|Taking risks was the mandate at the annual conference of the Association
of American Publishers' (AAP; http://www.publishers.org)
Professional Scholarly Publishing division (PSP; http://www.pspcentral.org).
From February 47, nearly 300 publishers and a handful of librarians met
at the Mayflower Hotel in Washington, DC, to discuss current issues and
hot topics, ranging from Napster to e-books to new business models. This
year's theme was "What's Working Now: Professional/Scholarly Publishing
in the 21st Century."
The opening session explored the implications of Napster for the publishing
community with Billy Pitts, executive vice president of government relations
with MP3.com (http://www.mp3.com),
who noted that technology is ahead of the law. He asked publishers to consider
how they add value to books as they become a service in the online environment.
Seth Greenstein, serving as counsel for the General Media Association,
went a step further, stating that if publishers don't make it convenient
for their users, someone else will. The biggest mistake, Greenstein noted,
is to do nothing.
The following morning, John Gage, chief research officer at Sun Microsystems,
said that innovation drives progress and suggested that publishers hire
young students to learn how they approach a publisher product. The audience
chuckled when he said that the reason students could be more creative was
that they didn't have to attend meetings. Given that the foundational elements
of technology are changing, it's time to "Let old ideas die and let in
A full panel—including Mike Larsen, president of the freshman dental
class at the University of Texas' Health Sciences Center (http://www.uthscsa.edu)
in San Antonio—described the creative idea of putting all textbooks and
references for dental school on a single laptop. The advantages of being
able to query a topic over multiple resources, and the portability and
light weight of the laptop, were balanced by the size of the reading screen
and periodic lockups. Todd Watkins, president and founder of Vital Source
commented on the decreasing half-life of information and the need to increase
the longitudinal and lateral use of information in the curriculum with
the ability to search across multiple texts.
Following the format of prior years, a daylong pre-conference enabled
100 attendees to discuss "Transformational Publishing: Creating New Identities
in the Digital Marketplace." William Arms, professor at Cornell University
raised two basic questions: How can readers recognize good-quality material
and how can publishers maintain high standards? Since presentation clues
are not reliable, the user must know the reputation of the information
source or depend on metadata about the quality. There is an accelerating
trend of primary content going online without editorial intervention.
Troy Williams, founder of Questia Media (http://www.questia.com),
a new e-book company, challenged publishers to consider the changes presented
by the Internet as an opportunity and to take risks. He cited Intel co-founder
and chairman Andy Grove, whose book Only the Paranoid Survive looked
at "strategic inflection points," which heralded major change, such as
the Web. Williams then went on to list guidelines for selecting partners:
a sustainable business model, a track record, an experienced management
team, success in raising capital, and other partnerships. Later in the
conference, Williams pointed out the importance of relying on market research
to understand user needs.
Launched in February with 50,000 e-books, Questia Media supports the ability
to access dictionaries, mark up references, hyperlink to other references,
and automatically generate footnotes. Williams announced that Questia priced
the service at $19.95 per month for an individual subscription or $14.95
per 48-hour period, humorously noting that there was a distinct gender
orientation of those needing the 48-hour access and that they were willing
to pay substantially more for that access. Questia also offers an annual
price of $149.95. Despite the fact that there is no library pricing at
the moment, Questia Media expects that the increased access to book content
will increase library use. [Editor's Note: For more on Troy Williams,
see his interview with Paula J. Hane on page 1 of last month's issue of
Information Today or at http://www.infotoday.com/it/feb01/hane.htm.
Also, see the Questia news story on page 34.]
With 75 percent of high school graduates going into higher education,
Louis Caldera, former Secretary of the Army, described that service's efforts
to strengthen recruiting and increase retention through the creation of
Army University Access Online (http://www.armyeducation.army.mil/EArmyU.htm)
at a cost of $500 million over 5 years. Rather than selecting providers
as contractors, this approach focuses on creating a system of educational
providers that offer courses and degree programs, including technology
firms, consulting companies, and a broad list of educational institutions.
