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Weekly News Digest

December 3, 2020 — In addition to this week's NewsBreaks article and the monthly NewsLink Spotlight, Information Today, Inc. (ITI) offers Weekly News Digests that feature recent product news and company announcements. Watch for additional coverage to appear in the next print issue of Information Today. For other up-to-the-minute news, check out ITIís Twitter account: @ITINewsBreaks.

CLICK HERE to view more Weekly News Digest items.

European Commission to Introduce an OA Publishing Resource

The European Commission (EC) plans to launch an OA publishing platform in early 2021. Open Research Europe is designed to offer “a full open access peer reviewed publishing service for Horizon 2020 and Horizon Europe [research program] beneficiaries without cost, both during and after the end of their grants. The platform will enable fast publication times as well as publication outputs which support research integrity, reproducibility, and transparency, stimulating open science practices.”

The EC recruited F1000Research to provide the infrastructure and editorial services. This organization, along with “Eurodoc, the Global Young Academy and LIBER Europe will steer the project and ensure that stakeholders such as researchers from all disciplines and research librarians are reached.” In addition, Open Research Europe will have oversight from an independent Scientific Advisory Board.

For more information, read the news item.

Reactions to Penguin Random House's Planned Acquisition of Simon & Schuster

Porter Anderson writes the following for Publishing Perspectives:

Bertelsmann, the parent company of Penguin Random House (PRH)—already the world’s largest publisher—has announced that PRH intends to purchase ViacomCBS’ Simon & Schuster for US$2.175 billion.

Of course, industry response will quickly include speculation about how regulators will look at a question of the largest Big Five publishers buying another Big Five house.

Anderson provides additional context as he shares quotes from Jonathan Karp (president and CEO of Simon & Schuster), Markus Dohle (CEO of Penguin Random House), the Authors Guild, and the Association of Canadian Publishers.

John Maher shares other industry reactions for Publishers Weekly, including from Allison Hill (CEO of the American Booksellers Association) and the Association of American Literary Agents.

Nate Hoffelder opines at The Digital Reader:

The thing about the Big 5 is that they aren’t really that big. There are many larger or comparable-sized publishing companies, including US publishers such as Scholastic and HMH. Also, all of the remaining ‘Big 5’ are actually part of larger international publishing conglomerates. …

The Big 5 (now the Big 4) are run as parts of a larger whole, and referring to them in terms of their relative size in the US market is misleading at best.

Or at least, it is misleading to those outside the industry. If you are in the book publishing industry you’re going to notice a change in everything from reduced competition for new books to lower fees paid to service providers to the size of [booths] at book fairs (publisher booths have been getting smaller for years now, and this will probably accelerate the trend).

The Atlantic’s “The Monster Publishing Merger Is About Amazon,” by Franklin Foer, states:

How big would the combined company be? By one estimate, it might publish a third of all books in the U.S. This deal is so expansive that it’s hard to find an author to write about it who isn’t somehow implicated. …

On paper, this merger is deplorable and should be blocked. As book publishing consolidates, the author tends to lose—and, therefore, so does the life of the mind. With diminished competition to sign writers, the size of advances is likely to shrink, making it harder for authors to justify the time required to produce a lengthy work. … Publishers will grow hesitant to take risks on new authors and new ideas. …

The deal is transpiring in a larger context—and that context is Amazon. … If it’s correct to worry about a merged company that publishes perhaps 33 percent of new books, then surely it’s correct to worry more about the fact that Amazon now sells 49 percent of them.

In the face of Amazon’s dominance, book publishers have huddled together in search of safety. Amazon’s size gives it terrifying leverage over the industry. Amazon, with its heavily visited home page, its emails to consumers, and its control of the search box on its site, has the power to make or break a title. To counter Amazon, publishers have sought to increase their bargaining power. They believe that they can match Amazon’s size only by growing their own.

BookExpo to Retire: A Roundup of Coverage

Shelf Awareness broke the news on Dec. 1 that “ReedPop is ‘retiring’ BookExpo, BookCon and Unbound, effective immediately,” quoting ReedPop as saying, “With continued uncertainty surrounding in-person events at this time, the team has concluded that the best way forward is to retire the current iteration of events as they explore new ways to meet the community's needs through a fusion of in-person and virtual events that will reach larger audiences than they ever could before. The ReedPop team is actively engaging in conversations with publishers, booksellers, and other partners, and with their feedback and ideas they will together agree how to best rebuild the events in the future.”

