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Interview with the Librarian — Volume 2

It’s the second instalment of Interview with the Librarian and this time we have the pleasure of speaking with Lucille Osafo from Bristol Grammar School.

We’re lucky in the fact that we work with librarians from all levels of the education industry, and beyond, so we should have some interesting variety in our answers.

Before we begin, our trivia question from last week:

Which 1994 film is the title of this blog series inspired by?
The answer is Interview with the Vampire directed by Neil Jordan, and starring Brad Pitt, Tom Cruise and Antonio Banderas. The tagline was ‘drink from me and live forever’, which is kind of applicable to libraries, I think.

For next week, could you tell me the famous detention movie set in a library?

Now, the Interview.

Job title?
Senior Librarian

Best part of your job?
Interacting with pupils

Favourite book? Favourite magazine?
Favourite book — The Stand by Stephen King
Favourite magazine — Pride

What will the library of the future be like? (In one sentence)
A creative hub of interconnected data, materials and tools to support lifelong learning — with librarians acting as guides and facilitators

Most common query in the library?
Miss, are my books overdue?

Coffee or Tea?
Builder’s tea

What job would you do if you weren’t a librarian?
I’d be a graphic designer, but I’d really like to have been a DJ!

Should the library be quiet or a place for discussion?
It depends on the type of library. In my opinion, though, a school library should be mainly quiet unless a class is being taught.

Perhaps you could do a silent disco in the library?
That’s a great World Book Day idea!

Anything you would like to ask me?
How do you decide which resources to add to your School Collection?

That’s an interesting question, I suppose at the moment we select titles based on how applicable we think they are to the schools market. This primarily comes down to our judgement of the content. Of course, it would be excellent to get the opinion of School Librarians, so if anyone has any suggestions, please get in touch!

As always, if you’d like to participate or nominate a colleague, you can reach me at tom.rodenby@exacteditions.com

Interview with the Librarian – Volume 1

Welcome to our new 2019 blog series! We’re excited about this one.

We’re going to be asking librarians a short selection of questions that are intended to be fun and easygoing. We’ll be mixing up the questions from time to time to keep things fresh. Entries will be released once a week on Friday afternoons for a spot of leisurely reading before the weekend.

A little bit of trivia to start… which 1994 film is the title of the series inspired by?
Send answers to tom.rodenby@exacteditions.com

We start the series with Peter Reid of Bath Spa University, who was the first librarian to kindly volunteer their time.

Job Title

Digital Services Librarian

Best part of your job?

There’s just so much of it … with some good people.

Favourite book?

The Secret History.

Favourite magazine?

French Vanity Fair.

What will the library of the future be like? (In one sentence)

A place for quiet thought and creativity, and the generation of new ideas and knowledge, like it always was.

Most common query in the library?

Something springing from a failed, seamed journey along the many back-and-forths from link click to full text, unfortunately.

Coffee or Tea?

Coffee.

What job would you do if you weren’t a librarian?

Some sort of researcher.

Should the library be quiet or a place for discussion?

Quiet. The rest of the university/organisation/city or town or village is for discussion.

Anything you would like to ask me?

Job title? etc.

I’m the institutional sales and marketing manager here at Exact Editions. The role is quite varied and my responsibilities range from liaising with librarians and subscriptions agents to thinking of new email designs, writing press releases and writing blog posts!

Would you like to participate? Or nominate a colleague?
You can reach me at tom.rodenby@exacteditions.com

Exact Editions - 2019 Goals

Number One — Community Building

Fortunately for us, we already have quite a few librarian friends, but there is always room for more. In 2019 we aim to speak with as many librarians as possible. We want to hear about your daily challenges, your long-term goals, industry insights and career achievements. As part of this, we are starting a blog series (the first of which will be posted very soon) in which we ask librarians a short set of questions that should only take a minute or two to answer.

Would you like to participate? Get in touch — institutions@exacteditions.com

On a more professional note, we will be attending events such as the London Book Fair and conferences run by CILIP, JISC and UKSG. These events are very informative for us and a great opportunity to put some faces to names. Beyond that, we will be aiming to visit more libraries in person, or if you are too far away, to arrange a phone call. If you’d like to meet-up or speak over the phone, then please do let us know.

Finally, we have the library advisory board, complete with new members who will be introduced in the next round of questions! We hope that these efforts will put librarians at the heart of our strategy. We want our service to be the best it can be, and in order to achieve that, we want to continue getting to know the proactive and famously friendly library community.

Number Two — Content, Content, Content

2018 was a great year for content acquisition at Exact Editions. We had a number of new periodicals join the institutional platform, including the illustrious Times Literary Supplement which has proved very popular with customers around the world.

We’ve also started 2019 with a bang, introducing several new music titles from Future. Now the aim is to keep this momentum going and our dedicated content acquisition team will be looking to secure more titles for the platform, so keep an eye out and send us any recommendations.

