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Knowledgespeak Exclusive -- An interview with Mr.Simon Dessain, CEO, Ingenta - 08 Jun 2006

Q

Please comment on Ingenta’s performance across your three principal activities namely IngentaConnect, Information Commerce Services (ICS) and Publishers Communications Group (PCG) for the year 2005.

A

The year 2005 saw IngentaConnect cement further its position as a leader in its sector, with over 9,500 research and professional publication titles. Title growth of 14% in the year was achieved, though publisher consolidation has reduced our number of imprints. During the year, the site saw a peak of over 20 million monthly user sessions from around 20,000 institutions spread across 160 countries and at an availability level in excess of 99.99%. In addition over 20,000 further titles are available for searching and delivery through fax pay per view. Also, STM publisher, Springer, revised a long-term contract with Ingenta and increased the number of titles available through our service to over 1,000 in 2005.

Following the establishment of IngentaConnect’s new technology platform (launched in 2004), a rolling program of new services for publishers continued through 2005: an example is Connect Collections. byDesign, a service through which publishers can add the extensive functionality of IngentaConnect to their own websites, was also launched in 2005.

In addition, Ingenta’s Heron service creates online student course packs and is in use by over 45% of all UK Higher Education institutions. Institutions can request digitisation, copyright clearance and course pack distribution services through this service. Article pay-per-view through IngentaConnect and Heron together generate royalty revenues of over £1m per annum for Ingenta’s publishers.

The company is also offering a number of chargeable premium services, which are of direct benefit to users of IngentaConnect. IngentaConnect is continuing to perform strongly as we progress through 2006. Key operational metrics such as usage (24 million sessions supported in May 06) and the number of titles on the service (now over 10,000 e-publications) are showing encouraging increases. In addition we will be making a series of product announcements over the next few months to extend the range and scope of functionality offered in the service.

Also in 2005, the company’s Information Commerce Services (ICS) undertook additional work for Oxford University Press, McGraw Hill and the World Bank and initiated work with UNESCO and the IMF. More importantly, further deliveries were made to our first ICS software client, the Institute of Physics Publishing. The unit has completed its initial delivery, and they move towards production operations, we are working on the next functional release to further extend the software.

PCG continued to expand its reach into the European publisher market, adding sales representation and consortia licensing services. As a result 50% of PCG revenues in 2005 came from providing European services. During the period, the unit also increased its client base substantially by adding 18 new publishers including American Society of Clinical Oncology, Taylor and Francis – an Informa business, Society for Endocrinology, Water Environment Federation and Elsevier. A new service called the Market Segmentation Study was also launched.

PCG has started 2006 with a groundbreaking new program under which it is providing two prestigious international publishers with shared sales and marketing resource in the US and Europe, to be recruited and managed by PCG.


Q

How does the Information Commerce division go about helping publishers in re-packaging their e-content? Can you please quote some recent examples of projects that involved large scale re-packaging of legacy research text collections, databases and backfiles?

A

Print publications face financial pressure as access to information is undertaken in an increasing range of ways. These pressures require publishers to increase their revenues from digital content. Through Ingenta’s Information Commerce Services (ICS) we provide business and professional publishers, as well as our current research oriented publishers, with a solution to this problem.

As with our IngentaConnect operation, the core of our proposition is a set of features enabling publishers to define which kinds of user can access what content and under what licence terms. When combined with Ingenta’s ability to tailor and deliver branded web pages containing the client’s content, or facilities enabling the client to upload and update content within a website, these features are a key part of Ingenta’s competitive advantage and are part of a product family, generally referred to as ICS. ICS also delivers both a faster time to market and an improved return on investment for publishers.

Ingenta’s ICS team developed the functionality and interface design to operate Oxford Scholarship Online (www.oxfordscholarshiponline.com), a cross-searchable library of full text of over 1,000 monographs published by Oxford University Press. OSO features include a new graphics engine to support over 65,000 equations tagged in MathML, interlinking from footnotes and bibliographies to other online resources, and metadata editing tools to give OUP project staff control over the site’s content.


Q

While many e-journal hosting providers choose to outsource digitization function to archiving specialists, Ingenta now has this as an in-house capability. For an e-journal hosting provider, how important and advantageous do you think is this digitization capability?

A

Backfile digitization, with the primary purpose of enabling access to older content, is not the same as archiving, the primary purpose of which is to preserve older content; content digitized by archiving specialists may be limited in its functionality and user-unfriendly in its format, whilst access to it may be restricted to “trigger scenarios”. In helping more than 250 publishers get their content online by undertaking content processing, and by delivering important value added services (for example, watermarking and reference linking), Ingenta has built significant understanding of publisher, library and end user needs. We have achieved huge productivity gains through automation of these activities rather than outsourcing. This gives us an enduring and scaleable competitive advantage, which in turn requires us to continue to show leadership and new ways of undertaking this work. We do outsource some tasks, but automation of content processing activities through software engineering investment is our leading response.

Recent studies show that 90% of scholarly journals are now online, and that the electronic availability of journal back volumes is increasingly a differentiator for libraries making purchasing decisions. Our digitisation services make it significantly easier for our publishers to meet this market requirement; they can outsource all online hosting to us whether they have electronic or paper source material, and they can be sure that the output format will have the functionality which will further distinguish their content for potential purchasers.


Q

Your company seems to have a higher R&D cost component when compared to many of your peers. Can you quote a few recent R&D based applications that have successfully catered to the niche requirements of publishing companies, librarians and information professionals, highlighting your strength on the R&D front?

A

The strength of the software engineering activities across the company is critical to our long term success. This requires substantial R&D investment. A recent example which will prepare us well to harness the opportunities of Web 2.0 was reinforced recently when a key new project, involving the use of RDF (http://www.w3.org/TR/2004/REC-rdf-primer-20040210/), received the “Best Applications Paper” award at the recent Hewlett Packard Jena User Conference. The paper outlined the way in which Ingenta is using this cutting edge technology to create a bibliographic ‘metastore’, which will enable us to provide substantial improvements in interoperability and the services we can provide via IngentaConnect.


Q

What will be the key opportunities and challenges for your company for 2006/07?

A

Success over the next 2 years will require us to continue our track record of technology innovation and deliver wider functionality for our publisher clients and users of the websites. Discipline-based functionality will become the norm – astrophysicists, nurses and historians have widely divergent needs. This will drive user demand for a proliferation of capabilities, often involving third party capabilities in cooperation with our own software and services. This will be a substantial challenge, but one for which we consider Ingenta well placed and which will enable us to remain ‘The home of scholarly research’.


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