The university presses of Oxford and Cambridge are going head to head to compete in global digital platforms, which are being rolled out within one month of each other.
Oxford University Press will release University Press Scholarship Online (UPSO) onto the market in September, while, as revealed last week in The Bookseller, Cambridge University Press will launch University Publishing Online (UPO) in October. Both will offer monographs from a variety of publishers on a single platform while maintaining the individual publisher's branding, and both are based on previous models used for their own titles—Oxford Scholarship Online and Cambridge Books Online.
The platforms will be sold to academic institutions across the world and provide discoverable and cross-searchable services via a single online platform. Oxford's will be through XML and Cambridge's through the PDF format.
So far, UPO has 12,000 titles, hoping to expand by at least 1,000 a year. Publishers Liverpool University Press, Boydell & Brewer, the Mathematical Association of America and Foundation Books have already signed up. It is also likely to include textbooks.
UPSO has 5,000 titles, with the American University in Cairo Press and the university presses of Florida, Fordham, Hong Kong and Kentucky on board for the launch.
Both are in talks with other publishers, and both offer a subscription model of payment or the ability to pay for a batch of titles.
Cambridge expects its platform to become "one of the largest and most significant repositories of digital academic material in the world," while Oxford said UPSO will "bring together the best scholarly publishing from around the world" through an "unparallelled research tool".
Hannah Perrett, strategic development manager at CUP, said its project was in reaction to demand from European publishers for a platform offering digital non-English language works and the growing popularity of viewing texts digitally.
Perrett claimed the service would help smaller academic publishers to reach readers further afield. She said: "We have the reach in the market, it is an opportunity for publishers because we absorb any costs involved—if there are any—in terms of conversion [to digital]." However, she said it is unlikely to impact on physical sales of works anymore than the current growing trend towards digital.
Niko Pfund [pictured], president of OUP in the USA, said UPSO would be popular in areas like Turkey and eastern Europe where institutions can't afford to get the product in print. It is also a reaction to declining library budgets in many areas. He said: "You can not forget the democratising impact of this service."