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    Location: Aberystwyth, Wales, United Kingdom

    I am the owner and managing director of Information Automation Limited (IAL), a company that specialises in research, consultancy and training for the information profession. We are particularly interested in all forms of electronic information resources (e-journals, e-books, etc) and I teach a course in electronic publishing at the Department of Information Studies in Aberystwyth. Drilling down still further(!), my interests centre on the quality and evaluation of electronic information, and in the thinking that underpins activities in library and information science.
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    Friday, April 14, 2006

    Publishers with a new outlook on publishing

    One of the things I try to do in this blog is bring together items that seem to me to have some synergy - my own manual mashup! So this week I have come across two items that chime together.
    An item in Business Week, Getting out of a Bind (thanks to DigitalKoans for the tipoff), describes the Caravan Project, in which an entirely new model for publishing will offer customers the choice of receiving books in one of 5 formats: hardcover, digital, audio, print-on-demand, and by chapter. The experiment will start in 2007 - initially with 24 books from 6 non-profit publishers and one bookstore. The reasoning behind it is that publishers cannot continue to "print 10 books to sell 6" -
    publishing's ancient habits are holding it back, keeping it "some sort of relic to Gutenberg." Following the lead of Hollywood mavericks such as billionaire producer and theater owner Mark Cuban, who advocates releasing movies on the same day to theaters, on DVDs, and to TV, ... readers should be able to read books when and how they want.
    Not all publishers are entirely happy with the idea, some are distinctly nervous, but one publisher that might be expected to acknowledge the wisdom behind the experiment is The National Academies Press. The director of NAP's online presence, Michael Jon Jensen - speaking in the keynote presentation of the Illinois Association of College and Research Libraries, noted that NAP - a university-press-like publisher, an independent, prestigious, non-governmental organization that functions as "advisor to the nation on science, engineering, and medicine" - has
    been given a peculiar mandate by our institution: to maximize dissemination, while remaining completely self-sustaining... to give away as much as humanly possible, while still selling enough books to survive financially.
    The paper goes on to explain how the NAP is doing this.
    Just as in the 1990s, university presses were having to balance increasing costs against decreasing library purchase budgets, publishers are now seeking new ways to reach their readers. The article in Business Week suggests that publishers feel huge pressure to sell digital versions of their books due to the big digitisation projects. Some publishers are adding value in unexpected ways - to the huge benefit of readers.

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