NYU Press Leads New University Press E-Book Initiative

Two major university press e-book initiatives—Project MUSE Editions (PME) and the University Press e-book Consortium (UPeC)—have joined forces. The result of this merger—the University Press Content Consortium (UPCC)—will launch January 1, 2012.

“This is a great moment,” said Kathleen Keane, director of the Johns Hopkins University Press, home of Project MUSE. “By bringing these two initiatives together, we have taken a major step forward to ensure the ongoing viability of university presses.”

The partnership allows e-books from an anticipated 60-70 university presses and non-profit scholarly presses—representing as many as 30,000 frontlist and backlist titles—to be discovered and searched in an integrated environment with content from nearly 500 journals currently on MUSE.

“Our user community will benefit greatly from the integrated research opportunities presented by putting university press book content alongside journal collections,” said Dean Smith, director of Project MUSE. “Publishers and authors will see their books exposed to MUSE’s installed base of several million scholars, researchers, and students across the globe.”

“The University Press Content Consortium will be the online destination for peer-reviewed university press scholarship,” said Steve Maikowski, director of the New York University Press and one of the press directors spearheading UPeC. “The efficiencies and cost savings resulting from this collaboration will bring far more revenue to participating presses than current third-party models,” he said. “Because both initiatives are university-press based, there is a strong mission alliance.”

The merger is part of a multimillion-dollar commitment to the ongoing growth and expansion of Project MUSE, according to director Dean Smith. “By leveraging the MUSE brand and investing in technology that ensures the program’s future performance, we can grow at a rapid pace while continuing our 15-year tradition of providing quality scholarly content at a fair price.”

Representatives of UPeC and PME worked closely with librarians over the past two years to develop a scholarly e-book model that benefits both libraries and presses. Incorporating extensive research and feasibility analysis from both groups, the UPCC Collections will be sold by MUSE in comprehensive and subject-based collections, with minimal digital rights management.

“Members of the academic library community appreciate that these two groups sought our input before developing their product offerings,” said Charles B. Lowry, executive director of the Association of Research Libraries (ARL). “We have been saying for some time that we would prefer to see university press e-book content not proliferated across multiple platforms creating undue complexity and duplicative cost. I feel sure that librarians nationwide will be excited about this convergence, which is a huge step in the right direction.”

“ARL has expressed to our community the desire of academic librarians for better collaboration in the distribution of university press e-book collections,” said Richard Brown, director of Georgetown University Press and current president of the Association of American University Presses. “I am delighted that these two groups took the concerns of the library community so seriously.”

Research on the feasibility of a university press–based scholarly e-book initiative was commissioned by the UPeC directors in 2009 with grants from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation. Working from the outset with two groups of highly experienced consultants—Informed Strategies, which surveyed the needs of the library community, along with Chain Bridge Group, which developed and tested the business model—UPeC began its search for a business partner three months ago. While a number of potential partners offered exciting opportunities, JHUP’s success in balancing the interests of publishers and librarians informed UPeC’s selection of MUSE, according to Maikowski.

Content integration, collaboration, and sustainability have emerged as watchwords from this new alliance.

“The creation of UPCC signals a new era of inter-university press collaboration,” said Alex Holzman, director of Temple University Press and one of the founding directors of UPeC. “In these challenging times, presses need to acknowledge one of their key strengths—excellent scholarship—and work together to be able to disseminate this scholarship as widely as possible.”

Keane agrees. “This is a significant and transformative moment in the world of scholarly publishing,” she said. “It bodes well for the future of university presses.”

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