Let’s Call an End to the War between Print and Digital?


Stockholm Public Library. Image via Pixabay.

There’s no doubt that the 21st-century library is gradually transforming from an information hub into a digital learning environment, and with this change, there has been a trend of architectural renovations to accommodate digital natives. To create room, libraries are moving massive print collections from their shelves into remote storage, compact shelving or automatic retrieval systems. Naturally, this has resulted in the usage statistics of print resources dropping, whilst digital usage continues to rise exponentially.

Now, as a digital magazine platform, you’d probably expect us at Exact Editions to be rubbing our hands together in glee, but that’s not the case. We are strong believers that print and digital resources exist in a symbiotic relationship. Of course, some readers prefer the print copy, and others prefer digital, and that is their prerogative. Perhaps we are being romantic, but a library without shelves of books just doesn’t seem right.

This leads us back to the original point of the article. Why are libraries investing huge sums of money on building renovations when digital collections require no physical space? Especially considering those digital resources can be accessed anywhere and anytime on any device by students and staff. That is one of the primary USPs of digital resources — the unlimited accessibility. So what’s the impetus for change? I think there is a sense of apprehension in the library industry, that the physical building is being replaced by a digital construct, and so they are trying to attract people with study spaces.

This departs from the emphasis on content which was so central to libraries in the past. Instead, the industry is leaning towards providing collaborative work areas, encouraging group study and creative sessions, rather than being a place for students to find information. Again, we are not against the development of library-provided technology (such as 3D printers, recording studios and group study rooms), but must the shelves be sacrificed? Why can’t these areas be located elsewhere in the university, or in a new building?

There is a dangerous trend of libraries thinking they must replace the shelves with digital-friendly workspaces, when in fact they risk ripping out the heart of the library. This does not need to happen, there is a choice. Digital collections are designed to supplement print resources, think of them as the left atrium, which exists in the cloud, beating in tandem to support the library system.

We’d like to see libraries turn their focus back to content acquisition, and providing their users with the widest range of information possible. There is certainly a demand for a productive learning environment which must be met, but libraries should not depart from their roots. Libraries are intended to connect people with content, not replace content with people.


How digital magazines are facilitating new strategies for learning in schools


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.

Survey results determine that Magazine Apps are crucial to Librarians

A comprehensive study of worldwide mobile device acquisition revealed that over the past decade “the rate of iOS and Android device adoption has surpassed that of any consumer technology in history”*.

As a digital publishing company specialising in mobile apps, Exact Editions wanted to better understand the function of mobile technology in libraries today and their place in the future. A survey was conducted in January 2015 to a number of librarians worldwide. It quickly became evident that librarians globally are already recognising the sudden increase in students adopting mobile devices for academic purposes. Among our survey 68% of librarians revealed that students frequently used mobile devices to access e-resources in their libraries currently, while all of them answered that this will most definitely increase in the future.

The popularity of mobile technology in libraries is as a result of the increase in students using mobile devices as a source of information. By removing multiple methods of access, Exact Editions have ensured that connection to the apps is as simple as possible through immediate IP authentication. This eradicates the need for lengthy logins requiring a username and password. Most importantly, complete access is enabled when students are off campus through remote/EZ proxy access and Shibboleth for UK institutions.

Screen Shot 2015-01-27 at 17.02.19Cross platform compatibility is a crucial requirement for libraries. Over half of the librarians surveyed estimated that the use of tablets and phones will become more prevalent than desktop resources, while all of them recognised the essential requirement in offering multi platform resources. Indeed with this, students have seamless access and the capacity to read an article on a variety of platforms from online on a desktop, or once the title has downloaded, offline on a mobile device; through apps the students have a 24/7 mobile library. Moreover, the magazines available via Exact Editions are accessible on both Android and iOS devices, again ensuring accessibility is at the forefront of our apps.



During our research the concept of layout was another important concern for librarians. A high 91% of librarians agreed that the publication should maintain the original look of the printed copy. This not only ensures that the content retains an aesthetic quality, but also provides contextual background, a pivotal necessity for much research. Additionally with mobile apps, the ease at which users are able to scroll quickly through the publications pages ensures reading is far more organic. Discovery remains effortless through the provision of ‘stacks’ that provide a fluid channel in which to flick between issues, thus making reading all the more engaging, easy and enjoyable.

The rapid rise in the popularity of mobile technology along with the potent results of the survey, underlines the growing need for information to be available via app technology in libraries.



Apps that know where they are

Exact Editions was the first magazine platform to deliver magazine apps for the iPhone. We also had magazines on the iPad as soon as it was available. When the Apple iTunes Newsstand arrived all the apps on the Exact Editions platform were there. We have always been at the cutting edge of iOS technology.

Today we announce that Exact Editions apps are the first to be aware of their location. All the magazines and periodicals on the Exact Editions platform now support our ByPlace™ technology, and this means that the behaviour of an app depends on where it is opened. This positional awareness has tremendous potential for all topical, content-rich apps in mobile markets.


Reading the Tablet for free ByPlace in St Peter’s Square

All Exact Editions apps with the 7.4.1 version number have this ByPlace™ capability and an obvious application for publishers and consumers is that it will encourage new forms of digital magazine promotion. A magazine publisher can decide that a standard iTunes app, available for a subscription in iTunes can now be made freely available from a specific place, or several places, for a specified period of time.

