An end of an era? More like just the beginning

So we’ve come to an end of the LAPIS and I have to say it has been the module that’s caught my attention most over the last two years…so much so i’ve decided it’d be a good idea to focus on copyright and digitalisation for my dissertation. Ask me if i’m still engaged once that beast has been completed.

The last session introduced us to Alastair Horne and his blog of ‘Ten ways to get ahead in publishing‘ was a perfect way to end LAPIS, summarising for us what we can do professionally going forward. We shouldn’t be reliant on our employer to push us forward but instead make our own way, join CILIP and make use of the opportunities through it, volunteer at your local library (especially if they have zombies!) and keep learning. If there’s one thing i’ve learnt through LAPIS and CityLis in general is that there is so much to learn and information science is forever changing especially as we move further into the digital age. I know i’ve developed a particular passion for copyright (my colleagues think i’m insane!) and that’ll drive me forward in finding a solution for my company’s current digitalisation problems and also be a driver for any future career plans I might have….who knows in a decade I might be reading any future offspring I may have copyright stories instead of bedtime stories. God help them.

What I took away from Alastair is that you get back what you put in. Like with our essays and our dissertations, if we put in 100% then we’ll do well, likewise with our career. If we make our own networks, learn, practice, review and above all say yes to things then we’ll go far in publishing and librarianship. LAPIS has given us the foundation and now we can build on it for the rest of our professional development (or personal development if you’ve got a thing for irritating bits of legislation).

This isn’t the best blog i’ve written in the series and is a bit gushy but I have thoroughly enjoyed LAPIS because it has made me frustrated, excited, indignant, curious and I always left the lecture with a smile on my face. Books are my future, publishing maybe not but copyright compliance certainly is so for me this is not the end of an era but the start of my whole career.

Zombies in a library? Apocalypse or just the best idea ever?

I have to say week 9 for LAPIS was one of my favourites. What’s not to love about a lecture that talks about comics, zombies and Snoopy? Dr Matt Finch has been one of my favourite guest lectures. Not only was he engaging as a speaker but his passion for literacy was actually infectious, I went home thinking I needed to do something to get more kids into libraries or generally into reading and proceeded to spend an hour on the phone talking to my 9 year old nephew about his recent discovery of Gulliver’s Travels and I rejoiced that my brother’s hatred of novels didn’t pass down to his offspring.

As a child literacy was one of the most appealing things, it was a new adventure in every new book. Even as an adult I feel the same way, I just lack the time to pick up a book at the moment between uni, work and getting ready to move house. I want to indulge in my favourite ‘The Secret Garden’ but at the same time finally get through Game of Thrones that have been sitting on my bookshelf since my last birthday. My point is is that I love that Dr Finch is imparting the same passion and doing something worthwhile, addressing parliaments to get literacy right in the public mind.

But what I fell in love with the most from this lecture was the zombie takeover of a library in Tullamore, Australia. It shows how a library is so much more than just the shelves as Dr Finch kept saying. A library can be the hub of a community, it can be used to engage with different types of groups, it for some groups can be the only place to feel any connection to another person. As William Sieghart said in his ‘Independent Library Report for England‘ that libraries are the golden thread of our lives and if public funding keeps getting cut then there will be a huge hole in our communities. So I say good on the libraries that open their doors for comic festivals and zombie takeovers, hopefully these innovative ideas can come across the oceans to us and we can make a conscious effort to keep communities alive with stories, information and education.

Patience is the key for libraries that publish.

library-cardI don’t know about anyone else but as a child it was always really exciting when my Dad took us to the library once a week as it meant new stories, new adventures etc. Even as I got older and the web took over a bit more I still got excited about visits to the school library and when we move next month i’m going to get just as excited about adding my new local library’s card into my purse. Likewise I get just as much satisfaction when I log in to City’s library catalogue and have the ability to download a pdf or a book.

