On May 21, SIPX, which provides cloud-based end-to-end copyright management and digital document delivery for higher ed, announced customer agreements with schools and consortia including California State University Northridge, Golden Gate University, Occidental College,State University of New York (SUNY) Empire State College, University of Illinois (Urbana-Champaign), the Statewide California Electronic Library Consortium (SCELC) and ‘a wide array’ of SCELC schools. The announcement also included the company’s former home, Stanford University, where the research underlying the technology was conducted over the last three years. (SIPX has now “spun-out” from Stanford, completed its financing, and is operating as a separate, for-profit company.)
“Our service has been up and running at Stanford for two years. We just never announced ourselves, Bob Weinschenk, SIPX Chief Executive Officer, told LJ. “We’re the worst kept secret; we’ve been out presenting” and signing up universities, Weinschenk said, so that the service could eventually be “announced with credibility, instead of speculative.”
Franny Lee, SIPX co-founder and VP University Relations and Product Development, told LJ “one of the reasons this has been well received in libraries is that we took the time to understand the libraries’ needs and biggest concerns. One of the biggest things we heard is that they’re feeling disconnected from their community; that they spend all this time trying to make it so easy that students think it’s all for free; that students don’t realize that the source of that – who is paying for the access.” (A problem also highlighted by the recent Ithaka faculty survey.)
To combat this misunderstanding, SIPX makes sure that this library subsidy is made transparent to students who access the service. They are told that their price is zero because the resource is institutionally held, and that the price to the public would be higher.
Stanford University Librarian Michael Keller, a board member of SIPX, said, “We’ve been using the SIPX service since inception, and this system solves problems that no other technology has been able to fix.”
SIPX prides itself on providing one-stop-shopping in familiar working environments for professors creating coursepacks as well as for students. The solution was built not only on the needs of the content owners but on the options desired by users such as librarians and professors, as well as students.
SIPX integrates with whichever learning management system (LMS) the school or class is already using. “Sakai, Moodle, and Backboard are the three that we’ve worked on first, but they’re set up with some pretty easy API calls… at the end of the day, we’re a tech company, so doing tech conversions are well within the realm of our capabilities,” Weinschenk explained. “At Stanford there are four different LMSes and some profs use wikis and websites. We can integrate with anything.”
The service is primarily focused on digital coursepacks featuring excerpts from a variety of works. “We can absolutely do whole textbooks, [but] we’ve also found there are some good solutions out there for whole textbooks,” Lee explained. While the company primarily delivers digital content, it can also do print. “We have done print partnerships within universities delivered to the bookstore,” Lee explained. “We do work with the accessibility departments within the schools so they can do the conversion [to handicapped-accessible formats].”
Pricing is based on a particular student’s context. “If you’re a student in sub-Saharan Africa and the Gates Foundation has a program where they pay for your content, you would get that pricing,” Lee explained. The publishers set their own prices and determine what DRM, if any, will be applied.
The service is also unusual in that it feeds public domain, open access, and other free content into the mix with copyrighted material—and doesn’t charge for it. “If it’s out there and it’s free, we should be serving it up for free, and we should make access as broad as possible,” said Weinschenk.
“We are particularly excited to pilot access to library-licensed, public domain, open, royalty-free and pay-per-use content all in one place,” said Marsha Schnirring, Associate Vice-President for Scholarship Technology, Occidental College.
For paid publisher transactions, SIPX charges 40 cents each. Said Weinschenk, “This is my fifth startup, and I learned if it is not simple, people won’t use it.”
In addition, SIPX does charge a set-up fee to the library. Says Weinschenk, “It’s a pretty small number and what that allows us to do is pay for some of the resources, integrating within the university, and makes sure someone is serious, since it does take some time and effort to learn a university’s resources.”
Said Lee, “We looked at what schools and professors and students pay right now … for the cost of clearing copyright service. We modeled ours at half of the lowest fee we potentially found.”
SIPX also announced partnerships with more than twenty-five publishing, platform, and service partners, many of which have joined the SIPX Publisher Advisory Board. Members include: Wolters Kluwer Health’s Lippincott Williams & Wilkins Journals, Nature Publishing Group, Perseus Books Group, Brill, Association for Computing Machinery, Business Expert Press, University of California Press, University of North Carolina Press, Pennsylvania State University Press, Brookings Institution, SPIE, and Stanford University Press. Additional publisher partners are Rowman & Littlefield, Rosetta Books, IGI-Global, Hindawi, Casemate/Oxbow, Institute for Operations Research and the Management Sciences (INFORMS), National Information Standards Organization (NISO), ABCClio/Praeger Publishers, Berghahn Books, and Inderscience. Platform and service partners include HighWire Press, Metapress, GeoScienceWorld and Copyright Clearance Center (CCC).