Spring is a busy time for academic institutions, not only because of the end of the study year, but also for the number of conferences that are organized and run. But one person can be at one place only, and on June 13th and 14th I happened to be in Karlskrona. I knew the city from Selma Lagerlöf’s The Wonderful Adventures of Nils (you can find the e-book in Project Gutenberg). In Karlskrona, Nils has been chased by the statue of Carl 11th and saved by the Old Man Rosenbom – a wooden statue for charity collection. The city is situated on several islands of the archipelago in the Baltic sea and grew as a strategic naval and military town in the region.
Any unversity can envy the location of the Blekinge Institute of Technology right on the coast in a green area and with local swimming places. However, the participants of the International Conference on Electronic Publishing have admired the view from behind the glass walls as it was quite windy and rainy, but also because their attention was kept by a number of interesting papers (at least those I was listening to, which caught my interest). Most of the conference participants, as far as I could tell from my own communication and impressions, were from academic libraries and mainly working with institutional repositories or other forms of open access and publishing.
Though the title of the conference relates to electronic publishing, the latter was understood in a very broad sense by the conference organizers and participants. The subtitle of the conference was Mining the Digital Information Networks, so the main topics were related to open access texts and data, their discovery and use as well as re-use. The sections I have attended related to the topics of institutional repositories and open access publishing, collection and processing of open (and closed) access data, and digital preservation. Though no one was talking directly about e-books I have found some of the papers very relevant to the issues that are raised in e-books studies.
One of these related topics would be publishing of e-monographs and book related materials in open access repositories with subsequent access and discovery of these resources. Pekka Olsbo from the University of Jyväskylä (Finland) explored the relationship between the rankings of the universities and their institutional repositories. The evidence that he has presented from the Nordic and other countries is showing very convincingly that these ranks are positively related. Thus, the more open repository (the more pages are downloaded) the more beneficial it is for the visibility of the university and for the quality of studies and research. A team of researchers from Italian National Research Council (Rosa Di Cesare, Daniela Luzi, Silvia Giannini) presented a careful study of the needs for e-publishing library service for Humanities and Social Sciences. Jahn Najko from Bielefeld University (German) presented the analysis of publications from FP7 projects in PLOS. Victoria Reich talked about LOCKSS system and CLOCKSS archives as a system for preservation of digital publications for libraries. Looking at present situation of e-books (both published commercially and digitized outside copyright), it might be one of the solutions to preserve this so far extremely fragile object of our expanding digital universe. One of the presentations that I was very impressed with was delivered by Nicklas Lavesson showing the achievements of the hosting university in data mining for Swedish public authorities. It related to the areas as spread as police work, coast observation and cultural heritage, though not so much with e-books. I looked also at the posters about the OpenAir+, an initiative supporting the EC’s open access policy (presented by Ulf Kronman from the National Library of Sweden). It also has a potential to include wider open access academic materials than just articles and reports from the FP7 and other framework programmes. As I have already said, one person can only be in one place, so I have obviously missed other interesting and maybe even more relevant papers. As I had not yet time to read the proceedings or watch the film (the conference was also broadcast live), I will stop recounting my fresh impressions right here.
Thus, though this years conference did not address the academic e-books to the same extend as in 2012 (see report in D-lib Magazine), it was nevertheless useful from the point of view of networking and looking into the neighbouring academic processes of e-publishing that will inevitable affect the future of academic books in general and their situation in academic libraries in particular.