Explode Format & Promote Discoverability
This essay is part of the 2015 Big Ideas Issue. Find the complete list of Big Ideas essays here.
The digital revolution invaded the research space earlier and more quickly than other areas of publishing. In many ways, we’re a bit further along on the digital transition and with that we hope comes good insight into what the next big thing might be. To me, the next big ideas will be centered on information solutions (rather than information formats) and discoverability (meeting researchers where they begin their searching).
Sometimes I wish we could throw out or recycle terms like “book” and “publisher” because I think they’re a bit archaic and obscure what we really do. In reality, we’re not -- and can’t be -- focused on publishing information in one format. We’re focused on identifying the questions facing our customers and then developing technology and content that not only provide an answer but lead to bigger discoveries. Simply building bodies of content and expecting researchers will come will not suffice either. Today, the expectation is that information resources will find us, not the other way around. Finding a way to entrench ourselves into the workflow of our users is critical.
In the research space we look at how searchers go about looking for information and what type of information they tend to consume. We know students use Wikipedia, Google, and YouTube for information. A student does not spend much time searching for an ebook in an integrated library system (ILS) -- even if there is great content there. I think the future will depend on creating resources that leverage features of the information sources researchers already use and push these resources out to them, instead of waiting for users to find them.
Working with companies like Google that are already engrained in the consumer and education spaces to bring research content out from library vaults and into a searcher’s path is one way to do that. Bringing research content directly into student workflow through classroom learning experiences is another. At Gale, we’re focused on working with all types of partners to make our research content more discoverable and also integrating it directly into students’ workflows through resources like Cengage Learning’s MindTap e-learning platform.
In addition, studies have shown simple PDF versions of printed books do not improve learning outcomes. For too long the industry has focused on the format as the solution—rather than focusing on the problem, which is how can we help a researcher/student understand a topic? Creating resources that engage students and researchers needs to be priority number one. At Gale we’re focused on creating resources that are “open” and customizable and bring together different multimedia elements like video, podcasts, scholarly content, and simple topical overviews. We want to break down walls between different content types and allow for curation by the faculty, librarian, and end user to create a truly personalized information experience—and one that leads to better outcomes for users.
Related story: Be Inspired By Online Media When Designing Digital Books