09 November 2012

Charleston Conference 2012: part 2

The main part of the Charleston Conference began today with two fascinating morning plenary sessions. Annette Thomas of Macmillan talked about a publisher's role in making science more effective. Interestingly, as one of the questioners pointed out, a number of the resources she described such as ReadCube 1DegreeBio or labguru are pieces of software, rather than anything resembling traditional published content. Altmetrics (alternative metrics) - the focus of yesterday's preconference - were also discussed, including how they can use mainstream and social media mentions to evaluate article impact now (rather than in several years, when citations have had chance to emerge).

Anurag Acharya from Google Scholar set out a bold ambition "everyone must be able to find everything". He focused particularly on describing approaches to overcoming the access barrier which limits the ability to link through to many items found in a search (even if the relevant library has a subscription) including:
  • Link resolvers - popular in the UK and US but less so elsewhere;
  • Libraries making case-by-case approaches to publishers to allow access;
  • Consortia making requests to publishers on behalf of their members;
  • An opt out system, allowing libraries to remove themselves.
An interesting point was that many journals provide public access to archive articles, but that this is often not promoted effectively. Anurag also described initiatives to provide access to electronic content in developing countries including: Indexing repository content more effectively would also provide better access to preprints of articles.

In the next plenary session, three different innovative approaches to publishing were described. Mark Coker of SmashWords described benefits of online self-publishing. Eric Hillman of Gluejar described the Unglue.it project which uses a crowd-funding model to raise pledges of donations sufficient to purchase rights for in-copyright (but out of print) texts, in order to digitise the content and make it freely available to everyone under a Creative Commons license. Rush Miller of the University of Pittsburgh described library involvement in the publishing process, using Open Journal Software to safeguard at risk peer-reviewed journals, and now moving into digital monograph publishing using Open Monograph Press.

The final morning plenary session featured Peter Brantley of the BookServer Project at the Internet Archive and Mike Shatzkin of The Idea Logical Company, discussing the future of e-book acquisitions. Peter emphasized that "simple works best" when it comes to e-book delivery, whilst Mike gave an overview of a trade publisher's perspective of the development of e-books. I think he made important points about the extent to which most readers will continue to want an "immersive reading experience" - essentially a digitized version of a printed book (or, indeed, a printed book itself) - rather than looking for lots of additional multimedia content in their e-books. He also discussed some of the ways in which enhanced content would be beneficial - such as providing the opportunity to retain and preserve richer contextual and background materials which chart an author's creative writing processes, or by adding video content to non-fiction or instructional publications (gardening books, for example).

There's much more to come! (Including pictures, which I'll upload when I'm back in the UK.)

[This post was amended on 17 November 2012 to include an additional paragraph about the final morning plenary session and a photo of the main conference hotel.]

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