If an Internet site can be said to be at the crest of the wave that is the Worldwide Web, it is certainly Project Muse, a full-text journal database of 40+ titles offered to subscribers by Johns Hopkins University Press and the Milton S. Eisenhower Library. Prototyped in the fall of 1993, Project Muse was one of the first ventures of its kind, and was designed to exploit the possibilities of NSCA's Mosaic client software, then in Beta release. In a very real way Project Muse is a high exemplar of the "text-hypertext" fundamental principal that is the Worldwide Web.
As gopher-based resources became popular in 1993, Susan Lewis of the Johns Hopkins University Press and Todd Kelley of the Milton S. Eisenhower Library began to devise a system for offering the tables of contents of the JHUP journals online. Kelley was thinking ahead and steered the effort in the direction of full-text and the nascent web browser technology that was becoming available. From its inception, Muse included subject indexing for each article, searching by single journal or multiple journals and graphics options. It has kept pace with the explosion of WWW technology and is offered to the user in a clean, simple format that will never be out of style, yet at the same time has no need of every HTML innovation, splashy graphics, or frenetic animation or Java-powered information overload. Its look and functionality are in harmony with scholarly nature of its content.
The journals that are the content of Project Muse are indeed
high-caliber, research-quality representatives of the Humanities,
Literature, and Mathematics. As of the end of 1996, 40 titles were
available with two slated for debut in early 1997. Offerings include:
American Imago: Studies in Psychoanalysis and Culture,
American Jewish History,
American Journal of Mathematics,
Journal of Early Christian Studies,
Modern Fiction Studies,
Philosophy and Literature,
Reviews in American History.
Using the Project Muse online journals is the apotheosis of the Worldwide Web experience. A very intuitive WAIS searching utility called SWISH (Simple Web Indexing System for Humans) allows Boolean searching in single issues, volumes, or across all 40+ titles. Where footnotes exist in articles, the footnote number is a hyperlink to the article's bibliography or notes section. The subject of pagination in e-journals is handled in a straightforward manner by inserting [End Page xx] at the proper place. Muse is a pleasure to use.
Project Muse is taking a leadership role in addressing some issues at the forefront of discussion of electronic resources for libraries. Subscription to Muse includes unlimited personal access and use including printing and saving to disk and multiple users at a single institution. Muse administrators also offer advice on cataloging their electronic "holdings" and linking to them via the subscriber's online catalog. Obviously, the online availability of journals has collection development implications. The print versions are still considered to be the "edition of record" although the online edition's contents are the same. Muse administrators advise not to cancel print equivalents of the JHUP titles, as the subscription rate structure offers an incentive to retain both formats.
Muse's subscription rates are tailored to different institutions and levels of use, ranging from an annual $2500 for unlimited university library use (any number of simultaneous users) to the $300-$400 range for smaller school or public library subscriptions with a limited number of users. Individual (personal) subscriptions are not yet available. Single titles from Project Muse are available at 10% off the print subscription price, while the complete print and electronic subscription cost is only 30% more than the print price alone. Ellen Meserow Sauer, Project Muse Manager, says that certain costs and operations of the print and online versions are shared, such as editorial costs, marketing, composition, and rights/permissions. At the same time the costs of the two versions differ in when and where the costs are expended: the print has high printing, warehousing and distribution costs whereas the online's costs are focused on equipment and software, file conversions, scanning, technical support and computer expertise.
Although Project Muse is still considered an experiment, with 350 subscribers, it is full of promise and potential. In the search for Internet resources of quality, scholarly content, reputation and stable provenance, the Muse database must not be overlooked.
Kurt W. Wagner
Sarah Byrd Askew Library
William Paterson College of New Jersey