Why do I get so excited by libraries (apart from the fact i’m a bit of a nerd?!)? Because they have a wealth of information, information that is mostly free. What isn’t there to love? Granted as i’ve gotten older and appreciate that libraries have more than a fiction section (who knew?!) i’ve learned to love libraries that little bit more. From an academic perspective libraries are a fantastic opportunity to get your own ideas out there. Diane Bell brought it up in her lecture and it was also mentioned in Cathrine Harboe-Ree’s article, libraries now act as online repositories of papers or dissertations. City, for example, has a huge collection of dissertations to peruse – dissertations that aren’t available to access anywhere else unless you attempt to track down the author.

Academic writers have the opportunity to avoid the costs of allowing journals to publish their articles through open access. Library repositories are a perfect alternative, they may not get as many hits as a big journal but they are still achieving the same objective, getting your research into the public domain. I’m all for libraries being a publisher in this way, they are doing what they have always done well which is providing free information. And it’s free not just from a reader’s perspective but also from the author.

The only issue libraries as publishers has is the fact that their readership will be fairly low but that is understandable, libraries have less money to put into advertising their repositories so of course authors won’t get the same response as they would on an academic journal’s site. But this is where the the use of web 2.0 comes in, with the use of social media libraries can really increase their visibility. Look at the British Library, they have nearly 900,000 followers and that is just their main Twitter account. I know the BL are the exception as they are a huge national library but with enough followers on platform like Twitter a library really can get information out there. All it takes for an author is to upload to a free repository, have it tweeted by that library and then once a retweet happens it can spread like wildfire. Visibility is possible when publishing through a library, it just takes a little more patience. Patience that is definitely worth it when you think about the cost and the morals/vision of a library…..

Books can do the splits, what can ebooks do?

When PenguinRandom House’s Daniel said he still sees a future of hardcopy books my heart rejoiced for two reasons:

  1. I’m a bit of a traditionalist, I love the experience of a hardcopy book. The ability to write your name in it, the smell of a new book (likewise the smell of an old book), the bending the spine, everything. There is something much more satisfying about a hardcopy than reading on your kindle.

  2. As someone undergoing a digitalisation project at work and for dissertation I know how some specialist libraries are dependent on physical collections (like one of my fellow students suggested about the Prison Service). If hardcopy publications were to stop we would currently have to stop adding to our collections which is impossible if we want to remain open.

I understand that electronic delivery needs to be the way going forward, it’s a way of the working world. Electronic delivery means efficiency and speed which is what readers really want. But hardcopy publications still need to exist so i’m more than pleased that sales don’t seem to be depleting.

However, that doesn’t mean i’m not interested in the future of publications and the electronic developments that are taking place. My company is also a publisher as well as a library and as a publisher we’re interested in what we can do next. We attempted to go the epub route in 2013 but found that only half a dozen orders came through for that format so our management team saw that as a failure, that our industry wasn’t interested in ‘ebooks’. But like Ernesto pointed out in our lecture, an ebook is not dependent on the device it is being read on, it is the file that makes a book an ebook. In that case you could argue that we are a successful seller of ebooks as over 55% of our sales are pdfs. Our marketing team just don’t seem to acknowledge pdf as an ebook as it can be read on any device, not just an e-reader.

Which is frustrating because it means I have to try harder to find the next solution or the next method of providing information electronically. I liked Dan’s idea of web apps and after recently visiting the Publishing and Media Expo 2014 I can see that many companies are pushing for that being the next development. There are numerous companies like PugPig and PageSuite who are offering publishers the opportunity to try webapps, PenguinRandom House already look like they are doing it with their 80 classics collection. I’m not sure how we as a publisher can succeed but I do like the idea of moving away from being device focused like apps are.

Open Access: A trifle of confusion

I probably shouldn’t be using this blog as a distraction from watching Arsenal crash out of the Champions League to Monaco, but here we are.

