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….