just a collection of items. This is the challenge of publication at source.

They are trying to coach a younger generation of researchers, but there is a huge problem with sharing notebooks as people don't want to share something that isn't right (reflecting what Jeremy Frey represented in his talk before).

Pabbruwe reflected that some things don't change so much in research publishing. There is still tenure. The attitude of publish or perish still prevails and you need to build in twigging or developing new researchers. The costs of publication are still there as is sourcing for the user.

Some things still need to work: the perception and acceptance of a 'new generation' of products; workflow and efficiency; copyright (green) and definition of patrons; access rather than ownership and the effects of pick and choose (i.e. Patron-Driven Acquisition); across broad digitisation; and library and open access budgets.

Issues in publishing abound: from the chicken and egg scenario for e-product to archiving (open access, open data, MOOC). There are technical hurdles (e.g. Unicode bandwidth) to publishers' public image. And copyright concepts continue to present challenges.

A possible direction to focus on might be:

  • focus on key subject areas
  • have a balanced portfolio of journals, books, reference works and primary sources
  • be platform independent (consider price differentiation?)
  • have more empowered commissioning staff working with a bigger and stronger sales force
  • re-enforce the relationship with end user communities
  • focus more on Asia.

Publishers need to have an increased technical focus on standards, proven technology (also outside industry) and XML work flow for rich digital products (e.g. e-humanities). They should consider selected areas of software development (thesauri, proper names, pattern recognition) and think about how to enrich the author experience through services and direct links. Brill have created a proprietary typeface based on Unicode.

He hopes it will get better all the time, that publishers will use resources to create and make a difference and develop a multi-faceted and direct relationship with key institutes of higher education. Publishers need a flexible attitude towards copyright, and also be loyal to partners, but professional.

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