How digital magazines are facilitating new strategies for learning in schools

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Image via Pixabay

We are now at a stage in our history where the vast majority of students are digital natives and find their information online. Technology continues to evolve at a rapid rate and education must evolve with it by developing new learning strategies and resources. Many magazines are now offering a digital version which can be purchased on an institutional basis, providing access to all the students and staff. But why go digital?

Seven reasons for schools to consider digital magazines

  1. Extensive Archives
    Many digital magazine providers will aim to offer subscribers access to archived back issues. These archives offer a window into the history of a subject, mapping out the development of cultural trends and understanding. Librarians can be confident that students are getting information from specialised, respected sources, rather than surfing the web where information is often not subjected to quality control. The digital format is also advantageous as school libraries are often more limited in capacity when compared to universities, as such, the ability to possess extensive archives without the requirement of physical space is very useful.
  2. Classroom Teaching Tools
    Not only are digital magazines great for independent study, they can also be used as excellent tools in the classroom. Available on a designated website, they can be projected onto interactive whiteboards, with pages and articles becoming focal points of classroom discussion. This practice prepares students for further education where they will be encouraged to engage with and comment on current research.
  3. Search Functions
    Many digital magazine archives come equipped with a search function so that specific areas of research can be found quickly and efficiently. This removes the difficulty some students face in finding relevant material for their studies.
  4. IP authentication
    IP authenticated access means that all staff and students in the school can use the resource without being required to log in with a username and password. The benefits of this system are obvious; it allows an unlimited amounts of users to access the resource simultaneously, as well as encouraging discussion and usage because of the availability.
  5. Remote Access
    Students can access the resources outside of the school, allowing teachers the flexibility of setting digital reading as homework, safe in the knowledge that the resource will be available to all of the students. This removes the risk of handing out large quantities of textbooks and ensures that students have equal access to information.
  6. Sharing / Group-Learning
    Students have the ability to share links and tweet references whether working on-site or from a remote location. This function will allow for groups to work together on projects regardless of distance, and encourage the sharing of knowledge.
  7. Usage Statistics
    Finally, increased power for librarians. Digital resources offer librarians the opportunity to view accurate usage statistics, affording them newfound control over decisions about which resources to keep, to remove, or to acquire more of. This insight can be invaluable for schools with a limited budget who want to ensure they are spending money on the correct resources.

Hopefully, this post has shown that the advantages of using digital resources in education are manifold. We must prepare students for life beyond school which increasingly involves being adept in technology. Professionals should be able to identify reliable sources of information and conduct efficient research, and by implementing these values in early education we would be offering students useful skills for the future.

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Digital Memory is Shaping our Future

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Painting from the Chauvet cave shaping the Paleolithic memory (and now ours). via Wikimedia commons

I have borrowed the title for this blog from the sub-title of a great book When We Are No More by Abby Smith Rumsey. And the subtitle is the critical part of her book’s message. Because we are entering an age of digital culture and digital society, the digital archives and memories that we are now creating will be crucial sign-posts and tent-pegs for our digital future. We often think about archives as guides to the past, but Rumsey’s claim is that they are even more pointers to our future. This is especially the case for digital culture because it is the digital objects, the digital resources and memories that survive from one year to the next, from one generation to the next, that will shape the next generation’s view of itself and its place.

Abby Smith Rumsey writes very clearly but she is also a great presenter, so I recommend her Google talk on the subject of her book. She emphasises how digital archiving is still a neglected field, and that we are quite beholden to the work of public bodies, private enthusiasts or charitable undertakings some of them making crucial investments: for example, Carl Haber saving music and ethnographic voices, the Internet Archive, or Europeana.

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The camera used with IRENE software by Carl Haber to reconstitute Alexander Graham Bell’s voice from physical traces too fragile for contact recovery

There are many private efforts and individuals working to save stuff and it was good to see, a few days ago, a mention of the Hyman magazine archive in the New York Times. This is very much a solo effort and a collection that now exceeds any reasonable attic — since it now occupies a south London warehouse with its 120,000 issues from 5,000 titles. Hyman’s open-armed effort is admirable, but as a private venture it is not easy to see how it will evolve towards a model for widespread access. The team are gradually digitising their collection, but with copyrights largely in place it is unlikely that the archive will be able to provide full scale access to scholars and enthusiasts. Of course, Exact Editions welcomes such a private initiative, but our interest in preserving and making digital archives accessible has a different model. We are showing that digital archives can make money for the publishers who are sitting on them. We believe that the archive should grow and move into the future along with the magazine, issue by issue. New issues become back issues, and the future is shaped by issues that came before.

We take seriously Abby Smith Rumsey’s claim that digital memory is shaping our future. The future for magazines is certainly going to be digital — and the back issues and the coming front issues are also digital. Very few of today’s magazine editors, publishers and designers can tell us what the shape of this digital future is. But it is coming. Putting a magazine’s print archive into a digital format is one obvious step towards defining and shaping what that future will be. This was something that almost all magazine publishers missed 10 and then 8 years ago when the iPhone and then the iPad was launched. Even now we sometimes have to persuade publishers that their archive is of great value (though many editors know that, but find it hard to express).

Exact Editions is helping publishers to make this step into the future by capturing the past and the evolving present, and odd as it may seem one of the strongest cases for making a magazine archive right now, is that archives sell. At his point the previously sceptical publisher shifts her gaze and clears her throat. Complete archives are especially important in an educational or research context. Not every magazine is of use to scholars, students and researchers (yet, and here our publisher reaches for a glass of water) but for those that are, the institutional library market is a promising source of additional revenue and brand visibility. Digital magazines can be easily searched and they are more accessible and so more valuable, and much more useful, than the print copies that are still important and carefully stored on library shelves and stacked in off-site repositories. Magazines are obviously full of data, not just stories, pictures and advertisements, but data about subjects and arts that we find perpetually interesting. Digital data has value. Making magazines digital and complete is a way of enriching the past and the future. As Rumsey says “Today we see magazines as natural facts. We do not see them as memory machines with lives of their own, though that is exactly what they are. As soon as we began to print our thoughts in those hard-copy memory machines they began circulating and pursuing their own destinies. Over time we learned how to manage them and share them, and ensure that they carried humanity’s conversations to future generations. We can develop the same skills to manage and take responsibility for digital memory machines” (Rumsey When We Are No More p. 177, marginally edited — where she says ‘books’ I have put ‘magazines’). Magazine archives are digital memory machines stuffed full of data and art that we can project into the future and that can become more widely available and useful.

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Applying Webstamp the software Exact Editions uses to ‘proof’ and manage digital editions

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

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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.

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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.

 

PN Review Launches Digital Archive!

PN Review launches through Exact Editions its unique digital archive – almost half a century of world poetry, interviews, reviews and features about modern poetry: ‘The most engaged, challenging and serious-minded of all the UK’s poetry magazines’ (Simon Armitage).

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The archive includes the major practitioners of the age from Ted Hughes, Thom Gunn and Seamus Heaney to John Ashbery, Les Murray and Eavan Boland, and many new arrivals. PN Review ‘discovered’ and first published ample selections of Andrew Motion, Sujata Bhatt, Sinead Morrissey and Kei Miller, Tara Bergin and Vahni Capildeo. It is the major British poetry journal of our time, with a strong international focus, alert to the opportunities and threats facing the art and the reader today.

Digital subscribers have unlimited access to this astonishing resource dating back to 1972, with hundreds of interviews and features. It is a map of modern poetry and at the same time a compelling history.

As a digital subscriber to PN Review, you have unlimited access to the full archive. Explore today.