Thursday, 1 July 2010

CILIP Update: Elspeth Hyams responds

Yesterday, the last day of the CILIP conversation, I posted some thoughts about the online version of Update, CILIP's monthly professional magazine.  This morning I received an email from Elspeth Hyams, editor of Update, asking if I would consider posting the following text, and I am happy to do so.
It is always good to receive comment on Update's content and the delivery channels we are using to deliver it to members. We introduced a digital edition to complement the hard-copy magazine in October 2008. It was a first step. This year we have added web-only issues with video and audio content (impossible in print). We’ve also built up a two-year digital archive. And we are publishing more frequently, despite having to cut our costs significantly.

Update's digital edition enables us to keep publishing despite the recession. The web-only issues significantly reduce our print and distribution costs. You personally may prefer a digital issue, but many of our readers do not. They say they already spend so much of their time at computer screens. That is why we have introduced the option for members and subscribers to download a PDF copy. Those who prefer can read the magazine at their leisure.

Update's turn-the-page digital offering is a format publishers worldwide are using. It offers the opportunity to develop apps that allow download to iPhones, iPads and other mobile devices, so we are in good company.

We are also investigating how we can launch an app as we respond to members’ requests for access via mobile devices. However, as with all such developments, cost is an issue. In our current economic circumstances we need to be sure any such development delivers real value and is not just 'nice to have.'

Of course, cost efficiency is a key driver for CILIP at present, and developing database-driven online information services is frighteningly expensive. The Guardian website, for example, may be a dream to use but it has cost a fortune. CILIP just does not have the resources to match this type of service, but it is using one of the UK's leading developers for its digital offerings and they are being enhanced all the time. Just look at the difference between the new web-only digital issues (lots of links to facilitate navigation, video and audio content) and the archive copies (a simple facsimile of the original print edition).

We have a strong and dedicated readership for the hard copy magazine and are building up a significant readership for our new web-only issues too, which have been well received, and praised by some members. They especially appreciate the quality content we provide. Where we can, we have taken their views into account and made many changes to the initial offering. It is not perfect, but every issue is better than the last.

Taking into account the options available, and our current cost constraints, we believe we are on the right track. We do hope that if you read the content, you will find it of increasing value to you - whatever the delivery platform.

By the way, who are you? Shouldn't you have the courage of your convictions and identify yourself? We do!

Elspeth Hyams, Editor, Library and Information Update
I'm keeping myself anonymous on this blog for the time being as I'm new to blogging (those coming in fresh from elsewhere might not know that I've taken this up as part of Cam23) and I'd rather make my mistakes without my name all over them for the time being.  If you would like to know who I am, you can always email me at maedchenimmond at gmail dot com.


  1. That was nearly a well-balanced and calm response from CILIP - until the last sentence. It seems to me that, both here and in the query answers you highlighted in your original post on Update, CILIP have forgotten that readers are usually unable to distinguish a tone of voice in a written reply. I'm fairly certain that they don't *mean* to come across as confrontational, patronising, or dismissive, but they have failed to appreciate the potential for [mis]reading a reply in a way in which it wasn't entirely meant...

  2. I frankly cannot believe that a complicated Flash-based system is in any way a cost-driven solution. Why not use something based around a CMS and plain HTML? I'm sure ipads and iphones and all the rest of them can handle web pages already through an app called a browser, and more quickly.

    Just because "publishers worldwide are using" it doesn't mean it's good. Most people use Windows computers and then spend more to patch them up with virus software (I'm honking because I use Ubuntu btw); it doesn't mean Windows is any better. I would, however, say web publishing took off precisely because of the beautiful open simplicity of HTML (which is also a format publishers worldwide are using in vast numbers).

    And to my mind, if a web technology requires explanation and an FAQ just to read it, then it's pointless using it.

  3. Orangeaurochs - I agree absolutely. I understand that HTML can also already cope with features including 'lots of links to facilitate navigation, video and audio content'...

  4. What a disappointing response. Your initial post was well-thought out and constructive, I thought, pointing out quite legitimate flaws in the system. What a shame the editor appears to have missed your main point.

    Having looked into emag options before I appreciate that it's really difficult to get a good one and CILIP's is about as good as I've seen. There are, as Elspeth says, lots of advantages to this as a format, but it simply cannot be used on its own.

    It's not a difficult problem to solve and it doesn't require additional programming. Why not have a screen-readable pdf that can be downloaded without going into the flash magazine? OR, even better I think, have the articles available through an RSS feed? It can still be behind the site's password protection.

    Flash is excluding me (as another Ubuntu user) as well as all the people that rely on accessible formats on the web.

  5. Just deleted a long rant about cilip (summarised thus: expensive, spineless,dated, crap) as I think this is most likely not the right place. But think that last paragraph is absolutely outrageous.
    So will ask what I really want to know: what is problem with flash in Ubuntu? I Have 10.04 installed, flash running fine. Tried free emagzazine - not update - which worked fine. (Obviously not a member of cilip - went to the page for update from your link & they told me I had to register to access update, duly did so and then the bastards said I need to subscribe for access to update. I felt cheated,like a dupe and trapped, but then I remembered I'd registered with one of my fictitious names.
    But back to flash I've yet to have any problems with it since upgrade to lucid. Or any other version actually.
    Gosh looks like there's at least 3 of us on Ubuntu shall we form a clique? You know like the Pink Ladies in Grease, we could get some matching cardigans and A-line skirts, sensible shoes and excitedly tweet each other about Moz's Ubuntu sticker on his monitor in the IT Crowd.
    Have I gone too far ...?

  6. Esclib - now I think about it, it might not be the 'latest' Ubuntu at all - I think we're on karmic at home, and you can only get Flash to work using the keyboard shortcuts (tab-tab-tab-tab, bother, missed it! tab-tab-tab-tab-tab) or by holding down the right mouse button all the time you're trying to us it. Not completely broken, but not ideal, either!

    Must say that I'm not really qualified to belong to an Ubuntu clique, as I've only met it recently, and only because we've got a housesahre shared computer which serves as a server, which runs linux.

  7. I'm on Dell's tweaked version of hardy heron (8.04) and flash didn't work when I got it, one of the upgrades fixed that, then another broke it recently. I really need to upgrade to a newer version of Ubuntu altogether but am afraid to do it until my current assignments are done. I think later versions might be better?

  8. @esclib A clique sounds an excellent idea, although I'm a bit short on pink skirts. Maybe my wife could lend me some. I have sensible shoes though. And a tnetennba.

    @Niamh I put 9.04 I think onto my wife's Dell Mini 9 and it worked signficantly better than the Dell tweaked version.