NetGalley and University Presses

When NetGalley launched in 2008, its founding vision was to replace the inefficiencies and expense of print galleys with secure digital versions. But "along the way something interesting has occurred," notes President Susan Ruszala. "NetGalley has evolved into a key early discovery and recommendation platform for new books." The company has begun encouraging user-initiated discovery, for example through a redesigned "Browse Publisher" section that displays all of a given publisher’s titles together (see Columbia University Press’s here).

The University of Illinois Press was one of NetGalley’s early adopters, and over the past four or five years Marketing Manager Michael Roux has watched the number of users flourish. "It’s been a good service to use and grow with," Roux attests, noting that the press has gotten two important media pickups recently through the platform—exactly the kind of user-driven discovery described by Ruszala. Daily Kos reviewed Hillary Clinton in the News: Gender and Authenticity in American Politics; two more Illinois titles were featured online by the Atlantic. In all cases, the reviewing publications found the titles of their own accord, without any intervention from Illinois. "We didn’t know the reviews were coming until they appeared," said Roux. "To me that indicates that NetGalley has a utility beyond our [directly] pushing books out to people."

Roux particularly appreciates NetGalley’s new take on the service’s "Read Now" feature. "Read Now" allows users to immediately download a galley, rather having to wait for publisher approval and possibly forgetting their find or turning up others of interest in the interim. The feature has always been an option for publishers, but of late NetGalley has begun featuring a "Read Now" pool of titles all in one place. This opens up space for a serendipitous find by a reviewer, bookseller, or librarian who is just casually browsing.

Ruszala also notes the data now available to publishers who make use of the digital galley service: "we’re seeing publishers utilize reporting in new ways every day, for example by inviting members who requested a previous title to review a new title."

AAUP has always coordinated a number of partner programs with various publisher services for the cooperative benefit to member presses. Currently NetGalley is one of the more popular partners, working with more than 20 university presses to connect with media, booksellers, scholars, librarians, and reviewers. The organization is eager to work with university presses and scholarly publishers, as demonstrated by its support of University Press Week, during which NetGalley ran special offers for AAUP members, and of the ALA Best of the Best program for the University Press Books bibliography, for which NetGalley promoted galleys of the featured titles.

But UIP isn’t completely giving up on print galleys anytime soon. One of the most popular discussions on AAUP listservs concerns print versus digital catalogs, with most presses averring a balance of each; Roux has come to a similar conclusion about the utility of print versus digital galleys. For some established outlets, print is the modus operandi, but for other media, "e" is likely easier. Including, for example international reviewers. "The majority [of our users] are people we wouldn’t normally reach with a [print] galley. And the majority won’t turn into anything, but it’s inexpensive," he notes.

Regan Colestock
Communications Strategist, AAUP