This monograph is the final product of a journey that began over 12 years ago The University of Michigan already was a pioneer in the development of electronic access to scholarly publications. For example, it was one of a small number of participants in TULIP (The University Licensing Project), an early joint project between Elsevier and university libraries to develop workable systems for electronic distribution and usage. Michigan was also a recipient of one of six large grants in the first round of the NSF Digital Library program, launching he University of Michigan Digital Library (UMDL) project. Towards the end of TULIP, the project leaders from Michigan and Elsevier started meeting with researchers from UMDL to discuss a bold idea: to deploy a full-scale production-quality digital access system to enable usage of content from all of Elsevier's (then about 1200) scholarly journals, and at the same time to conduct a field experiment to answer various questions about the interplay between pricing models and usage.
Over the course of about a year, we put together production and research teams at Michigan, and met multiple times with Elsevier executives to negotiate the licenses and design the project. Elsevier gave us considerable freedom in the design of the pricing experiment, so that we could charge participating institutions different prices, and importantly, different pricing structures (e.g., per article vs. “all-you-can-eat”). We received substantial technical support from the digital library production specialists at the University Library, as well as from the production division at Elsevier. The details of the PEAK production system and experiment are described in chapters 4, 5 and 6 below.
Near the end of the production system trial and field experiment, we decided to convene an international conference of academic librarians, publishers and scholars interested in the usage and economics of emerging digital library systems. This group of about 100 met for two days in Ann Arbor, during which these research papers were presented, with lively discussion throughout. Based on the success of this conference we decided to further develop the papers and publish them as a monograph, the results of which you now have in front of you. Nearly all of the conference speakers agreed to make suggested revisions to include their papers in the volume. We (Lougee and MacKie-Mason) reviewed the papers and provided detailed suggestions for revision. We then had a professional copy and style editor comb through the drafts to seek greater uniformity of tone and style. The authors prepared their revisions and resubmitted the papers.
Due to an unfortunate series of events, this process took far longer than we had planned, and our original agreement to publish the volume as a timely entry in the literature on emerging digital libraries fell through. A second publisher failed to deliver on its commitments after another year of delay. At that time the University of Michigan Scholarly Publishing Office stepped forward to publish this monograph, recognizing its value both as an historical record on the state of digital library development around the turn of the millennium, and also because many of the problems, solutions and conceptual frameworks advanced in these chapters are enduring. Though some of the production and usage facts may seem quaint by now, about eight years after the original drafts of the papers were written, the central issues and observations are still fresh.
Content of the chapters was revised and updated by the authors through about 2004. During the final production process, during 2007-2008, all of the referenced hyperlinks were checked and corrected. Of course, hyperlinks on the web decay at a steady rate, but as of spring 2008 the references are complete and useful.
PEAK was a ground-breaking effort in its day, and references to the project have continued over time. It raised important questions about the potential for highly functional journal content and new economic models of publishing. In today’s context of socially-enabled systems, interactive publishing, and open access publishing, the motivating questions of PEAK remain relevant.