Tuesday, September 07, 2010

Scholarly E-books on the Way

The Chronicle of Higher Education has an article at page A12 of its print issue for September 10, online if you have a subscription. "Publishers Join forces to Sell E-Books to Libraries," by Jennifer Howard, surveys several efforts by publishers to either set up consortia or otherwise get digital versions of scholarly monographs to academic libraries. She speaks with Garret Kiely, director of the university of Chicago Press, who is watching several efforts, but whose press already markets e-books. Kiely says that 80% of Univ. Chicago Press' e-book sales came from sales to consumers through e-tailers like Amazon.com, while only 20% of their e-books sold to libraries. Nevertheless, he and others of the university press publishers are pushing hard to develop a way to package their books in a digital format that will appeal to academic libraries. Here is the run-down of who is working on these projects, though I recommend reading the whole article:

* Project MUSE - currently produces e-journals, and wants to move into MUSE Editions to provide scholarly monographs. This is a consortium of 110 midsize university presses. Scheduled to debut July 1, 2011 on an "integrated platform" that should allow users to access journals and monographs in the same search result. They expect to offer "between 250 - 500 titles from the fall, 2011 lists of a pilot group of presses." Muse hopes to add backlist titles soon afterward, but not textbooks. In the future, participating publishers would make the digital version of a monograph available simultaneously with the print version. The cost structure would be similar to the current Project Muse, with discounted, tiered pricing. Eventually, Muse Editions could include "any nonprofit scholarly publisher in the humanities and social sciences..." who wants to join. Sadly for law libraries, this still excludes our largest publishers, unless we can convince our leading scholars to follow the new science model and create a nonprofit venue in which to publish their scholarship.

* JSTOR - Also currently producing an e-journal database. Wants to move into providing scholarly monographs working with a group of ivy and large university presses, "If we together can come up with a compelling service and business model..." This group is sponsored by Ithaka, a non-profit formed to assist academic organizations to use new technology to "to preserve the scholarly record and to advance research and teaching in sustainable ways." They are not yet firmly committed to producing a salable forum for e-books themselves.

* Un-named proto-consortium - A group of university presses which have received two grants from Andrew W. Mellon Foundation are studying what libraries want in e-book packages from university presses. Alex Holzman, director of Temple University Press, in a presentation at the Association of American University Presses annual meeting last June, told the audience that his group used a large grant from the Mellon foundation to hire consultants to study business models and survey academic librarians about the e-book options they want. Then, they will use a smaller grant from the same foundation to develop a business plan, finalize the features to offer, and create a Request for Proposals from potential partners. According to the Chronicle, they have interest from more than 50 university presses.

No comments: