Rice Press revived online

RICE_TMS_translogo2.GIFLooks as if the Chronicle missed this local item of media news.
Houston’s Rice University — one of the nation’s most prestigious universities — is reviving its defunct academic press online in a bold move that will undoubtedly reignite the discussions over over who will ultimately profit from Web publishing. Rice University Press was a money-losing proposition when it went out of business about a decade ago. However, under its new all-digital format, the press will instead post works online at a new Web site where people can read a full copy of the book free. Customers will be able to order a regular, bound copy from an on-demand printer at a cost far less than picking up the book in a store.
Rice’s bold move comes as many book publishers are struggling to figure out how to modify their business models to the new publishing world of the Worldwide Web. Although innovative, Rice’s initiative faces challenges because some universities — Stanford comes to mind — have already experimented with the online format and found lackluster demand for online books, which has been a chronic problem for online books generally.
However, Rice’s program is ambitious in that it will publish all of its books online through Connexions, which will absorb the press’s editing and transmission costs. Readers can freely view the online works under a special online publishing license and will be charged only a small fee for downloading the works to a computer. Inasmuch as all the books will be in digital form, authors will be able to amend their works online, add links to other website materials and sources, and communicate with readers of the works. Books on the Rice site will never go out of print and Rice officials are even considering asking authors whether they want to allow “derivatives” of their works to be created online — the Connexions site will operate under an “open-source” model that allows readers to update online course material.

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