Wednesday, June 12, 2013
To Klopotek's Publisher Information Day at the RSA on 12th June – the same venue BIC held its DRM v DRM-free BIC battle a few months ago. The day focussed on rights, and the need for publishers to understand rights and for systems to manage rights. BIC's name was mentioned several times along with BIC's Product Data Excellence Awards Scheme; and there was lots of enthusiasm for metadata and for standards. Vivek Dubey, Sales Manager at Klopotek UK was our genial host. Great venue with a good turnout of publishers. Something similar to this event is held in Berlin and it was good to have the equivalent held in London for UK publishers. http://www.klopotek.com/pid.html
Book Industry Communication
Friday, June 7, 2013
To Peterborough on 7th June to visit Print on Demand Worldwide for their Lean Conference. MD Andy Cork spoke about PODW's lean methodology while Chris Kinsey plied us with cakes and pastries (so not that lean then!). We had speakers from the UK and Germany and I presented lean metadata on behalf of BIC. PODW's lean agenda combines elimination of wasteful processes with a combined POD and ebook solution and strong green credentials. PODW showed us round their shiny factory with its rows of printing hardware and one publisher was even able to see his own books as they emerged from the gold blocking process.
Book Industry Communication
Wednesday, May 15, 2013
BIC's First Open Day was held at RIBA on 15th May. Great turnout filling the Wren Room on the 5th Floor and a succession of speakers, mainly the chairs of BIC committees and Karina our Exec Director. All keen to tell the membership what they've been up to over the last few months and what's coming next. Some great presentations from new BIC members telling us about their businesses and finally a really thought-provoking feedback session where members pondered what business issues are top of mind that BIC might be able to help with and they came up with some really helpful ideas – many of which we hope to be able to accommodate as part of the new website coming later this year. More about the Open Day here.
Book Industry Communication
Monday, February 18, 2013
“Coffee, Croissants and Metadata”
Sponsored by Bowker, Guest Speaker Emma Barnes
After the initial panic that arose following the explosion of a teabag at the refreshments station (thanks Claire), the first BIC Breakfast of 2013 – and of the 21st Century – got off to a good start. If we averaged out arrival times collectively, we might even call this group punctual.
BIC’s own Executive Director Karina took the floor first for a BIC Update, whilst the rest of the group delved into the feast that lay before us; salmon bagels, freshly baked pastries, Danish croissants, fresh fruit, and enough caffeine to wake the late Charles Dickens from his grave. I managed to exercise no self-control whatsoever and consume three bagels, which were subsequently washed down by the same amount of croissants. The BIC Breakfasts only happen once a month so I thought I’d get my 30 days’ worth – it should keep me going till the next one. (At the time of writing the author was still hungry.)
Running to a tight schedule it was a wonder that Karina managed to inform the group about all of BIC’s planned activities for the year ahead: BIC Breakfasts, the next DRM Battle (4th March at the RSA London), the Supply Chain seminar at LBF13, over ten new training courses, the biannual open days for members… so that takes us up to May… check out www.bic.org.uk to learn more or follow us @BIC1UK.
As the plates became emptier, and stomachs fuller, we moved on. The lovely Jack Tipping talked to the group a little about Bowker’s bibliographic management solutions; unnamed individuals in the room moved this along swiftly by unceremoniously pointing to their watches or making oh-so-unsubtle comments about the time. Breakfast may be the most important meal of the day but it certainly isn’t the longest; not when you’re talking about metadata anyway.
As I moved onto that last croissant (no regrets to this day) Snowbooks’ MD Emma Barnes took the helm and presented ‘Bibliocloud’. After frankly telling the group that she had made every mistake that a publisher could potentially make – no need to brag – Emma generously let us take a look inside this hotly talked about ‘cloud’ on the net.
Looking at the platform from the inside it seems pretty intuitive; and though I dread the term, ‘one-stop-shop’ seems highly appropriate as it allows publishers to manage everything from bibliographic data to contracts, rights and royalties all in one place online (got to love that free WIFI even if you don’t pay tax – thanks Starbucks). If it works it could be a saving grace for small publishers, and potentially larger ones. Thanks to a grant from the Arts Council England smaller publishers are able to use the service for free.
