Library Journal / January 28 2011 / Michael Kelley
A number of projects are nearing fruition whose goal is to ensure that scholarly books and university presses are not left behind by the ebook market, and academic librarians are watching the efforts with eagerness and interest.
The University Press E-Book Consortium (UPeC), Oxford's University Press Scholarship Online (UPSO), Books at JSTOR, and Project Muse Editions have all been separately exploring ways to create a new collaborative business model and ebook platform that would better fit the financial and research needs of academic libraries as well as keep struggling scholarly publishers in business, … .
"These efforts to establish a common platform for university presses are of great interest to academic libraries, since our users, students, and faculty, are increasingly expecting ebooks supplied from libraries," Carol Moore, the chief librarian at the University of Toronto and chair of the Reshaping Scholarly Communication Steering Committee of the Association of Research Libraries, told LJAN.
A More Friendly Model For Academic Libraries
The nonprofit University Press eBook Consortium (UPeC) started with a $125,000 grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation in 2009, and it drew inspiration from a 2007 ITHAKA report that delineated the challenges facing all these endeavors.
"We felt the current system is broken, and that if we could build a better system, then libraries would want to purchase our content," Steve Maikowski told LJAN. [snip].
Maikowski reports to Carol A. Mandel, the dean of the division of libraries at New York University and president of ARL's Board of Directors. She said that most models being devised for the market, with their emphasis on proprietary ereaders and heavy digital rights management [DRM], "do not fit the mission or realities of libraries."
Maikowski said that the project's goal was to present an extensive suite of peer-reviewed scholarship (possibly 3000 frontlist titles and 30,000 backlist titles) in a one-stop, multipress platform that would spread the cost for publishers and offer a fair price to libraries.
Moore said that university presses were extremely important to collection development and the dissemination of faculty research, but she said they had to keep pace with the changes in reading devices and in formats, such as ePub.
"For libraries to meet the demands/expectations of our clientele, we need ebook suppliers that offer products in formats that can be integrated with other electronic content and read on computers and mobile devices that our clients are using. Many users also want the ability to print or download reasonable portions of the book," she said.
Some Lessons For Public Libraries?
James G. Neal, VP for Information Services and University Librarian at Columbia University, said he was eagerly watching the development of this and other projects since they can further the commitment to "a rich and robust scholarly communication system" and expand and enrich access to front and backlist scholarly monographs. He also noted potentially wider implications.
At the American Library Association's Midwinter Meeting in San Diego (January 7-11), JSTOR (a division of ITHAKA) announced the nonprofit Books at JSTOR, a project expected to be available in 2012 and which has essentially the same goal as UPeC of "overcoming limitations on use and offering flexible purchase models for libraries, while developing a sustainable model for publishers...," according to a company press release.
University presses from Chicago, Minnesota, North Carolina, Princeton, and Yale already have signed on to the project. The books will be integrated with the 1600 current and archival journals on JSTOR, and the platform also promises to embrace technology that would allow scholars to incorporate a variety of media (e.g., video, GIS technologies) into their work.
Casper Grathwohl, VP, digital publisher, at Oxford, sees a similar potential. "UPSO is really about unlocking the power of the academic monograph.... I believe it will make a significant contribution to the development of the monograph in its next phase of life," he said in a press release.
UPSO is launching a pilot program in March with Fordham University Press and, like UPeC, is targeting a full launch in the fall.
Digital preservation is a key consideration for libraries.
"Research libraries, such as University of Toronto, also require the ability to preserve the ebook content over time," Moore said. She urged suppliers to "to produce content using open standards that can be migrated to new technical formats in the future."