Ed Pentz, executive director of CrossRef (http://www.crossref.org),
the publishers' linking initiative, noted that at a minimum his company
is able to offer persistent links to full text for many types of content.
He commented on various aspects of enhanced linking that enable access
to nonsubscribed content; archive repositories; multiple resolution; and
ways to address the appropriate copy, which occurs when a library owns
more than one version of an article. Pentz's advice to publishers is to
get content in XML, acquire the systems to manage data and metadata, and
link their content to increase its value.
Emerging Business Models
Billy Jordan, senior vice president of business development at iUniverse.com
noted that companies must continually expand and develop solutions for
different markets. He cited Cisco's response to how it manages change:
"We don't manage change, we embrace it."
Libraries are adapting to e-books and are now asking for increased functionality
and more quality content, according to Miriam Gilbert, senior director
of publisher relations at netLibrary (http://www.netlibrary.com),
the "oldest" e-book publisher in the market. "We have to take risks, experiment,"
said Gilbert, echoing the recurring theme throughout the conference.
Royalynn O'Connor, online product director at Oxford University Press
out that it's the processes rather than the business models that are changing.
She also noted that direct marketing tactics must shift to accommodate
consortia sales, and internal communication must go through a cultural
change involving students, junior staff, and the rest of the organization.
Doug Feaver, executive editor of WashingtonPost.com (http://www.washingtonpost.com),
reported that the single greatest source of print sales came from a button
on its home page, and over half of its subscriptions are from outside of
Washington, DC. Two weeks of the current newspaper are online for free,
and there is a $2.95 charge for older articles.
Chuck Hancock, of the American Society for Biochemical and Molecular
Biology (ASBMB; http://www.faseb.org/asbmb),
spoke about the society's titles, which are made available electronically
through HighWire Press (http://www.highwire.org).
ASBMB has a reverse-pricing scheme, meaning that a subscription fee applies
to the current issue and backfiles are free beyond the first year.
Marketing and Sales
Mark Schregardus, director of international sales at Ovid Technologies
out that international markets demand an understanding of cultural differences,
such as the risk of losing face in Asian markets and having to start over.
According to Schregardus, consortia require a high-level sales force that
is on the ground and can build trust within the customer organization.
Companies wishing to conduct business internationally should be equipped
with a long-term approach to account management and with flexible pricing
to deal with local situations.
Caroline Vogelzang, vice president of commercial services with Kluwer
Academic Publishers (http://www.wkap.nl),
seconded comments about the need for face-to-face customer interaction.
She went on to note that sales teams have to be trained in contracts, multi-term
deals, negotiation, technology, cultural considerations, languages, sales
techniques, and product knowledge. Confirming the need for risk in today's
market, Vogelzang ended with a quote: "Behold the turtle, it only moves
when it sticks out its neck."
Mike Spinella, director of memberships, circulation, and meetings at
the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS; http://www.aaas.org),
noted that his organization is still guarding the print revenue until it
figures out the next step. Although there may be more readers of an electronic
version, there are fewer buyers as institutions don't need as many copies
online as they did in print. Content is emerging as the product, he said,
with less distinction made of the article, issue, volume, or journal. Fixed
costs are a key challenge in pricing online journals, as there are increasing
demands for new services and features. A surprising 15 to 20 percent of
all its sales come through the Web.
Adam Klein, ISI's vice president of Asia Pacific market development
(http://www.isinet.com), stated that the impact of adopting new technology
affects customer support, which must be able to handle 24/7 service requirements.
Bill Haines, senior director of product development and marketing at
MD Consult (http://www.mdconsult.com),
characterized the marketing of Web products by the user experience and
how people will use information. The real selling, he noted, comes after
the sale, as publishers need to sell all over again after each use.