While I continue to ignore or wince at every failed pass in the last two minutes of added time I will focus on what I think of Open Access. I loved Ernesto’s example of the social mobility article being heavily mentioned in the media only for the average Joe to find they don’t have access to read the article. When I think of Open Access I think of the words free, accessible and immediate (I feel like i’ve stolen these words from Wiley’s video but I swear I watched it after I got my notes together!) but most academic journals come with huge subscription fees even for personal subscriptions.

While a lot of scholarly publishing is moving towards open access with hybrid journals becoming more of a regularity there are still issues that I can see causing problems. For readers it’s that not all articles in a journal are available Open Access, for example looking at one of my library’s most relevant titles Building Research and Information I can see that in the past few issues there are only around two articles that are available to view immediately for free, I still can’t see all of the articles I may want to see for free. The subscription wall starts being built before my eyes. When speaking to some of the library’s users they see it as a bit of a tease more than anything, a ‘look at what we have but you can’t see’ kind of deal. Open Access in it’s current form, whether it be green or cold, is still not totally open and if anything just proves a little frustrating for us humble readers still.

Another frustration I discovered is how confusing it can get for the author looking to make their article Open Access through the Gold model. When I was looking into Building Research and Information I wondered what options authors have when they’re submitting an article to peer review, what steps they need to take to get to the Taylor & Francis Open Select article. Well, I just got confused with the number of options and information that Taylor & Francis are giving. I’m initially taken to one page of info, then to another and another until i’m a bit lost in what I need to do and what option I should take and who is paying what charges? There needs to be clarity for authors and universities submitting articles to these esteemed journals, make it simple so more articles can get put out there. It seems to me that there is information overload for something that should really be quite easy, I mean the intention is easy to understand so why isn’t the means?

The Green model of Open Access is much simpler to get your head around but it’s not really ideal. I understand embargo periods serve a purpose (mostly to line the pockets of publishers) but allowing a version of the article to be deposited in a repository when it could be changed after can lead to confusion or misunderstanding for the reader. It also means less publicity for the article when the whole point of making it freely available is for exposure. It’s an easier and cheaper option for the author but doesn’t necessarily help the reader find it.

Currently you really can’t win when it comes to Open Access, there are still restrictions for both the author and the reader and both come down to scholarly publishers thinking too much about money.

Now i’m going to drown my sorrows of Arsenal’s painful defeat and eat some cheesecake….or trifle.

The plight of small libraries

As someone who works in a small specialist library I have some gripe with scholarly publishing. I have nothing against the intention to publish academic works nor who their content is aimed at. Perfectly respectable aim to get research out into the public realm. As a student I think it’s great, it helps a lot for me to be able to search City’s library catalogue and be able to login to an Academic journal through a big publisher’s website.

But as someone from a small specialist library my gripe is the price of these journals. Not just online price but print price as well can get up to ridiculous prices and with budgets being cut across all libraries not just small libraries it can easily become unattainable to subscribe to so many journals. I understand why the cost of the subscriptions can be so high is because scholarly publishing avoids advertising and therefore depends on subscriptions to get by. But the library I work for has a very small budget but with high demand for access to certain academic journals. We’re fortunate in that we have historical agreements in place for a lot of our journals in exchange for our own publications so we don’t have to pay for all of our subscriptions but some examples of price can be found below:

Building Research and Information – £1470
Energy and Buildings – £2278
Building and Environment  – £2561

I know we’re a library so you would expect that to be nothing for us, but subscribing to over 100 journals soon adds up and our FD really isn’t fond of signing off on such payments when he doesn’t see a big benefit. But these are journals are customers need and get a benefit from so we’re stuck between a rock and a hard place.

As I say we are fortunate in that we have these historical agreements in place so we don’t have to fork out but not all libraries like us are in the same position. They are facing closure because they simply can’t afford to pay for subscriptions and so lose readers. Scholarly publishers (particularly the big four who own 50% of the market!!) need to acknowledge that their subscriptions aren’t attainable for all of their customers. Yes they have certain deals like so many articles can be bought for a reduced price but that still doesn’t help library collections. Perhaps if they looked to some sort of advertising they might be able to help out libraries who are facing budget cuts.

