When I initially posted here about my desire to spend my time at Online Information fleshing out a story for Computers in Libraries magazine about the current status of journal publishing, I invited people to comment, either here or via email. It was Thanksgiving Day in the States (a day when absolutely no one does anything but eat . . . and watch football), but first thing in the morning there was an email in my box from Elsevier, asking if I would like to set up a couple of interviews. I was not only impressed that they had spotted my blog entry so fast, but with their aggressive enthusiasm, so I immediately agreed. Late today I had my first interview, with a couple more to follow tomorrow. But I must confess what I heard today from the widely acknowledged market leader in journal publishing turned my head . . .
Shira Tabachnikoff, Elsevier’s Director Corporate Relations (left), and Ylann Schemm, Manager, Corporate Relations, met with me in the press room late in the day
I was quite literally enchanted by the things Elsevier representatives Shira Tabachnikoff and her associate Ylann Schemm had to tell me about the new outlook from within the world’s largest journal publisher.
They didn’t talk to me about "articles," or about "peer review" (though noting it was still important), or about any of the other things I might have expected them to say. They didn’t even talk about Open Access, which coming off my discussions with Sage and Hindawi (see posts below) was still fresh on my mind.
They talked instead about mixing content with technology to provide solutions that make sense to the people who need to do research . . . and even beyond the researchers to new audiences.
"We will not stop journal publishing," Shira said at one point, "but we need to look at other ways to reach our communities . . . we can’t just depend on content that users expect to be free . . . we need to add value."
This year has been the turning point, they told me. Elsevier has taken pains to look outside itself. To bring users in. To observe. Study. Understand. It almost sounded to me like an exercise of going back to the drawing board, starting over at square one . . . as if to say, let the past be bygone, let’s figure out what researchers need today. It sounded like the kind of thinking that can result in breakthroughs.
As one sign, perhaps, of the conviction of the enterprise, they observed the company is no longer populated by editors and scientists alone, but also by IT people and Web 2.0 types. And there are various outreach efforts going on to bring outside ideas inside. (You might even win a cash prize.)
It was all very tantalizing.
In my interviews tomorrow I’ll be meeting some of the new product managers.
I can hardly wait to hear what they say . . . and to tell you all about it here. Anything you want me to ask? Comment here.