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

The Importance of Modern Archives

What is the ideal scenario for a librarian when it comes to purchasing an online serial? I think it usually comes down to three major factors; Is the access IP authenticated? Is the access unlimited? Does the subscription include access to the complete archive?

With Exact Editions, librarians can rest assured that we will always meet the first two requirements. However, as much as we always strive to meet the third, occasionally there are barriers which restrict our ability to offer the complete archive. The reasoning varies from case to case, sometimes it is financial, sometimes it is licensing, and sometimes it is exclusivity. Whatever the cause, all is not lost.

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The Modern Archive of TLS includes every issue as it is released

In those cases where we are unable to acquire the complete archive, we still aim to provide what we are now calling the ‘Modern Archive’. This remains a very rich and attractive proposition for libraries, namely because of the fact the archives on the platform are always rolling, and therefore expanding. The best recent example of this is The Times Literary Supplement, which joined the platform only last week. We are in the fortunate position of being the sole institutional provider of the archives from 2012 — Present. As expected we immediately received a storm of interest from universities around the world; the modern archive of TLS is a much-desired resource (especially with the promise of a new issue every week) and will supplement current library holdings.

Library holdings bring me to the next point, the problem of ‘fixed’ archives. This happens when online providers will only secure a deal for certain years of an archive, e.g. 1980–2015. Now this will obviously be a powerful resource with 35 years of content, however, students will be missing out on recent and future issues, which are often very important as they are culturally current. Exact Editions has always leaned away from these ‘landlocked’ archives, instead opting to always offer institutions an archive which is going to grow and bring the latest content.

“Can I check: does it mirror exactly the latest printed content of the TLS, so that guaranteed access to the current issue is provided?” — Interested librarian

This question we received from a potential institutional subscriber illustrates my point exactly. Librarians are always keen to secure content which is at the forefront of its field. When archives are growing organically they are pushing the user and their research with them into the future — not just providing retrospective glimpses of what once was there.

Any comments or suggestions? Please feel free to get in touch via info@exacteditions.com

How to Present Digital Magazines

Part of the joy of reading magazines, as opposed to books and journals, are the inventive cover designs and enthralling double spread images contained within the pages. The physical appeal of magazines, combined with engaging topical content, is perhaps why many readers and institutions are so proud of their large and growing collections of archived issues. But what about those collections which are missing a few issues? Or those archives which have outlived several generations of readers? It can be a laborious process hunting down a print copy of a magazine issue which hasn’t been printed for 30 years.

Luckily for these readers, the aesthetics of the print version can naturally move on to the digital platform, particularly with the technological development of better screens which now elucidate every minuscule detail of the original. Not only that, but archives can now be preserved ad finitum with no risk of decay or misplacement. This means that a wide audience of readers can experience these archives in their entirety, whereas in the past those old issues may have been confined to dust-gathering shelves in library vaults. Because of digital preservation, these archived issues can be given a new lease of life, finding new readers many decades after they were first published. In an academic sense, the availability of archives opens up new windows of opportunity for researchers by facilitating quick, easy and reliable access to previously rare resources.

A key question for digital providers must be — how do we present these resources to the world? One neat approach is to use a Stacking Interface to organise the archive by decade and year. This system encourages the reader to observe the development of the cover design (an essential feature of any successful magazine) through the years. The Stacking Technology also offers users an elegant and intuitive interface for browsing through older issues, especially when combined with an intelligent search feature. For example, a reader may wish to search Geographical for coverage of deforestation in Brazil, but only in 1994, and the Stacking Technology will automatically narrow the search results. This technology transcends devices and is available on Web, iOS and Android platforms. The power this offers to academics goes without saying; fast, efficient research in a friendly format.

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Geographical Archive — Stacking Technology

What does this mean for digital magazine providers? As more and more magazines recognise the value and importance of their archive, it is likely there will be continual drive towards digitisation. Print publishers will be searching for the best way to present their backfile to the world. The Stacking Interface has already found many supporters in both publishing and academic circles as it offers a dynamic combination of utility and style. Stacks are a great way of organising deep and informative archives, and because of the periodical nature of magazines they will only continue to become more impressive.