3rd INTERNATIONAL CONFERENCE ON PUBLISHING TRENDS AND CONTEXTS, Zadar, Croatia, 19-20 November, 2015
The third conference in this series was held this year a little further down the Adriatic coast from Pula, where the previous two conferences had been held, in Zadar, an excellent location in spite of the sometimes wet weather. Over the two days, we heard a rich programme of research on developments in publishing, with particular reference to digital publishing and the e-book phenomenon.
The first session, on Day 1, was devoted to Research methods in publishing studies, with a focus on readers. The first three papers had something in common, i.e., the nature of reading in a digital environment. Christoph Bläsi, from Johannes Gutenberg-Universität, Mainz reviewed the existing research on the effects of digital reading. He examined the limitations and controversies in the existing research and suggested further directions for the future. He has also emphasized that the publishing industry should change its attitude to readers and book consumers.
Arūnas Gudinavičius, of Vilnius University, Lithuania, reported on one such piece of research, a pilot study, carried out at the Cyprus Interaction Laboratory, employing eye movement metrics – this was very much a provisional account, as the work had been completed only a few days earlier! The outcome achieved using this research methodology, however, was quite convincingly demonstrated.
In the same vein, Mate Juric, of the University of Zadar, reported preliminary results from a PhD investigation into reading in print and in the digital evironment. In common with earlier research, Juric found that students preferred the printed text and were able to recall more from such texts than from the electronic equivalent. Ivona Despot and colleagues, also from the University of Zadar reported on an advantage of digital reading that has not been addressed to any great extent previously. That is, the connection between the electronic book and social media. Their report on social reading shows how the social media connection may enrich the reading experience. Finally, in this session, Andrius Šuminas, of Vilnius University, reported on Browsing strategies in online bookstores, again using eye-tracking software. A novel approach was adopted in developing different styles of book cover, to determine the impact of that aspect of the book on browsing behaviour. Different browsing styles and patterns were discovered and interesting differences of browsing strategies between different age groups of readers were discovered.
The second session concerned Terminology, theory, context and began with a presentation by Angus Phillips of Oxford Brookes University of the changing language of publishing through an analysis of the three most recent editions of Inside Book Publishing. He showed how, while the language of publishing remains stable to a significant extent, there has been considerable change in relation to digital publishing. Tom Wilson then followed with a presentation on the various theories of innovation that have been employed in research on the e-book phenomenon, showing that different theories are applicable depending upon the level (person, organizational or societal) at which the impact is found.
After that, Adriaan van der Weel, of the University of Leiden, asked the question about the future of the longform scholarly monograph, making a plea for attention to be paid to the scholar as ‘consumer’ of scholarly monographs rather than the present focus on the scholar as author. He noted the impact of open access publishing in this regard.
Asta Urbanaviciute, of Vilnius University, reported on her PhD work on literary periodicals in Lithuania and their migration to digital form. The study is based on the interviews with publishers of the cultural periodicals. Though they claim to be in dire economic constraints, they still prefer publishing on paper. She noted the dilemma in which publishers find themselves: the printed text is preferred, because of its physicality and long life, while the digital version has advantages in a world where social communication is increasingly moving to the digital sphere.
Next, Ana Č. Vogrinčič, of the University of Ljubljana, presented a paper on a rather different theme, a socio-historical view of the role of library space in society, drawing attention to needed changes in the light of changing societal practices in the communication of information. This contribution was well thought through and provided an interesting angle for understanding the role of the library.
Finally, Zoran Velagić, University of Osijek, Croatia, explored the functions of the page as a unit of text in both the print and digital spheres. In his witty and intelligent presentation he showed how the concept of page has influenced our thinking about online communication and digital texts. He presented the concept of a page as a foundational one in the philosophy and practice of writing and publishing.
Day 2 began with a session on research methods in publishing studies. Ruediger Wischenbart, perhaps best known for his Global e-book report, gave a very detailed account of the problems of acquiring comparable data from different countries for that report. The lack of standard definitions, and the incomplete nature of the data present real problems in delivering an international picture of the changing world of digital publishing. Ruediger impressed the audience with his detailed knowledge of the publishing world and the sources of information related to it. The lack of uniformity was addressed by Miha Kovač, University of Ljubljana, in his draft of a publishing research Website and his call for international collaboration for the production of such a site.
Elena Macevičiute, University of Borås, and a member of our E-books Research Group, reported on a bibliometric study of the research literature on e-books, showing the spheres of activity in which research is done, from librarianship and information science to the publishing sector. Another member of the Borås team, Skans Kersti Nilsson, presented preliminary results from interviews with Swedish authors on their attitudes towards e-books, which ranged from indifference to enthusiastic embrace.
Benoît Berthou, Sorbonne Paris Cité University, explored the possibilities for the improvement of publishers’ and libraries’ catalogues in terms of ease of access, interactivity and improved visibility of the content. Finally, in this session, Josipa Mijoč, Nives Tomašević and Jasna Horvat, of the Universities of Osijek and Zadar, proposed the concept of a digital-platform-based market, to replace the existing structures whereby the author’s manuscript reaches the reader, which would allow for direct communication between author, publisher, sources of finance and, ultimately, readers. The concept was elaborated in terms of the publishing situation in Croatia.
The final session of the conferences was led off by Ewa Jabłońska-Stefanowicz, of the University of Wrocław, in a presentation on the state of digital publishing in Poland, based on face-to-face interviews with representatives of the industry. She reported that, after an initial flirtation with digital publishing, publishers in Poland appear to have withdrawn from the area, while new entrants, focusing on products for the educational market, have emerged.
Josipa Selthofer and Ines Hocenski, of the University of Osijek, then presented a paper on current research into the requirements for a university press in the digital age, and the session, and the conference, concluded with a presentation by Franjo Pehar, Nikolina Peša Pavlović and Krešimir Zauder, University of Zadar, on current subject trends and research methods in publishing studies, based on an analysis of papers published in three journals identified as core publishing studies sources.
The conference ended with a city tour, highlighting the Roman and other remnants of the various civilizations that have taken an interest in this part of the world.
A number of the papers, possibly all, will be published in the next issue of the open access journal Libellarium