Restless is the world of publishing. Between Europe’s Plan S and the Cengage/McGraw-Hill merger, the repercussions are plenty, and the reverberations widespread, affecting not just publishers but also authors, researchers, students, and digital solutions vendors. There is much cause for a considerable pause.
Plan S, which calls for open access to almost all of the scientific information across Europe, is upending the subscription business model as we know it. If Plan S gets adopted in other regions while more major institutions scrap their journal subscriptions, how would these publishers maintain their bottom line and continue to make new research information available while investing in technology solutions and new products? Speculations swirled around viable alternative business models, specifically with regard to who gets charged or paid for what. The S in the plan now seems to stand as much for sustainable as it does for science, speed, solution, and shock.
For India-based digital solutions vendors, their workflows have been generating, tagging, and delivering OA articles or journals for some time already. The question now is about further lowering the production costs and processing time of these OA articles and journals in order to make the whole Plan S proposition viable for the publishers. (Read the online article “Navigating the Open Access Path.”)
As for mergers such as the recent Cengage/McGraw-Hill deal, these are veritable nightmares for most vendors. The overlapping publishing operations and product lines of these two big companies eventually will translate into vendor and project consolidations, which lead to a shrinking client base. Simultaneously, the time taken to straighten out the newly merged company will also mean less focus (and investment) on developing new programs or products that will go to these vendors.
In the meantime, augmenting and elevating human performance with algorithm-driven decision-making to speed up production processes continues to gather momentum. With cognitive technologies—in other words, the combination of artificial intelligence, machine learning, natural language processing (NLP), and expert systems—repetitive and rote tasks in the editorial processes, for instance, can be automated with minimal manual intervention. It makes sense given the shorter project-turnaround time, demands for more efficiency, and faster time to market. Bots, chatbots, and robots—they are all here to stay. (Check out the online article “Full Speed Ahead with AI and NLP.”)
But with all the tech gadgetry and solutions comes a world full of distractions and ever-shorter attention spans. So while digitized, chunked, and enriched content is well and good, if it is not noticed, or purchased and consumed, it all comes to naught. There lies the issue of discoverability, and with it monetization. Tagging the appropriate metadata, personalizing the content, and anticipating consumer engagement are some ways to go about it. Deploying AI and chatbots to uncover new insights from patterns, trends, and overlooked data is another. (See “Enriching Content for Discoverability.”)
For digital solutions vendors, there are ample opportunities for growth and innovation in the restless and chaotic publishing world. Fishing in troubled waters, however, is not for the fainthearted. But then again, this is the same group of vendors who managed to convince publishers to enter the world of XML, HTML, and ePub (albeit reluctantly), then got them to venture further afield into the realm of augmented reality, virtual reality, and mixed reality, and have now fully engaged them in the wonders of AI and NLP. Tenacity, let’s remember, is a major part of these vendors’ modus operandi.
And despite the constant state of flux and frenzy, the publishing world is slowly and surely forging and defining its digital path. For most, it is about combining print with digital to hybridize new products. For a select few, it is increasingly about being digital-only. Whichever path is chosen, digital solutions vendors in India are ready to offer their collaboration and appropriate workflows, platforms, and solutions to transform sketchy ideas into solid products. So what are you waiting for?