Information Today
Volume 18, Issue 3 — March 2001
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IT Report from the Field •
Professional Publishers Confront Change
Thinking outside the box was the focus of this recent AAP/PSP conference
by Judy Luther and Ana Arias Terry 

Taking risks was the mandate at the annual conference of the Association of American Publishers' (AAP; Professional Scholarly Publishing division (PSP; 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." 

Taking Risks
The opening session explored the implications of Napster for the publishing community with Billy Pitts, executive vice president of government relations with (, 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 new ones." 

A full panel—including Mike Larsen, president of the freshman dental class at the University of Texas' Health Sciences Center ( 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 Technologies (, 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 (, 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 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 ( 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 (, 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 (, 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 (, 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 (, pointed 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 (, 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;, spoke about the society's titles, which are made available electronically through HighWire Press ( 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 (, pointed 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 (, 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;, 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 (, 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 (, 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 (, 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 from content. 

Customer Perspective 
The customer perspective was represented by Ruth Wolfish, electronic content coordinator at Lucent Technologies (, and David Goodman, of the Princeton University Biology Library (, 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 (, 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 Education (, 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 (, 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. 

Association Business 
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, and intermediaries. 

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 (, and her e-mail address is Ana Arias Terry is vice president of Informed Strategies. Her e-mail address is

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