Re: [DOAB] What aspects should funders take into account when developing funding schemes for OA books?
I think the most important issue is access itself. Speaking as a person working in academia in Asia, access is the biggest problem to doing research and teaching. SImply getting information and keeping up to date with information is hard. Today almost all of the information used, by both students and faculty, is accessed from the internet because of the last of access to hardcopy books. Textbooks are especially expensive and generally only available from the major publishing companies.
My point is that access must be consider first and foremost when developing any funding model for OA books (or any books for that matter) .
I guess it depends where you want to address the question of Open
Access. If it is a matter of just funding current or future single
author works to ensure they have licences that enable open distribution
then I see your point. But this kind of thing starts to look short term
to me. The issue runs deeper and this kind of strategy is likely to last
only as long as the funding does.
If long term strategies are required the business model needs to be
IMHO this all comes down to getting away from the need to resell
artefacts. Finding ways to pay for the production of entirely freely
licensed original materials is critical. As I see it, there are many
ways to do this but they point more towards collaborative production
which can deliver high quality materials quickly and which can (if
licensed well) be used in repositories to build more materials.
It means funding different models of production.
I must confess that I believe that in this context we should keep the discussion to points about OA, not about other aspects. I would like to comment, though, that OA means that the electronic version is the main product, paper a secondary one – as opposed to today where paper is primary and electronic secondary. This shift will make it easier to start developing new forms that only electronic versions will allow. So new products and modes of production will be a result of a shift to OA, in my opinion. For now, let us look at the funding of OA to books.
If I don’t remember too incorrectly, John B Thompson in his “Books in the digital age” describes the traditional monograph as a product with a very uncertain future, as it was already (in 2005) financially insecure. The situation hasn’t become better since then.
A large number of such books are already being produced only because someone at the author side pays major part of the costs directly to the publisher, as most books are not financially viable. For many of these books, discarding the paper version will cut so much direct and indirect costs (including marketing, warehousing, logistics and administration) that the amount made available will enable publishing in OA without extra funding. This must be a first market to be exploited by possible OA publishers.
Another point to make is that OA is about giving free access to a useful version, not to any version – e.g. will paper versions still be sold. It could be a strategy to make an html version OA, while selling pdfs or e-book versions for small sums, to create some kind of income stream. How much income could be generated, I don’t know – but this should be tried out.
If we start here, and gather some experience and let the world evolve, new business opportunities will present themselves. We cannot today predict and solve problems more than a few years beyond today – the world will not be today’s world, the problems and opportunities different from what we imagine today.
Have a nice summer!
Jan Erik Frantsvåg
Open Access adviser
The University Library of Tromsø
phone +47 77 64 49 50
I’d like to comment on one part of Jan’s very interesting
posting, much of which I agree with:
> Another point to make is that OA is about giving free access
> to a useful version, not to any version – e.g. will paper
> versions still be sold. It could be a strategy to make an html
> version OA, while selling pdfs or e-book versions for small
> sums . . .
I’m sure some people will pay for a PDF or e-book version of
something that they can get for free as HTML, but why should
they? There’s nothing difficult about turning HTML into PDF
and the various e-book formats, so if they’re just paying for
this service (which they can do themselves with free software)
the price would have to be almost zero in any case.
That raises as interesting question I’d like to put to this
list: are they ANY digital transformations that are so
inherently difficult and/or expensive that there could
conceivable be a market in providing that transformation
as a service. (You might of course think I’m wrong about
HTML > PDF and HTML > e-book transformations, so I’d like
to hear that objection if it’s your answer).
The transformations are not hard, not, that is, unless you are a
publisher. For many reasons publishers have enormous problems getting
material into these formats. Published content does not usually start
its life as HTML (which is by far the easiest format for facilitating
these conversions). Instead works start life in Word or complex XML, or
other proprietary or complex format (like LateX) which make conversion
So, offering resale of different formats at affordable prices or by
subscription could be an interesting strategy but without wanting to
sound like a parrot of myself but doing it anyway…IMHO Open Access
needs to look at the culture of production if it wants to look at
opportunities like you suggest. For example, it would be better if the
content originated in HTML.
I might be able to guess at the objections to this as HTML is not often
considered as a ‘serious’ content format, especially when it comes to
the production of structured content. However these issues are being
addressed extremely quickly by new browser based authoring environments
typesetting (including TeX emulation) and CSS controls for flowable text
to page conversions (have a look at http://dev.w3.org/csswg/css3-gcpm/).
Does Open Access Mean Read Only?
It is great to be having this discussion forum on really important issues.
