SUNY Offers Student-Centered Digital Editions

Experiments with electronic publishing platforms and business models are proliferating ever faster these days. Some models are intended to serve the needs of specific fields, while others address the needs of a broad general audience. SUNY Press is now experimenting with a new electronic publishing model to serve a very specific time-and-purpose based market gap. SUNY's new "Direct Text" makes e-book versions of new hardcover scholarly titles available to the course adoption market—bridging the gap between the hardcover and paperback editions.

Powered by the Publishers Row platform, Direct Text editions are available for $20, which allows purchasers 180 days of online access, plus the ability to download and print the PDF during that 6-month period. SUNY chose to make a free preview available through the platform, as well. The model—180 days for $20—is tailored to the needs of a semester-long class. A new hardcover scholarly monograph may cost anywhere from $40-100, which may prevent price-sensitive professors from assigning it to their (even more price-sensitive) students. Direct Text bridges that gap, making valuable scholarly content available for classroom adoption.

While the real test of SUNY's experiment will come at the beginning of the Fall 2008 semester, the first sale was made within hours of the program's soft launch, when the press made 20 titles available for purchase. SUNY expects to offer more than 100 titles by the end of the year.

SUNY has a history of adopting innovative digital models within their tradition of scholarly publication, being the first publisher to launch the co-branded Google Book Search on their web site, allowing full-text search of approximately 4,000 SUNY Press titles. Even now, the Direct Text program is just one of several new initiatives being undertaken by the press. Under the leadership of new director Gary Dunham, previously at the University of Nebraska Press, the press is finalizing the implementation of a customized press-wide database system and launching a new trade imprint, Excelsior Editions, which is set to debut with the Fall 2008 season. Across all their programs, continuing as well as experimental, SUNY Press is taking "Ever Upwards" to heart.

Brenna McLaughlin
Electronic & Strategic Initiatives Director, AAUP