The Digital Digest Plugs In

The AAUP business models report released in March, "Sustaining Scholarly Publishing," emphasizes the importance of experimentation and collaboration in today's publishing environment. The report concludes with a set of recommendations for university presses; first among them is to create "central conduits" for sharing information about experimental projects, so that more can be learned from successes (and failures).

This is exactly what the Electronic Committee has created in the form of the Digital Digest blog, which has been up and running for about a year at http://aaupdigitaldigest.wordpress.com. The purpose of the blog is to remind members of relevant resources available through AAUP; to highlight relevant discussions happening online and off, in one central place; and to publish a monthly series of postings on university press digital publishing. "Coordinating and communicating is really the goal of the committee's overall effort and that translates into our work on the blog," says Laura Cerruti, chair of the Electronic Committee.

The blog's two most recent posts cover innovative digital projects: the Scholarship Online projects at Oxford, covered by Oxford's Lenny Allen in April and the Orange Grove Texts project in March by Meredith Babb at Florida.

An underlying theme of the recent series of posts is scholarship's central goal of accessibility. In his post, Allen focuses on the goal of scholarship to reach as many people as possible. Oxford Scholarship Online, currently expanding into University Press Scholarship Online, makes deliberate use of the more dynamic features of XML to further that goal. By using XML for precise text-tagging, users can perform better-targeted searches of the expanding library of OSO/UPSO materials. Better XML equals better access. "We need only look to the latest generation of discoverability services," Allen writes, "for evidence of the absolute importance of feature-rich metadata."

While Allen considers discoverability of digital monographs, Meredith Babb looks at the closely related subject of access, through the lens of Orange Grove, Florida's digital repository. The demand for affordable textbooks has grown across the country, to the degree that legislators have considered stepping in on behalf of students. The University Press of Florida has recognized this demand as an opportunity to experiment with open access, both to generate revenue and—like OSO/UPSO—better disseminate quality scholarly publishing. A new branch of Orange Grove has been labeled "Orange Grove Texts Plus" (or OGT+) and provides free access to a growing number of online texts plus the option to order a printed, bound copy for a fraction of the cost of a typical textbook.

Future topics brainstormed for the Digital Digest include ePub, the future of the (digital) humanities, professional development, and digital asset management, among others. A major goal of the blog is to continue to bring different voices into the forum; to that end, the Electronic Committee has reached out to other AAUP committees to write on overlapping topics. "The challenge, of course, is that everyone is busy!" says Cerruti. "But I hope our effort will prove to be successful and that the blog will start to have a life of its own in the coming years."