by Nawin Gupta (ASA Secretary General and Conference Organizer) <[email protected]>
The annual conference of the Association of Subscription Agents and Intermediaries has become the international event that draws a broad spectrum of publishers, agents and intermediaries, librarians, and others who facilitate transfer of knowledge to a growing global audience. The theme of the 2012 conference, held 27-28 February in London, was “Best Way to Predict the Future Is to Invent It.” Featuring 17 speakers, the two-day program was organized around five session themes: Context Not Containers, The Semantic Web, Libraries – What Next, eBooks – Onwards & Upwards, and New Roles for the Modern Intermediary. This issue of Against the Grain is pleased to publish six papers from the conference that were submitted to ATG.
Brian O’Leary — Context First: A Unified Theory of Publishing — talks about publishing being unduly governed by the nature of the container — the physical book. Although demand for digital content has grown substantially, publishers continue to treat digital formats as a derived or secondary use. As a result, context is truncated or excluded, reducing the degree to which content can be discovered and consumed. At the same time, content abundance places pressure on publishers to find new and more effective ways to market content products. O’Leary explains why publishers must start now to revise their content workflows so that they can link to and maintain context while creating and distributing both physical and digital products.
Daniel Mayer — From Discovery to Delivery: Publishing Opportunities on the Semantic Web — addresses how semantics have emerged as a critical technology for the online distribution of content and have entered mainstream adoption by publishers, in particular to power advanced information access features on their portals and to package their content innovatively. He discusses the key current applications for semantics on the Web, including some not present in the original vision, and underscores underlying trends shaping how we shall manage, distribute, and access information in the future.
Chris Banks — Spaces and Clouds: The Library as a Destination and Launch Pad — discusses why in an increasingly digital age the library as a physical entity — one with the right spaces and facilities and services to meet a variety of study and research needs — is as important as it has ever been. She examines the emerging trends at the University of Aberdeen — an institution which has invested strongly in the physical and digital environments and in the services to support both.
Jill Emery — The Role of the Modern Intermediary and What Constitutes Value in the Library of 2012 — discusses libraries’ continuing struggle with the prime issues of journal transfer and platform changes with electronic subscription management. She provides two specific examples that illustrate how local technical services staff hours are spent addressing these issues and proposes ways intermediaries can help improve these situations. Emery goes on to explore developing areas in libraries and where librarians’ focus will be in the next five years.
Ann Lawson — Thriving in Chaos: Intermediaries Delivering Value in a Changing Landscape — discusses how the burgeoning volume of electronic content, in its many forms, is constantly changing the landscape for all involved in the information industry, leading to a reliance on multiple solutions for management and delivery. This is costly and resource-hungry. Our world is becoming ever more complex; money is in short supply; libraries need to develop and implement mechanisms and solutions, either by themselves, in consortia, or to outsource to an intermediary. She states that to help libraries to thrive in such a chaotic, changing landscape, intermediaries have to be agile and quick to adapt, delivering added value to libraries, institutions, corporations, publishers, and consortia alike.
Pinar Erzin — Adding Value to the Publishers’ Business — talks about finding the niche in serving publishers as an agent, without being a traditional subscription agent. She addresses questions: Bridging between libraries and publishers, how does that position sales organizations like Accucoms in the supply chain? Do we compete or do we work together? What are some of the other emerging initiatives being added to the supply chain — for example, small publisher coalitions?