Exact Editions 2017 — It’s a Wrap!

First set

With a new year on the horizon, now is the perfect time to kick back, relax and bunker down for winter. But before you do that, it’s worth thinking about how much you’ve achieved this year and what you can do better next year.

Exact Editions can look back at 2017 fondly as a record-breaking number of libraries around the world are now accessing magazines and their archives using the platform. We have been exceptionally busy from January to December; acquiring a plethora of new and diverse titles (which we’re showing off in this post), developing extensive archives, adding useful technical features; and, of course, starting this new blog stream for librarians!

Second set

As you can see, there has been an increased focus on engagement with our users and improving the user experience. For example, check out our blog detailing the best ways to make the most of your Exact Editions subscription: The Holy Grail.

third set

Some of our 2017 highlights:

  • Perpetual Access — Several more magazines are now available to purchase with Perpetual Access. Exact Editions offer a uniquely comprehensive product for libraries, with purchases including the complete archive of the magazine as well as all future issues.
    The full list of participating publishers can be found here: https://institutions.exacteditions.com/showcases/perpetual
  • Library Board — This year, Exact Editions have enlisted the wisdom of several leading librarians and industry experts, who will be consulted on a bi-annual basis to offer thoughts on two or three important topics.
    You can read the introductory blog post here.
  • K-Bart — With improved metadata offerings, Exact Editions are continuously working to ensure that our content is becoming increasingly straightforward to find within library management systems. We’re doing whatever we can to make your lives just that little bit easier!

fourth set

So, what’s in the pipeline for 2018?

  • MARC Records — MARC Records are available for all our titles and can be requested from the start of 2018. This should improve Exact Editions’ catalogue compatibility and discoverability, which in turn should raise usage statistics and content visibility.
  • COUNTER Compliant Usage Statistics — Speaking of usage, another primary goal of 2018 will be to make our stats available on COUNTER. We are aware this is a favoured platform for librarians, and we are keen to migrate our statistics over to COUNTER so that we can offer as much transparency as possible.
  • Library Q&A thread — We will be conducting brief interviews with librarians to talk about periodicals, the growth of digital resources and what they hope for in the future. Would you like to participate? Get in touch with us to give your opinions on the industry.
  • RA21 — Exact Editions very recently attended a conference about the RA21 project, which aims to optimise institutional access to online resources, with a particular focus on remote usage. We will continue to keep updated with potential alternatives to IP-authentication in 2018 and will post any news on our blog.
    Read more about RA21 here: https://ra21.org/index.php/what-is-ra21/
  • Content Acquisition — As always there will be a strong drive for new content on the site across a variety of subjects. If there’s a particular magazine you’d like to see on the platform in 2018, why not recommend it to us via: institutions@exacteditions.com.

We’ll be back in 2018 with regular updates.

From everyone at Exact Editions, we wish you a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.

fifth set


Preservation of magazine content and its accessibility


Reading-Room of the Boston Public Library, 1871 Wikimedia Commons

Clifford Lynch has just published a thoughtful and carefully researched article on Stewardship in the “Age of Algorithms”. Lynch’s central claim is that the web, algorithm-based institutions and our contemporary social media are in practical terms impossible to archive and preserve via traditional approaches. The traditional approaches that he has in mind are ‘format migration’ and ‘emulation’, but he appears to suggest that these are alternative approaches when they are essentially complementary. In fact one cannot have format migration without emulation, and any software emulation requires appropriate file format inputs. Lynch gives us a handy explanation of the format migration strategy:

The traditional models of digital archiving are twofold: format migration and emulation. Both, of course, assume a substrate, which is now relatively well understood and implemented with a fairly high degree of confidence, assuming reasonably consistent and continuous funding, of bit-level preservation by migration from one storage technology to the next as necessary [19]. The first approach, format migration, is best suited to “document-like” objects: PDFs, Microsoft Word files, audio, video, XML, JPEG, TIFF, etc. Here the idea is that, as standards, or de facto standards, gradually evolve and the ecosystem to deal with those types of files shift, curators will migrate the file formats, but this strategy is not necessarily as simple as it seems. New file formats are often not isomorphic to older ones. Formats may be proprietary and/or undocumented, and even objects claiming to conform to well-known standards may not implement these standards correctly or may add proprietary extensions. Lynch:Stewardship in the “Age of Algorithms”

While this may be a small correction to Lynch’s overall argument, it points to an important consequence. In digital culture, preservation — even of traditional cultural objects — is not a closed process. Once we aim to preserve analog or primarily physical cultural objects (for example photographs or books or magazines) in digital repositories and databases we are implicitly committed to an ongoing task of enabling and facilitating new forms of access. Precisely because our digital culture and our innovative technological mix will be inventing new ways of interacting with and enjoying these traditional cultural objects. Nor is it a settled or obvious question how these improvements and developments should be pursued.

