Reference Publishers Debate Single Platform

February 3rd, 2009 · by spolanka · 3 Comments

On the Friday of the ALAMW Conference, the Independent Reference Publishers Group met for a panel presentation/discussion on using one single platform to host all reference content.  It was an interesting discussion.  I’ve summarized the panel in my notes below.

Independent Reference Publishers Group Meeting

Friday, January 23, 2009

Representatives from the following organizations were in attendance: Choice, CQ Press, Omnigraphics, Sharpe, ifactory, Sage, Salem, Neal Schumann, ABC-CLIO, Rosen, Credo Reference, Serials Solutions, NISO, Booklist, CHOICE, Wright State University.

The theme of this meeting and panel discussion was instituting a single platform for electronic reference content. Sue Polanka from WSU started things off with her wish list and each publisher had a chance to respond.

Sue Polanka – Wright State University

One day I’d like to purchase/license all of my reference content, regardless of publisher, and load it on the platform of my choice for the best cross searching available. This platform could be an existing one, like GVRL, Credo, ebrary, EBL, NetLibrary, etc. or some shareware, something developed by libraries. Benefits to patrons and librarians include: Greater access, more content, single search interface for ease of use and discoverabilty, easy to implement in library instruction and on web sites. These systems need to have unlimited simultaneous use, 24/7 access, with no DRM or other restrictions on downloading or printing, the most multimedia available during today’s expensive economic times and an actual ebook price, up front, would be appreciated.

Todd Carpenter – NISO

One platform has barriers to interoperability and they are bigger than technological, as in political and economic. [barriers shouldn’t prevent us from trying to do this. IRPG would be a good venue to discuss this. Seems like publishers would want to do this for reasons of – more exposure, and less cost of producing pricey interfaces – has anyone ever heard of epub or the IDPF? SP]

Peter McCracken – Serials Solutions

Federated products are often a starting point for research and therefore have an opportunity to have a reference role. The current design doesn’t work best for the patron since they get mostly articles. Somehow relevance needs to be a factor to assign tags to reference and get them to the top. We need to use field mapping more effectively. [I prefer a pre-indexed approach since federated products tend to be slow. Publishers/aggregators should take advantage of all metadata and tag reference items appropriately. If federated products are used, the reference content should be faceted as “overview material” or “background information.” SP]

Rolf Janke – Sage Reference

Publishers still have an infrastructure that supports print publishing.  The infrastructure is a difficult component to downsize in favor of doing more digital publishing. Print is a one size fits all model yet e publishing is not so, publishers have a multitude of business models, interfaces, features, etc.  The concept of a one size fits all platform for all publishers content is way ahead of its time, publishers currently could never agree on a standard business model. Pricing standards could help, but are not likely. [Gee, these must be the political and economic barriers that Todd was referring to? Looks like publishers could learn about collaboration from libraries. SP]

Ron Boehm – ABC-CLIO

Publishers need to invest in new things while maintaining our print production, which is expensive for publishers, particularly in these bad economic times. Right now we need to do both [e and p] or we would lose half of our business. The best strategy for ebooks is to have unlimited access. Ron supports the idea of publishers working with multiple aggregators or distributors to have reference content available in a multitude of platforms, but doesn’t recommend the libraries/consortia maintain their own platform. [Ditto on unlimited access and multiple aggregators. OhioLINK has been maintaining its own platforms for years. It’s a great system when you want to make enhancements and don’t have to wait on other companies or the majority of users to agree. SP]

Categories: Conferences/Events,Discovery,EPUB,Formats,Interfaces/Platforms,Reference Publishing

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3 responses so far ↓

  • 1 Brian Gray // Feb 7, 2009 at 10:11 pm

    This would make my job of collection development for reference so much easier! It might also mean that patrons would use our better resources since they could actually find them.

  • 2 IRPG meeting at MWALA » Credo Reference Blog // Feb 18, 2009 at 11:44 am

    [...] Credo Reference hosted the IRPG (Independent Reference Publishers Group) meeting last month at Midwinter ALA, and the discussion was certainly provocative. The panel, which included Todd Carpenter of NISO, Peter McCracken from Serials Solutions, Rolf Janke from Sage Reference and Ron Boehm from ABC-CLIO, was instructed to respond to a comment from Sue Polanka, of Wright State University and the No Shelf Required blog. Sue’s comment was: One day I’d like to purchase/license all of my reference content, regardless of publisher, and load it on the platform of my choice for the best cross searching available. This platform could be an existing one, like GVRL, Credo, ebrary, EBL, NetLibrary, etc. or some shareware, something developed by libraries. Benefits to patrons and librarians include: Greater access, more content, single search interface for ease of use and discoverabilty, easy to implement in library instruction and on web sites. These systems need to have unlimited simultaneous use, 24/7 access, with no DRM or other restrictions on downloading or printing, the most multimedia available during today’s expensive economic times and an actual ebook price, up front, would be appreciated. (from her blog entry – Reference Publishers Debate Single Platform) [...]

  • 3 Don Hartman // Apr 6, 2009 at 11:03 am

    Sue, I really appreciate you taking a leadership role with trying to persuade reference publishers to make their titles available on multiple platforms (I recently came across a summary of the panel presentation/discussion that took place at ALA Midwinter with the Independent Reference Publishers Group). I have told sales representatives from Oxford, Cambridge, etc. that I won’t purchase e-reference titles from them, unless they make them available on ebook platforms my library already has arrangements with (in our case GVRL and EBL–though EBL doesn’t really handle reference titles well, but that’s another issue). The summary of the ALAMW panel discussion () has your listing of the benefits of having a single reference platform, but one benefit I didn’t see listed was only having to pay one maintenance fee. The thought of having to pay annual maintenance fees to Cambridge, Blackwell, Oxford, Sage, Wiley, etc. for hosting their reference titles is mind-numbing to me. I personally feel that reference publishers shouldn’t be in the search engine/hosting game at all–they should mark their titles up in a standard XML format and then make them available to folks like Netlibrary, EBL, GVRL,etc. after a library has purchased them.