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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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    Monday, July 02, 2007

    Is e-publishing THE solution?

    I seem to be relating everything I find back to the Bloomsbury Conference, but the whole essence of that conference was to look at ways in which electronic publishing might answer the needs of publishers - particularly mentioned as an example were small university presses, which have been - if I may generalise dangerously! - struggling for at least a decade.

    The MLA has just published The Future of Scholarly Publishing: From the Ad Hoc Committee on the Future of Scholarly Publishing. The Ad Hoc Committee on the Future of Scholarly Publishing, established by the Modern Language Association in 1999, set out to examine the current state of academic publishing in the fields of languages and literatures, and this is its report - electronically published. It debates whether there is a crisis in scholarly publishing, and looks at the problems facing scholars; and then it poses the question: 'Is electronic publishing the solution?' :
    The committee agrees that electronic publication is an important new component of the problems that it has set out to examine, a component that must be analyzed in the light of recent experience and research into the topic... [but] questions remain about the economics of electronic publishing, its permanence and circulation, as well as its validation in decisions about tenure and promotion in the university... Several questions about electronic publishing are still not resolved. First, electronic book publication does not necessarily reduce costs, a major portion of which are connected with the editing process. Second, electronic book readers and software programs designed for reading electronic documents on personal computers have not been standardized, and different systems may not become compatible for many years yet...
    There was a third and fourth, but I am in danger of copying the whole report! They dealt with permanence and ownership. The section doesn't answer its own question, but ends up acknowledging problems and possibilities. The report, however, has recommendations for university departments and libraries; and for publishers (only 2 here) and university administrators. Disappointingly, the advice for university presses/publishers does not refer to electronic publishing, and simply states:
    1. We urge university presses to resist pressures to commercialize their operations and to ensure that they maintain their mission to publish scholarly work, including specialized and single-author studies and scholarship, including translations and editions, that are not part of the traditional Anglo-American canon.
    2. We urge presses and scholarly journals to communicate to their authors realistic time lines with respect to the review, editing, and production processes.
    Yes, well...

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