Mobile First Monographs – Um…

I’ve been thinking about Monographs this week, primarily the academic publishing world’s challenge ahead of actually delivering a monograph you could read comfortably on a mobile…

I was surprised to hear at ALPSP Redux (courtesy of Michael Zeoli, Vice President for Publisher Relations and Partnerships at GOBI Library Solutions) that 80% of monographs are still bought as print copies. This made me think about eBook adoption and why it’s relatively low.

At the M25 Conference last week, Robert Elves, Information Specialist at Kingston University reported on research that indicates while students study at their desk or in the library, they read on the Bus and in Bed. This is likely to be on a device other than a laptop, so how should publishers facilitate this pattern of behaviour with the content or ‘product’ that we produce?

“People buy products if they’re better.”

James Dyson

As it stands, the eBook is not better! Print remains dominant. However, with the HEFCE Mandate for Open Access monographs in 2021, publishers will be challenged both to find the right delivery format and a sustainable business model.

In addition, in countries like Sri Lanka and the African states, the trend is that readers use the web only through their mobiles. With this trend, content sites should not just be designed Mobile First, but Mobile Only. In fact, most people across the world expect websites on mobiles to be readable, usable and comprehensive. So what’s the reason for the delay on this front? Perhaps lack of resource or possibly just not seeing the alternatives?

My belief based on observation and discussion (and unfortunately not deeply researched as yet) is that there are a few reasons. I’m not sure which apply the most, but I do know many people are waiting and watching to see what’s successful before taking the next step. As with all inventions once inspired to change others will follow… but what happens if no-one changes!

If it’s only imagination that’s holding the industry back, I had some thoughts on what functionality might incentivise a user to go ‘e’ for monographs:

  • Offline usability, saving interactions locally in the user profile which update when reconnected.
  • Annotations which fill the mobile screen while typing to enable the user to actually see what they are writing!
  • Being able to select and save a citation against the user login to use later.
  • Implementation of a ‘magnifying glass’ on the most cited paragraphs in the monograph.
  • Having a placeholder for a video abstract at chapter level for the author/editor to create.
  • Creating a ‘map’ of the monograph based on reader behaviour i.e. a hot spot view.
  • Developing personas based on similar researcher profiles and showing an aggregated, let’s say average pathway through the content.
  • Providing guided reading through the monograph or topics, like an adventure book with multiple story lines.
  • Visible annotations by experts in the field of study.

Please let me know if you decide to develop one or if any of these already exist…

It would be great if the publishing community could think more about usability and produce an monograph reading environment that fits with the user, rather than the user having to adapt their habits to what’s now a pretty old format.

Thanks for listening!


P.S. Apparently have already delivered some of my thoughts. Also worth checking out for textbooks.

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