Philosophy in the library

CILIP — the leading British association for librarians — was yesterday holding its annual conference in Manchester. I noticed that one of the two keynote presentations was to be given by Luciano Floridi: the Oxford philosopher, (but of course he is deeply Italian!), who has for some years been developing an ambitious philosophy of information. Professor Floridi is a wide-ranging and well read philosopher and his The 4th Revolution: How the infosphere is reshaping human reality is particularly recommended. He also makes excellent presentations, and is prepared to say “boo” to an AI goose.

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Floridi’s concluding slide —from @suszyredec

Although I follow Floridi on Twitter and read his stuff (some of it, not all of it, he writes a lot), I did not know that he was influential in Library and Information Science. After a quick check on Google and Twitter, it was clear that there is quite a stream of work in LIS building on his ideas. So I kept half an eye on the #cilipconf17 floridi stream on Twitter yesterday. There were hundreds of tweets about his presentation. Uniformly enthusiastic. Of course one cannot really get a full picture of a presentation from the tweet stream it occasions, but this was a very dense stream; and I am sure that CILIP’s organisers will feel that they made a good choice in inviting Floridi to their event.

I especially liked his concluding thought (see the photo of his slide above). Library and Information Science does not just take care of the past for the present, it takes care of the present for the future. Librarians, and cultural curators of all kinds, really do have a crucial role to play in preserving the present for the future. And we need to remember that, although much of what we do seems to be concerned with preserving the past for the present. He also reminded his audience that librarians have real power: they have power to the extent that they can help their users and their patrons to ask the right questions. Whoever controls the questions plays a big part in controlling the answers.

 

 

The Dunedin Collection on the Exact Editions platform

DunedinCovers

he 24 books in the Dunedin Society, Health and Family Care Collection are distributed through the Exact Editions platform for digital reading. This format beats ebook software, as found on the Kindle or iBooks readers, in four ways that matter in research and teaching.

  • all the content is delivered exactly as it is in print;
  • each print page is also a web page and is therefore easily cited;
  • the collection can be easily searched as a group of books
  • the licensing is for the whole institution and allows for unlimited reading by simultaneous users

All the content in the print books has been exactly replicated, page by page, on the digital platform. So, the layout, the illustrations, the exact text, the pagination, the typographic format and even the front covers will be found in the digital books. The digital version should be indistinguishable from the printed version

DunedinDoublepage

A double page spread pp36-7 Seng and Taylor: Trauma Informed Care in the Perinatal Period 

Digital pagination is exactly as in print pagination. Each and every page on the digital platform has its own url (as does every double-page spread). So the book can be easily cited or linked to, students can provide links as references in their assignments and and lecture notes can be given as click-through links. Pages can be shared through social media and readers can be confident that they are seeing exactly what would be seen in the print book. As every page is a distinct digital object with its own url it is easy for other apps to target the content.

Wordle

Tweeting a Wordle from Alexander and Stafford Children and Organised Sport 

All the books in a collection can be searched, asa a group or individually. This brings out the advantages of a curated body of content such as the Dunedin collection, where readers may well be interested in the way that a topic is treated in other sources. The searching function is similar to, and as easy to use as, the Google search routines. Boolean search functions are also supported.

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Searching for ‘risk assessment’ in the Dunedin Collection

 

The Dunedin collection is licensed annually on a subscription basis for individuals and institutions. The individual license allows for use on the web and through the Exactly app (available for iOS and Android devices) for downloadable use on tablets or phones. Institutional licenses are priced on a campus-wide basis and allow unlimited and simultaneous use by all members of the institution. New content is added automatically to collections as the content becomes available and libraries are provided with remote access, user statistics and comprehensive online support.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

DunedinDoublepage

Comag in a precarious position

Comag is in the magazine distribution business. It is the kind of operation that fulfils very useful roles in the publishing economy but this role is largely hidden and ill understood. Sad news this week as it appears that its owners and investors, two of the world’s biggest magazine companies: Conde Nast and Hearst UK, are pulling out of their joint venture and withdrawing their support. Comag is important as a link in the export chain for many British consumer magazines and perhaps even more important for the import of US publications to the UK market, If you buy a US consumer magazine in the UK there is a good chance that it will have a Comag price sticker on it.

There has been no full explanation of why business became so rough for Comag in 2016, but news reports suggest that last year the company lost £4 million. It is probable that this unexpected and painful loss was caused by foreign exchange fluctuations. If Comag was buying magazines from US publishers on a discount from the US published price and selling these copies at £ prices that had been agreed and negotiated with large UK distributors, then Comag would have been subject to a  very uncomfortable squeeze. This could be seen as a lesson in reverse Brexit. A weak £ should encourage exports and squeeze imports. This was the squeezing imports side of the equation, but the British importer pays the penalty. Whether a weaker pound will help the UK magazine companies that export to the rest of the world is not so clear.  Consumer magazine publishers do not want to increase sticker prices even if they can see inflation coming. Perhaps a weak £ will simply ease the margins of the companies, similar to Comag, that arrange for distribution of British published magazines in the US, Canada, Australia and elsewhere.

