Disruption in Publishing

Last week’s Chronicle of Higher Education Review had an opinion piece by Kate Wittenberg, director of EPIC (Electronic Publishing Initiative at Columbia) with the title “Beyond Google: What Next for Publishing?” (subscription required). An excerpt from the beginning:

While we have been busy attending conferences, workshops, and seminars on every possible aspect of scholarly communication, information technology, digital libraries, and e-publishing, students have been quietly revolutionizing the discovery and use of information. Their behavior, undertaken without consultation or attendance at formal academic events, urgently forces those of us in scholarly publishing to confront some fundamental questions about our organizations, jobs, and assumptions about our work.

Most students today arrive at college assuming that a Google search is the first choice for doing research, that MySpace is the model for creating online content and building peer communities, and — perhaps most important — that multitasking with various electronic devices, often from remote locations, is the traditional way to do class work. The implications of those changes must transform our publishing strategies. 1

Does one need any more confirmation that libraries, too, must change? The students have changed, the publishing industry is going to change, one of the intermediaries has changed (clicks-and-bricks bookstores); isn’t it time the other intermediary (libraries) changed as well?

Okay, probably not — if you still need that confirmation you must have been living in a cave the list five to ten years. But it does make one wonder if publishers and libraries can get together as suggested by Jonathan Zittrain (Harvard Law School and University of Oxford). (As a recall, an almost word-for-word quotation of Zittrain’s speech: “Libraries are so far the best hope for those in a position to release something” 2 under a “neutral” digital rights management system. In other words, libraries can be trusted with the un-DRM’d version of content knowing that the libraries take their role of mediating access to licensed content very seriously and can apply the appropriate DRM at the appropriate time for the appropriate circumstances.)

Footnotes

  1. The Chronicle Review, Volume 52, Issue 41, Page B20. []
  2. Thanks to teaguese1 for jogging my memory []