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India set to see a rise in demand for digital scholarly resources…what does that mean for the scholarly publishing industry?

by Sarah Kosofsky

In Rick Anderson’s recent article in the Scholarly Kitchen about the government-funded introduction of 100,000 tablet computers to university students and professors in India, he outlines a few of the implications of such an influx of affordable devices.  Among his most fascinating points is that this introduction of a large number of computing devices might encourage further pushes for computing device ownership, and might greatly increase the percentage of those in India who own a computing device.

Those in the publishing industry would be wise to watch how the market for scholarly materials changes as a result of pushes for computing device availability. Thousands of students and professors who previously did not have access to electronic journals, electronic books, and electronic databases now do have access; what will be interesting to see is if they will seek the traditional scholarly publishers for their electronic content or if they will try to find new, perhaps more affordable publishers.  As only 5% of Indian citizens currently own computing devices (and not all of those are used for scholarly research), it should be intriguing to see what methods scholarly publishers use to appeal to this new potential group of customers.


Amazon’s Whispercast

Sarah Kosofsky

Amazon’s new Whispercast system has launched, and it has the potential to change the way institutions use and centralize their Kindles.  Check out the great article by Todd Carpenter of the Scholarly Kitchen about this new system.

Do you see Whispercast changing the way you use or manage your institution’s Kindles? Is providing select material for students on a Kindle more effective than having them buy it themselves?


Your library, on Facebook! And Twitter!

by Sarah Kosofsky

The pages on Facebook: people “like” their favorite bands, authors, and heroes, but would anyone consider “liking” their library?

The answer, for everyone with a passion for reading and research, should be yes.  More and more librarians are using social media, such as Facebook and Twitter, to reach their patrons.  According to a study done by the South Carolina State Library, 78.6% of librarians interviewed in the survey believed that social networking websites were an important part of a library’s marketing and promotion strategy.

In a separate study, it was revealed that 84.3% of librarians who used social media sites utilized Facebook to promote their libraries.  Twitter was used by 49.2% of librarians who used social media to connect with patrons. Many libraries have links on their websites that lead to the library’s Facebook or Twitter page. Librarians oftentimes entice students to follow the libraries on social media sites by announcing special events or fun study breaks exclusively on those sites.

What else is promoted on the social media pages of libraries?  It depends on the library, of course, but updates and notifications could include alerting patrons to anything from new services or products being provided by the library to special deals on a library’s cafe fare.

There are oftentimes problems with consistency when libraries use social networking sites. This occurs because most libraries don’t have an employee whose job is dedicated entirely to maintaining the library’s social media accounts.  Instead, it is usually the job of multiple librarians to maintain these accounts.  This makes it more difficult for librarians to have lengthy conversations with anyone on any social media websites.

Although it might be a bit unexpected for libraries to join the social media landscape, many have been using the digital resources to their advantage for a long time.  Social media use between libraries and their patrons will likely be a great tool for connection and improvement.

Kids are reading more than just their Twitter feeds

By Kate Lara

As a member of “Generation Y” or “Generation Next” or whatever it is they’re calling us these days, I see an awful lot of headlines warning of the crumbling of our communication skills and attention spans due to the obsession with our digital lives. The same goes for the generation below mine – those kids that have only known a world with Google and Facebook. However, according to the Pew Research Center as reported by NPR, it’s not all doom and gloom for our future. Turns out that having greater access to information? It causes kids to have greater…access….to information. They’re reading more than adults. They still like print books, but also really like eBooks – they can carry Harry Potter around without a 5 pound brick in the backpack and get a new book without bugging mom to take them to the library. If you want to read some cheery and non-threatening news for the library world, I do recommend checking out the article at NPR or the full report from the Pew Research Center’s Internet and American Life Project.

Digital Textbooks: helpful for students, harmful for an industry?

by Sarah Kosofsky

As libraries shift more and more from print to electronic, it seems that the university textbook market is doing the same.  Instead of selling heavy, cumbersome textbooks, some college campuses and textbook publishers are offering infinitely lighter digital textbooks that can be read on a computer, laptop, tablet, or even mobile phone.  As with all shifts in format, the new digital materials do bear some issues.