Just a little background to help interpret our comments below – we
(Alessandra Tosi and Rupert Gatti) are academics at Cambridge who started
up a non-profit ‘open access’ academic publishers called Open Book
Publishers 3 years ago. We have now published 21 titles in the Humanities
and Social Sciences, which are released as both printed and digital/e-book
editions. All our titles are free to read in their entirety online. To
date almost all (20/21) have been CC BY-ND-NC licenced and one is CC BY
licenced. Of the next three titles to be published, two are CC BY and one
is CC BY-ShareAlike. We would just like to share some of our thoughts and
experiences to the discussion.
First – as has been so well stated by others in this discussion – there is
a huge difference between free-to-read and pay-to-read. Our primary
concern was, and remains, to make high quality research available for
anybody to read. During the month of June alone our 21 free to read
titles received over 25,000 visits, from over 120 countries, with a total
of 480,000 pages viewed. For titles that might reasonably expect to sell
200-300 copies in a traditional publishing format, that is a whole lot of
reads! Clearly, making works free to read has a huge impact on the
dissemination of knowledge.
The three absolutes at OBP have been that the book is free to read, free
to share through one of the CC licences, and is rigorously peer reviewed.
Everything else we do has been to enable us to create an economically
viable business model to support those ‘absolutes’. One important concern
is in attracting really good work to publish, and here the flexibility of
the alternative CC models has been important in convincing some scholars
to try our publishing model at all. Clearly, prior to publication the
authors have complete control over their work and, through their ability
to select dissemination outlets, control over the degree of freedom
awarded readers. In the humanities and social science the extended
development of an argument is what makes a monograph an important research
output. Many authors are extremely reluctant to give ‘carte-blanche’
freedom for anybody to adapt their ‘subtle and sophisticated prose’ and
still keep their name upon the work. Many have experience of the press
cutting and rephrasing statements they have made to imply something very
different to what they originally said, and really don’t want to see that
happening to a book that then carries their own name. So they want to be
able to say yes or no to derivative works, and without the use of CC
BY-ND-NC licences they would not have been prepared to make the work free
to read and share at all.
An additional consideration is that almost all of our authors have wanted
to include images or other content the copyright for which is owned by
others. To obtain permission to reproduce these works we have needed to
assure copyright holders that a CC BY-NC-ND licence is being applied, and
that digital images are reproduced at low resolutions. Some of our
forthcoming titles are in anthropology and issues about the use and re-use
of material and images provided by the communities studied is very
difficult and sensitive. We have not to date set separate licences for
different segments of the books, and this may be a possibility for the
future, but a general requirement for a licence much broader than CC
BY-NC-ND will cause difficulties for the inclusion of some primary and
secondary materials and so restrict what can be published that way.
OBP has no institutional support, so creating a viable business model has
been important to us. To cover the publication costs we need to generate
about GBP£3500 per title in net revenue – with the production of printed
editions (through the use of Print on Demand technology) adding
insignificantly to that cost. For the last seven months we have
successfully balanced operating costs and revenue; with roughly half the
revenue coming in the form of grants raised by authors, and half coming
from the sales of printed and digital editions. To date we have been
reluctant to publish a work CC BY without a significant proportion of
overall publication cost being met pre-publication, worried that CC BY
will reduce our ability to support post-publication revenue streams. We
lack both the evidence to support those concerns, and the financial
strength to risk experimenting to find out! Of the three CC BY titles
published or forthcoming, two have come with significant publication
grants by a research funder. The third has successfully raised funding
through an innovative crowd-source channel – unglue.it – where over 250
individuals contributed to an online campaign to raise USD$7500 to release
the book and associated audio and visual material CC BY. (Of course
experience with these new CC BY titles will also help us assess our
concerns over post-publication revenue – so we can get back to you on
Publication grants through research funding bodies for CC BY publication
have been important for us, and appears to be the dominant business model
presently being advocated by many commentators, for example in the UK’s
recent Finch Report. But for several reasons we feel concerned about
relying entirely on this as the only revenue source or business model.
First, as Gary Hall mentioned in a previous comment, we are concerned
about the institutional control it may allow commercial publishers to
maintain over the academic publishing process; and second because in the
humanities and social sciences many authors just don’t have access to
research grants to support publication in the same way many scientists do.
Some of our authors are retired, others have conducted their research
without recall to external funding, and few have had institutional support
for publishing expenses. At least at present, we feel the availability of
a range of CC licences allows us to develop and experiment with innovative
revenue streams to support our ‘free to read – free to share’ publication
model without relying on a pure ‘author subvention’ model.
So, on the question “Does Open Access Mean Read Only?” we would support
previous comments that if the definition is to extend much beyond free to
read it should not be by very much. And if it is to be extended much
beyond free to read, then we are in need of a new definition to
acknowledge the substantial social benefits free to read extends over pay
Alessandra Tosi and Rupert Gatti