Reveal Digital is an enterprise created to develop a set of open access, web-based collections of digitized newspapers in partnership with U.S. academic libraries. Support for the enterprise is being sought in the form of direct investment by academic libraries to cover the costs of digitizing the newspapers, and the processing, hosting, and management of the digital collections created. A detailed prospectus outlines the plan for creating the initial Reveal collection Independent Voices, to be developed and released over four years (2013–16), at a cost of $2.1 million.
Reveal Digital is a limited liability company (LLC) based in Ann Arbor, MI. Independent Voices will be a set of digital collections of 20th-century U.S. newspapers, journals, and magazines originally published by the alternative press. The effort is to be financed through scaled annual payments from participating libraries over the four years.
The materials to be digitized are broadly described in the prospectus as serials “produced by feminists, dissident GIs, campus radicals and the New Left, Native Americans, anti-war activists, Black Power advocates, Hispanics, LGBTs, anarchists, the extreme right-wing press and alternative literary magazines.” As conceived, the Independent Voices collection will encompass over 900 titles and one million pages.
The collection will initially be hosted and served on a commercial digital library platform maintained by iFactory. The prospectus suggests that long-term preservation and access may be provided by a non-profit digital repository, but the terms of such an arrangement had not yet been established as of January 1.
The information in this profile is based on Reveal Digital’s prospectus of Independent Voices – A Collection of an Alternative Press, last updated December 12, 2012. Additional information was obtained by CRL from Jeffrey Moyer; open source information from the web; and consultation with experts in the field of collection development and digital publishing.
Mission and History
Reveal Digital is a limited liability company (LLC) based in Ann Arbor, Michigan, that provides “digital publishing services serving the library and consumer markets.” Reveal was established in June 2010 by Jeffrey Moyer, former Executive Vice President for Publishing, National Archives Publishing Company. Moyer has also held positions in microfilm and digital collections publishing at Gale and ProQuest.
Governance and Staffing
In creating Independent Voices, Reveal will enlist libraries to fund and participate in shaping the digital collection. Development of the Reveal collections will be guided by a “steering group of special collection librarians, library directors and library consortia directors from participating institutions,” including subscribing libraries and libraries that contribute content to be digitized. Early participants include Northwestern University Libraries, whose radical feminist newspaper collections are being digitized by Reveal. This governance model is designed to ensure accountability and responsiveness to the interests of the investing libraries.
- With 150 participating libraries of different sizes participating, robust mechanisms will be needed to ensure that all libraries have input on future content decisions.
- It will have to be determined whether all libraries will have equal say, or will vary in influence according to the level of their investment.
Response from Reveal Digital:
"Future content decisions will be driven directly by library interest in specific collections. While Reveal has taken the lead in defining the Voices Collection, we hope that libraries themselves will propose new collection opportunities and use the framework developed by Reveal (prospectus/open enrollment period) to receive direct feedback from libraries as to their willingness to fund the proposed collections."
Reveal Digital Steering Committee members posted to date:
- Ivy Anderson, Director, Collection Development and Management, California Digital Archive (CDL)
- Julie Bobay, Associate Dean for Collection Development and Scholarly Communication, Indiana University
- Celeste Feather, Licensing Program Account Manager, LYRASIS
- Jeffrey Garrett, Associate University Librarian for Special Libraries, Northwestern University
- Laura Micham, Merle Hoffman Director, Sallie Bingham Center for Women’s History and Culture, Duke University
- Mark Sandler, Director, Center for Library Initiatives, Committee on Institutional Cooperation (CIC)
- Steve Sowards, Associate Director for Collections, Michigan State University
Funding and Planning
Reveal Digital proposes to undertake the development of its digital collections on a project-by-project basis. The costs of these activities are to be underwritten by annual payments from the academic and independent research libraries that commit to participate in developing a given collection. The level of a library’s annual payment will depend upon the total direct and indirect costs of producing the collection, the type of library (e.g., two-year college, Masters, ARL), and the total number and types of libraries committing funding.
The prospectus for Independent Voices estimates the annual payments for different types of libraries to range between $1,283 and $5,125 per year. This estimate is based on the expected $2,173,400 cost of producing the collection, and assumes a total take-up of 150 libraries of various sizes.