In the next three weeks more than a dozen magazines on the Exact Editions platform will be freely and fully available including back issues, to potential consumers who use the iOS apps in specific places: as from today Dazed & Confused will be fully available from the Victoria & Albert museum; Le Monde Diplomatique from either end of the Eurostar line, at St Pancras station and the Gare du Nord; leading Catholic periodicals will be available free from St Peter’s square in the Vatican, and the precincts of Westminster Cathedral in London. The Literary Review will be freely available from the environs of the British Library; Music Week from Abbey Road; the Gooner from the Emirates stadiumOpera magazine from the Royal Opera House and the Metropolitan Opera at Lincoln Center, NYC etc. All the magazines with free ByPlace™ access today can be seen on this Google map. Users who pick up one of the Exact Editions apps, which are all freemium, now see a different message when they come to hidden content:


Sliding the ByPlace™ button  will enable downloads from zones wherever and whenever the magazine app’s content is free in the zone.

Magazines are reading solutions that have evolved to suit specific audiences. The successful magazine defines its own very specific audience, and the best magazines achieve success by appealing to an audience that wants to return to the publication, again, again and again. This is why subscriptions have usually been the best way of selling content to consumer magazines. Exact Editions has focused on the business of selling subscriptions to digital magazines, this focus on selling subscriptions is a great help when it comes to promoting to mobile audiences.

Exact Editions’ Managing Director, Daryl Rayner puts it this way: “Most magazine audiences collect around major events or venues, once or twice a year — or on a more regular basis — the Exact Editions platform which now offers access and promotion ByPlace™  is the best way of reaching these audiences with the simplest and most pleasing digital magazine experience. All the content available is there, within the app, for as long as you stay in the venue”. When you leave the venue you still have the app on your device but you no longer have access to the full service. As Daryl Rayner notes: “We are framing this as promotion ByPlace™, but you can also think of it as trialling by venue, and I guess that the publisher may think of it as selling by location”.  A successful trial of full, free content at a venue, a concert, a conference, an event, or a stadium, translates to a potential subscription as soon as the customer leaves the venue. The free access is no longer available when the customer quits the location, but a subscription to the magazine is just a click away, and the app remains on the customer’s device.

Magazines and Newspapers in the Air



The Financial Times in mid-air

In the dog days of August, about two weeks ago, Tyler Brûlé found himself in Australia with some cancelled appointment and decided that it was time to get home to London, earlier than he had planned:

After a layover in Singapore, I boarded the last British Airways service up to London and settled in for the 12-ish hour flight. I asked the crew for a copy of the FT’s weekday edition, and a few minutes later the BA staffer returned with a nicely folded bundle of pink paper.

“Oh but it’s the Tuesday edition,” I said, with some surprise. “Do you have today’s, by chance?”

“I’m sorry, let me check but I don’t think so,” the flight attendant replied. “I’ll be right back.”

A couple of minutes passed and the woman returned empty-handed. “It seems we only load the papers in London,” she explained. “I guess you can’t get this particular paper in Singapore.” At this moment it’s hard to say what face I pulled but I know I sat upright and leaned forward and into the aisle slightly. In a very low voice, I started to explain the problem with this particular scenario. “This paper is, in fact, printed locally and, as it’s close to midnight on Wednesday, the Thursday edition is almost available. Don’t you think you should be loading papers locally? Just like you do food and jet-fuel?” The Joy of a Clear Diary

This experience does pose a few questions for those of us who believe in a digital future for magazines and newspapers.

It really should be much easier to read a newspaper digitally on your iPad in the aircraft cabin than to get a printed copy of the magazine or newspaper loaded locally like the food and jet-fuel. But the only currently guaranteed and practical way in which travellers can get digital magazines to read on the long flight from Singapore to London is to have loaded the app version before you set off and made sure that you sync it to the device.

Providing your passengers (especially your business class passengers) with a top quality selection of magazines and newspapers and magazines should still be a premium part of the package. It should be easy to set up a system which will supply travellers with hundreds of magazines to read whilst they are in mid-air. Providing this service can be both a profitable service for the periodicals and a promotional opportunity.

There are indeed such systems for digital magazines and newspapers, and one will find them at business lounges and sometimes in mid-air. Why are they not more successful? One reason may be that the companies that provide these digital periodical reading systems are building a proprietary reading environment. Reading a digital magazine in mid air should be a very similar experience to reading the digital magazine on an iPad. Another related problem is that by and large magazines and newspapers are each inventing largely proprietary and unique delivery methods for their digital editions. There has to be some standardisation. There really ought to be a way of reading an iPad app magazine in flight, on a temporary basis (as a guest of Emirates or Lufthansa) without having to learn six different reading models for six different magazines and newspapers.

There are clearly some problems to be solved here, but it is still somewhat strange that Tyler Brûlé did not ask why there is not already a much better digital reading solution for the problem he identifies. Brûlé is the publisher and editor of Monocle which would be a great magazine to have in one’s hands on most long haul flights. Personally I would much rather have it in hand on my iPad then any other way. When Tyler Brûlé also thinks that the digital solution is the obvious one to the problem he has in getting hold of a current copy of the Financial Times, the magazine industry will be confident of its digital future. Newspapers need this digital solution even more than magazines but magazines have a lot of catching up to do.