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Book publishing – some recent innovations

Book publishers experimenting with new models; books fighting binge drinking in Italy

Netflix models

An article on looks at a new online fiction service called Rooster in which a book publisher adopts a magazine model to make itself more like Netflix!  The service uses a subscription based model that sends content to iPhones and iPads.  The daily chunks of content should take about 15 minutes to read and will deliver two books’ worth of content over a month.  Similarly, Waterstones in the UK has announced Read Petite – a ‘rich reading experience for time-poor readers’.

Another innovation learning from the Netflix model is Epic!  This app aims to encourage children to read by offering rewards for completing chapters or starting ‘reading marathons’.  For a monthly subscription, children have access to a library of over 2000 titles and can rate the books they have read.  The app also allows parents to monitor their children’s reading habits.

Book buying and book borrowing and struggling readers

The latest Pew report shows the link between highly engaged library users and book buying.  The report shows that ‘Library Lovers’ – the heaviest users of libraries and about 10% of the US population – are also frequent buyers of books, despite many of them experiencing a drop in income.

The UK Charity Quick Reads found that reading e-books can be particularly helpful for adults who may be struggling with their reading while 48% say e-readers  have encouraged them to read more.

Binge drinking – books to the rescue!

Sadly Neknominate, the social media drinking game, has spread around the world. In Italy a literary alternative to the game has been developed.  ‘Booknomination’ follows similar rules but instead of drinking, the nominated person must read a passage from a book over a webcam.  The initiative is on Facebook on the hashtag #booknomination.

Sources: Springwise; DigitalBookWorld; TheLocal; Pew Research Center; Publishing Perspectives; Wired.

Youth TV – ‘the need for speed’

The BBC’s youth TV channel to close; but a different story emerges in Belgium

In the UK the BBC has announced that it is to close its ‘youth-oriented’ TV channel and move the content onto its online platform the iPlayer.

Previous proposals to close down radio channels have been revised following public outcry.  In 2010 the BBC announced it wanted to close down two radio stations – 6 Music and the Asian Network.  Neither station was closed.

However, it seems unlikely that BBC Three will be saved.  The Corporation needs to make savings and this move alone could save it £50million a year. Some commentators have suggested the move is short-sighted.  The BBC is funded by licence payers and young people are the licence payers of the future.

In Belgium, VRT, the public service broadcaster has been developing digital projects to engage with its younger audience.  Rachel Bartlett, writing on, describes how the broadcaster developed an internal ‘start-up’ to experiment with new platforms to re-engage with younger viewers.  The broadcaster has been consulting the target audience and is now developing three projects that reflect the way young people use and engage with social media:

  • a mobile video project on Instagram and Snapchat – Ninjanieuws
  • Sambal a Facebook-supported news platform
  • OpenVRT which encourages young people to collaborate with the channel via video, photography and blogging.

Key lessons – ‘the need for speed’

  • Keep videos very short
  • Embed animated gifs into articles – link out to YouTube
  • 15-second long videos helped launch Ninjaniews
  • Tell a news story on a 10-second Snapchat video
  • For the target audience (16-24) – focus on Facebook not Twitter
  • There’s no need for a homepage – Facebook drives traffic
  • Facebook also provides a home for ‘pop-up digital news products’ that respond quickly to certain trends

You can read Rachel’s full article on

Open access: academic libraries and article processing charges

Despite challenges, the new emphasis on OA provides librarians with a positive platform to re-establish their role in the research process.

A new report published by SAGE explores the current – and future role – of academic libraries in helping implement OA processing charges.  The report explores the current state of the art, and shares recommendations.  Although librarians support the goals and principles of open access, the OA mandates from funders are creating many challenges.

Institutional policies – still evolving

  • Although some participants reported full OA policies were already in place, the majority of policies are still ‘evolving’
  • Libraries at every participating institution are involved in OA policy development
  • Institutional repositories are an essential element
  • Participants expressed concern at possible shortfall in funding for author pays (‘gold’) OA publishing (RCUK is currently making some funds available)
  • Some institutions are making up the shortfall; others are not

What roles and tasks are librarians undertaking?

  • Entering into publisher OA agreements
  • Allocating funding for individual papers – including one library which split its total funds into equal quarters for the year
  • Most reported a low take-up of APC requests by researchers – many librarians are working to educate and advise researchers
  • Working with publishers to administrate the cost – a task which many reported as frustrating or overly-complicated


  • Funders should provide clear guidance on reporting and measurement
  • Publishers need to better communicate copyright options and which of their publications are RCUK policy compliant
  • More robust systems for managing APCs are needed
  • Cross-industry initiatives and international standards should be developed

The report Implementing Open Access APCs: the role of academic libraries summarises the round table discussions of a panel of academic librarians and other interested parties and is available for free download here.

[Follow Val Skelton on Google+]

Publishing trends and predictions for 2013

The dust has settled on the Christmas sales of books, e-readers and tablets and some interesting figures have emerged.

In the UK, over £75m was spent on printed books in the week leading up to Christmas. This was an increase of 19.3% on the previous week and up 1% on the same week in 2011. The figures represent a three-year high for hard copy book sales in the UK.

