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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The development of covers over the years

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.

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.

The Library Advisory Board – Autumn 2018

The students are back at university, the trees are losing their leaves and people are sporting woolly jumpers again. At Exact Editions, we know that this change in the natural seasons marks the beginning of the manic ordering season for library resources, so we took the opportunity to pose a few potent questions to the library advisory board. The prevalent theme of this round of Qs was the discovery and usage of online resources.

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Photo by David Clarke on Unsplash

Question One
Exact Editions have recently been working closely with discovery partners to have our publishers’ content included in their services. How essential would you say being included on discovery platforms is in the modern library market? Does metadata supersede all other elements of resource discovery?

Response
This was a topic of hot debate with effectively two sides; library discovery platforms and Google. First, in favour of the library systems, the board agreed that they rely on high quality, consistent metadata to function to their best ability. They are also becoming more able to leverage full-text using semantic search which will facilitate external discovery, as well as allowing for the intuitive finding of resources in the library catalogue.

Other members of the board disagreed, they argued that library discovery layers are flawed as they are not designed according to how library patrons do their work, but for how librarians believe patrons (should) do their work. This is not to completely discredit library catalogues, it is important to have a presence, but the main platform for discovery is now Google.

Exact Editions hope to cover both angles — we work with several discovery partners to make our titles visible in library systems. We are also exploring Google’s Flexible Sampling feature which will increase discoverability in search results, whilst also allowing viewers limited access behind our paywalls so they can judge the relevance of the content.

Question Two
How important are usage statistics in the decision-making process for renewals? What other factors are there to consider?

Response
Again we received some interesting answers, with the general consensus being that whilst usage statistics are very important at a base level for evaluating resources (cost-per-use), they do not paint a full picture. The board agreed that usage data can be unreliable and inconsistent. To quote one member, “usage data not as a good metric, but as the best bad metric available to us.”

The other key factor to consider was the presence of faculty advocates, a niche but essential resource may have low usage but be incredibly important to a few users. The overarching conclusion was that any renewal decision will be made due to a variety of factors, rather than sole reliance on one metric like usage data.

Question Three
Are there better ways to guide readers and researchers to the riches of deep archives? Do we need to find supplementary ways of discovering themes and cognitive routes into the resources?

Response
As predicted, the main advice was to use SEO to catch the all-seeing eye of Google & Google Scholar. Further recommendations were to look into pathways for semantic search such as; thematic ontologies or trending topics. In fact, the Exact Editions tech team is currently developing a mind-map feature which will use text reading software to suggest related topics to readers. We hope this will encourage readers to travel back through the archives which contain a wealth of insight.

 

As you can see, this was a very productive round of questions and gave us a lot of food for thought. We’d like to reiterate our appreciation for the contribution of time and effort by the Library Advisory Board, it is great to get some inside perspectives from within the community.

If you’d like to join the conversation, please do get in touch via institutions@exacteditions.com

Exact Editions attends UKSG Meeting

Last week, Exact Editions had the pleasure of attending UKSG’s all-day event entitled ‘Introduction to E-resources Today’. We approached the event with the intention of learning more about the work of librarians so that we could further address the challenges they face and make their lives a little easier where possible.

First Seminar

To start the day, we listened to Mitchell Dunkley’s presentation, ‘Managing Journal Content in the Online World’. This was a well-constructed talk which explained the processes used by De Montfort University to organise their online resources. We were pleased to learn that the university had an e-first strategy where possible, and this depended on numerous factors, such as; cost vs. budget, academic relevancy, content format, accessibility and licensing. Naturally, this was very useful as we could learn what librarians search for when selecting journals.

A few points of the talk were of particular interest to Exact Editions. Firstly, that the university witnesses annual price increases for most journals, despite having a fixed budget, meaning that resources must be sacrificed each year. These cancellations will tend to be decided based on usage, which speaks volumes for the need to integrate resources in library discovery systems. Regarding price increases, the ethos of Exact Editions has always been to provide libraries with excellent resources at a fair price, reflected by the fact that prices have remained largely fixed for the last four years. We consider ourselves forerunners in the provision of sustainable electronic resources intended to facilitate learning rather than squeeze libraries for profit.

Secondly, and related to this, Mitchell emphasised that student experience is at the heart of service delivery. The aim of the library should be the maximise the usage and impact of the information resources available to students. According to Mitchell, ease of access is absolutely paramount in the selection process. Specifically mentioned was the need for seamless access across multiple devices as libraries are experiencing a rise in the variety of devices used by students. This was music to our ears as Exact Editions have invested lots of time and effort into ensuring that content is easily available across all devices. We believe that the more complicated a system is, the less likely students are to use it, so we try to keep it simple.

Second Seminar

Holly Purcell from IOP Publishing gave the second seminar, ‘The Business of E-Resources Publishing’. This was a little less relevant for Exact Editions, however, it offered an interesting insight into the world of scientific publishing. One aspect of the presentation which was of note was IOP’s strategy to provide librarians with bespoke campaigns for internal marketing.

This involves creating promotional material on behalf of the library such as infographics and posters, as well as designing social media posts and HTML email templates for internal circulation. These efforts resulted in more usage, higher renewal rates and positive feedback, and Exact Editions will certainly be looking into offering a similar service.

Third Seminar

After lunch (which was delicious), Anna Sansome from UCL spoke about ‘Managing E-Book Content’. Again, this is not really an area of expertise for Exact Editions, although we do work with a few specialised book publishers to offer complete collections to institutions. However, there was a segment of the seminar dedicated to the reasons for converting print resources to electronic when possible, which also applies to magazines. These included; convenience, time-saving, space-saving, accessibility and search functionality. This led on to a discussion of the best models for purchasing electronic resources, which Anna stated was unlimited access with no limit to concurrent users or number of users per year.

Exact Editions have consistently placed emphasis on search technology, and all archives on the site are fully-searchable by keyword. Our tech team is also developing an exciting new feature which will be with you later in 2018… Regarding the best purchasing model, we have always preferred to offer subscribing institutions unlimited access to resources, the reason being that we want universities to use our resources to their utmost potential.

Fourth Seminar

The fourth, and final, talk of the day was concerning ‘Intermediaries and their Services’ by Richard Bramwell from EBSCO. As a content provider, Exact Editions work closely with several intermediaries in the purchasing process and management of subscriptions on behalf of universities. This was an interesting talk which stressed the challenges currently facing intermediaries, as well as the solutions that are being implemented.

Richard talked about the numerous factors which are squeezing the industry such as; pressure on library budgets, the sustainability of open access publishing and global economic fluctuations. He stated that EBSCO is having to adapt to the library market in order to continue providing excellent service to their 50,000 customers around the world. We agree that it is a fast-paced environment, which is why we strive to stay abreast of technological developments and movements within the industry.

It is important, as a content provider, to understand the role intermediaries play in the library market, as they often have many available services. Exact Editions works closely with several companies to facilitate the purchasing of and discoverability of resources. However, we also understand that we must be independent and flexible, and conduct a lot of business directly with institutions, as well as being constantly on the search for innovative technological solutions to the challenges libraries face. We welcome any suggestions or feedback, to chat with us please email institutions@exacteditions.com

Overall

In whole, the day offered much food for thought for the Exact Editions team. UKSG did a fantastic job of organising the event and encouraging discussion between librarians, intermediaries and publishers, whose professions can sometimes seem very separate despite inhabiting the same eco-system.

Follow UKSG on Twitter: https://twitter.com/UKSG
Follow Exact Editions on Twitter: https://twitter.com/exacteditions

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

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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.