The Exact Editions platform is now working with book publishers to license collections of books as digital resources for universities, colleges, schools and other institutional libraries. Carcanet has been one of the leading English language publishers of this generation and the Carcanet Collection has just been launched as an annual subscription resource. The collection starts with 70 titles and will grow to over 100 in the course of 2017. Institutions that subscribe will have multi-user, site wide access to all the books, with new titles joining the collection as they are published during the year. Each month there will be a few titles from the Collection available for open and free reading throughout the month, and many of the new titles will be show-cased in this way.
Carcanet’s books meet the highest standards of typography and design, so they are well suited to the Exact Editions platform which:
(1) shows books exactly as they are printed
(2) ensures that each book and the collection as a whole is searchable
(4) runs across all the major computing platforms: web browsers and apps for mobile and tablet devices.
These were all compelling reasons for launching books for institutions on the Exact Editions platform, but we have also made the decision to offer the books for annual subscriptions as Collections, and it is worth looking at some of our reasons for this choice:
(1) it seems that digital editions, when considered as teaching or scholarly resources have particular value when presented in groups. We will be working with publishers who want their books to be seen as part of a group, so that different topics, or related subjects and treatments can be seen together. Digital editions have special advantages in that they can be searched, compared, assigned and cited very efficiently because they come to the user in the same grouping. The availability of the ‘group’ across the campus to multiple users is especially strong; with physical books and some copy-protected ebooks the fact that one book is being used in one part of the library makes it un-usable to a reader who has another book from the same series open on her desk.
(2) in many cases the ‘collection’ is an easier entity for the library system to acquire (important!), service, integrate and deploy to readers. Also, if the collection is appropriate, the books really do have a group value, the resource is worth more than the sum of its parts.
(3) we also think that in many cases, with the biggest delivery platforms, where thousands of books or tens of thousand of books are delivered together, the advantages of smaller groupings and collections are being lost. Massive aggregations are not particularly attractive or friendly to the reader who wishes to study a much smaller sub-group.
(4) the collections will be publisher-specific (we have no plans to offer multi-publisher collections) and we think that this grouping, and the branding that goes with it has very many advantages for publishers. Especially smaller publishers with strong and coherent lists. Carcanet is an excellent example of a publisher with a list where most of the titles it publishes will be of interest to any library or institution with a strength in modern poetry and literary studies.
On these last two points. It is not clear that there is an ‘ideal’ size for a collection of books. There almost certainly is not, but our initial preference will be for collections of scores or hundreds of books. There are exceptions to this of course and publishers of Collected Works should give thought to the advantages of the Exact Editions platform for delivering such collections into the academy. If a publisher wishes to deliver and site license a collected edition of the works of Franz Kafka, David Hume or Karl Marx, we would be happy to facilitate this offering. We are working with a variety of publishers, all of whom have lists of books that are interest to major libraries, though none of them are (as yet) exclusively ‘research publishers’. There are many publishers in this category and we have some very fine collections lined up to appear in the first quarter of 2017.