Online Editions of Out-of-Print Books Result from Library/Press Partnership at Univ of Pittsburgh

Late last month, the University of Pittsburgh Press and Library System announced a joint effort to revive 500 titles with online and print-on demand access. I originally found this via a post on the Course materials, Innovation, and Technology in Education (CITE) blog. Since we have been ramping up discussions here in Ohio about ways OhioLINK can be an aggregation point for efforts at the four university press services in Ohio, I was interested to read about this and learn more.

Conversation with Rush Miller


Earlier today, I had a conversation with Rush Miller, library director at the University of Pittsburgh, about the joint effort between the university press and the university library system. Cynthia Miller (press director) and Rush arrived at approximately the same time 15 years ago at the University of Pittsburgh. Over the course of that time, the two have shared many discussions about open access content. A few years ago, they established a model for working together: the press would clear the rights for books (the press generally had the rights to publish in paper, but not digital) while the libraries would digitize the books, mount them on library servers, and do the graphic design work for the online site. With this model, they mounted 15 titles from the press’ Latin American series. The libraries also supplied the Chicago Digital Distribution Center (CDDC) with the digital scans for the Bibliovault print-on-demand service. The library has seven full-time people in the digital services department, plus support from systems analysis and developers from elsewhere in the library.

They had been closely studying the usage and sales data with the trial content and had found that online access didn’t necessarily cannibalize print sales. In fact, one title sold about 100 copies last year while having near zero sales the previous few years. (Adoption for a course is the suspected reason, and the item was probably found because the digital edition was online). Books that have been out of print for 20 years are now getting use as soon as the digital editions are available.

With the initial success, the libraries and press moved forward with digitizing and mounting the 500-title backfile represented by this announcement. This was a significant effort on the part of the press to clear the rights for all of these titles — about a year’s worth of work. The partners are already looking forward to another round of titles to be digitized and mounted online.

From a library director’s perspective, Rush appreciates the backing of the university press in the library’s digital initiatives. The support of the press gives more credibility to the digital initiatives and encourages faculty to participate. The joint effort also closely aligns with the campus’ desire to promote open access publishing. Their goal is to establish a practice where titles in the pipeline now are put up for open access online after a one or two year window in print.

The library is using the DLXS software from the University of Michigan. They are probably the largest user of the DLXS software, to include the University of Michigan. They are looking at migrating the content to Fedora repository in the next year or so. (They are also looking to migrate their EPrints-based ejournal service to Fedora as well.)

They are examining all options for scaling up print-on-demand. (They had previously used Brookhaven Press in Wisconsin for a print-on-demand project of history of Pittsburgh monographs, but found the $50/item price point too high.) They have not yet explored digital delivery to e-book readers (such as the Kindle or Sony Book Reader). The kinds of materials the press produces does not lend themselves to the kinds of digital supplements (such as data sets, image collections, etc).

This library/press collaboration was built over several years even before the digital editions effort. The press routinely donated complete runs of titles to the libraries to be used in exchange programs with foreign libraries to acquire new titles.

The move to digital editions with the press is part of a long-standing goal at the library to move to the digital version of content. In the past year, for instance, the University of Pittsburgh purchased access to over 300,000 electronic books, and this continues a progression of physical to digital formats over the past few years. In the case of the press’ digital editions, the content can be spidered and harvested by search engines. The descriptive metadata is also harvested and combined with the card catalog data and other content in the library’s AquaBrowser discovery layer.

The text was modified to update a link from http://www.upress.pitt.edu/htmlSourceFiles/pressReleases/PittPressDigitalPR.pdf to http://web.archive.org/web/20100626103825/http://www.upress.pitt.edu/htmlSourceFiles/pressReleases/PittPressDigitalPR.pdf on August 22nd, 2013.

The text was modified to update a link from http://cddc.uchicago.edu/ to http://www.press.uchicago.edu/cdc.html on September 26th, 2013.

(This post was updated on 25-Sep-2013.)