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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, September 24, 2007

    Books (and magazines) as e-editions

    Exact Editions has offered e-magazines, or electronic versions of print magazines since early 2006; as they say:
    Exact Editions is bringing magazines into the digital age. It turns out that if you treat them right, magazines work fine on the web pretty much exactly the way they are. This means that we can read a magazine as a sequence of web pages, or we can browse it rapidly by viewing a section of 16 pages in a browse mode, individual web pages can be bookmarked or referenced, and we can print out a page if it particularly interests us or we want to take a recipe into the kitchen.
    As a part of the process, they also add value. Visit their website and you can view trial issues of any of the titles they handle or subscribe for regular monthly issues of one or more titles.

    Now, they have moved into the book arena - new titles from Berkshire Publishing are being made available, complete, for a short period after their launch. Exact Editions will work work as a promotional service for book publishers and Berkshire is their first customisation. Berkshire Exact Editions inlcude just four titles, but these include two multi-volume works Berkshire Encyclopedia of World Sport and Berkshire Encyclopedia of World History - over 2,000 pages), as well as Global Perspectives on the United States and the Berkshire Encyclopedia of Extreme Sports). While they are available, the entire text is also searchable.

    There are several interesting aspects to this. Firstly, this is an experiment in promotion: how does that work? Exact Editions has in a short period made a name for itself as a magazine e-publisher, but why will their site produce more sales than the publisher's own? They (and Berkshire!) are going to have to work hard to drive traffic to the new site. Secondly, this is an experiment in open access. The WHOLE text of the book is available, FREE for reading and research. How can that improve sales? But, writers who have used the web in this way have for some time found that far from reducing sales (because readers can read it for free on the web), it has tended to increase sales (presumably because those readers still crave a physical book).

    This is going to prove interesting: not the least, because - if it works - other publishers may go down the same route and make whole books available as loss leaders or for promotion. A whole new concept - the transitory e-book - has arrived. Imagine the problems of bibliographical control!

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