Ereviews: University Publishing Online | February 15, 2012

University Publishing Online Cambridge University Press; universitypublishingonline. org/; for free trials, go to

CONTENT University Publishing Online (UPO) offers ebooks from Cambridge University Press and its partners, the Mathematical Association of America, Liverpool University Press, and Foundation Books (an imprint of Cambridge University Press India). The file currently lists 14,140 titles on anthropology; art; classical studies; computer science; Earth, environmental, and other sciences; education; engineering; film, media, and mass communication; geography; history; language and linguistics; law; literature; management; mathematics; medicine; philosophy; politics and international relations; and sociology, with new titles added monthly. Cambridge plans to add six more academic presses to the UPO platform early in 2012: Anthem Press, Boydell & Brewer, Edinburgh University Press, Nottingham University Press, Pickering & Chatto, and the University of Adelaide Press.

USABILITY UPO’s opening screen has a large title icon with a toolbar beneath it with buttons for leading to, for example, Partner Presses, FAQ, Help, For Librarians, and Account Administrator. To the right of these are a simple search box and a link to advanced search.

The screen real estate below this is occupied by large button links to the four current publishing partners. Below those is empty space that takes up about one-third of the screen. The search box is so underemphasized, in fact, that it took me a few seconds to find it.

My first simple search, for transdiscipline, got 13 results, but it took me a while to locate the note because 80 percent of the screen was taken up by a large title icon, a top toolbar, the huge words Search Results, a search thread, and purchase information.

Scrolling down from the note reveals the search results displayed at screen right, with a left-hand column displaying three buttons (submit, reset, and select all); the query, did you mean: transdisciplinary; a list of my search terms (with buttons to remove them, changing the query); search filters; content type; publisher; subjects; authors; and more. All of these I could check off or click to select. I clicked on one of the Top Books, and, surprisingly, a box popped up telling me to log in again, which took some time.

Repeating the search, I explored the entry Land Use Law for Sustainable Development, which returned a record with editor names, publisher, print and online publication dates, a link to a chapter (that presumably included my search term), and an active link to the chapter’s Digital Object Identifier (DOI), a permanent link. Attempting to View chapter as PDF brought up the log-in prompt again. The same problem occured when trying to use the book’s table of contents.

While trying an advanced search, I knew I was in trouble when the first words on the search screen were the computerese Please input search parameters in search fields. In this mode, there’s a list of publishers in a box at screen left and a box headed Selected Publishers at screen right. Between the publishers are arrows (>, <, >>, <<) allowing users to move publishers from the left box into the right, either one at a time or all at once. Two more boxes listing products (Cambridge Books Online, Cambridge Journals Online, and Cambridge Library Collections) and Selected Products, with the same arrows in between. Below them was a checkable box for Limited to Your Access, a phrase that is decipherable to librarians but perhaps not to patrons, and a list of search options. Searching all four publishers by the keyword religion and for the author affiliation harvard eventually resulted in 583 hits (I had to try several keywords to get results and reload the publisher box each time). This time I disregarded the chapter DOI and clicked the Read PDF link within the results and got highly satisfactory material.

The content from Cambridge University Press is superb, while other content is mixed. The outdated and clunky search interface is of concern. My November 1, 2011, review of Oxford University Press’s University Press Scholarship Online is slightly critical of its interface’s aesthetic. Yet it certainly is easier to understand and higher performing than UPO’s.

PRICING Customers can select from pre-defined subject collections or assemble a custom package based on title-by-title selection or publication year. Here is sample pricing for some of the predefined collections for a medium-sized academic institution based in North America: philosophy: 780 titles, $66,994; history: 1,963 titles, $159,227; mathematics: 1,024 titles, $96,745; medicine: 866 titles, $98,087; 2011 collection: 622 titles, $54,160. Prices for packages change throughout the year as new titles are added.

VERDICT UPO’s content is strongly recommended for academic and public libraries serving serious scholars. The addition of other presses will make this file more valuable, but what really needs to happen is for Cambridge University Press and Oxford University Press to get together, combine their content, enlist lots of smaller presses in the enterprise, and release a product offering the mother lode of scholarship using Oxford’s smoothed-out interface. It’s not either/or here: libraries need UPSO and UPO content, but think how much better scholarship would be served if it all came neatly packaged in one box.

Cheryl LaGuardia About Cheryl LaGuardia

Cheryl LaGuardia always wanted to be a librarian, and has been one for more years than she's going to admit. She cracked open her first CPU to install a CD-ROM card in the mid-1980's, pioneered e-resource reviewing for Library Journal in the early 90's (picture calico bonnets and prairie schooners on the web...), won the Louis Shores / Oryx Press Award for Professional Reviewing, and has been working for truth, justice, and better electronic library resources ever since. Reach her at, where she's a Research Librarian at Harvard University.