Greg Zorthian, senior vice president of BusinessWeek Online (http://www.businessweek.com),
noted that the company's online service specializes in being quick, easy,
and shallow—which means the user is never more than three clicks away
The customer perspective was represented by Ruth Wolfish, electronic
content coordinator at Lucent Technologies (http://www.lucent.com),
and David Goodman, of the Princeton University Biology Library (http://www.princeton.edu),
who spoke about their requirements for a successful deal. There are two
deal-breakers for academic libraries, according to Goodman: 1) any requirement
for users to identify themselves or 2) any discrepancy between the print
and electronic versions of the publications.
Wolfish noted that deal-breakers for Lucent included the use of passwords
instead of IP addresses, pricing based on total employees rather than real
users, and inconsistency of content between the print and electronic versions.
Lucent would prefer that the electronic edition came with a 5-year archive
in both HTML and Adobe PDF formats, with pricing for global use, and unbundled
for print and electronic. Usage statistics are desirable, as are links.
Technology and Production
Carter Glass, manager of electronic publications at the American Geophysical
Union (http://www.agu.org), announced
that a publisher's success is dependent on how well it can divorce content
from the structure of the document. The New York Times was cited
as a well-balanced approach of content and structure, while The Wall
Street Journal was deemed as somewhere in the middle. According to
Glass, the competitive advantage goes to the publisher that can deliver
structural information faster and better than anyone else.
Richard Walkus, vice president of digital asset management at McGraw-Hill
agreed with the concept of separating content from the document structure,
and noted that the future of publishing will entail more dynamic digital
content that's more flexible than either Adobe PDF or static HTML. He stressed
that publishers needed to create modular content that was self-describing
(with its own metadata).
Carol Risher, senior vice president of business development for Savantech
provided a quick overview of the complexity of digital rights management
(DRM), including rights assignment, user authentication, and e-commerce
management. Risher noted that protection not only precludes piracy but
also ensures the integrity of the content. DRM is prompting new business
models that include pay-per-drink pricing.
Jonathan Schull, founder of SoftLock, now Digital Goods (http://www.digitalgoods.com),
suggested that users should be encouraged to pass along products that require
payment, as the conversion rate is higher than other forms of marketing.
This takes advantage of the natural sharing that takes place. It also determines
the user experience.
The technology preview section included speakers from IBM and the MIT
Media Lab, and they described adaptive technology that improves user experiences.
This means that systems can change based on the user's preference, whether
it's a known learning style or simply the way in which the user interacts
with the system. One example offered was that objects would rearrange themselves
on a screen depending on how the user looked at it.
On Tuesday (the only full day of the conference), Pat Schroeder, president
and CEO of AAP, reviewed the activities of the Professional Scholarly Publishing
division, which include recent copyright-violation successes in China.
Over lunch, the annual Awards for the Best Publications of 2000 were presented,
and the event featured video interviews with the winning authors and editors.
This was efficiently handled by Karen Day, from Charles Scribner's Sons,
as the Mistress of Ceremonies.
Thirty-six exhibitors drew traffic into the reception area, providing
additional information on technology solutions and innovations for publishers.
The breadth and scope were diverse. They ranged from the Copyright Clearance
Center (CCC), peer-review software organizations, and e-book device companies
to vendors offering user authentication, license management, e-commerce
solutions, abstracting-and-indexing services, pre-publishing houses, printers,
The speakers' overriding theme was to take risks, to change, and to
think outside the usual box. Periodically, publishers would acknowledge
that they were reluctant to abandon the existing revenue stream. However,
there was much discussion about emerging business models as well as dialogue
about the pros and cons of evolving models with a focus on adding value
to services. The event also offered practical advice on international sales
from representatives who were themselves going through a transition process
to ensure their respective markets were approached appropriately. This
program was designed to acquaint publishers with innovative approaches
to marketing, product development, sales, and production and challenge
them to creatively address these issues and reinvent themselves.
Judy Luther is president of Informed Strategies (http://www.informedstrategies.com),
and her e-mail address is email@example.com.
Ana Arias Terry is vice president of Informed Strategies. Her e-mail address