Participating libraries will be asked to make a non-binding commitment to pay these fees during a six-month open enrollment period, at the end of which a decision will be made as to whether or not to proceed with producing the collection. The decision will be made on the basis of the number of libraries enrolled during this period. LYRASIS will serve as the sales and administrative agent for the collection and will manage the enrollment process.
In return, contributing libraries will have a say in the selection of content to be included in future collections developed by Reveal, have an option to mount the digital content locally, and will have access to the digital collection during an embargo period, prior to when the collection is made openly accessible.
An analysis of the projected budget for Independent Voices indicates that a substantial portion of the costs for creating the collection will be administrative and indirect costs. Of the estimated cost of $2.1 million for the collection:
- An estimated $1.1 million (50%) will be spent on production and hosting of the collection;
- $652,471 (31%) will go to sales, marketing, general administration, and project management; and
- $346,000 (16%) will be allocated for editorial work, rights clearance, and royalties to rights holders.
- If the target of 150 libraries is not met, the cost per library could become considerably higher. Libraries would have to decide what pricing levels above the projected ones they could tolerate.
- Library investment covers initial project costs. Additional costs might be incurred in the future for ongoing maintenance of the content management platform ($271,863 initial cost for Independent Voices), interface upgrades, and the migration of content.
- If Reveal seeks investment from sources other than libraries (such as aggregators, genealogy publishers) library control of future collection priorities could be affected.
Response from Reveal Digital:
"Reveal will not invoice any libraries until it commits to the project as defined in the prospectus. Once we make that commitment, then we will deliver the Collection as defined withoug any increased payments from libraries. If the response during the open enrollment period does not indicate sufficient support for the project then we will either scale back, which would kick off a revised prospectus and a new open enrollment period, or we would cancel the project entirely. If we elect to scale back, the cost implications to libraries could change, up or down, based on a new set of scale/scope and makret demand assumptions."
Content and Services
The scope of the Independent Voices digital collections, as described in the prospectus, will encompass popular serial literature of the late 20th-century alternative press. It will include newspapers, journals, and magazines produced by political and social activists, including “feminists, dissident GIs, campus radicals and the New Left, Native Americans, anti-war activists, Black Power advocates, Hispanics, LGBTs, anarchists, the extreme right-wing press and alternative literary magazines.”
Reveal Digital mounted a website with the initial holdings in late January, 2013.
As conceived, the collections will encompass over 900 titles and one million pages. Content is expected to come from the paper and microform holdings of major U.S. research libraries, including Northwestern University, Duke University, and the University of Michigan. It will be important to see lists of prospective and confirmed titles.
- The proposed Independent Voices collection content sounds important, but detailed, confirmed title lists will be needed to fully evaluate its usefulness for researchers.
- It is not clear whether the model proposed for Independent Voices would be applicable to content in other collections that Reveal would propose to digitize. For example, rights clearance costs could become considerably higher to digitize nonalternative materials.
Response from Reveal Digital:
"Content for the initial release will be from Duke, Northwestern and the GI Press Project. Beyond that, we are in the process of identifying and sourcing new material to fill out the Collection. The title list for the initial release is available. Target title lists for the balance of the Collection will be forthcoming."
"Regarding point 2 above: all costs associated with a collection are clearly stated in the prospectus. If future collections have higher royalties, as an example, then those costs will be factored into the proposed pricing to libraries."
Technical Systems and Analysis
Reveal has engaged a service provider to digitize the newspapers identified for inclusion in Independent Voices. To provide the interface, access platform and hosting services, Reveal has contracted with iFactory, a Boston-based software design/development company. PubFactory is iFactory’s multi-purpose web publishing and content management platform for books, reference works, and journals, and is used by Oxford University Press, Sage Publishers, and Gale Cengage.
The newspapers will be digitized and OCR’d, and presented through a web interface in searchable page-image format. The current prospectus indicates that the content may also be hosted on another Web platforms, such as that of a non-profit digital repository.
The initial 75,000 pages of the collection will be available for testing and evaluation in January 2013.
- It is not clear how the PubFactory interface and platform compare with the other platforms in which digitized newspapers are currently used by researchers at academic libraries, such as the Gale and ProQuest platforms, LC’s Chronicling America platform.
- It is not clear what factors will determine whether the Independent Voices content will eventually be hosted by a non-profit repository platform, as well as iFactory.