This need for an ongoing commitment to preservation struck at Exact Editions very early in our development. We firmly believe that magazines, books and newspapers are all becoming more digital, but we also took it as an article of faith that back issues and archives have important and valuable content that should be available to digital subscribers, so our solutions whether through web browsers or via apps on smartphones and tablets have always ensured that archives and back issues are accessible to the subscribers of current issues. Just as the software of a digital magazine has to welcome and display each new issue, so its database should reach back and awaken back issues that in a print culture are usually filed inertly and inaccessibly on shelves or forgotten heaps.

The digital transition is nevertheless very real. Although the magazines that users read on their branded apps, are in one way strictly equivalent to the printed versions that they might have read in the Boston Library public reading room or Viennese cafes in the 19th century (with those bamboo frames that we still sometimes see) yet the reading experience and the arrangement of the digital editions is very different. It is only with a digital app or a web browser that one could expect to see all the decades or years of a magazine’s issues tidily piled up on a virtual desk. This stacking of issues emulates in a virtual form the tidy arrangement which would be quite hard to achieve with printed issues: and from most points of view it is a much handier solution than the collection of previous issues in carton sorters.


Slightly Foxed — incomplete archive on a physical desktop

Digital archiving even of historic and contemporary print formats is not easy; but it is both obviously possible and culturally necessary. The 12 complete magazine archives which are showcased in celebration of International Digital Preservation Day #IDPD17 are all growing and their preservation needs in 5 or 10 years time may be unanticipated by their current formats and their existing software. By then we hope to have found out what it is that mixed reality, block chains and machine learning are surely going to teach us. And the archives may in one way look the same, but they may behave a little differently.


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.


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.



Ada Lovelace day

Today is Ada Lovelace day, in which we are celebrating women in science and computing.

Daryl Rayner is the Exact Editions Managing Director and one of the three founders of the company (with Tim Bruce and me, Adam Hodgkin). Daryl has a wonderful record of persistently and courteously creating business on the web, at Exact Editions and in her previous career. In fact she was in the 1990’s the first web marketing manager for Nature, the leading scientific research magazine. Ada would have approved of that. Because of her name, Daryl is in email correspondence quite often mistaken for a man. That doesn’t faze her, in fact Daryl is not easily fazed. Here she is looking at her iPhone in the British Library (where as it happens much of Ada Lovelace’s correspondence is to be found).

Perhaps Daryl is checking out one of the Exact Editions apps. I think Ada Lovelace would have been delighted with apps……

Putting up Shelves in Bloomsbury

The Bloomsbury Library Online went live last week. It had been announced at the London Book Fair a few weeks ago. This is a library proposition in two senses: it is a plan for selling subscriptions to groups of books through public libraries, and it is a set of themed shelves of books from the overall Bloomsbury list. A proposition for libraries and a plan for offering a customisable and curated library from Bloomsbury. They explain the concept as follows:

………. using existing technology in libraries across the country, Bloomsbury is rolling out a groundbreaking e-lending strategy which will allow readers to read collections of bestselling books at local library terminals or with the use of a library card on home computers and internet enabled devices.

The Bloomsbury Library Online will consist of a number of themed shelves: children’s books, sports titles, international fiction, Shakespeare plays, reference books and more. They will launch with a shelf of Book Group titles including Galaxy Book of the Year, The Suspicions of Mr Whicher, by Kate Summerscale, Orange Prize longlisted Burnt Shadows, by Kamila Shamsie, word-of-mouth phenomenon The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society, by Mary Ann Shaffer, and international bestseller The Death of Vishnu by Manil Suri. Embracing the advantages of the online format, users will be able to read the book, search the text, access author interviews, reviews, press features, and links to specially commissioned reading group guide. Bloomsbury web site

Bloomsbury’s project required us to develop our platform in ways that we had not previously considered necessary. They wanted to be able to sell books as groups, and although this was not part of the formal requirement, we suspected that the next publisher to adopt this strategy would wish to be able to sell books in groups (ie ‘shelves’) but also to sell the same books as individual titles, both to individuals and to institutional subscribers. And the next publisher would want to include the same book in multiple shelves, and then remove them from some shelves…..There were also knock on effects on the way that the site would be navigated, the marketing pages within the site would unfold, and the way in which promotions to titles or groups of titles would work. Finally, we needed to understand what happens with renewals, when books are coming into and perhaps falling out of shelves in midstream? In short, what had looked like a fairly simple additional requirement led us to take another look at our ontology. Until this point about shelves came up, I dont think I had grasped that we already had an ontology. In January we did not have an ontology for shelves of books, but now we do. Since Bloomsbury appear to be capable of producing a lot more shelves, this is a good thing.

The Exact Editions platform can now manage sets of books aggregated by a publisher (Bloomsbury’s Teen Fiction Shelf, or their Book Group Shelf), as well as individual books and collections of books that might be selected by an account holder. We are not yet managing sets of sets of books, but I understand that it would be possible to do this, should the need arise. And it surely will arise: eg within a large fiction collection, where you might want to be able to group all the titles by a particular author as a sub-shelf, within the overall shelf of detective fiction. We will not however be working with shelves of books that are not members of shelves… this conundrum can be left for the digital remainder merchants.