Publishers Communication Group (PCG) set out to offer further clarity around the topic of enhanced metadata in our newest white paper, Increasing the Value of Scholarly Books. Focusing on Humanities and Social Sciences publishing (H/SS) where books for research are in greater demand (versus journals within Science/Technical/Mathematics research), we spoke with publishers who have already created chapter abstracts, discovery services, librarians, and lastly researchers. Spoiler alert: everyone was in unanimous agreement that chapter abstracts DO raise the value of the full book. Publishers who provide this enhanced level of metadata will have an advantage in the increasing-competitive marketplace.
Following is an abridged version of our report. Please download Increasing the Value of Scholarly Books for further details.
Reason #1: Increased Pressure On Book Performance
Academic book publishers now have access to various tools for measuring the reach of each book. Up to this point, the only yardstick was the sales report – the value of a scholarly book could only be measured in its unit sales. With innovative tools that now capture book citations and altmetrics in an accurate and robust way, publishers can better understand the impact on each publication. Authors are now able to see the full reach of their research and will be able to report to tenure boards and university administrators. Having access to this type of impact is meaningful, but it also raises the stakes for publishers to further leverage their titles.
Reason #2: Increases Discoverability, Part One
Publishers who want to erase the lines between journals and books in an effort to promote relevant and related content regardless of format will find that chapter-level abstracts make this process easier.
The more granular the metadata supplied via publisher/aggregator platforms and discovery services, the greater the visibility of that content – however, it is important for publishers to be consistent across of all their content. Using style guides, common taxonomies, and meaningful key words are essential for improving relatedness across publishing programs.
Reason #3: Increases Discoverability, Part Two
H/SS librarians we spoke with were VERY excited about the availability of chapter-level abstracts. They felt this data would connect researchers more closely with specific content which in turn would offer them a greater pool of books to use in their research.
Librarians could also see a direct correlation between increased usage due to chapter-level metadata and a greater inclination to renew ebook collection subscriptions.
Libraries engaged in demand-driven or evidence-based acquisition programs suggested that chapter-level metadata could ultimately accelerate full purchases.
Reason #4: Expectations of Younger Generation of Researchers
Several of the academics we spoke with all suggested that the next generation of academics is more digital-dependent and expect faster results. Likewise, chapter abstracts may also help younger scholars who are newer to their fields better understand the literature they are reviewing. Rather than one comprehensive overview of a book, this more granular approach will give more specific insights.
Reason #5: Advances Interdisciplinary Research
Similarly to the support chapter-level abstracts offer younger scholars learning about their own field, the academics we spoke with also suggested that as interdisciplinary studies become increasing common, chapter-level abstracts will help senior researchers working outside their core fields.
These five verified and compelling reasons helped many publishers decide to create chapter-level abstracts – but just how did they go about doing this?
There seem to be three main options to creating abstracts:
- Excerpting the first 150 – 200 words of each chapter
- This seems to be an efficient and affordable program, but some librarians in the H/SS fields were concerned that authors might not fully describe their arguments upfront and therefore the abstract might not reveal the content accurately. (Management books were cited as an exception).
- Author-Created Abstracts
- Authors best know their content and are in the habit of creating abstracts already. However, for many publishers with deep backlists, this is not always a viable option
- 3rd-Party Vendor
- There would be direct investment costs, however a neutral 3rd-party vendor can create consistent, structured metadata and abstracts across all of a publisher’s lists which would ensure continuity.
As publishers look for new ways to increase revenue and reach of their scholarly books, enhanced metadata, particularly chapter-level abstracts, appears to be a necessary offering.