The big lesson for magazine publishers is simple: get some efficient digital distribution in place, and consider offering your loyal subscribers a print/digital combination at a competitive price. That way temporary disruption of the physical distribution network should be simply temporary.  An efficient digital distribution will also mean that your magazine subscriptions can also be sold directly into overseas markets at prices that go straight to your bottom line.

When digital editions are better than ebooks

The ebook format can be quite unsatisfactory in an educational context and we can see this when we use some of the Exact Editions book collections. Let us take the example of the 70+ books from MuseumsEtc.

The MuseumsEtc Collection of books is distributed through the Exact Editions platform for digital reading. This format beats ebook software, as found on the Kindle or iBooks readers, in four ways that matter in research and teaching.

  • all the content is delivered exactly as it is in print;
  • each print page is also a web page and is therefore easily cited;
  • the collection can be easily searched as a group of books
  • the licensing is for the whole institution and allows for unlimited reading by simultaneous users

The digital book should look exactly like the print version

All the content in the print books has been exactly replicated, page by page, on the digital platform. So, the layout, the illustrations, the exact text, the pagination, the typographic format and even the front covers will be found in the digital books. The digital version should be indistinguishable from the printed version

Museums2page

A double page spread from 10 Must Reads: Interpretation

Knowing the exact page matters for references and sharing

Digital pagination is exactly as in print pagination. Each and every page on the digital platform has its own url (as does every double-page spread). So the book can be easily cited or linked to, students can provide links as references in their assignments and and lecture notes can be given as click-through links. Pages can be shared through social media and readers can be confident that they are seeing exactly what would be seen in the print book. As every page is a distinct digital object with its own url it is easy for other apps to target the content.

Museumstweet

Tweeting a double-page spread from The Museum Blog Book

Searching a group of books can be very useful

All the books in a collection can be searched, as a group or individually. This brings out the advantages of a curated body of content such as the MuseumsEtc collection, where readers may well be interested in the way that a topic is treated in other sources. The searching function is similar to, and as easy to use as, the Google search routines. Boolean search functions are also supported.

MuseumsSearch

Searching the MuseumsEtc collection for ‘interactivity’. Over 120 results

Unlimited and multiuser access for the whole institution

The MuseumsEtc Collection is licensed annually on a subscription basis for individuals and institutions. The individual license allows for use on the web and through the Exactly app (available for iOS and Android devices) for downloadable use on tablets or phones. Institutional licenses are priced on a campus-wide basis and allow unlimited and simultaneous use by all members of the institution. New content is added automatically to collections as the content becomes available and libraries are provided with user statistics, remote user access and comprehensive online support.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Burl Ives on Digital Subscriptions

 

News organisations are gradually realising that subscription or reader membership solutions are the only way of making a commercially sustainable digital news service work, what hope is there for ordinary magazines and radio stations in clawing back advertising revenues from Google and Facebook if even Yahoo has to throw in the towel? The near impossibility of advertisement-backed news and reporting has some important cultural and political implications. Since Exact Editions has been successfully selling digital subscriptions to magazines for over 10 years we think it useful to summarise some of the lessons that we have learned. Rather conveniently most of these crucial issues are concisely summarised by the Burl Ives Donut Song.

  1. Its written on the rainbow in letters made of gold. The most crucial point is that delivering a digital subscription reliably and consistently is something that readers and consumers will pay for. A properly designed web service delivers via this arc-shaped rainbow, web subscriptions consistently to all your subscribers. These subscribers buy their renewable subscriptions and these transactions accumulate gradually and they are made of gold.
  2. When you walk through life you will have no cares if you walk the lines and not the squares. Mr Ives was really onto something here. Walking the lines means giving full focus and attention to the editions and issues of which your publication is concerned, and yes there will be gaps whilst you stretch between your regular editions. The publisher has to make sure that the digital editions are at least as good and attractive, as complete and as beautiful as the print editions which have previously established the newspaper or magazine’s reputation. As Digiday puts it “push away from the trap of commoditised online news”
  3. Watch the donut not the hole. The thing is, by concentrating on the lines in the right way, we now have much bigger donuts. One of the great advantages of a digital edition and a digital subscription delivered to all paid up consumers is that the whole archive is available and searchable. So a subscriber is getting new issues every week, month or quarter, but they are also getting continuous access to a fabulous archive a donut that imperceptibly swells as each new issue is added to it.
  4. Written on the rainbow there’s wisdom to behold. Once we have this donut properly baked, sugared and sized up, most consumer publishers will find that there is a large and profitable market for institutional subscriptions. Magazines such as Crafts, Gramophone, Dazed & Confused, have through their rich and extensive archive a database of considerable value to universities and research institutions. Printed magazines and newspapers have been scrupulously collected and shelved by educational libraries, but they are much more valuable and useful when they are databased and delivered digitally on a campus-wide basis. Yes indeed archives can be made of gold.
  5. Alligators dance, the bulldogs all wear pants. This is the best bit of the song. If you watch the lines and not the squares, if the publisher delivers an archive as well as a set of monthly issues, year by year, it turns out that the subscribers (institutions as well as individuals) need the subscription to continue. They want the renewals just as much as the publisher wants and comes to depend on them. Watch the donut and not the hole.

Next time Woody Guthrie on the Grand Coulee Dam. “River while you are rambling you can do some work for me”.