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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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    Thursday, June 28, 2007

    First Bloomsbury Conference on e-publishing and e-publications

    Today and tomorrow, The Centre for Publishing at University College London is running this conference devoted to scholarly publishing placed in context as one aspect in a larger picture of scholarly communication. It is subtitled 'Models in Flux: Books and Journals'. In the morning, Graham Taylor (Publishers Association) gave an overview of the e-content scene [we may come back to that term in a later post!], and Dave Nicholas (Centre for Publishing), Richard Withey (Independent News and Media plc) and Robert Kiley (Wellcome Trust) spoke on three drivers of change: what the virtual user wants, changing economics, and funded research.

    If a theme could be detected running through the first morning, it was people power: the 'Consumer as King' - the consumer of electronically published content will drive or direct the market. Today's technology is the first that is consumer led, and is thus the first to let the consumer control the publishing agenda. The phrase 'Consumer as predator' was also used! With so much information available from so many sources, the consumer can vote with his or her feet and select the sources that work best for his or her circumstance. And, a theme picked up in the afternoon sessions: publishers must be prepared to completely rethink the way they publish, to rethink the traditional supply chain - a message exemplified by the final speaker, Christopher Warnock, CEO of eBrary.

    But if publishers need to "identify the problems with the old boundaries; identify the new boundaries" (Withey) they also need to learn from other communications industries - music, news, broadcasting - and they have to engage with the new technologies and the new distribution formats; to engage with others to find solutions. Perhaps even to 'release control of content to consumers to remix' (Withey quoting Jeff Jarvis - BuzzMachine).

    Perhaps some of the 'others' with whom publishers engage might be the librarians at the Bloomsbury Conference. Seven to ten years into the e-book revolution many still find themselves thwarted by the range of publishing/licensing/charging models, the lack of current titles, the apparent repeat of the journals 'big deal' approach, and the need for multiple interfaces. Oh, and the lack of bibliographical sources. Many, but not all: Terry Bucknell from University of Liverpool libraries has forged a clear and successful route into this virtual world.

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