Market Focus: Tough Sell for Reference Books
“We have changed some of our workflows to better service the electronic world,” Cleto says. “Our new workflow allows books to be born digital.” As the content is created, complete chapters are accessible online even before the whole book is finished.
Content is expected to be immediately accessible, Cleto says, which continues to blur the line between print content types. “We are presenting book content at the chapter level now, so we are journalizing book content,” Cleto says.
Springer is also providing semantic linking: bringing end users other documents not originally in their search query, but that might help answer research questions.
“Combining e-reference content with other content types, seamlessly integrating the platform as well as the search, and showing the user documents that might interest them [are] key step[s] to making our content even more useful,” Cleto says.
The use of handheld devices—e-book readers, personal digital assistants, mobile phones—to sift through content has also started to impact the market, Cleto says. “Perhaps we’ll see handheld devices in hospitals or when researchers are traveling,” she says.
New York-based H.W. Wilson Co. also has created digital reference products. “Art Museum Image Gallery,” for example, offers a library of 155,000 digital images that are rights-cleared for educational purposes. The gallery includes images of paintings, sculptors and other works of art from museums around the world.
In addition to providing still images, Frank Daly, director of marketing, says in the future, reference publishing might include streaming video and audio. “I can see enhancing our products with audio, where you not only get a biography of an author, but get the author reading a clip of the work or talking about the work,” Daly says.
Foreign vs. Domestic
Most of the current growth in reference publishing is international, Daly says, citing the United Kingdom, parts of Europe and key Asian countries like Japan and Taiwan, specifically.