Last week I posted a very brief announcement about JSTOR and eBooks. I’ve since been emailed this more thorough press release.
January 11, 2011 – New York, NY – Five of the nation’s leading university presses – Chicago, Minnesota, North Carolina, Princeton, and Yale – are at the forefront of a new effort to publish scholarly books online as part of the non-profit service JSTOR. Their books, representing ground-breaking scholarship across the humanistic, social, and scientific disciplines, are expected to be available in 2012.
“Books at JSTOR” will make front and back list titles available to libraries around the world in flexible ways that encourage purchase, adoption, and use. This new initiative is the result of a year-long investigation into the needs of the publishing, library, and scholarly communities. Consultations with dozens of libraries, end-users, and project partners helped to identify elements of a solution that include overcoming limitations on use and offering flexible purchase models for libraries, while developing a sustainable model for publishers for whom online book publishing must migrate quickly from being ancillary to a fundamental part of their business. Among the instrumental collaborators in this project were several presses beyond those announced here, including California, Harvard, and MIT.
It is, however, authors and scholars that factor most prominently in this new effort. Press partners are being encouraged to join based on the quality of their publishing and the relevancy of their lists to material already part of JSTOR to improve both visibility of authors’ work and ease of use for scholars. The books will be deeply integrated with the 1,600 current and archival journals on JSTOR, as well as the diverse primary sources available today. All the content will be cross-searchable, and the books will be linked with the more than 2 million book reviews and hundreds of thousands of books references in the journal literature. Works written by the same authors or focused on the same topics, regardless of format, will be connected, and alerting services for users will cross publishers, other content providers, and content formats.
Greater than the Sum of the Parts
”’Books at JSTOR’ is terrific shorthand, but it doesn’t tell the whole story,” said Michael Spinella, JSTOR Managing Director. “This is really the next step in a series of efforts to integrate scholarship across formats and media and to establish a platform where librarians, publishers, authors, and users can innovate in the future.”
“We are investing in something with others in our community,” explained Garrett Kiely, Director of The University of Chicago Press which will be adding its books to its complete journal archives and current issues already on JSTOR. “Publishing digital scholarship that includes long- and short-form arguments, supported by multi-media, and usefully integrated with other content is where we need to go to help authors and researchers do their very best work in the future.”
Matching scholarly research and teaching interests with impactful, relevant books for users is also a significant focus. While books are already highly discoverable through Google and Amazon, this is about academic books set in an academic context that should be valuable specifically for research and teaching, whether a faculty member is at an institution in Nebraska or Nepal. Faculty and students at nearly 7,000 institutions and libraries around the world already have access to and use JSTOR, and will now have the opportunity to conveniently read and reference books online directly relevant to their work.
“For a publisher like Princeton,” noted Peter Dougherty, Director of Princeton University Press, “Having our titles cross-searchable with JSTOR’s well-established journal collections will provide us with another valuable means of making our books available in research and other libraries around the world.”
Promise for Digital Scholarship
Longer term, there are exciting possibilities for scholarship as authors embrace technology and the capabilities of the platform. This month as part of the Current Scholarship Program at JSTOR, humanistic scholars are seeing the potential for publishing more compelling and effective work through the integration of text with other media. The Journal of the Society of Architectural Historians, under the catalytic leadership of editors Hilary Ballon and David Brownlee and the stewardship of the University of California Press, has begun publishing papers where images, video, and GIS technologies are integral to the text, enabling readers to engage in new ways and better understand their arguments. The society has also mounted a campaign to encourage submissions of this kind and is working with other societies in the arts to do the same.
“Scholars amass remarkable materials and create valuable resources in the course of their research, much of which cannot be incorporated into the physical or argumentative form of the book,” expressed Doug Armato, Director of The University of Minnesota Press. “This project holds the promise of widely sharing and preserving some of those materials and linking them within a broader context, creating in the process an ebook environment that can take advantage of the kinds of exciting tools and scholarly practices emerging from the digital humanities.”
This opportunity to utilize a variety of media is particularly appealing to publishers like Yale University Press given their substantial focus in the arts as well as the humanities and social sciences. “Being part of this collaboration will enable us to reach the scholarly community in needed ways and contribute to the building of a valuable environment for libraries and users. But just as exciting may be the opportunity to create a new ecosystem for publishing in the arts through the collaboration of many like-minded organizations, including the potential for overcoming difficult rights and technological issues in the future,” said John Donatich, Director of Yale University Press.
Longevity and stability, particularly with new media, is also an important focus of the initiative. “Authors, users, and librarians need to know these books and related work will be available over the very long term,” said Kevin Guthrie, President of ITHAKA, the organization that is home to JSTOR and to the digital preservation service, Portico. “Preservation is fundamental to our mission and a critical part of what we have worked with the scholarly community to achieve since 1995.” All of the books will be preserved in Portico, which already archives more than 66,000 e-books as well as journals and digitized historical collections.
Given the scope of Books at JSTOR, it will be open to all kinds of publishers, whether non-profit or commercial, so long as they share the vision, collaborative spirit, and values of the group. We anticipate others will join soon. Conversations with California, Harvard, and MIT are ongoing, as are discussions with others. Libraries are also expected to be invited to contribute books from their collections in the future.
Kate Torrey, Director of The University of North Carolina Press summarized: “This is a really exciting collaboration. Following extensive research and planning, we now look forward to a launch that brings together distinguished book and journal content and establishes what we believe will be the gold-standard. It’s been a long time coming but with Books at JSTOR, we can finally see the reality of scholarly books coming of digital age.”