World of Research 2015: a print book in the digital age

Elsevier Analytical Services were proud to recently unveil the World of Research 2015 (if you missed it, you can watch the launch webinar recording or see the presentation). You might wonder what hides behind such a promising title – it’s a beautiful 350 pages hardcover book containing 77 national research performance profiles. The book provides a snapshot of essential research indicators for the most prolific countries or regions in the world, and combines statistics and graphs to analyses and interpretations. The book is available for purchase on Elsevier WebShop.

While it might not be surprising that Elsevier, the largest academic publisher in the world, releases a book, it was actually quite an endeavour for Elsevier Research Intelligence, which has traditionally been focussed on online solutions to answer the pressing challenges researchers and research managers face. And with all the current buzz about the digitisation of publishing, a print-only book might seem like a step backwards amidst currently predominant online transition strategies.

“We wanted to create a physical object that is both useful and beautiful”, said Sarah Huggett, Analytical Services Product Manager. “Our digital reports are usually focussed around a specific country, institution, or topic. In the book we were able to make use of the full breadth of our data to provide a detailed overview of global research per country. Instead of answering the specific questions that our clients have, we were able to offer a more general high-level perspective.”

But why a print book rather than a digital product? “It’s true that we are in the midst of an online and digital revolution. At the same time, there is a market for print, as the WebShop’s successful existence proves. Some of us avid readers can be very attached to the physicality of a book. We pick up a book, and we feel its weight. We open it for the first time, and may hear the binding crackle and smell that unique new book odour. We turn the pages and feel the soft yet thick paper under our fingers. Even looking at a print book is different from looking at a screen, as we get to appreciate not only design, but also the paper’s texture and the vivid peacefulness of printed colours. A lot of us prefer to print material rather than read it on a screen; we know for instance that a large proportion of our customers choose to print our reports.”

It can be argued that a book is reliable: for instance, World of Research provides its readers with highly visual statistics of the world’s top research nations, regardless of whether they have access to the Internet or to a power source. The book can be used to find out information about a particular country’s research performance, thereby providing context when meeting someone from that country, travelling abroad, or collaborating internationally. Left on a coffee table it can be a great conversation starter, giving people plenty of ice-breaking facts to start a discussion.

Even in the digital era print can have some advantages over electronic – long-live the print book!