Publishing 2.0/Libraries 2.0: Students are Shaping the Future of Academic Publishing

How Graduate Students Want to Interact with Information

March 29, 2007

Are you developing an “Enterprise 2.0” strategy for your firm? Are you engaged in providing information resources to employees, business customers, students or academics? Learn what the current trends are in information access and collective knowledge gathering from three “lead customers.” Three insightful graduate students engaged with publishers and librarians at a “Publishing 2.0” conference in early 2007. How do professionals and students consume information in the Web 2.0 era? These graduate students provide great insights into how digital information should be presented, organized, consumed and shared among professionals.


What will Publishing 2.0 look like? How can information providers anticipate and adapt to changing customer behaviors that are enabled by new technologies? What about Libraries 2.0? How are university and other research libraries adapting to the ways that information consumers want to use information? How are publishers’ and libraries’ roles overlapping and merging? What can businesses learn from watching the ways in which students interact with licensed information that will help shape their Enterprise Web 2.0 strategies?

In broader terms, how do you spot the customer trends that will reshape your industry? Many tech-savvy professionals are good at identifying hot new technology trends. Many marketing thought leaders and business strategists are good at spotting new patterns of customer behavior and pointing them out so their clients can run around in front of the parade. We specialize in combining these two competencies and adding two additional special talents: 1) the ability to identify lead customers, and 2) the ability to listen deeply to what they say (and watch what they’re trying to do) in order to identify the industry-transforming patterns early.

This report describes the patterns in how lead customers think about their use of information--in particular, in academic publishing. However, these same patterns are relevant to anyone who is implementing Enterprise 2.0 information services for their employees to access and use.

Some of these customer patterns will shape the future of information services overall. Academic and professional customers want:

  • Open access to find, use, (buy) and repurpose information
  • The ability to repurpose, bookmark, tag and make connections among information resources
  • The ability for anyone to be able to find and access our contributions (research)
  • New ways to earn and to bestow credibility, recognition and authority


In early February 2007, I had the honor of moderating a symposium entitled: Publishing 2.0: Flourishing in the Era of Digital Natives.[1] The audience consisted of professionals from scholarly and professional publishing organizations, libraries and universities. All of these professionals are acutely aware that the business models and standard operating procedures for publishing are being challenged by information consumers, peer producers, bloggers, digital libraries, Google, and many other forces in play.

How Are Customers’ Behaviors Changing the Ways That Information Is Consumed?

The symposium included three excellent presentations about the ways in which information consumers’ behaviors are changing. Remember that we define “customer” as the person who consumes the products or services you produce--not necessarily the person who pays for it. Payment may be handled by a different role--the purchasing agent, the librarian, or a parent, for example. But unless the end-consumer of the published information or of the publishing service (for authors who need to be published) is satisfied, no one will pay for anything!

The first customer presentation was by David Warlick. David focused on secondary school children--the digital natives for whom information is simply the fodder for the multiple conversations in which they are constantly engaged. We published a report, summarizing some of David Warlick’s remarks and our take-aways.[2]

The second customer presentation was a panel discussion by local graduate students who talked about their roles both as information consumers and as information producers in the era of Web 2.0.

A third presentation, by Timothy Burke, a professor at Swarthmore College, focused on academics--the current generation of young professors who straddle the divide between traditional academic publishing and blogging.

In this report, we’ll summarize the remarks made by the grad students. In subsequent write-ups, we’ll spotlight professor Tim Burke’s superb presentation about academic blogging. We’ll conclude this series with highlights from the three case studies provided by academic and professional publishers (Alexander Street Press, Nature Publishing, and O’Reilly).

How Web 2.0 Is Changing How We Do Things

For about an hour, a panel of three graduate students talked and answered questions about how Web 2.0 and other electronic tools affect their interactions with published content and how their uses of online resources work in their personal and academic lives.

The Grad Students Who Participated in This Panel Discussion

Given the focus on information access and the use of information, it’s appropriate that the panel was put together and moderated by the “digital librarian” at Johns Hopkins University. Sayeed Choudhury is associate director for Library Digital Programs and the Hodson director of the Digital Knowledge Center at the Sheridan Libraries of Johns Hopkins University.

His panelists were three graduate students from Johns Hopkins University, representing a mix of disciplines, from computer science to liberal arts. They were also passionate “lead customers” – people who were insightful, thoughtful and cared a lot about the topic at hand.

* ASHEESH LAROIA is a master’s student in computer science at Johns Hopkins University. He completed an undergraduate degree in cognitive science. He sees today's "Web 2.0" technologies as the latest outgrowth of technology's trend to be customizable and extensible by as many people as possible. A long-time participant in Free

Software and Free Culture, in 2004, he filed a deposition in the Diebold lawsuit3 that created a stir in the national media and gained ink for the student free culture movement. Asheesh interned at Creative Commons in 2006 and upon graduation will be a software developer there. Creative Commons is a nonprofit organization that provides legal tools to creators who want to take part in the "sharing economy." His primary academic interests are in the field of natural language processing. He is a member of, and blogger at, (See Illustration 1).

* ERIC NORTHUP is a Ph.D. candidate in the computer science department of Johns Hopkins University. Before joining Hopkins, he worked at the National Institute of Health's National Library of Medicine. His research interests focus on security and access control models which can be enforced, and on enabling electronic collaboration and information sharing between parties with limited degrees of trust in each other.

* TIMOTHY STINSON earned his Ph.D. in English from the University of Virginia. His dissertation, entitled "The Siege of Jerusalem: An Electronic Archive and Hypertext Edition," was an electronic archive of the nine surviving manuscript witnesses of an anonymous 14-century alliterative poem. He is currently a CLIR postdoctoral fellow at Johns Hopkins University, where he works on the Roman de la Rose Digital Surrogates Project.


Through their formal remarks and their informal interactions, these three grad students did a good job of presenting a fairly complete picture of the ways in which they interact with information in order to do their work.

They discussed the fact that the ways in which they used the Web and consume information in their private lives (downloading music, uploading video files, bookmarking, tagging, and sending links of interesting things to their friends) spilled over into their lives as students. They were mindful of the fact that their audience consisted of academic and scholarly publishers and librarians who truly wanted to understand the ways in which students wanted to access and to use academic and scholarly information.

The most customer-critical issues these “lead customers” articulated were the following. To my ears, this list provides a pretty good starting point for any publisher or librarian seeking to innovate in the field of academic publishing. (It’s also not a bad list of criteria for publishers and librarians, and enterprise 2.0 professionals--employees care about many of the same things!):

* We need open access to find, use, (buy) and repurpose information

* We want the ability to repurpose, bookmark, tag and make connections among information resources

* We want anyone to be able to find and access our research

* We need new ways to earn and to bestow credibility, recognition and authority

We Need Open Access to Find, Use, (Buy), and Repurpose Information

These graduate students, like many around the world, benefit from the contractual arrangements that their universities’ libraries have made to give them relatively unfettered access to digital information. The library purchases the digital rights to published works--from scholarly journals, to periodicals, to books--that can be made available in digital form for easier access.

These grad students have had electronic access to many of their research and course materials since they began their education. These students find it archaic that there are still published materials that they can’t easily find, access, and reuse freely in digital form...


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