The word of a librarian can carry a lot of weight in discussions with publishers, and of course, we always love to find new magazines.

Which periodical would you like to see on Exact Editions?
Let us know at institutions@exacteditions.com

Number Three —The Next Level

At Exact Editions, we are continually looking to the future and what can be described as the ‘Next Level’. This involves a balance of consolidating our current position and seeking new opportunities. To achieve this we have to have a strong, cohesive team and plenty of ideas.

We have Tech, who are constantly searching for ways to improve the online Web reader, the Exactly apps and the customer experience on our shop pages. They are working to align with the needs of libraries, in particular using the advice that we have received from meetings with librarians. And on top of this, they are developing new and exciting features for our subscribers, more will be revealed on the latest of these in the near future…

We have Production and Account Managers who work tirelessly to bring new publishers onboard and control the flow of content on the site. Without their work, we wouldn’t have the New Humanist archive dating back to 1884 or the enormous archive of The Tablet which is still in production. I suppose in a sense they are quite similar to librarians; acquiring, preserving and organising content for future readers. With more archives on the way, steam will be coming off of Production’s keyboards.

Finally, Marketing and Finance, who are the first point of contact for librarians and subscription agents. They will be coming up with new and innovative ways to spread the word about our favourite magazines and make sure that current subscribers are happy. Expect to see new email designs, plenty of blog posts and tweets.

New Humanist Archive — A Feat of Preservation

Every issue of the New Humanist and its predecessors dating back to 1885 is now available through the state-of-the-art digital edition developed in partnership with Exact Editions. We like to think that those historical issues have now moved into the ‘safe pile’. In their digital format, they will stride forth into the future to be read by new generations of readers and thinkers.

What makes this archive special is that it contains a full set of periodicals, from Watts’s Literary Guide through to New Humanist, as well as journals such as the Agnostic Annual and Question. This is the first time these periodicals have been collectively organised into a digital database and this illustrates how not-in-print publications can be revived to see new usage. Alongside the latest issue of New Humanist, subscribers will also be able to travel back to trace the development of the atheist, humanist and rationalist movements since the RA was founded in 1885. Before this intervention, those older issues may have been gathering dust on a shelf, now they will play an active role in the studies of academics around the world.

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Building digital archives to preserve valuable voices and historical content is an integral element of maintaining a connection to our past, which is just as important as our future. As information providers, magazines are unique in the sense that they are often focused on a particular topic, providing readers with detailed, high-quality and reliable commentary. Not only that but they are exhibitions of the design methods and stylistic choices used by different generations. Exact Editions takes great pride in preserving every page of every issue, including advertisements, letters from readers and even expired special offers! The New Humanist archive is a perfect example of this as you can watch the magazine develop over several generations. From the early days of black and white text, to the tentative uses of coloured covers in the 30s and 40s, followed by the use of photographs to attract attention from the 60s to the 90s, and then from 2000 onwards we can observe the prominence of graphic design and illustration. It is through digital preservation that we are able to track these developments so readily.

We are sometimes asked, “How can you guarantee that these magazines will survive the technological development of the next 10 or 50 years?” Realistically, it is difficult to predict how technology is going to shift even in the next 5 years, but we are acutely aware of what is at stake. Take, for example, VR or AR (Virtual Reality/Augmented Reality). These technologies look as though they may be real and widespread by 2024, it is still too early to say how they will work with our cultural heritage, but we believe that the emphasis will be on preserving the exact look and feel of the magazines. Magazines are defined by their pages and content, that has not, and will not, change. We stick to our guns when we say that magazines are in a strong position for survival. Read our article on the Future of Magazines for more insight into this claim.

To finish, a thought experiment — imagine Augmented Reality tools interacting with magazines in 2024. Do you think those virtual, digital objects for the AR headsets will be manipulating something that feels like an ebook, or a stream of XML? Or will we be virtually playing with something that looks like a print magazine? Of course, if magazines become streams of XML from the user point of experience, then that is what we should be preserving. But for now, we should aim to preserve the content in the form in which we experience it and use digital formats that look as though they might last a long time. PDFs, JPEGs and ASCII all have that aura of reasonable longevity and our work with companies such as Portico ensures the content is safeguarded for future generations.

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Magazines in the future?

Explore the Archive

Through the years, the Rationalist Association has published cutting-edge articles on an array of topics such as religion, poetry and history. To celebrate the World Digital Preservation Day, we have opened up some of the best articles in the archive for readers to enjoy.

George Bernard Shaw, “What is my Religious Faith?” — Rationalist Annual, 1945.

Bertrand Russell, “Are the World’s Troubles due to Decay of Faith?” — Rationalist Annual, 1954.

Philip Larkin, “This be the Verse.” — The Humanist, August 1971.

