The hurt locker

Earlier this week, I wrote about speaking at ASA’s 2012 conference, “The best way to predict the future is to invent it”. After my presentation, Tim Babbitt, senior vice president for platform management at ProQuest, delivered a complimentary talk, “Begin with the customer: Context, not container”.

ASA’s members serve the library market, and Babbitt opened his remarks with a stark look at limited (and in some cases declining) shelf space and a desire to access primary-source data sets (not just reports on them). This is also a world in which both providers and consumers are finding ways to bypass the library.

The interrelationships are messy and likely to stay that way. Babbitt noted that more than half of all research now involves working with colleagues in other institutions.  In his view, these far-flung teams need access to:

  • Next-generation, networked content
  • Data sets placed in context
  • Comments and criticism, and
  • Minable content.

In thinking about his remarks, I wondered if they are a preview of what will happen more broadly in trade book publishing. During the conference, one speaker claimed that “social is the new semantic” (catchy; I wish I’d said it). Sites like Goodreads might make you a believer.

But if social reading sites like Goodreads or data-mining toolkits like Small Demons are the future, the disruption is likely to get worse before it gets better. The relationships they change are embedded in a set of institutions challenged to adapt in internet time.

That’s ultimately what motivated me to write “The opportunity in abundance“. I think we work in an industry where most people and many participants come to the table with the best intentions. Without a coherent plan, however, the road to good intentions wanders all the way through hell.

Brian O'Leary

About Brian O'Leary

Founder and principal of Magellan Media Consulting, Brian O’Leary helps enterprises with media and publishing components capitalize on the power of content. A veteran of more than 30 years in the publishing industry and a prolific content producer himself, Brian leverages the breadth and depth of his experience to deliver innovative content solutions.