University Press E-Aggregators Test the Waters

The coming year will be a step forward in the evolution of e-book distribution, with three university press-only platforms newly launched and another arriving this summer. The four platforms are the first to exclusively aggregate university press e-books and journals.

University presses have long had the option of using e-book aggregators to sell to libraries, but none of the existing platforms were exclusive to university and scholalrly press materials. Exclusivity was a recommendation of the University Press E-Book Consortium, which saw university press aggregators as an opportunity to create more focused, user-friendly portals to high quality scholarship. The Consortium got a boost last March when it joined with Project MUSE Editions, already familiar to librarians and presses. And soon JSTOR, Oxford University Press, and Cambridge University Press leveraged their own e-experience to announce additional platforms.

Three of the four have now launched, and lists of available titles and participating publishers are posted to the projects' websites. Most university presses have signed on (to date, 80 AAUP presses have signed on to at least one). A handful of presses have even joined multiple platforms, hoping to expand their marketability and appeal to libraries.

Flexible access is currently a major theme in scholarly publishing and academic libraries. Moderating the "Selling to Libraries" panel at AAUP 2011 in Baltimore "really opened my eyes to what libraries want—content across platforms," says Fred Nachbaur, Director of Fordham University Press. Fordham partnered with Oxford to pilot the first University Press Scholarship Online (UPSO) portal, and then also joined MUSE's University Press Content Consortium (UPCC). "Libraries want full availability for all titles, access to all aggregators, fluid pricing models, minimal DRM, and simultaneous electronic and print editions," says Nachbaur. "They want the freedom to choose to buy e-books from as many different sources as possible ... libraries will choose the source that best meets their needs."

University Press of Kentucky was another to early multiple-platform-adopter (also UPSO and UPCC). For John Hussey, Director of Marketing and Sales, there's no disadvantage to joining as many platforms as possible. Libraries prefer to have plenty of purchasing options. And because the new aggregators do not require title exclusivity, a press can post a single title on multiple platforms. The only limiting factors are price, administrative time, and any editorial preferences of the platform—Oxford, for example, accepts only scholarly monographs. But generally, a press could post any e-book to any platform, and make a librarian's dream come true.

Given only months of operating time behind UPSO and Cambridge, and weeks for MUSE's UPCC, it's too early to judge successes, but Hussey and Nachbaur both say that they'd like to continue join even more platforms, when possible.

Regan Colestock
Communications Coordinator, AAUP