The Book is Dead, Long Live the Book!


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One of three papers given at this session, this presentation addresses ways that museums can assess their digital publishing needs, with an emphasis on a mediated approach to adopting the new technology. The first half, as introduction to the session, offers questions for your institution to consider before going digital. Does your institution need e-books or apps? Or does it need expanded mobile access to your website and greater digital connectivity in your galleries? Have you assessed your audience’s digital needs? The second half discusses the state of digital publishing at my institution, the Smithsonian’s National Museum of the American Indian, and how we are planning our digital future.

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  • Our session will address a critical issue in the museum world at present—not whether to go digital, but when, and how to plan for your digital media. The session’s name, The Book is Dead, Long Live the Book , originally occurred to me a year or so ago as I read all the alarmist publishers’ articles proclaiming the death of the book; I then googled the name and discovered that it’s also a title of a book by an Australian professor of multimedia, Sherman Young. In his book, Young claims that the book is already dead since it is no longer a focal point of our society and culture. Nevertheless, Young makes a case for reading and book culture, in whatever format, and contends that new technologies like social networking “will save the book culture” by “ re-privileging the idea of ideas. The essence of the book can be captured and distilled from its material form; the new technologies can form the basis for a reinvigoration and a reinvention of book culture. Rather than cling desperately to the old ways, we should embrace the opportunities presented by the new.” Ironically, it’s not available as an e-book. Of course, the title also references the old phrase of royal succession, “The King is dead, long live the King.” Which I think is apropos, considering that even as we contemplate changing book platforms, there is a continuity of the narrative that will indeed survive.
  • Digital versions of print books, with and without images Works well if you have lots of text Image quality of e-readers are generally poor Except ipad? Apps like Art Authority are advertising ipad as the coffee-table book of the future, but it has yet to emerge as a practical replacement of the print art catalogue. Enhanced e-books (e-books embedded with extraneous content) Like hyperlinks, video, audio Requires wi-fi, not all e-readers have access to this when they’re being read unless they run on 3G Enhanced e-books and apps can overlap, but not necessarily
  • Applications created for a particular platform Pros: they are super cool, lots of interactivity Interoperability between platforms is not guaranteed (although Adobe has digital pub software that can solve that problem) Generally cannot be done in-house, so requires contracting the work out Expensive! most likely you’d be dependent on that contractor for changes or updates to an app Can’t easily get user stats Across the board, the digital publishing industry consistently urges against creating “apps for the sake of apps.” We want to separate content and programming in order to take advantage of the portability and interactivity option of this format If your content isn’t interactive, look for another mode of delivery
  • Infinity of Nations app
  • Analogy to the Hitchhiker’s guide… At the National Museum Publishing Seminar in D.C. last year, everyone was in a frenzy about the death of the print book. We listened to keynote speech from a designer who made a case for the iPad in particular, while audience members speculated on what happens after we weary of the “poke-and-wow” of the technology itself; we attended sessions about digital workflow and working in xml and in the cloud; and the counter-session, “Paper Books are Not Dead”—which is true, especially for museums.
  • So, why all the panic? The frenzy occurs, I think, because (as SI’s director of Web & New Media Michael Edson has noted) there is no road map for museum publications to follow for going digital. This lack of a road map makes our travel slow, and it’s not anything we can rush—successfully. Right now, there’s a lot of experimentation—which is good. But the technology has not yet equalized in a way that makes it simple for us to yet jump in with both feet with confidence, as we can with a print book and an understanding of the traditional publishing process. In some (and arguably right now for museums, most) cases, a print book may still be the best thing out there for your audience. Questions arise: Does digital publication for museums necessarily mean less in print? Maybe for some titles, but likely not for art books or exhibition catalogues, which have yet to have a quality output on digital media. Can it generate the kind of funds a print book can? Would it at least make up for the cost of the e-book? Can scholars be motivated to write in digital format, to include coded links and citations? Digital requires more infrastructure to support it—you may not have the luxury of having the staff needed—IT, web, and editors. So the lesson is this: Relax and let the content drive the medium.
  • Slow Down and Ask “Why?” We’re challenged to mediate the rush to adopt technology, the desires of board and management vs. deciding what’s best for your museum’s content and let that drive the medium of publication. Especially if you’re a smaller museum or are working with a budget where e-publishing may not fit, then something like expanded web access by mobile device is your better bet.
  • In the NMAI’s publications office, we’re trying to take a mediated approach to digital publishing. But I say “trying” because the decisions are not always in the hands of our office. They may depend on the desires of management or board Co-publishers may make the decision without consulting us; two books that we know of have been made into e-books, and one, The Land has Memory , was mysteriously pirated as soon as it was out. To give some context, we have a small office, but largest in SI; many museums have only one or two people at the helm of their publications. We’re not talking about huge scale operations here. But we are a busy group: our office has published over 55 titles and several recordings since 1992. Of those titles, we’re analyzing the potential to reissue digital versions of rare and popular titles. We’ve drafted a white paper in order to inform both ourselves and our management on all aspects of entering into digital publishing. We’re really in the process of exploration—we do not yet have a program or plan. In that document, we outlined what issues NMAI needs to consider before venturing into e-publishing. We prioritized these into several points (refer to slide).
  • Although the Smithsonian Institution (SI) as a whole has no central plan or initiative for e-books—it’s up to each museum to create a plan—they do have an initiative relating to mobile device web access. SI envisions mobile access to be the biggest access point in the future. More economical than investing in apps or e-books Accessible on the spot in a gallery Web-based; they recommend building future websites from the mobile format on up so that the essence of the content won’t be compromised by distilling a large website down for mobile “ QR (quick response) code” or “2D bar code”= smart tag [Experiment with connecting with Vantage Point site]
  • Our first use of smart tags in was the contemporary art exhibition Vantage Point .
  • Try the smart tag with your phone! With a smart phone and the free app—there are a couple out there—any visitor can scan the tag and be immediately linked to a related web page. is what NMAI uses because it’s the only 2D barcode in color and can be customizable with your logo, etc. Tested in our contemporary art exhibit, Vantage Point It’s adaptive, so you can change the URL that the image links to if the event or exhibition closes or changes Stats: you can tell where a person accessed the site Lots of fundraising and membership potential as well; developing a tag to link to mobile membership site. Maybe placing tag next to object asking the public to contribute to the purchase or conservation of the piece?
  • Our stats for general NMAI website use:   Mobile Devices 40% iPhone 25% Android 23% iPad 6% Blackberry 5% iPod   [Basically 68% iOS (iPhone [most prominent], iPad, iPod)]
  • The answers that the NMAI can give to these questions at present. For us, and for any of us, venturing into digital publishing requires just as much planning, infrastructure, and budgeting as any other major project. At NMAI we’re still evaluating whether our titles are lucrative in the e-book market. If in the end it doesn’t make sense for us to go there because our audience prefers a different digital medium like web content, then our focus will remain there. But content is moving digitally, as much as we embrace or reject it, so adaptation—expanding our communication to include digital in any way feasible—is going to be critical for communicating our content in the future.
  • The Book is Dead, Long Live the Book!

