Content University Press Scholarship Online (UPSO) is an umbrella product that offers more than 7000 ebook titles in 21 subject areas published by six university houses‚ the American University in Cairo Press, the University Press of Florida, Fordham University Press, Hong Kong University Press, the University Press of Kentucky, and, of course, Oxford University Press (OUP). Content is delivered in XML through an individual press’s site, for example, from Florida Scholarship Online. Each publisher has a unique site branded with its own identity.
Some of the larger subject collections currently offered are Business and Management (234 titles), Classical Studies (204), Economics and Finance (450), History (1,036), Law (440), Literature (661), Philosophy (1,149), Political Science (598), Psychology (219), and Religion (1,019). The output of all the presses is accessible on a single platform, and the searchable fields are Full Text, Headings, Index, Bibliography, Tables, Captions, Abstract, Chapter Title, Book Title, Author, Editor, DOI, ISBN, Subject, and Keywords.
Usability The search screen offers a single search box at screen right. Above that is a link to Advanced Search, and below it are Search My Subject Specializations, a large Browse by Subject box listing the 21 subject collections, a Featured Book, a link to Click Here for Details for users who experience issues with the relaunched site (this leads to a blurb on known product-performance issues, most of which had been resolved at the time of this review), and a list of news items about UPSO. This resource, with its swamp green and gray color scheme, is one of the less aesthetically pleasing Oxford products I’ve seen.
My first search was for “Shakespeare and women,” which found seven results, all resources published by OUP. Moving through the list was tricky, because windows kept popping open and closed wherever I moused over them. Slowing down, it becomes clear that a colored box highlights each citation as the user moves through the material and, when the mouse hits a title line, a window pops up with the relevant book’s title, author, publication dates (print and online), publisher, ISBN, eISBN, DOI, and subject, as well as the beginning of an abstract of the title. I moused over the third title in the list, Lesel Dawson’s Lovesickness and Gender in Early Modern English Literature, and read the abstract for the work. Clicking on the title leads to a page in Oxford Scholarship Online (OSO) that provides such resources as a cover illustration, bibliographic information, abstract, author and author affiliation (with a link to the person’s website), a link to Find in Library (which helpfully takes researchers into the item’s WorldCat record with holdings), and links to related content in OSO. A link to Reviews was intriguing, but it lead to JSTOR, which requires that users are logged into that subscription database.
Using the Search Within the Book feature to explore Dawson’s writing on Shakespeare’s Ophelia resulted in five hits. I clicked on “Beyond Ophelia: The Anatomy of Female Melancholy,” a chapter in the book, and went to a page with most of the same links as for the full book, along with the first paragraph of the chapter. Reading the excellently written full chapter, which includes very high resolution illustrations, endnotes, and omnipresent links to the rest of the book, necessitates signing into OSO, a process that’s not going to sit well with researchers.
I next tried an Advanced Search, but no search fields appeared on-screen (I had to “add a row” to get them to appear). In one field I searched the Full Text for “adhd,” and in the next field I searched the Full Text for “genetic” and got 126 OUP items that were right on target.
Browsing was initially frustrating: it’s necessary to scroll quite far down‚ beyond the subject lists and a set of three book covers‚ to find the university press links and the number of books they’ve published in the collection. I’d move these links higher on the page. I also found a few typos in the Take a Tour section PDF, and the colors there (red dots with black numerals) make it difficult to decipher information, but that’s small stuff.
Pricing UPSO pricing is based on the print list price of the books to which an institution buys access, increasing based on the size of the institution’s FTE. The ebooks are sold as subject and publisher collections (an intriguing title-by-title purchase option is forthcoming). There are 21 broad subject collections (e.g., History, Religion) currently available, with a new option to purchase more discretely in 270-plus subdisciplines (e.g., Military History, Judaism), and new content is published every four months. Books are usually bought on a perpetual-access basis (giving institutions unlimited use rights); this option costs less than $100 for several of the subdisciplines. Hosting costs $150 per subject up to a maximum of $600 per year per institution, but these fees are waived if libraries buy new content. Subscription options are also available.
The Bottom Line The concept here is a wonderful one, and I give OUP high marks for what they’ve undertaken. This is obviously a work in progress, and as such, I give it an overall nine. Oxford will need to smooth some kinks in the interface and increase the quantity of the content by adding more presses, as is the plan.
This resource is strongly recommended for use in academic and public libraries serving humanities researchers. As the number of participating presses increases, I’ll revisit UPSO. I suspect that it will become a must-have database for every academic library and many public and special libraries as well.