It's now acknowledged within the publishing industry that Christmas 2011 was the time when digital reading officially went mainstream, with sales of ebooks and ereaders rocketing on both sides of the Atlantic. Yet while the consumer landscape has exhaustively well covered there's been less media discussion of the just as interesting debate over what all this means to scholarly and academic publishing.
So we were very interested to learn that JISC, a UK-based organisation that encourages education and research institutions to make better use of information and digital technologies, has just published a monograph on just this subject. The Digital Monograph Technical Landscape study (a.k.a. #jiscPUB) was developed following a six-month thinktank into what ebooks (and particularly the ePub specification) could bring to Higher and Further education.
The monograph itself is a great overview of the development of ebooks from marginal technology to mainstream adoption, but the most interesting part of it is probably the 10 recommendations it makes for future work, which are as follows: -
1. Provide rich search tools for individual collections of ebooks
2. Tools for generating or traversing ebook citations
3. Development of a pilot to produce ebooks with linked-data content
4. Native EPUB output for Microsoft Word or Open Office
5. LaTeX to EPUB 3/MathML
6. Ereading systems with scholarly annotation systems
7. Community resources for individual scholars wishing to epublish
8. Aggregate resources for digital conversion for small scholarly presses
9. Maximize use of orphan works
10. Community resources for institutions with digital collections
These recommendations range in terms of their complexity, importance and controversy but all, if implemented properly, have the potential to make the ebook a genuinely important medium of scholarly research. We were particularly excited by the authors' enthusiasm for tools for generating and traversing ebook citations, as this is a key area where ebooks could demonstrate their superiority over legacy publishing. Similarly its call for a linked-data pilot project underlines the importance of a point we've been making for some time. That soon the semantic web define how we discover and consume content online, whether that's celebrity news and gossip or cutting edge research on the human genome.
You can download the whole monograph by following the link below. We hope you enjoy it as much as we did, and do let us know your comments .
Technical Landscape Exemplars and Recommendations