The conference was jointly organized by the Departments of Information Sciences at the Universities of Zadar and Osijek and held during the 19th Book Fair in Pula, Croatia.   The electronic file for the abstracts has been made available to us and this report is based on that.

The meeting began with the three papers from the Swedish project, which have been presented earlier in this blog, and will not be described in detail here.  However,  briefly, Tom Wilson presented the e-book phenomenon as a disruptive technology and the impact of that disruption on authors, publishers, booksellers, libraries and readers.  This was followed by Elena Maceviciute’s presentation on the current state of e-book use and the associated problems in public and academic libraries in Sweden (which was jointly prepared with Martin Borg of the University of Borås Library). The Swedish contribution was completed by Stans Kersti Nilsson’s exploration of the implications on the SOM and Nordicom surveys of e-book reading and her own research into the perceived differences of reading printed books and e-books.


Next, Arūnas Gudinavičius, from Vilnius University gave an overview of the digital publishing market in Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania) in which he analysed in various aspects of digital publishing in these countries. Pilot e-book sales research was done and the main e-book sellers and publishers in Baltic countries were identified. E-books in Lithuanian, Latvian and Estonian languages available on sale were counted and the differences between printed and e-book pricing were analysed. An overview of the most popular e-book formats and digital publishing situation in universities was given and the role of piracy was explored.

Miha Kovač (Slovenia) and Claire Squires (Scotland) were supposed to tell their story of the similarities and differences of their respective countries – each having carried out research in the other country.  However, Claire was delayed because of the storms that had hit the UK and the paper was actually presented later.  The countries culturally and geographically different and these differences have an impact on the book market.  For example, the Scots publish in English, which provides a global audience, whereas Slovenian is spoken by the two million inhabitants of Slovenia and another half-a-million around the world, making it one of the smallest book markets in the world.   Despite these differences, both nations lacked their own nation states for much of their history and both have had to rely on non-statehood means for preserving their ethnic identity. Not surprisingly, books and written lore played important part in these processes.

Franjo Pehar and Zoran Velagić, provided an overview of the digital publishing market in Croatia, another European small language market, with focus on basic features which shaped the context of its appearance, first projects, and current state. The e-book business in Croatia has been shaped during the last decade, with the key role of non-commercial publishing. Namely, early projects and initiatives started mainly with the objective of digitising Croatian culture and by making works of literature and required school readings available in electronic format for free. Even today non-commercial publishers are representing almost half of the Croatian language e-books. The emergence of commercial e-book market dates in 2010. Its protagonists have signed agreements with ca. 30 domestic publishers; making another half of the Croatian e-book scene. E-books in Croatian publishing industry are still a new niche segment that has to be considered more of a perspective for future developments than a present reality. Dominant page to pixel model and publishers’ reluctance in developing e-books as new, print-independent products seems to be the main obstacle in building the competitive e-book enterprise at national level.

The presentation by Ivona Despot and Tomislav Jakopec offered a proposal to create a strategy to ensure the necessary conditions for the continuous development of electronic publishing in small markets such as the Croatian. The paper defined the guidelines for the establishment of a stimulating business environment for all interested participants involved in the creation and distribution of creative and cultural content. The strategy is based on creativity and innovation in business and smart, sustainable and inclusive growth following the recommendations of the Digital Agenda for Europe. The revitalisation of publishing content and boosting creativity and innovation in business can stimulate economic growth and generate new, quality jobs, create innovative publishing products and services, taking into account the fact that the developed electronic publishing is the foundation for the preservation of Croatian cultural identity and the support to the promotion of Croatian culture in the future single European digital market.

Aušra Navickienė, from Vilnius University, presented an historical perspective in surveying the work of the 19th century publisher Jozef Zawadzki.  He and his family members were among the first to found a private publishing business and contributed a lot to the development of publishing in the former Polish-Lithuanian State and the Eastern Europe region throughout the entire 19th and the first half of the 20th century (before the WW II). Józef Zawadzki, as the owner of the most modern printing house and bookstores in Vilnius and Warsaw and the introducer of novelties in publishing business in the 19th century, has been studied extensively, but there are many unstudied questions about him as the author of the first theoretical work on publishing in the region. Józef Zawadzki’s work  The project for organization of polish book production, publishing and distribution, (1818) is analysed, and his understanding of the publishing business and circumstances that contributed to its development in the first part of 19th century are explored.

Ewa Jablońska-Stefanowicz’s presentation, A publisher as a hitchhiker. The Emergence of a new business model began by noting that, today, not every piece of work aimed at readers must have the form of the book. And even if it does, the publisher no longer has to be a part of the process. Along with him, two features of traditional publishing disappear: gate keeping and the guarantee of the quality of the product. The first one is of little importance for digital publishing, and the second is not a priority for the IT companies, which more and more often play the role of weakening publishers. Some examples were analysed and attempt is made to predict what might be the consequences of these processes for the particular elements of the book market.

Zvonimir Bulaja, in Is it all non-commercial? Not necessarily, summarised two decades of e-publishing development in Croatia, including several large-scale electronic publishing ventures on different media and for different projects, both commercial and non-commercial, like “Croatian Tales of Long Ago” and eLektire.  Possible modes of collaboration with virtually all national e-book publishers and distributing platforms are explored. The presentation covered experiences, technical issues and fundamental questions, as well the current situation on the Croatian e-book market and its future perspectives and development.