Another worry for us when it comes to scholarly publishing is the move towards online subscriptions replacing print subscriptions. Two of our regular journals have now stopped printing and only have their articles available to view online. I accept this is a great idea on the whole but it doesn’t always help libraries. We are facing a battle to move to electronic delivery, a battle over copyright and a battle over costs.  When contacting the publishers we have agreements with about moving to online access instead of print we are met with either stony silence or a “That’s fine but you’ll need to start to cough up”. As I say we can’t afford that at the moment and because of our current CLA license we can’t legally do that at the moment.

I understand the benefits of scholarly publishing and the intention but from a library perspective I think there are serious flaws to it in terms of the sorts of subscriptions available and also the move to online only access. As always there is a lack of communication between what the publisher wants and what the libraries need.

Not a terribly insightful week of blogging….

Digitalising our collection will cost how much?!

So I was convinced I was going to be having a huge rant this week as Ernesto mentioned the dreaded C word (copyright people, mind out of the gutter). But actually, I find because I rant about copyright to myself at least once a day i’m going to try and keep this short.

Copyright is a bone of contention in my workplace, we’re currently trying to move our catalogue forward into the 21st century and offer more electronic documents to our customers but we’re continuously coming up against copyright restrictions on what we can and can’t do. It’s beyond frustrating. The problem for us is the majority of our collection was created in hard copy rather than created as a digital. By digitising our hard copy collections we are essentially copying them and so we break copyright law but how else can we make our collection electronically accessible to our customers?!

The CLA have been helpful in some respects. We used to send out journal articles (we’re mostly online request library) through the post so customers would wait 24hrs before receiving their document, not great. So the CLA suggested LockLizard which is a DRM software, it helps us at least send out our journal articles at the time of request with certain restrictions such as only being able to view it for a specific time period, not being able to forward it on, limited print etc. The condition for us though is we still aren’t allowed to keep digital copies, if a customer requests an article we have to physically scan it and then lock the pdf before sending it. It’s still not instant access. Currently the CLA will not allow us to hold permanent digital versions of our hard copy collections. But that’s okay at the moment, they are working with us to come up with a sensible solution and in the meantime we have some sort of electronic delivery. Not ideal but fortunately our customers have appreciated the effort (it helps we’re in one of the last industries to go digital).

However, that’s not the half of it. LockLizard has only provided us with an answer to our journal collection. We have a vast amount of books as well as British Standards and it is that collection that is the issue. We currently own over 3000 standards in our collection worth an estimated £300,000 that we can only send out via the post for a loan period of a month. Speaking to BSI about trying to convert our hard copy collection into an electronic collection has so far proved fruitless, one suggestion was we buy our whole collection again…..yes, because we can afford not to pay a large chunk of our staff to do so.

Unfortunately digitisation of existing physical collections is a bit of a grey area, CLA do have a specific scheme for it that publishers can sign up to and agree for their works to be digitised but there is no requirement for them to sign up. It’s choice, which is great because it does offer control to publishers of their content but it does nothing to help libraries.

In the situation where publishers have not signed up the CLA says it should be negotiation on a case-by-case basis. Negotiation is difficult and a tedious process, something we as a company have only started to understand. We’re in talks with both CLA and BSI; CLA are trying to be as helpful as possible while at the same time asking us to cough up more money for our transactional license. BSI are understandably hesitant, they want control of their collections and they don’t want to lose customers through us.

As a publisher, as well as a library, I can definitely understand that but all we want to do is provide easy access to our members and not risk losing our very expensive standards in the post!  Libraries are still important in today’s world and therefore should be making the effort to move into the digital world but it becomes impossible if publishers aren’t willing to be flexible with their content.

Aesop who?

So this blog is going to be a short focus on what is an author and are they important?

