Letting out the leash: the Magic Penny approach

The online ‘ALPSP 2013 Conference Video: What is the publisher now?’ recommended on moodle last week brought forth a set of thoughts for the new blogging season for #citylis ‘Libraries and Publishing in an Information Society’ (or LAPIS).

The input by Victor Henning, co-founder and CEO of Mendeley, were meaningful to me personally as he described the statistics of an Elsevier survey that investigated what tools researchers used to share their work. Henning states that although 50% used internal university networks, 30 and 13% respectively chose Dropbox and Google Drive platforms due to freedom of approach and the wide selection of user friendly, unrestricted tools that they felt had a greater reach.

This echoed a similar issue in last year’s Digital Libraries module, where the manageability of controlled, commercial library systems was compared with the new generation of open systems. Freedom and adaptability figured greatly against perceived control and risk.

Henning mentions the example of the music industry to illustrate the loss versus gain aspect of ‘letting out of the leash.’ When risk was taken and music sharing platforms were allowed to grow, music piracy decreased and business grew. How does that old Magic Penny song go ? Be brave enough to give openly and in return receive more ? Henning remarks that in our information society, people in general have no strong will to access content illegally but simply desire and respond to ways which are convenient and fair. 

Within digital libraries, part of similar consideration is managing digital collections according to copyright, the demands of researchers and the perceived needs of the library, for example in the case of making available high resolution images for research and the promotion of special collections. Keep tight control or find ways to let out the leash? I thoroughly enjoyed this gregarious post by Wynken de Worde.

Henning remarks on the publisher access and subscription mindset in being in conflict and competition both with each other and with free sharing interests of Google, Amazon and Dropbox.

The biggest takeaways from the panel during this conference session were that publishers (and libraries) need to know their community well, to engage and support their users, to promote the quality of research, adapt a technical mindset and work smarter together to progress user friendly research tools to rival or even integrate with the tech giants.

The 2012 article by Dr Alicia Wise of Elsevier also supports how libraries and publishers, who all serve information and knowledge, hold the united responsibilities of:

  • Promoting and providing access to high quality information, providing efficiency and tools for researchers. ‘Article of the future’ is an engagement platform being developed by Elsevier.
  • Providing users with fair access to Information now and in the future, growing international audiences and scaling up open access
  • Keeping abreast of the technological impact on the digital age and providing user support and preservation of the scholarly record
  • Supporting the young/global scholarly community and challenging the digital divide. Elsevier for example, have developed free online webcasts and resources for researchers and librarians.

Image courtesy of Famlii.com

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