The next BIC breakfast in February is an invite-only session. March’s Breakfast will focus on the topic of ONIX 3.0 and ONIX 2.1 – book your place via http://bicbreakfastsdata3.eventbrite.co.uk/.
Business Manager, Book Industry Communication
Friday, November 30, 2012
A BIC event held 28th November 2012
CILIP Building, London
THE MOTION: "Open source is about distributed innovation and will become the dominant way of producing software"
“The creatures outside looked from pig to man, and from man to pig, and from man to pig again; but already it was impossible to say which was which”
George Orwell, Animal Farm
The quote came to mind while I listened to Axiell’s Jim Burton trying to interrupt Civica’s Will Blackburn to make a point in favour of Open Source.
Were you a bit confused? I was. It seems that everyone is open and offering essentially the same services and all – as Jim appeared to suggest – almost for free. What struck me most were the similarities of the two offers – at the technological level at least.
Nick (Dimant of PTFS Europe) told us about the (some free and some paid for) services that PTFS offer in support of OS. Jim (Burton of Axiell) told us that it doesn’t matter which you buy – just to make sure you get what you need – a view echoed by Paula (Keogh of Capita).
Both of them reassuringly emphasised elements of the other’s offer – Nick stressed PTFS’ support – answering the concerns about OS made by a potential buyer with what sounded like pretty standard sales responses about their support offer. (Nick insisted at this point that most Open Source solutions would include support from a commercial company like PTFS). Jim attempted to out-‘open’ Nick by talking about three open characteristics - standards, APIs and source. At times it was difficult to decide who was on which side of the argument.
Perhaps that’s partly because we had mostly academics supporting OS and mostly public library suppliers representing proprietary. Maybe what we were really seeing here was more evidence of the growing divide between the two communities? Dave (Parkes of Staffordshire University) pronouncing himself comfortable with handling the risks that Will had identified might cause concern for public libraries – but I found myself wondering how much his library would be prepared to pay to get him back if we had kidnapped him this afternoon. His expertise and ready grasp of what are often quite complex technical and operational issues may not concern him – but it may also make him the single point of failure if things go wrong. It seemed pretty clear to me that the risks perceived by those who work in public libraries have little echo among the academic community.
Everyone appears to support Open Source, both as a concept and in practical terms. Personally I’m not sure if an open API is really as open as it sounds – opening up one system does not always guarantee that the resulting solution can be transferred to another. But the picture isn’t very different when you look at OS. There are different OS systems out there – and guess what – they don’t all work the same way either.
Everyone also agreed about the need to ‘define our terms’ carefully when we embark on discussions like this one. Open source – like RFID – can be many different things.
You were probably expecting an RFID perspective on OSS? Well you won’t be disappointed – but as I said at the RFID conference there is life beyond RFID…
It seems to me that OS is a very difficult concept to pin down. It was more straightforward when I first encountered it in an LMS context in Canada in 2009. Back then even then the ‘traditional’ proprietary suppliers were feeling nervous about the ‘threat’ of OS to their revenues.
Librarianship tends to attract people with a vocation for public service – even in the universities J – and such people often tend toward the liberal end of the political spectrum.
So perhaps the greatest triumph of OS has been to align itself with liberal ideals. As Andrew hinted, OS has – for some – become almost synonymous with ‘liberty’, ‘freedom’ – and maybe I should also add ‘social’ after Dave’s presentation. All very positive and laudable ideals in my book.
As we have heard, by way of a response – or perhaps in the hope of some of that eco-friendly OS shine rubbing off – many ‘commercial’ suppliers have begun to ‘open up’ some aspects of their systems. Some – like OCLC and Capita, companies that began as co-operatives – have found this easier than others.
But it’s important to keep remembering that “open” isn’t free – at least not in the financial sense. Plenty of commercial companies are earning a living from support and development – just as the ‘commercial’ suppliers do. One of them - mentioned by Nick - is Catalyst for whom Chris Cormack (one of the original developers of Koha (pronounced Cor- Ha) works. I met Chris recently while on a trip to New Zealand.