On Dec. 2, Shelf Awareness followed up its story with some analysis:

The move was not a full surprise to most in the industry since, as ReedPop suggested, the show has been under some stress before the pandemic: although it was once the biggest trade book convention in North America and the place where upcoming books and authors were introduced to booksellers, it has declined in size, attendance and importance in the past few decades. In an era of rapid technological and market changes, the show seemed to lose much of its rationale. For many years, it was the American Booksellers Association’s annual convention, when bricks-and-mortar bookstores were a huge part of the book retail market and the show was one of the most effective ways for publishers to reach booksellers. But obviously the Internet has made sales and marketing communication easier year-round, and traditional booksellers are a smaller segment of the market.

Publishers Weekly reports that “ReedPop will continue to host the BookCon Facebook group, and said that readers can find book-related content in upcoming virtual Metaverse events. ReedPop, which holds a number of pop culture events annually, created Metaverse after moving Emerald City Comic Con (ECCC) and Chicago Comic & Entertainment Expo (C2E2) from their usual spots in the spring to December 2021.”

Publishing Perspectives shares, “As clear as the fading fortunes of BookExpo had been to regular attendees for years, the closure of the event won’t be received in the US industry with much joy. Many still remember its stronger years of Tuesday-through-Sunday programming including pre-trade-show conference days. Like so many of these key events in world publishing, the show also had a way of serving as a kind of check point: the issues of the day, the challenges and successes could be assessed, discussed, evaluated.”

The Digital Reader says the following:

Really, the only reason [BookExpo] was big was that [the] book publishing industry was concentrated in NYC.

But given how the industry has been decentralizing over the past 15 years (thanks to the internet, there’s no reason to pay for expensive real estate or operating costs any more) it was only a matter of time before [BookExpo] lost all relevance.

The death of this trade show was really only a matter of time.

P.S. If it does come back, I would bet that we will see it revived as smaller local trade shows and conferences—you know, events you could go to in the middle of your work day, and not as a business trip.

AP has more reactions, including from “Fiona McRae, executive director of the Minneapolis-based Graywolf Press, [who] said she valued the contacts made at BookExpo and felt sorry for younger people in publishing who might not have the same chance. Penguin Random House CEO Markus Dohle, who has praised BookExpo as a chance for the industry to gather under one roof, said in a statement that he hoped such occasions would happen again.”

figshare Unveils 'The State of Open Data 2020,' With Emphasis on COVID-19's Impact

Digital Science announced figshare’s “The State of Open Data 2020,” a report analyzing global attitudes toward open data (“sharing it, reusing it, and redistributing it”) as well as the impact of COVID-19 on research and data sharing. This annual report is the fifth in the series and features survey results (about 4,500 responses from the research community) and a collection of articles from industry experts in countries around the world. Leslie McIntosh, CEO of Ripeta, a Digital Science company, provides the foreword.

The report is the result of a collaboration among figshare, Digital Science, Springer Nature, and other industry and academic stakeholders. Key findings include the following:

  • The disciplines affected most by COVID-19 were those working in Chemistry (47%), Biology (39%), Medicine (36%) and Materials Science (36%). The lowest level of impact was reported in Humanities and Social Sciences (20%) 
  • Lockdown is seen by half of respondents as ‘extremely’ or ‘somewhat’ likely to result in re-use of open data provided by other labs, and 65% expect to reuse their own data.
  • 55% of respondents felt that sharing data should be a part of the requirements for awarding grants
  • 29% of respondents do not know who would cover the costs of making their research data open access
  • Only 13% of respondents felt that researchers currently get sufficient credit for sharing data with 59% feeling they received too little credit. 

For more information, read the press release.

Bookshop's Imperative to 'Dethrone' Amazon

Kara Weisenstein writes the following in the Mic article “This Online Book Shop Is Trying to Dethrone Amazon by Siphoning Its Revenue to Indie Bookstores”:

Launched just last January, the [Bookshop] online bookstore seeks to be the indie alternative to Amazon, with a chunk of proceeds getting kicked back to small stores. Bookshop’s founder, Andy Hunter, is an indie literature guy himself, as the publisher of Catapult and the website Lit Hub. He figured taking back any market share from Amazon could be a windfall for small bookstores. After all, Jeff Bezos’s behemoth accounts for around 70 percent of online book sales and the pandemic has strengthened its dominance as world’s largest online retailer. …

After nearly a year in business, Bookshop is doing remarkably well. Back in June, The New York Times reported the fledgling retailer was poised to blow past $40 million in sales in 2020—a milestone Hunter didn’t expect to reach until 2022. According to the ticker on its homepage, Bookshop has siphoned more than $8 million to local bookstores. ‘There were a number of skeptics about whether this would work,’ Bradley Graham, co-owner of Politics & Prose in Washington, DC, told the Times. ‘Bookshop has certainly worked better than anybody anticipated, because nobody anticipated a pandemic.’

