Wednesday, April 04, 2012

The iPad is Revitalizing Academic Publishing

Greetings from the Australian National University where
the new ANU Librarian, Roxanne Missingham, is speaking on "Is the iPad Killing Academic Publishing?". Clearly the answer is no, mobile devices are not having an adverse effect on scholarly publishing. Roxanne argues that like previous information technology which did not kill its predecessor (radio, TV, Movies). Old technologies adapt to work alongside the new. Printed books will adapt to complement digital publishing. From Socrates with writing onwards, educators have worried that students will substitute information technology for thinking. Tablet computers can be used for quickly looking up a source or making a quick note, but Roxanne argues the tablets are not up to the job of intense detailed scholarly research, where many large documents have to be accessed and annotated. She asked how to integrate discussion of scholarly issues before the final journal article is produced (which would seem to be a good use for mobile devices).

Roxanne asserted that e-publishing need not be a race to the bottom and that there is a role for well written, well edited quality publications. There are also small but significant differences shown by research on print and digital texts. Tests of college students showed that using eBooks produced sligtly less comprehension. But I suspect this may be just a problem with the quality of current screens, as they have higher resolutions, indistinguishable from print.

Roxanne pointed out that digital systems can be used to create data representations not possible on paper, such as 3D animations. This creates a challenge for librarians as to how they preserve this content for long term access.

Roxanne asked what interface will suit academic publishing, which may need to be richer than that designed for the casual user. Where will collaboration take place online: in closed private forums, or in the public domain?

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