After attending the recent MobileTechnology Executive briefing run by the Chartered institute of Library and Information Professionals (CILIP) I’ve become really excited by the opportunities that developments in mobile technology are presenting to academic publishers, librarians and end users. This was only cemented when I watched Corning’s (the company that manufactures the “Gorilla Glass” familiar to any iPhone user) inspirational video “The Future Of Glass”.

Seeing these conceptual technologies work in action confirmed for me that the wealth of possibilities they open up for the home could be easily extended to a learning environment such as a library. And while they’re concepts just now, they won’t be for much longer as, thanks to the proliferation of cloud services, we begin to see mobile data not so much in terms of it being a phone or tablet, but a transferrable object you can access from any screen. Imagine, for example, being able to Skype your friends from a classroom window.

From beginnings like this it’s easy to imagine what could happen within a tutorial, a classroom or a lecture, where augmented reality, facilitated by mobile data and services, enrich the learning experience.  Where a book can be traced using a virtual map of the library; staff can do anything from lending an iPad to a student; or a librarian can respond to a geo-located text complaining about a fellow noisy student.  Such application are already beginning to take shape, through pioneers like the Mimas project’s Project SCARLET, which places historic books into a wealth of related information that enhances learning by adding context and meaning to the text.

If there is one big barrier preventing students from integrating these technologies into their learning, this is seamless authentication, as Mimas has observed that encountering a barrier to access mostly results in learners giving up and trying another route. If there were a single log-on available that would grant students access to all Athens authenticated resources in perpetuity, however, then the mobile world would be their oyster. Not only would this have learning benefits, but it would also be good news for publishers, in that usage of their published resources would increase exponentially.

Some of the other innovative tools that Mimas is deploying to increase engagement and usage range from using roving staff to assist in mobile technology to QR codes. They even include a library game, developed by the University of Huddersfield, called Lemontree which enables users to clock up points and unlock achievements for standard library activities.

While there are also discouraging studies showing that the use of mobile technology is not as prevalent as it could be, especially in libraries, all this could be about to change. Microsoft’s own tablet, Surface, and its announcement that the next generation of Windows will come in interoperable desktop, tablet and mobile flavours, is potentially a massive step forward for greater integration across desktop and mobile platforms. Add to this Microsoft’s decision to make its Office suite available and usable across all these platforms, as well as Google and Apple’s efforts in the same vein, and it should be easier than ever to create as well as consume content on the go.

As services in the mobile community grow, with support such as the OCLC 24x7 Ask a Librarian, it is clear that the academic world will only benefit from the wealth of opportunities to explore this mobile world and reach users in every sphere of their lives. It’s an exciting time to be in academic publishing.