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What Can Book Publishers Learn from “Article Economy”?

By Alex Mutter

“Books are packaged in a shell. You see the shell, but you never see the meat inside the book.”

During his presentation in the Hot Spot in Hall 4.2, Richard Kobel, the Assistant Vice President of Business Development at Scope e-Knowledge Center, argued that academic books have not enjoyed much visibility online and that this lack of discoverability is a big problem for academic and STM publishers. “I think it’s clear to everyone that effective metadata at the chapter level is critical to discoverability.”

Online journals, meanwhile, have handled the discoverability issue well, with rich linking, through citations, keywords, detailed abstracts and robust metadata. Kobel suggested that academic and STM publishers should, in effect, copy the “article economy” that has led to the profound success of the journal space online.

Publishers can utilize on a chapter-to-chapter basis the same techniques, such as abstracts and keywords, that are used for individual papers and scholarly articles.

Kobel pointed to the creation of Digital Object Identifiers (DOIs) for individual chapters as a relatively straightforward way for publishers to increase book discoverability. The creation of abstracts and summaries could also be viewed as a marketing tool, and be given the same amount of importance as other marketing ventures. And on a broader scale, metadata and discoverability should be a much bigger part of publishers’ workflows.

Although the presentation was geared towards academic publishing, Kobel maintained that similar techniques could be used by trade publishers for anthologies and story collections.

“It’s all about reading content, and then extracting themes,” Kobel said. “It works for any type of content.”

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