Changing information technologies: Research challenges in the economics of information

Changing information technologies: Research challenges in the economics of information

tion retrieval and use. With the 1964 Cranfield Conference as the base, she explores, with noteworthy synthesis and insight, the issues of behavior, m...

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tion retrieval and use. With the 1964 Cranfield Conference as the base, she explores, with noteworthy synthesis and insight, the issues of behavior, measurement, and terminology across three decades of research. Three chapters (“Information Retrieval Techniques,” by Paul B. Kantor of Rutgers; “Digital Image Representation and Access,” by Javed Mostafa of Indiana; and “Database Access Systems,” by Prudence W. Dalrymple of the American Library Association and Nancy K. Roderer of Yale) explore digital library developments and a wide range of searching, storage, and user interface issues. Kantor’s presentation may stretch readers without a background in query structures and algorithms, but his provocative thoughts on direct user involvement, system evaluation, and human scanning, for example, make this analysis invaluable. Mostafa’s review of imaging technology, including formats, data structures, modeling, indexing, user interface design, distribution, efficiency, and quality, represents an essential primer. Dalrymple and Roderer explore the rapid expansion of database formats and access channels and provide important commentary on such topics as the management, economics, and assessment of database searching activity. Four papers cover general areas: “Health Informatics,” by Jennifer MacDougall (Ireland, consultant) and J. Michael Brittain (South Australia); “Online Catalogs: Enhancements and Developments,” by Ann O’Brien (Loughborough); “Managing Information Systems in State and Local Government,” by Patricia D. Fletcher and Deborah Otis Foy (Maryland-Baltimore County); and “Information Technology in Education,” by Dianne Rothenberg (Illinois). Each chapter focuses on how information technology is transforming an industry or field of inquiry with helpful historical and global perspectives. The national debates on health care, electronic access to government information, and educational reform make these reviews particularly timely. The final section discusses “LIS Professionals as Knowledge Engineers” and was written by Alan Poulter and Anne Morris (Loughborough) and Julie Dow (South Australia). It is a discussion of expert systems and the expanding participation of library and information science professionals in the areas of knowledge acquisition, knowledge representation, tools, user interface design, and prototype assessment. The 1994 Annual Review of Information Science and Technology commands the attention of professionals and researchers across librarianship and information science. There is no comparable compilation of such consistently high quality. The articles do not just draw together the relevant literature, but, in many cases, also establish new models and frameworks for analyzing important developments and trends. The topical bibliographies and the excellent access provided by the indexes to the current and retrospective volumes add significantly to the publication’s utility. The editor deserves special applause for making this series so responsive to current professional priorities and interests.-James G. Neal, University Libraries, Indiana University, Bloomington, IN 47405. Changing Information Technologies: Research Challenges in the Economics of Information, edited by Mary Feeney and Maureen Grieves. London: Bowker-Saur, 1994. 336~. $45.00 (plus $4.75 for shipping & handling, and appropiate state sales tax). ISBN l-85739-069-5. This book contains 17 papers of variable quality and subject matter from the Third International Information Research Conference held in Meudon, France in July 1993. The papers are


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divided into four groups: the economic implications of information technology, measures of the economics of information, changes in the political and legal context, and papers submitted but not delivered at the conference. Thirteen papers are in English and four are in French, and each paper has a summary in the other language. There is little description of the backgrounds of the presenters or how they were selected, but a number of papers are by people well known in European library circles. Perhaps one of the biggest drawbacks of the book is a lack of focus linking the papers. Papers do not refer to each other, there is no indication of discussion, and often papers in one section would have fit better in another section. The first section begins with a general overview by Michael Hill, retired from the British Library, in which he points out that the nature of information is poorly understood, especially by economists, and that clearly information products and services have transformed society. William Martin discusses Ireland’s attempts to attract information technology jobs, Vijai Singh and William Haller talk about internationalization of corporations based on their ability to coordinate workers in other countries, and Alain Bompard discusses how information technologies affect matrix-structured organizations. The section on economic impacts of information technologies ends with a paper by Ian Hunter of Gateshead Libraries indicating how public libraries can get involved in desktop publishing. These papers show no continuity, common focus, or even level of aggregation. A better attempt at continuity comes in the next section when the keynote presentation by Jose-Marie Griffiths lays out the scheme she and Donald King have developed to measure costs and benefits of aspects of the information life cycle. The next paper by Michel Menou discusses efforts by international funding agencies to encourage measurement of funded activity impacts on national development. Yet, in the same section, Jean-Louis Coiujard and Yvette Salatin attempt to characterize the relationship of specialist information with competitive advantage. Another paper by Michael Heine goes through the exercise of analyzing the terms used by economists and the relevance of economics to information services. The third section on changes in the political and legal context begins with a paper by Michael Lesk of Bellcore indicating how technological solutions to document access can discourage free copying of entire documents and why these techniques will be necessary before publishers will feel that their property interests are preserved in digital libraries. John Mackenzie Owen, in one of the most insightful papers of the conference, argues that there will have to be a meeting of the minds between free-access librarians and royalty-hungry publishers before any transition can be made to electronic libraries. Martine Barre discusses the role of copyright in databases. A paper by Peter Harvard-Williams and Richard Neil1 from Botswana describes their involvement in helping their university calculate the costs and outputs of university education. In the papers not presented the most interesting one is by the economist Donald Lamberton where he continues a series of articles commenting on efforts within economics to deal with the infrastructure and organizational transformation aspects of investments. The final paper, by M. Adisa Tiamiyu and W. Olabode Aiyepeku of Nigeria, discusses tradeoffs, benefits, and sustainability of investments (often by international agencies) in information education. As reviewer, I come away with a very clear message. If this book represents the cream of information economics work, then

