March 28, 2011

New venture to put 30,000 scholarly books online

Project MUSE, the highly successful online journals collection managed by the Johns Hopkins University Press, recently announced a partnership with the University Press e-book Consortium to create an extensive online collection of scholarly book content.

The result of this merger, to be called the University Press Content Consortium, will launch Jan. 1, 2012, and initially will allow as many as 30,000 e-books—both new and backlisted titles—from an anticipated 60 to 70 university and nonprofit scholarly presses to be searched and used in an integrated environment with content from the nearly 500 journals currently on MUSE.

Project MUSE will host the book collections, available at discounted prices for academic institutions and libraries.

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

Established in 1995, Project MUSE is a leading provider of digital humanities and social science periodicals content. Its electronic journal collections have supported a wide array of research needs at academic, public and school libraries worldwide. MUSE is the sole source of complete, full-text versions of journal titles from many of the world’s leading university presses and scholarly societies, with more than 100 publishers currently participating.

Dean Smith, director of Project MUSE, said that this new partnership has “enormous potential” for scholarly publishers and allows for the complete reinvention of Project MUSE.

“Our user community will benefit greatly from the integrated research opportunities presented by putting university press book content alongside journal collections,” Smith said. “Publishers and authors will see their books exposed to MUSE’s installed base of several million scholars, researchers and students across the globe. This represents the widest dissemination of this content to date at very affordable prices for users.”

The University Press e-book Consortium emerged in 2009 to explore the feasibility of a university press–based e-book initiative. The consortium, supported by grants from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, is led by representatives of some of the nation’s largest university presses: New York University Press, Temple University Press, Rutgers University Press, University of Pennsylvania Press and University of Nebraska Press.

Representatives of UPeC worked closely with librarians over the past two years to develop a scholarly e-book model that benefits both libraries and presses. The consortium late last year launched an RFP process to find a business partner that could serve as an online content provider. Project MUSE was one of five finalists selected.

“The creation of UPCC signals a new era of interuniversity 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.”

This new initiative will supplant MUSE’s previously announced Project MUSE Editions e-book program, similar in intent but more modest in scale. MUSE Editions would have hosted e-books from Johns Hopkins University Press and another half-dozen university presses.

Books in the University Press Content Consortium collections will be fully integrated on the MUSE platform. Institutions will pay an annual tier-structured fee, based on the size of the host institution, to access the material.

Users will be able to search across combined book and journal content, or limit searches by subject type.

The peer-reviewed e-books will be in PDF format and searchable and retrievable to the chapter level. Each e-book will be released simultaneously with the print version.

A beta platform, including sample book content and a new integrated search interface, will launch this summer. The beta will run in parallel to the current MUSE site, for review and feedback, until the full launch of the UPCC collections in January.

For more information on Project MUSE, go to