Foucault’s essay very early on mentions Beckett’s suggestion of ‘What does it matter who is speaking?’, it’s interesting to think that the author isn’t of any importance, in my head the author is extremely important to any work because the author’s experiences and nature changes how a text is written. It matters immensely who is speaking because it changes the way you read a work, if you know that the author writing an article about the Army actually served then you would read it differently, perhaps with more trust or perhaps with more distrust because the author has a particular view of the subject of his work that might skew his depiction.

Storytelling-Dog-The-boy-who-cried-wolfBut then to counter that Foucault makes the excellent point of ‘literary’ works (works such as stories, fairy tales, folk tales etc.) we just accept and continue to retell without question, we don’t know who actually authored them. An example of this is ‘The Boy Who Cried Wolf’, we all know the story of the boy who cried wolf so many times that by the time he actually saw a wolf and needed help no one believed him. While the story has been associated with Aesop there is no guarantee that he is the author and in all fairness most people who know the story don’t know who he is or have an interest in finding out where the story came from. Aesop as the author has disappeared for the majority. So is the author still important?

The importance of the author is a confusing one, i’m going to go with that it really depends on the work in question. With literary works it appears the story itself is what is important, there is nothing to say that in a few hundred years time kids will know the story of Harry Potter but not have a clue who JK Rowling is (sorry Jo, very unlikely!) and actually have no interest in who she is (sorry again!). The story can standalone because it’s fiction, it is what it pertains to be which is a story. The author can disappear. However, with a non-fiction work or an academic work or even a journalistic work the experiences and the opinions of that author are of more value. When I sit down and read New Scientist when I can get my hands on the new issue at work on a Monday i’m less inclined to trust an article about Penguins sense of taste if it is written by Marketing Manager than I am if I know that the author is a leading expert in Penguins and their environment.

The appearance of the author really depends on the work.

Now despite my disappointment at missing last week’s session I am very excited for tomorrow’s session on copyright. A subject close to my chest as it’s always such an issue at work not only for getting a purchase order signed off but also painfully trying to explain to a library user that no they cannot photocopy a British Standard.

My blog might be slightly longer next week as well as i’ll be attending the Publishing Expo at Olympia so should have some exciting things to discuss….or rant about. Probably the rant.

Is web 2.0 publishing a credible resource?

So our second session of LAPIS did not inspire as much of a desire to rant as much as the first session did mostly because ownership didn’t come up (i’m trying really hard not to go off on a mad tangent again). Instead it was the form in which information is delivered, specifically Marshall McLuhan’s ‘medium is the message’ concept, which really piqued my interest.

Why is that so interesting? Well it’s odd to think that the medium in which a message is put across can change the whole meaning of it. As I said in my previous blog the world of publishing has changed because we’re all publishers now, i’m a publisher with this blog, i’m a publisher on Twitter etc. But the means in which i’m communicating my message does not necessarily give it much authority. In the ‘old’ days of publishing, or if I were to look at publishing in the traditional sense of books which have been peer reviewed or edited, the book could be considered trustworthy in what it said or it had some sort of authority to it because why else would a publishing house pay to print something they thought was rubbish? There was a clear intention with this channel of communication, but is there such a clear intention with newer means of publishing?

When you are published in print you have rules you’ve followed during authoring, you’ve had to prove your theories or back up your arguments. For example at my company when we are publishing a publication we have to go through a lot of work before that publication is acceptable to print. We have industry steering groups, publication panels, production meetings and that’s all before the authoring has even taken place! With a book or a journal article there is an element of trust in what you are reading, there is meaning in print because it’s been picked up by a publishing house for a reason, there is belief in that idea and input from other parties to check the work.  But with a blog or a Twitter account there is no need for any of this so what impact does that have on the information or on the reader?

When I read a Tweet or a blog or I look at an image on Instagram what do I think? Do I believe what I read or see? Do I trust that a blogger’s arguments are supported by other research? The communication channel of information really can have an influence over how that information is perceived, web 2.0 does not scream academic to me, it does not scream ‘use me as a reference in your essay’. There is an element of distrust when it comes to web 2.0 publishing. Granted an author of a blog or of a tweet could be a genuine expert in the field they are writing about but how do I know that is the case? How can I trust the ramblings of a librarian to provide me with true information or information that is going to help me in my working environment?