In the US, the latest Pew Internet figures show another increase in the numbers of people reading digital books – an increase from 16% of the US adult population a year ago to 23% by the end of 2012. 33% of Americans now own a tablet or e-reader device.

Borrowing of e-books from libraries in the US is also continuing to increase as is the public’s awareness of e-book offerings available in public libraries.

“It’s becoming harder to define what ‘publishing’ really is”

Meanwhile three specialist industry sites (The Bookseller, AuthorMedia and Digital Book World) have interviewed a number of thought leaders (including CILIP President Phil Bradley) and published their predictions for the publishing industries in 2013. These include:
• Migration from print to digital will continue to slow
• More mergers and consolidation between publishers and agencies
• Continued growth in self-publishing and the companies that support it
• A growth of ‘author collectives’
• New partnerships for independent booksellers
• Major authors to keep their digital rights
• E-book sales will ‘level off’ in 2013 and prices may start to decrease
• Digital publishing means increased global audiences for digital works
• New, dynamic marketing models for publishers



Budget cuts, usage statistics and renewal campaigns

Ongoing budget pressures are forcing libraries to monitor journal usage statistics more closely than ever before.

Accucoms, which provides research and marketing services to academic and professional publishers around the world, has published some interesting statistics summarising five years of running subscription renewal campaigns for its clients.

Although renewal rates are fairly stable (currently running at approximately 38%), the percentage of online only renewals has increased over the last five years and now currently accounts for 40% of all renewals in 2011.  Print only renewals have accounted for less than 10% for the last four years.

The largest markets, including the US, UK and Spain, are reporting a substantial percentage of budget related cancellation.  Overall the number of respondents who cited ‘lack of budget’ as a reason for cancellation has increased from 19% in 2007 to 40% in 2011.

When it comes to renewal decision making, librarians are increasingly relying on usage analysis.  In 2007, fewer than 10% stated they were not renewing because of low usage.  This figure had increased to 18% by 2010.

Accucoms summarises the report with some advice to publishers regarding customer service and the need for ‘fair and transparent’ journal pricing models.

You can access the findings via the Accucoms website.



The Cost of Knowledge versus Elsevier

There has been much coverage recently of the website petition launched by Cambridge mathematician Timothy Gowers, winner of the Fields medal, to encourage academics to publicly declare that they will not support any Elsevier journal. According to The Cost of Knowledge website, more than 6000 academics have currently signed up. Robin Peek takes an in-depth look at the issues in this ITI Newsbreak.

I heart the OED

In 1977 New York was a city struggling with a number of social and economic challenges.  A campaign to increase tourism was launched, one element of which was the ‘I heart New York’ logo’.  Designed by graphic designer Milton Glaser (who incidentally did not charge for the idea), the ‘heart’ logo has long outlived the original campaign.

(I know all this because BBC Radio 4 recently broadcast a 30-minute programme about Milton Glaser and this iconic image). 

‘Heart’ is now used widely as a verb meaning ‘love’ and has been recognised in the latest Oxford English Dictionary online update.  Also included are popular new ‘initialisations’ including LOL and OMG.

Great art via Google

Google has announced the launch of Art Project.   The project has used ‘street view’ technology to capture world famous art in high resolution.  

Seventeen art galleries around the world have participated in the project, including the Uffizi Gallery (Florence) and the State Hermitage Museum (St Petersburg).  Great works of art have been captured in extraordinary detail – you can zoom in close enough to see microscopic details.   You can also take a virtual tour around the museums.  The project aims to broaden access to art, and for the participating museums the hope is that virtual access will encourage more in-person visits.

What do students REALLY want?

In an interesting blog post, Stephen Abram considers the findings of a recent (US) research report.  The original research was conducted by the Book Industry Study Group (BISG) and asked US college students about their format preferences for textbooks.  BISG found that ‘nearly 75% of students…say they prefer textbooks in printed rather than etext form’.  Reasons cited for this preference included the potential resale value of the books and its ‘permanence’.

About 12% of the students surveyed said the prefer etexts to printed texts because of lower cost and portability while 11% preferred to rent textbooks.

Stephen Abram’s interpretation is slightly different.  The survey was conducted before what he terms the ‘explosion’ of affordable tablets and e-readers in the consumer market which will almost certainly impact the uptake and acceptability of etexts.  He also feels that students considered a ‘polarised’ view (either print OR etext) when in fact a hybrid model that combines e-texts with books would be much more likely. 

Abram also states that it is often difficult for people who are surveyed to compare a situation they know (in this case text books) and an ‘imagined future state’.   The e-text space is evolving with textbooks and library research services beginning to integrate.  The space should be watched closely, says Abram.

Forking out for charity

Very many congratulations to the team at Sue Hill Recruitment (SHR).  With the help of client contributions, almost £7,000 has been donated to charities that have a real resonance for SHR staff.

The breakfast and credit crunch lunch meetings are free for clients to attend but they are asked to make donations.  (Writing from experience, the meetings offer excellent networking and learning opportunities and the food is always good!)

You can read more about the charities that benefitted from this generosity and effort here.