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Now Books: JSTOR vis-a-vis Project MUSE, Revisited

In October 2009, I wrote a brief post about JSTOR Current Scholarship and suggested that it had obvious implications for Project MUSE. Kevin M. Guthrie, President of ITHAKA, was kind enough to reply to that post and argue that my concerns were unfounded.  Readers can refer back to these discussions.

All I want to say now is that there was once a kind of division of labor between JSTOR and Project MUSE, both not-for-profit initiatives that largely benefitted university presses, scholarly societies, and those scholars who depended on them (and who were lucky enough to be attached to subscription-paying institutions). Both organizations have early Mellon funding in their histories. JSTOR focused initially on journal back files and Project MUSE focused on current journal content.

In 2009, JSTOR announced its plans to move into current journal content.  This move was realized for end users with the new year that has just arrived.  In 2010, Project MUSE announced plans to move with its university press partners into electronic book delivery.  In an announcement circulated in anticipation of a presentation that was to be made (and surely was made) today at the ALA meetings, JSTOR/ITHAKA announced that it was moving on a program to begin publishing books.

As I did in 2009, I have regrets about the way this is shaping up. Is there commentary from Project MUSE folks out there anywhere?

(My anxieties are my own and do not reflect the views of any of the organizations of which I am a member, several of which benefit in significant ways from the success of both JSTOR and Project MUSE.)

UPDATE 1/12/2011: Find Jennifer Howard’s Chronicle of Higher Education story on the launch of multiple e-book programs here: http://chronicle.com/article/University-Presses-Face/125919/ and Steve Kolowich’s Inside Higher Education story on this topic at:  http://www.insidehighered.com/news/2011/01/12/academic_journal_archives_move_toward_integrating_digital_books

3 Comments Post a comment
  1. Bruce Heterick #

    Hi Jason –

    I manage our library relationships for JSTOR. I saw your post and thought I might reach out to you to ask what your “regrets” might be in the way that JSTOR and Muse are expanding the content offerings on their respective platforms. Happy to talk offline, if that is more appropriate.

    Bruce

    January 11, 2011
    • Dear Bruce, Thank you for your query. I appreciate your interest. My concerns center on competition (rather than, my preference, cooperation) (among kindred organizations) in the immediate term and on consolidation in the longer one. I am pro-diversity and I am sure that a response to my anxieties would be to note that seeing Oxford, JSTOR and ProjectMUSE all working to advance books means that three teams (rather than one) will be working hard to innovate and develop useful tools in this domain. I am sure that will be true in the immediate term but I perceive this to be a situation that is moving toward duplication and thus consolidation. I have heard the Ithaka/JSTOR leadership describe a scenario in which the university presses and similar publishers (societies…) are able to compete with the large commercial publishers by joining in a single scaled-up infrastructure that enables them to stand toe to toe with the such publishers. To me, this vision (logical within the terms of the inherited system) decreases diversity and further promotes toll access over open access publishing. I much prefer supporting university presses and projects like JSTOR and ProjectMUSE relative to the for-profit publishers, but my own hope is for a different system that is more rather than less diverse and that is built around standards for technical interoperability and open and community source software tools the empower a distributed group of actors without any single actor or small group of actors being dominant. I favor a larger number of small players rather than a smaller number of large ones. (As with my other commentary on such subjects, none of this should be perceived as the official view of any organizations of which I am a part.) Thanks again for your interest, Jason

      January 11, 2011
  2. Dear Jason: Thanks for your thoughtful remarks and for your invitation to comment. These are exciting times. Similar to Kevin Guthrie’s previous post that you reference above, we have been asked by our community of publishers, libraries, and end-users to include e-book content on the MUSE platform for the last few years. Simply put, we want to do for books what MUSE does for journals by providing the discoverability and dissemination of book length scholarship within an integrated content community. Your concerns about overlapping platforms and duplicate offerings are valid and we find ourselves increasingly in a position to educate our audience about the implications of this, especially since all MUSE publishers with content on multiple platforms have remained with us and continue to provide new content. We are in an “era of discoverability” where many pathways and options are the norm. One thing we know for sure is that we must continue to evolve to meet the demands of the readers of the future. For the last ten years, we have delivered significant results to publishers while providing affordable content to libraries, and we view the changing landscape as an opportunity to continue exploring ways to improve our current offering and to provide better services to the scholarly community. We will always be there for the journals that need a web presence and who are increasingly vulnerable to commercial publishers and we will continue to introduce new initiatives, provide tools for collaboration and engagement, and remain open to experimentation in the ways you suggest.

    January 12, 2011

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