the cream is sour. Except for the Griffiths and Menou contributions, there is no evidence of any continuity in information economics research. As many authors point out, the failure to delimit exactly what types of information are to be discussed leads to a lack of focus and relevance. A number of papers show that society can wait and is moving ahead with information technology investments that cannot be justified. No one at the conference referred to the productivity paradox debate where economists are arguing that there has been no payoff from all the money invested in information technology. Publishers and librarians continue to resist transformation of their institutions because of essential ignorance about economic impacts. While the book shows very little interaction with economists, it appears that the economists still have as imperfect an understanding of information issues as they have had in the past. I recently taught a course on the economics of information, and I would not have used more than two or three of the articles from this book. Until a critical mass of researchers emerge who move the debate about information economics beyond anecdotes, terminological discussions, and critiques, society and the information/library sector will continue to hurt due to inadequate understanding of what is really happening economically within their sector.-Thomas H. Martin, School of Information Studies, Syracuse University, Center for Science & Technology 4-206, Syracuse, NY 13244-2340. Filling the Pipeline and Paying the Piper. Proceedings of the Fourth Symposium, edited by Anne Okerson. Washington, D.C.: Association for Research Libraries, 1995. 272~. $27.00. ISBN O-918006-25l.(Scholarly Publishing on the Electronic Networks). These proceedings represent the fourth electronic publishing symposium sponsored by the Association for Research Libraries (ARL) in collaboration with the Association of American University Presses (AAUP). There are 27 individual papers in the collection. A section, “Lagniappes,” containing information on an ARL project called Project Scan is followed by an electronic survey of current projects of AAUP members, the program for the fourth symposium, and the names of registrants for the conference. Many of the papers present demonstration projects, issues in cost recovery, and discussions of fair use. Some unevenness in quality of work is expected in such a large collection. For example, the paper by author Lewis Perelman is not really a paper, but an” opening conversation” (transcribed from tape). In his rambling conversation, he argues that the private sector will offer mechanisms for improving the quality of education in the future and that geographically-fixed institutions, such as colleges, will be supplanted. Other papers focus on process-how a project emerges, evolves, and what issues are encountered along the way. Deborah Everhart and Martin Irvine discuss Labyrinth, a World Wide Web (WWW) disciplinary server for medieval studies. They spend considerable space discussing how the WWW works and the advantages of its use; this is not particularly new information for people actively involved in electronic publishing. While there is some interesting discussion about potential cost recovery and copyright concerns, the section is brief. Some contributions attempt to address broad issues. In “Scholarly Publishing in the Information Economy,” Sandra Braman offers a comparative analysis of three dominant conceptualizations of the information economy and compares that

economy to an “enriched version” created by network economics. The paper, one of the longer in the collection and a particularly good one, also applies different models to scholarly publishing. Overall, the quality of the proceedings is good. Because the symposium attracts publishers, librarians, and academics who are deeply involved with scholarly publishing, many of the papers discuss issues on a higher level of discourse than we currently see in many journal articles. Furthermore, it is a positive sign that publishers and libraries are showing signs of working together to reach workable solutions. Perhaps one of the most important contributions made by these proceedings is the documentation of the historical evolution of scholarly publishing as it attempts to redefine itself in the electronic environment. These proceedings and the series should certainly be part of academic libraries with collections in library, information, or communication science. And, given the interest in electronic publishing by academics outside these disciplines, the work has even a broader appeal.-Robin Peek, Graduate School of Library and Information Science, Simmons College, 300 The Fenway, Boston, MA 02115. Future Libraries: Dreams, Madness & Reality, by Walt Crawford and Michael Gorman. Chicago: American Library Association, 1995. 208~. $25.00 (pbk); $22.50 (ALA members). ISBN o-8389-0647-8. Get this book. Read it. Get copies for your board, your administration, and all the other stakeholders in your library. Today’s trendy enthusiasm for “virtual libraries” is wildly overblown, much to the disadvantage of those who must actually run libraries for real users, both today and for as many years in the future as the budget horizon allows. Trustees and administrators read the popular press and begin to believe that there will be no need for new library buildings, since soon the book will be dead and everything will be electronic; no need for librarians either, since everyone will have access to everything “essentially free.” Crawford and Gorman take a searching look at this, and reveal, not a naked emperor, but an elaborate and colorful set of clothing covering no emperor at all. In the words of Gertrude Stein, there is no there there. “Virtual libraries,” in which everything is digitally accessible from anywhere, are: (1) technically infeasible in the foreseeable future, (2) significantly more expensive than present mechanisms, and (3) socially undesirable. And, the authors are no technological Luddites; they are as well qualified as anyone to know what is, and what is not plausible in the electronic library. The chapters cover: “Credo” (which defends the idea of a library), “The Life of Print” (books are not dead, not even vaguely ill); “The Madness of Technolust” (new is new, but not always better, often worse); “Electronic Publishing and Distribution” (yes, some things should be e-published); “Coping with Electronic Information” (surfing, swimming, and drowning in data); “Deconstructing Dreams of the All Electronic Future” (dreams? no, nightmares); “Enemies of the Library (in some unlikely places, such as library schools); “The Diversity of Libraries (“to the amazement of technophiles, one size does not fit all”); “Economics of Collection and Access” (what real libraries do with their real money); “Survival Guide to the Serials Crisis” (there is an easy way. Stop giving it away); “Future Libraries: Beyond the Walls” (libraries can improve, while remaining real); and “Successful