Richard Dawkins, “Lions 10, Christians nil.” — New Humanist, June 1992.

Philip Pullman, “The Cuckoo’s Nest.” — New Humanist, Winter 2014.

Why Read Magazines? — The Value of Magazines as News Resources

To briefly introduce ourselves, Exact Editions is an online platform that works with numerous publishing partners to produce the digital versions of their magazines, so we like to think we know a thing or two about why they’re so important.

For over a decade now, we have advocated the strength and uniqueness of magazines compared to other sources of information. A large part of this has involved making significant headway into the academic library market by building archives of immense cultural value and offering them with site-wide access. Many of these archives speak for themselves, e.g. Gramophone and Sight & Sound, because of the depth and quality of the specialised content. The role of Exact Editions is to make this content as accessible as possible for users, by offering advanced search functionality, dedicated app access and other technical features, we facilitate audience growth and introduce new revenue streams for publishers.

We support the content.

So, why magazines? What makes them so special?

Quality Control

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Photo by William Iven on Unsplash

As you are reading this blog, I will assume that most of you are users of social media, whether that be Facebook, Twitter, Instagram or Reddit. Many of you will find the latest news via these sites, whether you follow specific individuals, or global brands such as the BBC, CNN or Al Jazeera. There are undoubtedly many benefits to the increased availability and freedom to information, however, there are also severe downsides. Take Twitter as an example, it is exceptionally easy to create an ‘echo chamber’ around yourself, by following only those whose views align with your own, many of us do this unconsciously without considering the consequences. Now let’s say that you do endeavour to seek out a variety of news sources — where do you start? The sheer volume of information being generated every second is enough to make heads spin. This oversaturation has multiple effects: increasing the use of buzzwords in articles to attract attention, reducing the attention span of readers and lowering the quality of journalism in favour of quantity.

Magazines address this problem perfectly.

Magazines crystallise the culture of the time, succeeding where social media fails. They are released on a regular timeline, affording them a nimbleness unmatched by book publishers and an orderliness absent in social media. This regularity ensures that magazines have a contemporary focus, offering prudent commentary rather than reactionary headlines. The editors act as guardians of information, they filter through the white noise to find the important voices and events. They then thread these voices and stories together to form cohesive, well-informed arguments that challenge readers to think rationally and deeply. Not only is this useful in the modern world where we fight against a tide of fake and fleeting news; it is also useful for preserving the defining moments and influential figures of each generation for future generations. Combine this with the growing accessibility of complete archives of magazines and you realise that magazines provide us with a reliable thread back through history. Think of them as Ariadne, offering you, Theseus, a spool of thread as you make your way through the labyrinth of the internet in search of dependable news.

Political Bias

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Photo by Priscilla Du Preez on Unsplash

Why read magazines to find news when we have newspapers? I hear you cry. Well, with political allegiances rife and visible, many newspapers are no longer able to legitimately claim a stance of neutrality. Magazines largely fall outside of that category as they are typically focused on specialist subject areas. This sharpening of the lens affords them the freedom to explore topics without having to worry about the overarching views of the brand they represent or the political view they advocate. This can work both ways; for example, Geographical benefits from viewing issues in terms of their global relevance, whereas Tate Etc. is focussed purely on the interpretation of art.

The point is that although magazines inevitably interact with and are influenced by politics; they are not shaped by politics.

*Of course, there are political magazines out there with agendas, and politics filters down into almost every aspect of life, however, magazines do operate in their own journalistic sphere which is less subject to outside influences and more content-oriented.

Again, I would also like to return to the problem of ‘echo chambers’. By and large, newspapers appeal to those who agree with the news they publish. Only the most dedicated follower of the news will actively purchase different newspapers to widen their perspective. Magazine readers, on the other hand, are often forced to chew on articles that don’t necessarily align with their political or cultural views. This encourages a broadening of the mind and is healthy for readers.

Style / Design

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This one is simple. We all love great visuals and design. Our brains are hardwired to enjoy neat edges, fancy fonts and sprawling high-quality double page spread images. Magazines offer visceral imagery that is missing in books and academic journals. We should not only consider this in aesthetic terms, but also in terms of academic value. Photos have the power to take the reader directly to the political situation in Libya, or to the depths of the Amazon Rainforest, they encourage engagement and make content easier to digest.

There is more to design than meets the eye.

In some fields, design isn’t a luxury, it is essential. Magazines that cover topics such as; modern art, architecture, ceramics and fashion are obvious supporters of the magazine format. But the need for style stretches far beyond these topics. Think poetry, think science, think business. They need specific formatting, diagrams, infographics. Magazines afford publishers the freedom to be creative and to devise new ways to inform their readers. With digital technology now able to replicate complete archives with pinpoint accuracy, magazines should be go-to resources for academics and rational readers.

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