In Design of e-books: readers expectations in comparative perspective, Josipa Selthofer presented the changes of graphic elements in the book design caused by the digital revolution. The paper focused on four main graphic elements: book cover, typography, colour and image, using both p-books and e-books published in Croatia from 2010 to 2012 as a source material. The research involved visual content analysis and interviews. The research results indicate that e-books imitate graphic design of a printed book, since it is still the technology in making. The graphic elements of an e-book highly depend on the features of e-formats and e-readers. Main advantages of e-books are that they are searchable, adoptable, transportable, easily accessible, durable and that they can be easily linked to other digital documents. Still, the majority of interviewees pointed out that reading of an e-book is something new to them. They prefer interaction with the physical printed book and its visual appearance.

Nives Tomašević, of the University of Zadar, and one of the conference organizers, examined The Nomenclature of Publishing in the Framework of Creative and Cultural Industry. Creative and cultural industries unify the larger part of creative or cultural activities and lately, they are trying to find an optimal classification for defining their activities, as well as for tracking and directing them. In some countries of the EU, the classification frames are in agreement about the specified division, even though some state requires only nomenclatural solutions. Publishing activity, as well as other activities in the Republic of Croatia, is filed by the National Classification of Activities (NKD 2007 – NN 58/2007) which specifies publishing activity within section 58, with subdivisions  book publishing (58.11),  publishing of phone books and lists of user’s addresses (58.12),  publishing of newspapers (58.13),  publishing of magazines and periodic publications (58.14), and remaining publishing activities (58.15). This paper deals with disputes and challenges of agreement between the Republic of Croatia’s NKD and classifications of ESSnet – Culture, as well as challenges of future comparative studies based on (in)consistent classifications.

According to Dubravka Đurić Nemec, the advent of digital technologies and the pressure to develop business models capable of supporting digital content creation and delivery will undoubtedly lead to profound changes in the traditional publishing paradigm. Publishers will have to move from a  product to a service mindset, new skills will have to be acquired and new business models developed, taxonomies and stakeholder roles will have to redefined. On the other hand, the technological advance and the emergence of the e-book will impact cultural policies and necessarily bring about a shift in strategic priorities. A brief overview of the models and support measures evolved by the Ministry of Culture to meet the emerging challenges of the Croatian digital market was provided.

In Why do libraries need publishers more than ever? Re-use of publishers’ metadata in national bibliographic centres regarding legal deposit Mirna Willer explored metadata in the context of the role of national libraries.  She noted that national bibliographic centres traditionally depend on publishers in providing bibliographic information for legal deposit items. The usual working process of the cooperation is recording of the CIP (Cataloguing-In-Publication) data in a national library’s database or catalogue based on the final editorial (pre-publication) copy of the publication submitted by the publisher. The CIP data or only database record identifier are then recorded in the published item. This process, although two-directional, is in fact one-directional: it is the bibliographic centre that provides bibliographic data – metadata for the publication. The present day technology that impacts publishing process, number and form of publications, and concepts of bibliographic metadata production, requires re-thinking this relationship. She argued that the use of publishers’ metadata standard ONIX has already changed this information flow paradigm – the direction being publisher to bibliographic centre, and that its recognition in developing new ways of relation between publishers and bibliographic centres and national libraries can benefit both parties, as well as users.

Dunja Seiter Šverko, in E-books in libraries: organization of digital contents in National and University Library [NUL] in Zagreb considered that, given increased activity of Croatian publishers in the field of electronic publishing and their need to broaden their cooperation with the NUL to include digital publishing, it is necessary to ensure professional and organisational conditions for collecting and permanently archiving electronic legal deposit in accordance with the legal role and obligations of the NUL. Owing to this, the Library undertook to develop the model and architecture of the Croatian E-book System based on requirements related to the functionality of the national digital library system as well as the functionality related to the permanent archiving of items belonging to contemporary Croatian digital heritage. The establishment of a fully-developed system will provide a modern and user-friendly technological environment for publishers and users which would enable permanent archiving, but also n increased use of Croatian digital resources, while a further development of the aggregator system, i.e. a collecting system that is so far unique in Croatia, will help reinforce the leading role of the NUL in Zagreb in science and culture.

There was one other presentation that dealt with technology use in schools, which has not been covered by this report, with its focus on the e-book.

The Swedish contingent enjoyed the meeting and found it very productive, not least in forging connections that we hope to collaborate with in the future.

The initial talks of the closer collaboration and using unified research instruments for comparative research throughout the smaller countries in Europe were carried out with Croatian, Slovenian, Polish and Lithuanian colleagues. Information about relevant conferences was also exchanged and mutual interest in e-book research expressed. One of the doctoral projects in Croatia on e-book aggregators and their role in the chain of e-book distribution seems to be relevant to a doctoral project in Sweden dealing with broader issues of e-book distribution actors.

The atmosphere of the conference was friendly and creative, the discussions lively and serious that usually happens when participants share research interests and feel cooperative rather than competitive. There were numerous fun and serious working moments during the whole duration of the conference.  Some more pictures are to be found here.