Academic journal article Reference & User Services Quarterly

Transitioning from Print to Web A Publisher's Perspective

Academic journal article Reference & User Services Quarterly

Transitioning from Print to Web A Publisher's Perspective

Article excerpt

Librarians are all too familiar with the impact that the shift from print to Web information products has had on our buildings, services, staffing, and clientele. However, this impact is not only felt by libraries, but also by the businesses that deliver the products to the library. From books to journals to reference materials, the delivery of traditional library materials is changing and is causing a revolution in the publishing industry as well as in our libraries.

Just as the Web has caused librarians to question their long-range professional outlook and employment, so are questions being raised as to whether technological changes will enhance or destroy the publishing industry. Certainly it is being revolutionized. Existing companies and initiatives are changing and new efforts are being formed. A few years ago, the Encyclopaedia Britannica was on the brink of extinction. After more than two hundred years of publication, the Encyclopaedia's sales were so low that it didn't seem that the company would survive. Then in 1997, Britannica introduced the Internet version of the Encyclopaedia, resulting in a massive turnaround for the company) New electronic journal publishing companies and university-supported initiatives are being formed, such as JSTOR (www. jstor.org) and Project Muse (http://muse.jhu.edu/muse. html). Projects to digitize books and deliver them electronically to users are proliferating. Examples of this include NetLibrary (www.netlibrary.com) and ITKnowledge (www.itknowledge.com).

By examining one publishing company in particular, we will step out of the library and into the world of the publisher to examine how the revolution impacts the people who deliver the information products to the library.

A Case Study

Gale Publishing (a division of Gale Group), like several companies, has shifted from print to Web publishing for many of its popular products. This column will focus on Gale's transition, to see how it has affected production and publishing costs, as well as to outline the benefits students and librarians receive from these changes. In addition, a review of Gale's literary products that resulted from this transition will be provided.

Gale Research began publishing in 1954 with their first print product on the market, the Encyclopedia of Associations. Since then, the company has undergone many changes. In 1998 Gale Research merged with Information Access Company (IAC) and Primary Source Media to form the Gale Group, which has enabled the company to gather various resources to produce enhanced print and electronic resources. Although the merger began in 1998, Gale was already developing electronic resources in the mid 1990s. Today, the company produces more than one hundred electronic titles and has a steady production of more then six hundred print titles. Although the Gale Group is moving in the direction of electronic publishing, the importance of its print resources is by no means insignificant. In fact, print resources continue to have a definitive niche in Gale's marketplace.

So how is Gale's market changing and what factors dictate which products are developed electronically? Librarian requests are the real driving force behind what products Gale markets for Web production. Gale's product development staff visits libraries to determine end user needs and to see how patrons use information tools. The company is aware that most students now use the Web to retrieve information, so Gale wants to ensure that students access quality information on the Web for their research needs. Gale has taken a proactive approach to product development, analyzing trends in information retrieval and looking at the research needs of typical users. Development staff members also talk with curriculum designers and assess curriculum requirements to develop products that students can use to accomplish their tasks.

As electronic data sets are developed, more highly flexible products can be created. …

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