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digital publishing

Anurag Acharya on the future of academic search

Anurag Acharya, one of the founders of Google Scholar, gave the keynote address at the recent ALPSP Annual Conference. His wide-ranging overview of the effect of full-text searching on academic content raised many good points, but one that struck me as perhaps the most intriguing was his call for more abstracts of scholarly content. This is a remarkably different to current feeling within many academic publishers, many of whom were betting some years ago that the published collection of abstracts was doomed, to be replaced inexorably by searching of the full text. Given that he argued that the electronic table of contents alerts for journals are obsolete, why did he argue for the continued existence of abstracts?

Amazon and the failure of metadata

Despite(or perhaps because of) being the world's biggest online bookstore, Amazon is a nightmare to use when searching for well-known books. The problem of finding a book on Amazon that exists in several versions has been very succinctly stated by Jim O'Donnell on a recent library listserv ("The Book-buying morass"), describes his problems trying to locate an adequate copy of Joyce's Ulysses for his library.


Peer review and the curious case of the Law review

Scholarly publishing is often presented as a paradigm of how scholarship should work: disinterested, rigorously peer-reviewed, and hence scrupulously fair. It came as a surprise to me to find there are some areas of scholarly publishing where this state of affairs is not quite the case. Legal publishing appears to be an exception to the above description. The Harvard Law Review, for example, is edited and published by law students at Harvard University Law faculty.

Single Figure Publications and nano-publications

Single Figure Publications is an interesting idea by William Mobley published in F1000Research. F1000Research is “a publishing platform offering immediate publication of posters, slides and articles with no editorial bias, [but with] transparent peer review” Mr Mobley proposes in his editorial that Single Figure Publications (SFP) should be a new format of short text pieces, shorter than a scholarly article, and, tantalisingly, close to machine readable. What does he mean by this? 




Libraries buy - and publishers sell

I subscribe to a number of library forums, and I was interested to read an invitation to contribute in a recent post. This sounds like an interesting initiative, I thought, so I looked at the proposal in a bit more detail. I was surprised with what I discovered. The call was for contributions to the "E-Resource Round Up" column for the Journal of Electronic Resources Librarianship (JERL). To encourage library professionals to contribute, the editors state "This could be an ideal opportunity for you to report on programs that may benefit others in our profession". They helpfully provided some suggestions for what to write about, including "vendor activities and upcoming events". Plus, there was a gentle reminder that "contributions should not be published elsewhere". When I went to the website for this journal, it was available to subscribers only. I was invited to purchase the current issue, as an individual subscriber, at a cost of £122, or just the one article for £25. This is, after all, content about libraries created by library professionals as part of their working practice - being sold back to them, or in my case, as I declined the subscription offer, completely unavailable. 



Scribd: how to recreate the circulating library in digital form

Scribd puts me in mind of the circulating library. Early in the 20th century, many people consumed fiction from a circulating library - simply another name for a private library. Users were charged a fee for the privilege of borrowing books from the library. Instead of buying one book, the customer paid an annual subscription and could borrow books for a set time. Typically, the subscription enabled the user to borrow just one book at a time. For a higher subscription, the customer could borrow more books at once. 


Scribd home page


Newspapers and magazines: beyond digital subscriptions

When newspapers started to become available on the Web, the first decision - and one that has never been completely resolved - was whether the content should be free to view or available only by paid access.


The paid model that emerged initially was a paywall, with regular annual or monthly payments, enabling the whole newspaper to be read. For some newspapers that method has worked well, but this method doesn’t take into account the many other opportunities provided by online access.