July 4, 2005

My job in 10 years -- Further thoughts on books & journals

I seem to be having a lot of further thoughts on these things....I hope all this isn't too tedious for my patient readers. It looks like all this is going way longer than I thought. In any case, there are a couple of things I wanted to elaborate on a bit more:

Open Access. This is a really tough area to prognosticate on, both in terms of where the OA movement will go in 10 years and in terms of how that evolution (revolution) will actually affect my job. No question, far more of the world's scholarly output will be available via scholar's home pages where they will self-archive their work. Also no question, institutional and discipline-based repositories will also pick up steam and make available an awful lot of the work that is being produced, both in terms of articles and other materials like presentations, datasets, media files, and whatever. I imagine that the commonly used search tools 10 years from now will pick all this self-archived/repositoried stuff up. I think my role in this process will be to facilitate and organize access to these repositories via the search tools as well as to facilitate and organize the scholars at my institution getting their stuff into the various repositories. Bringing this stuff together in a coherent way is where I see the role of overlay journals.

As for OA journals, they too will no doubt multiply. As for whether they will replace journals with a toll access, I doubt it, at least in the 10 year timeframe. I think the (inflation adjusted) overhead will be drastically lower than the $500-$1000 per article we see mentioned a lot these days, but someone will still have to pick up that cost. I think that there will still be a variety of business models around in 10 years, some author pay, some institution pay for author, some regular subscription journals, some where journals are hosted by institutions that pick up the tab. At the same time, I think the 10-15 year time frame will see a kind of tipping point. As the current generation of undergrads & grads become the senior researchers and administrators, their expectations will start to shape the academy more and more. The expectation that everything be free and instantly available will totally transform scholarly publishing, to the point that I don't think journals will even exist as we know them now. My role in all this? Mostly getting out of the way, riding the wave, facilitating the transformation and making sure faculty & students are on board and coping. Redirecting journal subscription funds to supporting various repostitories and other OA-related initiatives. Support my institution's efforts at repositories & hosting.

Aggregated Content. One trend we are seeing quite a lot of will continue to explode, and that's aggregated content, both in terms of ebooks and full text journal content. Already, companies like Books24x7 take the "drudgery" out of selecting individual book titles, with the idea that if you buy all the books they have, at least some of them will be the ones you need. The point being that it's somehow cheaper to choose everything for one (large) price than to pick and choose and only take the most relevant. It's interesting, because it goes against what we librarians hold dear: that we are qualified and professionally obliged to choose the best materials for our patrons out of a vast array of choices. If we can just choose everything, where's the skill in that? Of course, what do our patrons care when they find the thing they're looking for if it was skillfully chosen or included as part of a one-size-fits-all package. As long as there are books and journals to buy, publishers will market these massive content packages. It will be my job to check my ego at the door and decide which ones are good for my patrons, and let serendipity take it's course.

No comments: