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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, July 14, 2006

    Scholarly Publishing: e-books to the rescue (again)

    When Ray Lonsdale and I did our study in the late nineties, we commented in our report, The publishing of electronic scholarly monographs and text books, that the financial pressures on University presses were leading them to turn to electonic publishing. So it was interesting to read today in Inside Higher Ed that the crisis in scholarly publishing is still driving e-books forward:
    It’s hard to attend scholarly meetings these days without someone talking about the “crisis of scholarly publishing,” which goes something like this: Libraries can’t afford to buy new scholarly books; in turn, university presses can’t afford to publish books no one can buy and so cut back on their sales of monographs; in turn, junior professors can’t get their first books published and have a tough time getting tenure.
    Rice University on Thursday announced a plan to shake up those interconnected problems. Rice University Press, which was killed in 1996, will be revived. But unlike every other university press, it will publish all of its books online only. People will be able to read the books for no charge and to download them for a modest fee.
    At almost the same time, Springer has launched an e-book collection. Andrew Pace, in his Hectic Pace Blog,
    was pretty excited to see that Springer is launching its own e-book platform ... a publisher finally getting a clue about e-books. Some bullet points:
    • Mixed content: journal articles, e-books (reference works, textbooks, monographs, atlases), and an e-book series organized into 12 subject categories.
    • Pricing that is highest for larger research-intensive organizations and scales down from print list price to 66% less than list price (consortial pricing is available and encouraged!).
    • An ownership model for libraries. You buy it, you own it. Put it in a repository, print a preservation copy. You sever the relationship with Springer and they will give you the XML files, including metadata, or let them continue to host the content for a very small annual fee.
    • Standards compliance: COUNTER compliant usage statistics; title and chapter level digital object identifiers; metasearch compatible with Z39.50 and SRW/SRU access; linked references in OpenURL format.
    • Available online in HTML and RSS format, or downloadable as a PDF
    • Partnerships with middleware providers are maintained. If you want to buy it from netLibrary, eBrary, Myilibrary, EBL, go ahead.
    • A usable (albeit beta) search interface, that even has Guided Navigation powered by Endeca
    • And finally...wait for it...wait for it...
      No Digital Rights Management
    I have reproduced his description in full, as I too am pleased to see a publisher moving forwards in the right direction.

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