Oftentimes, when expensive textbooks are needed for a class, small groups of students will pool their money to buy a single textbook to share amongst themselves.  This is easily done when the required reading is in print, but with electronic textbooks, as Against The Grain points out, things get a bit trickier once access codes get involved; this is the case with some digital textbooks.  If an ereader with the digital textbook is borrowed, the owner of the ereader and the digital textbook may temporary lose access to not only the digital textbook that was needed, but also any other textbooks on the ereader.

What’s also discussed in USA TODAY’s article about digital textbooks is the lack of any resale value that digital textbooks have, as they cannot be resold.  Students, when given the option of buying a new textbook or a cheaper used copy will usually choose the used copy. With digital, not only can a used or otherwise reduced copy not be purchased (legally), but it threatens a whole used-book market.

The transition to digital textbooks might also make campus bookstores more obsolete, or if not obsolete, it may have them looking more and more like campus gift shops.  If digital books are purchased electronically, the bookstore may not be able to continue being the third party in book sale deals, eliminating a huge amount of revenue for a university.

Have you had experience with digital textbooks, either with using them for troubleshooting them?  How do you see digital textbooks changing university campuses?

Mobile Apps: The next big (but small) format in publishing?

by Sarah Kosofsky

We have all heard of the print and online formats of scholarly materials, but what about access to these same resources through mobile apps? Although app access through smart phones or other mobile devices might not be the first thing that comes to mind when dealing with these kinds of materials, many publishers already provide apps for their products. 

With a journal app at hand, a subscriber can simply pull up the information they need on their smart phone or tablet rather than leafing through a print copy of a text or sitting in front of a computer. One of the reviews on the app store page for American Psychiatric Publishing’s Diagnostic Criteria from DSM-IV-TR DSM app says that the app allows the reviewer to access all of the information he needs, wherever he is, without the hassle of toting around the actual book.

The pricing of publisher apps varies.  Sometimes the app is free with subscription, as is the case for the American Society of Nephrology’s Clinical Journal of the American Society of Nephrology app, which launches this month. Others, like the DSM app, are not free (this app happens to be $64.99), but may be preferred over the text or online versions because of how convenient they can be.

Although apps can save time and might be more convenient, there will most certainly always be a place for the full online and print versions of a resource.  Apps might be good for finding a small bit of information or looking up just what a reader needs, but when it comes to research, an app probably won’t cut it.  Naomi Song, a research technician at a medical school in New York, says that although apps for mobile devices seem like a great tool, reading journal articles and other lengthy materials on such a small device like a phone can be difficult in a lab setting.

Have you used a publisher’s app for a resource?  Do you think apps will be an important part of the publishing industry in the future?

Retractions: How Much Damage Do They Cause?

by Sarah Kosofsky

Retractions occur when a scholarly article has been deemed untrustworthy or scientifically invalid.  Although rare, they do occur, and retracted articles have the potential for causing damage.

In Phil Davis’ study, “The persistence of error: a study of retracted articles on the Internet and in Personal Libraries” (which he also speaks about in The Scholarly Kitchen blog), Davis finds that many retracted articles are still unmarked as retracted in many databases and personal collections.  For 289 retracted articles, there were 321 copies that were publically accessible.  On average, personal Mendeley libraries contained records for 1,340 retracted articles (Davis).

Davis outlines why some retracted articles stay available: journals can be inconsistent in alerting readers to retractions, articles can exist in multiple versions, and scientists oftentimes rely on their own personal collections.  Although Davis does briefly mention that retracted articles can be harmful to the scientific community, he doesn’t mention how exactly they can cause damage.

If a research paper happens to cite a paper that has, unbeknownst to the new paper’s author, been retracted, the scientific validity of the new paper becomes affected by the failure of whatever journal initially published the eventually retracted article.  On a smaller scale, if a student’s paper has cited a retracted article that contains scientifically invalid information, they might suffer when turning in that paper to a professor.

What’s more is that if those who read a retracted article take that information to be trustworthy and scientifically valid (as most information in scientific journals actually is both trustworthy and scientifically valid), they might use the results and findings from the retracted articles in their work until it is checked by an outside source.  This has the potential for slowing down scientific progress.

From your experience, how do you see scientific journals deal with retracted articles?  If you think there could be improvements, what are some suggestions that you have?  Have you seen any consequences as the result of someone citing a retracted article in their research?