How many times have we heard that the world of publishing is changing? Nowhere is that more evident than in scholarly publishing. Researchers who are working independently in an academic setting traditionally produce these journals and monographs. But today, collaborative electronic media frequent ly overruns scholarly publishing. Publishing is rarely a solitary endeavor. In today's networked world, collaboration and information sharing have become the norm, which was precisely the message of the Top Management Roundtable (TMR) of the Society for Scholarly Publishing (SSP) meeting held Sept. 7-8 in Philadelphia. The theme was aptly named Not Home Alone: Sustainable Publishing in an Interdependent World.
Most academic institutions are stable and traditional with a long life span and few fundamental changes in instruction. However, costs have continued to escalate, and revolutionary changes in communication and information dissemination are profoundly impacting the academic world. New organizations have suddenly appeared, and they are changing the environment at an unprecedented pace. New industries such as online auctions, online retailing, and social networking have formed in just a few years. The luxury of time to conduct lengthy academic research has disappeared, and speed is now of the essence. At Google, for example, the emphasis is on getting products "out the door."
Kevin Guthrie, president of Ithaka (a nonprofit company working with the scholarly academic community), noted in his TMR keynote address that in an environment such as we have today, every business must operate as a startup. The time from inception to dominance is very brief, and companies can appear and disappear just as rapidly. For one example, Guthrie recommended reading The Perfect Thing: How the iPod Shuffles Commerce, Culture, and Coolness, a book about the development of Apple's iPod.
The networked world is also making a dramatic impact on scholarly publishing, and it is important to rethink ideas, start fresh, and not depend on a legacy. Guthrie sees three forces driving today's marketing environment:
* Networking, in which the value of a service increases as people use it; for example, a single, isolated fax machine is useless, but when two or more become available, they all become valuable
* Two-sided markets, where both producers or vendors and consumers need each other
* The wisdom of groups, which is often remarkably accurate, especially when the groups are large enough so the influence of outliers is relatively small
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