Wednesday, April 18, 2012

ASERL Spring Meeting

On April 11-12 I attended the Association of Southeastern Research Libraries (ASERL) meeting in Charleston, SC. Hopkins is a new member of this consortium of 40 libraries stretching from Louisiana through Maryland. I attended as Winston Tabb's representative. I will report on a few of the more interesting highlights.

Apple e-textbook initiative

Francis Shephard from Apple talked about the possibilities of faculty using the iBooks Author application to produce electronic textbooks for the iPad. University administrators are concerned about rising textbook costs and the limitations to updating information in printed materials. Students are embracing mobile devices, so the iPad seems like a good possibility for textbooks.

The iBooks Author app has an easy interface that enables authors to begin publishing multi-touch books with an hour or so of practice. It has great support for embedding video, 3D models, slide shows, and even real-time data updates. Each of these has its own "multi-touch widget" that the author can just plug in and populate the page. I have to admit that it looked pretty slick.

Authors can distribute iBooks in one of three ways:

  • simply give it away on a thumb drive or put it on a server
  • distribute free through iBooks Store--minimal IP agreement with Apple
  • charge for iBook on Store--more complex and more checks and balances about who owns copyright

Apple is touting the fact that you can update an iBook at any time in order to keep it current and accurate. Big discussion about how that affects references. Since there is no "edition" or versioning, fact checking for editors can become a nightmare. While the same is true when citing a website, most researchers would expect information in a "book" to remain constant or be updated with successive editions. The Apple rep just did not get it on that issue. The other huge drawback is the fact that the application is only available on the iPad.

Another selling point is that libraries could use the iBooks store to sell books created from their collections. Turn this into a money-making venture. While this bears watching, many of the attendees thought that this app is not a good fit for libraries at this time.

Libraries as Publishers: Current and Best Practices

Representives from the Scholar Commons at the University of South Florida and the Center for Digital Research and Scholarship at Columbia talked about the publishing services that they offer to their community.

Scholar Commons offers a suite of services that includes repository services, eScholarship services, OA publishing services, geoportal & data repository. They started by taking over a journal that was failing at the request from a faculty member. Things quickly grew from there. They use the bepress platform for publishing and help with creating the journal site and training editors. They did a cost study and found that the cost per article for their OA journals is about 10% of the cost of a subscription journal. They currently host six journals and are in discussions with a couple more.

Before taking on a new journal project, they look at three things:

  • aim aligns with library
  • peer reviewed
  • health and active editorial profile
The Center for Digital Research and Scholarship employs 15 full time staff, all on hard money! They host 90 Columbia-based journals run by undergrads, grad students, and faculty. A lot of these are law reviews while others are basically blogs. They offer a variety of services including:

  • platform software hosting: OJS, WordPress (most common), blogs and wikis
  • consultation: digitization of back issues; copyright, licensing, author agreements; open access and other business models
  • ISSN and domain acquisition
  • print on demand
  • design, content migration
  • workshops on journal best practices

The Center has been very successful at Columbia. They try to remain flexible in their approach and be more "weblike" than traditional publishers. Whenever possible they teach publishing skills to their customers so that the journal can become self-sustaining. One of their challenges has been lack of engagement from liaison librarians. Many of them are not sold on the idea, so their outreach has been minimal. They are also struggling with how to gauge success. This is an expensive operation, so they need to prove their worth.