    1. 1. Ron Cox, Bishop Museum Alexandra Harris, National Museum of the American Indian Nik Honeysett, J. Paul Getty Museum
    2. 2. <ul><li>E-books </li></ul><ul><li>Apps </li></ul><ul><li>Web (including mobile device access) </li></ul><ul><li>Digital printing and print on demand (POD) </li></ul>Digital Publishing
    3. 3. <ul><li>Digital versions of print books, with and without images </li></ul><ul><li>Enhanced e-books (e-books embedded with extraneous content) </li></ul><ul><li>Major formats: ePub, PDF, mobi/AZW (Amazon) </li></ul>E-books
    4. 4. <ul><li>Applications created for a particular platform (Apple, Android, Windows) </li></ul><ul><li>Sold from retailer (like iTunes) </li></ul><ul><li>Most likely cannot be created in house </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Dependent on a contractor for changes </li></ul></ul><ul><li>“ Apps for the sake of apps ” </li></ul>Apps
    5. 8. <ul><li>Where is the road map? </li></ul><ul><li>Experimentation– when will technology equalize? </li></ul><ul><li>Does going digital mean less in print? </li></ul><ul><li>Will scholars be open to including digital content? </li></ul><ul><li>Does your museum have the infrastructure to support a digital initiative? </li></ul><ul><ul><li>IT, web team, editors/publications team? </li></ul></ul>Don ’ t Panic Let the content drive the medium
    6. 9. <ul><li>Why do you need an e-book? </li></ul><ul><li>Do you need a print book, app, or mobile web access instead? </li></ul><ul><li>Which format best serves your audience and the content? </li></ul><ul><li>Is the motivation to jump into digital coming from your board or leadership? </li></ul><ul><li>Does your institution as a whole need a digital reality check (and a long-term plan)? </li></ul>Ask “ Why? ”
    7. 10. <ul><li>Infrastructure/staffing </li></ul><ul><li>Atomization/ “ chunking” content </li></ul><ul><li>Rights and permissions and digital rights management (DRM) </li></ul><ul><li>Storage </li></ul><ul><li>Creating a business model </li></ul>NMAI ’ s Considerations
    8. 11. <ul><li>No specific general plan for museums </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Each museum has own publishing autonomy </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Mobile web access </li></ul><ul><ul><li>SI envisions this to be the biggest future access point </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Recommends building websites from mobile on up </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>QR code/ smart tag </li></ul></ul>Smithsonian Institution
    9. 12. Vantage Point
    10. 14. <ul><li>  </li></ul>NMAI Website Use
    11. 15. <ul><li>For Vantage Point (09/20/2010–08/08/2011) </li></ul><ul><ul><li>smart tag scans - 4,118 </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>unique webpage views - 12,248 </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>= 1/3 of traffic to the website was </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>from mobile devices </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Most popular tag: </li></ul>Vantage Point Emmi Whitehorse (Navajo, b. 1957) Standing Water , 2002. Mixed media on paper, canvas. Museum purchase with funds donated by Dr. Miriam Jacobs in memory of Dr. Myron S. Jacobs, 2006. 26/5557
    12. 16. <ul><li>Why do you need an e-book? </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Maybe only for symposium books now; explore backlist potential. </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Do you need a print book, app, or mobile web access instead? </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Yes (but only if it ’s sustainable)! </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Which format would best serve both your audience and the content? </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Not sure– we will need to evaluate our audience. </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Is the motivation to jump into digital coming from your board or leadership? </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Yes… </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Does your institution as a whole need a digital reality check (and a long-term plan)? </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Yes! </li></ul></ul>Asking Ourselves “ Why? ”
    13. 17. <ul><li>Alexandra Harris </li></ul><ul><li>Editor, National Museum of the American Indian </li></ul><ul><li>[email_address] </li></ul><ul><li>Research: </li></ul><ul><li>Aptara: The Gilbane Group, A Blueprint for Book Publishing Transformation , 2010: </li></ul><ul><li>  </li></ul><ul><li>Blogs: </li></ul><ul><li>  </li></ul><ul><li>Teleread: [news] </li></ul><ul><li>  </li></ul><ul><li>Gossamers: [basics] </li></ul><ul><li>  </li></ul><ul><li>A New Kind of Book: [design and functionality of e-books] </li></ul>Resources