Project MUSE 2014: Engage

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Mark Saunders presenting at MUSE2014

I’m back after a long hiatus and promise to be more diligent about posting. Over the past year and a half, I have been marketing two books –one that I published with Temple University Press entitled Never Easy, Never Pretty: A Fan, A City, A Championship Season and a new edition of a classic, Football in Baltimore that I helped update for the Johns Hopkins University Press.

Book publishing these days is a labor of love and one that I will gladly participate in. Finishing the manuscript is just the beginning. The author needs to be everywhere—investigating all possible pathways to reaching an audience and helping fuel the engines of university press scholarship.

Last week at the Hilton Camden Yards, we had one of our most successful publisher meetings ever under the theme of “Engage.” The venue is great. It even has a conference room named after Babe Ruth. The Sports Legends Museum is located across the street in the old Camden Station where one of the first battles of the Civil War took place. Edgar Allen Poe began his last walk across town from here. An old rail yard and its historical figures encompass many of the subject areas on Project MUSE including history, literature and cultural studies.

When I took the podium, there were more than 100 people in the audience. University press book and journal publishers, society journal publishers, librarians and thought leaders with one thing in common. All of us are trying to make sense of a shifting industry landscape. Consultant Judy Luther talked about “transitioning to transform” and this describes where Project MUSE is today.

Despite the disruptive publishing ecosystem, we have more ideas and services planned for publishers, libraries and scholars than ever before. For the first time in my tenure, we have a clear vision of where we are going and more importantly, how we are going to get there.

We continue to expand access worldwide and drive usage of our content. Usage is up for MUSE Journals, now available in 2,800 institutions. Our eBooks have surpassed 1 million chapter downloads and are available in 27 countries.

We will seize the opportunity to transform.

One of the best presentations of the meeting was given by Mark Saunders, Director of the University of Virginia Press. It was entitled, “Acquisition Anayltics: Or, How I learned to Stop Worrying and Love Project MUSE.” Saunders presented a case study on how the University of Virginia Press is mining usage data from their participation in the UPCC collections and what the early results have shown.

The staff had predicted that one of their books about Thomas Jefferson would be the highest downloaded title. Book publishers for decades have long been without an answer to the question, “Do you know where your readers are?”

They didn’t expect that the highest number of chapter downloads would come from the book, “Ecocritical Theory: New Critical Approaches.” This book was going to be one of the last titles from a dying list that was on the chopping block…until it was “saved by Project MUSE.” Saunders and his staff are digging deeper into the institutions that have downloaded the title and are focused on targeted email marketing to faculty at those schools.

He believes that market intelligence like this is more valuable for long-term planning and strategy than potential lost course book revenue in the short term. Saunders is the first UPCC publisher to embrace the data in this way.

It is also an example of what we are calling “evidence-based innovation” at Project MUSE. We will continue to enhance the platform and make data available for ourselves, our publishers and our libraries to thrive. We have never been a one-sided street and technology will only take us so far. We will need to build and develop together—engaging the full participation of our publishing community.

We are the new platform.

 

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