Friday, October 15, 2004

A Swimming Pool of Serials

Duke University Press's recent decision to withdraw several of its journals from Project Muse raises several questions of the viability of individual publications, and of group efforts like Project Muse. From Duke's perspective, it would seem that they think they can generate more revenue outside of Project Muse than by staying within it. Of course, they will have to market their journals (individually or collectively), as well as arrange for indexing, delivery, archiving and the like. These are difficulties, but not insurmountable ones. The real question is, in the era of the "big deal," will Duke's offerings, no matter how high their quality, be viable to academic subscribers? Will it be a choice between Duke and Project Muse, given that funds are limited? If so, which one wins?

From Project Muse's perspective, their mission just got a little tougher, in that they lost some of their premium content. So Project Muse is now less valuable in the eyes of the academic subscriber as well.

240,000 8oz. glasses of water will fill the average swimming pool. But you can't swim until you pour them together. The power of the database is in its COMBINED content. Federated searching technology may allow individual titles to be virtually combined ("poured together"), but that dream has yet to be fully realized. Publishers and librarians need only look as far as the major search engines: people use them because of their ability to harvest content from a wide array of sources. Databases help users do that too, sometimes with the bonus of additional focus, selection and distillation. Individual publications, sadly, do not.

[via Resource Shelf and Peter Scott's Library Blog]