Now I know in my previous blog I said I was a supporter of free publishing and everyone should have the right to publish what they want but I do have a problem with that which is reliability. Without some sort of moderation or peer review there are limitations to the information being published. The information loses some of it’s meaning because the meaning of the channel lacks some sort of credibility.

While I agree that publishing needs to open up and adapt to new technologies I think some of the methods of publishing need to remain the same. Web 2.0 may be the future of publishing but it could do with learning from older forms of publishing before it can even be considered as credible.

What’s the deal with copyright?!

So back to university after Christmas and with it some new and exciting modules. Looking at LAPIS or to use the full title Libraries and Publishing in an Information Society is definitely a module of particular interest to me. I’ve been fortunate the past two years to work in an Information Centre that is both a publisher as well as a library so I get to see two sides of the same coin you could say. We have the continuous negotiation of our CLA license every year (try arguing about the legal ramifications of that with a finance director who only looks at the cost!) at the same time as receiving our publishing royalties which in fact come from the very same license we’re paying for in the library. Talk about conflicting interests.

The main point I took away from the first session was the fact that because culture, technology and understanding are constantly changing so does the way we disseminate information. Publishing itself has changed, it is no longer insular and selective because now everyone can do it. Anyone can now become a publisher, we do it without even thinking through blogs, Twitter and even the ability to add our own writings on to the kindle store through Amazon’s Kindle Direct Publishing for anyone to download (my new favourite series of books is by an author who did just that, couldn’t get a deal with a publisher so published it himself….he found so much success there are plans for the series to be made into a film).

I think the reason this appealed so much is because when looking at what an Information Society is I’m very much for the idea of Manuel Castell’s idea of a Socio-cultural information society – in the Western world at least we all seem to have a social account of some sort which we use to spread our thoughts (granted sometimes it might be what I had for dinner) to anyone who we wish to see it or in some cases for anyone in the public to see it. That is publishing!

There is so much power in web 2.0 from an informational point without much comprehension. Before as a company we focused primarily on getting information out in bound books but now we have a successful blog that creates discussion within our industry, now we have topic guides that we launch off our Twitter account as free downloads, we’re just about to  launch our main annual publication as an interactive app with plans for more app based guides. The way we deliver information has changed because the way we engage with each other has changed. I love that concept because it puts people back at the heart of publishing, it isn’t necessarily about the information being presented it’s about the users of the information and the best form of delivery. 

One other point that came up in the session that stuck with me because it’s a bug bearer for me at work is who owns content? I mean i’m publishing this blog and it’s under my name so therefore it’s mine. We publish books that come from ideas discussed at steering groups then

written by our staff or guest authors but sponsored by other companies. Who on earth owns that content? Well we argue that we do as we own the copyright to that publication, but how on earth is that decided? Arguably it should be the author or the idea creator as they produced the content, it was their effort and research that enabled something to be published so why shouldn’t it be theirs? But nope, the publisher paid for the work to be done so economically it’s theirs. It doesn’t help that the copyright license is split between the PLS (Publishing Licensing Society) and the ALCS (Authoring Licensing and Collecting Society)…who owns what?! Why have I got such a headache trying to figure out who to contact about using content?!

So going back to one of my earlier points, I love the idea of publishing no longer being the traditional definition and us facing this new information evolution or revolution even. It means that authors and idea creators get their thoughts out there without prejudice or the money strings holding us back. While it may make copyright and ownership more confusing as well as control of our ideas somewhat impossible it does mean that information at least gets out there without restriction. I’m all for more information and even more supportive of free information….not sure if that is the librarian in me or just the socialist?

Granted I do have to say the downside of information without restriction or editorial is we do end up with some disturbing things being published on the web.