Report back from “E-books and e-content 2011”, a conference held by UCL Department of Information Studies, 11th May

Three sessions, eight talks and a number of recurring themes at this (I think) annual event.

http://www.ucl.ac.uk/infostudies/e-books/ for an outline and downloadable programme.

Are books becoming just content, rather than whole units, now that technology enables “chunking“?  
Will business models and costs of production and purchase – as well as course material including specific textbook chapters – push towards separate chapter delivery?

What about lending?  Technology, as used by companies such as OverDrive, allows temporary loans of ebooks through public libraries to library users for their ebook readers, PCs, smartphones … However, Digital Rights Management precludes this for academic readers reliant on material purchased from aggregators (or publishers who use DRM).  The UK Government is not taking a lead by stating that ebook reading should be free as it is for print (which it’s predecessor did). Thanks to Martin Palmer of Essex county libraries for a public library view of this issue and Johanna Brinton of OverDrive.  Not all library users’ ebook readers are able to take downloads: if there’s no clock in the ereader, then it won’t register the loan period, so – no loan!

“The future is mobile” (Nicky Whitsed, Director of Library Services, Open University):  Access on the move through various mobile devices should be an essential, not just a desirable: students at the OU are not campus-based – they are global – and are time-poor, so need to tap into resources in any spare moments they have.  
Electronic resources need to be on mobile-friendly interfaces and be downloadable for offline use.
Aggregator suppliers are starting to take note: Dawson’s (represented by Jude Norris at the Conference) have employed a Product Manager in the light of ebook readers and particularly tablet PCs.

Tech stuff.  There was useful detail from James MacFarlane of Easypress technologies on how ebook material is developed from XML files, then using Adobe InDesign or QuarkXPress.  Production teams have to style entire books before conversion to ePub and processing is needed for footnotes, margins, and so on. What works in print may not work in e- .  iPads only have 6 fonts which causes problems for file conversion or display.
There’s the closed shop formatting of Amazon and Apples’ files, and the forthcoming ePub3 as the possible industry standard of the future.  Hannah Perrett of Cambridge University Press pointed out the high cost of transferring their backlist (£500-£800K) to the current ePub, which is why they’re staying with PDF for older material – but waiting to see if ePub3 does become the standard.

Ebook readers
Steve Burrows talked about Sony’s history of ebook reader developments (and the advantages of buying Sony! 😉 ), and their 2010 survey which indicated that the majority of Sony Reader users were older, female, heavy readers (5 titles a month) with higher education levels and good incomes.   Reading in bed is very popular, and on the move (eg in the plane) takes second place.  Wifi/3G devices are in North America but not in demand in the UK.
Academic use is still on the periphery for Sonys, Kindles, and others: the technology doesn’t yet allow for the interactive use needed for learning materials as developed by the OU for example (see http://openlearn.open.ac.uk ).
A research representative reminded the audience how Classics, backlists, curiosities and other older items had been rejuvenated through easy and often free e-accessibility.  67% of Scholarly ebook publishers have digitised their backlist [ALPSP Study, 2010].

Several iPads (but at least one netbook too) were on view at the Conference, and tablets seem to be here to stay, with greater interactive functions and wifi and 3G enablement.
Post by : Jon Andrews

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One Response to Report back from “E-books and e-content 2011”, a conference held by UCL Department of Information Studies, 11th May

  1. Pingback: E-books and E-content 2011 | Alison's Eclectic E-stuff

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