It’s true: the entire industry has been upended by the pandemic, and Bookshop is probably lucky it launched when it did. …

Bookshop has worked hard to recreate the experience of browsing a brick-and-mortar store, discovering recommendations from real-life humans who love books. It’s not a replacement for these spaces, but at least as long as they’re sidelined, Bookshop offers a compelling alternative to Amazon.

For more information, read the article.

'Reading for Pleasure Can Help Reduce Pandemic Stress, Increase Empathy Ö' by Eloise Therien

Eloise Therien reports the following for Canadian site Global News:

According to Dr. Robin Bright with the University of Lethbridge, outlets such as reading a novel could boost one’s emotional well-being.

‘Reading for pleasure has tremendous benefits, and there’s a great deal of research to support that,’ she explained. ‘It’s interesting to note that reading also helps to decrease stress levels and anxiety, and has been shown to increase a sense of empathy as well.’

Dr. Bright deals with family literacy, and says students in school who are reluctant to read can find ways to engage in literacy with the help of those around them.

She adds teachers who are currently partaking in online learning shouldn’t see their physical distance from students as a barrier to connecting with them about their interests. …

While many parents choose to read to their children at a young age, Dr. Bright said such an activity should continue on throughout life as a form of bonding. …

‘It increases that interaction among family members,’ she said. ‘Reading can and should continue for pleasure well into adulthood.’

For more information, read the article.

BiblioCommons Updates the User Experience of BiblioCore

BiblioCommons added new functionality to its BiblioCore catalog that offers “an enhanced online browsing experience facilitating endless routes for patrons to discover what to read, watch or listen to next—even when they can’t physically browse the shelves at the library.”

The updated catalog experience showcases staff recommendations and content, offers redesigned title pages, provides links to recommended content, and facilitates better connections with a community of media consumers.

For more information, read the press release.

zbMATH Will Become Freely Available

zbMATH is transitioning into an OA platform beginning in 2021. FIZ Karlsruhe announced in a press release, “This service, which has been subject to a charge up to now, will thus be available free of charge to all interested persons worldwide. The change in the business model will make it possible to use most information and data of zbMATH freely for research purposes and for linking to other non-commercial services.” The reusability of zbMATH’s data and the ability to share it were “severely limited by the previous licensing model.”

When zbMATH goes OA, it will “enable the integration of other services, e.g., better search functions for full texts from free digital libraries such as arXiv and EuDML. A further dimension of new applications is offered by the linkage with mathematical research data, which so far have been largely isolated and poorly developed.”

The press release adds, “At present, the publishers of zbMATH—FIZ Karlsruhe, the European Mathematical Society (EMS) and Heidelberger Akademie der Wissenschaften—stipulate this model in a new publisher’s agreement. In addition, the contracts governing existing collaborations with publishing houses will be renewed and the terms of use and reviewer conditions will be adapted.”

For more information, read the press release.

COVID-19 NEWS: REALM Project Shares New Findings About the Virus' Survival on Building Materials

OCLC announced the latest results from the Reopening Archives, Libraries, and Museums (REALM) Project, which “is designed to generate scientific information to support the handling of core library, museum, and archival materials as these institutions resume operations and reopen to the public.” The new results, from its sixth test, cover how long SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, remains active on five common archive, library, and museum building materials. After 2 days, the virus “was no longer detectable on the brass and marble. After six days, virus was not detected on the glass, laminate, and powder-coated steel.”

View the results of the first five tests here.

For more information, read the press release.


bibliotheca Libraries Get Access to ComicsPlus Content

bibliotheca has partnered with LibraryPass and its ComicsPlus service to offer bibliotheca’s library customers unlimited, simultaneous access to ComicsPlus’ catalog of 20,000-plus digital comics, graphic novels, and manga. According to the press release, “The two-pronged deal includes a distribution agreement that makes ComicsPlus immediately available to bibliotheca customers through LibraryPass’ standalone app, as well as a development agreement that will make bibliotheca’s cloudLibrary the first and only digital platform to fully integrate the ComicsPlus collection, providing a seamless experience for cloudLibrary users.”

ComicsPlus has content for both juvenile and adult readers, including brands and titles such as “Avatar: The Last Airbender & The Legend of Korra, Big Nate, Bone, Disney Princesses, Geronimo Stilton, Stranger Things, Locke & Key, American Gods, and timely, award-winning nonfiction like March and They Called Us Enemy.”

“Comics and graphic novels are proven to increase literacy, particularly among reluctant readers,” says Tom Mercer, bibliotheca’s SVP of digital products. “We are thrilled to be able to offer an affordable way for libraries to offer an outstanding digital comic collection to their users, particularly now, when so many students are learning from home and looking for high-interest resources.”

For more information, read the press release.

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