And those developing the code – whether for a commercial company or as a library employee are being paid, and using resources – maybe even heat and light? The costs just aren’t as visible.
We’re back to defining our terms again. What exactly is ‘free’? What do we really mean by ‘open’?
For academics the appeal of working co-operatively to develop solutions to manage the virtual world is obvious. A look at the Kuali OLE start page demonstrates that predilection very clearly. No circulation or cataloguing yet (or possibly ever?) – the need simply isn’t so urgent any more.
Koha and Evergreen have proved themselves to be very effective in providing the LMS in academic environments but the jury still appears to be out on larger scale implementations in public libraries (with the possible exception of the Pines consortium in Georgia).
The argument may not be a simple clash of systems – or even of ideologies. I think the key issue here is not so much the potential of the systems model but rather the sustainability, support and development of the business model.
The kind of library you work in, what expertise you have access to, and whether your governing body (a council, learned society, or academic institution) feels comfortable with the idea of support being either in the hands of a single company – or a changing group of enthusiasts all over the world (as they might view it) will all have a bearing on Open Source LMS’ suitability for any given implementation.
(An Open Source library I spoke with on Monday made it clear that their main motive for using Open Source was the chance to use remote hosting to free them from the constraints of their council IT department.)
They’re also still working out governance issues for their newly minted consortium.
And governance is another area that needs careful consideration in any co-operative venture.
When Chris explained to me the way in which Koha manages and releases base code it was very impressive. No real cause for concern there but when it comes to changes I keep hearing that adding wishes to lists in OS world is not much more effective than doing it through the many LMS user groups. Finding someone to make changes can take forever – unless you pay – but then that’s not very different to a commercial model is it? Perhaps LMS providers make these changes free of charge? No, I didn’t think so?
But today’s motion is about distributed innovation – and so, inevitably, we come to the RFID piece…
The question I have been asking Open Source advocates for some time now is “Innovation – how does that work then?”
You see – although I understand that the development of Open Source is driven by its users - I worry that those users may not be keeping up with new developments in the industry. In RFID and NFC there have been changes taking place over the last two years now that will potentially revolutionise the way in which users interact with their physical collections and with other tangible assets in the future. It’s been a struggle at times, but by engaging with the ‘commercial’ RFID and LMS companies we (BIC) have reached agreement on some key issues that will help this transition take place in a standards-based, hopefully less traumatic way. (And in case you’re missing the message here it’s “JOIN BIC!”).
But the one community absent from all the discussions and debate has been Open Source. It seems that since everyone owns it, everyone appears to assume that someone else will think about the challenge of new technologies. When I ask OS support companies like Nick’s about their plans for developing support for the new RFID standards and protocols they very reasonably tell me that they’ll do it when their clients ask for it.
Which will probably be when they see it working in a non-OS library.
Nick talked about the charges made by proprietary suppliers for SIP 2.0 (which Will dismissed as ‘legacy’) but ironically SIP 2.0 may well have run its course since SIP 3.0 was released early in 2012 and passed on to NISO soon afterwards. So currently SIP 2.0 is unsupported and may be replaced by a revised NISO version. Yet the OS community appears to be unaware of this change.
That, for me, is a potential downside of OS. Rather than promoting innovation – it seems sometimes to delay it.
But it’s not all roses with the commercial suppliers either. Many of them wait for the demands from third parties to develop more…wait for it…OPEN systems to reach breaking point before they will reluctantly stop selling proprietary solutions and engage with new initiatives – like the Library Communications Framework recently launched by BIC. I’ve visited three major LMS suppliers this year – at their invitation – to discuss what LCF is and how they should respond to it. All said they 100% supported it – but none of them have done anything about it – least of all join in the project. (Capita and Axiell are actively supporting this however).
So one way to make proprietary providers pay more attention – or for OS to gain an advantage might be to grasp the opportunity first. My colleague Lori Ayre is actively working with the US Evergreen community as we speak to try and persuade them to do just that.
So in conclusion…
Is this really a defining moment for different business models?
Which offers the best hope of developing new technologies to produce sustainable model for the future?
If I had a vote – I’d probably spoil my paper.