From an article by Joseph Esposito in The Scholarly Kitchen:

Several years ago I conceived of an online catalog for academic books, university press books in particular. I thought this was an original idea, but, man, I could not have been more wrong. I soon learned that among many other proposed projects, an online bookstore had been explored by the American Association of University Presses (AAUP) — but that project foundered on some of the technical limitations of the time. For example, the Web was not yet fully established (try to imagine back that far in time) and the creation and dissemination of metadata was terribly complicated. Now, of course, we have the Web and ONIX and lots of content-management systems.

We now have the way, and the only thing necessary is the will.

Let’s look for the will, as an online service for academic books would be a good thing for scholarship and scholarly publishers.

Here is some background. With the support of the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, I was able to research what it would take to build such a service. You can find the report on that project here at Project Muse. I later discovered that a very similar project had been put together in France, and it has proven to be successful. When I wrote that report, though, e-books were just on the horizon; the report anticipated the emergence of e-books, but focused mostly on print. It did not anticipate the implications of the proprietary standards of the e-book vendors — though it should have — and it certainly did not anticipate the advent of tablet computing and the rise of mobile apps. The underlying concept still holds, however, and that was to architect the system to allow for new features and services in the future. For example, five years ago few people would have made a priority of building commenting systems into an online bookstore, but now, in the age of Facebook and Google Plus, the social dimension of publishing and reading has become more prominent. The technical challenge is to build a platform that can accommodate new features as the need for them arises.


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