Economics and Usage of Digital Libraries: Byting the BulletSkip other details (including permanent urls, DOI, citation information)
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4.1 PEAK in context: Electronic journal publishing and the University of Michigan Library
The scholarly journal has a tradition of purpose and structure dating back several centuries, with little change. Despite the combined effects of price inflation and fluctuations of currency exchange that libraries weathered in the 1970's and 1980's, the basic construct of journals and subscriptions remained stable and, in fact, the journal has continued to flourish in a world of scholarly publishing that is increasingly global and conglomerate. In contrast to this tradition-laden history, the rapid change stimulated by information technologies in the 1990's was remarkable and unprecedented.
Early efforts to harness the potential of digital technology for journals focused primarily on distribution and access. A far more gradual and separate process of re-engineering editorial review and production processes emerged somewhat later. Major publishers undertook an array of projects with heightened activity evident at the dawn of the Web. Efforts such as Springer Verlag's Red Sage project and Elsevier Sciences' TULIP (The University LIcensing Program) initiative broke ground in testing the limits of Internet distribution and catalyzing the development of more robust access systems. TULIP involved nine institutions and addressed a broad set of issues, including both technical and behavioral concerns. The four-year project achieved significant progress, but failed to address issues of economics and pricing for the new electronic media (Elsevier Science, 1996).
In the aftermath of this early experimentation in electronic journal publishing, a number of inter-related issues emerged that stimulated interest in the economic questions surrounding journals and their electronic versions. Nearly every major publisher launched electronic publishing initiatives and, typically, tackled issues of price, product, and market in a manner that extrapolated from print practices. Early pricing models tightly coupled electronic and print subscriptions. Often electronic versions were available as a companion to the print version, at a surcharge of 15% or more. Almost simultaneously, the phenomenon of electronic preprint services emerged. These factors—plus a growing appetite for enhanced journal functionality—have contributed to the heightened interest surrounding pricing and product models for scholarly journals.
The University of Michigan was one of the institutional participants in TULIP, with a joint project team drawing from Engineering, the School of Information and Library Studies (now the School of Information), the Information Technology Division, and the University Library. Michigan was the first site to implement the 43 journals in materials science offered through TULIP and was also the first to move the service to the Web environment. TULIP's outcomes included a far better understanding of the distribution and access issues associated with electronic journals, but also underscored the inadequacy of an experiment offering too few journals to attract users on a regular basis.
The TULIP experience, coupled with an early history of standardized markup language (i.e., SGML) development in the 1980's, provided a unique environment for digital library development and contributed to Michigan's selection as a technology service provider for the Mellon Foundation-funded JSTOR project (Guthrie, this volume, 1997). The unique organizational collaboration begun with TULIP was expanded in 1993 and institutionalized in a campus-wide digital library program that today encompasses a full production service and development capability (Lougee, 1998). Within this new program the TULIP legacy was pursued with an eye toward better understanding the value, price, and product for electronic journals.
In 1996, an agreement was reached with Elsevier Science to launch PEAK in an attempt to address issues left outstanding in the TULIP process. Through PEAK, Michigan hoped to gain a better understanding of large-scale management of electronic journals through the development of production systems and processes to accommodate the large body of content published by Elsevier Science. While this goal was important, PEAK also provided a large-scale testbed in which to explore issues of pricing and product design for electronic journals.