Spotlight on Open Access Books at COASP 2012

Guest Blog: Janneke Adema, Directory of Open Access Books

For the first time, 2012 saw the 4th Conference on Open Access Scholarly Publishing (COASP) feature an afternoon of sessions entirely dedicated to Open Access books. In his introduction, OAPEN’s Eelco Ferwerda highlighted that with this year’s milestones – the launch of the Directory of Open Access Books (DOAB), PKP’s Open Monograph Press, and Springer’s announcement of SpringerOpen books – the time for Open Access monograph publishing has arrived, culminating in Open Access books being made part of the program at COASP.

Things are speeding up for books, Ferwerda remarked. However, there are still a lot of unknowns: What will be the main business model for Open Access books? Under what license should they be published? What do the stakeholders in scholarly communication—the authors, libraries, funders and publishers—think about Open Access monographs? The afternoon thus set out to explore emerging business and publishing models for Open Access books, and current research on user and stakeholder needs.

After the introduction, Lars Bjørnshauge, SPARC Europe Director of European Library Relations, chaired the first session on funding and publication Models for OA Books. In the first of 3 funding models, Marin Dacos presented OpenEdition Freemium in which the basic services are free (i.e. basic access to books) and advanced premium subscription services (i.e. freemium = free + premium) finance the entire platform. This offer, Dacos exlains, guarantees maximum distribution of academic texts via free-access, while financing the publication activity through the premium services. The model has been recently proposed to libraries, who, according to Dacos, have been positive in their feedback. OpenEdition books will be launched at the end of the year. More than 50% of the books on this platform will be available Open Access where the remaining 50% will be available for different forms of unlocking (e.g. or Knowledge Unlatched).

Next, Frances Pinter presented Knowledge Unlatched, a not-for-profit company established to work with a new business model that uses international library consortium purchasing to enable sustainable Open Access publishing. Pinter outlined the pilot project due to start in 2013. Secure collective payments will be insured for first digital publication, paying for the fixed costs. Pinter used an ice cream metaphor to describe the model: the scoop is the free content, the cone is print books, and the premium bespoke version for libraries and ereaders, and then there is the sundae: enhanced ebooks that offer more than just the text. Member libraries are eligible for discounts on premium versions, which will function as the incentive to become a member. The costs to libraries will reduce as the project grows.

Finally, Doris Haslinger talked about the FWF (Austrian Science Fund or Wissenschaftsfonds) initiative for funding Open Access books. Since it has signed the Berlin Declaration on Open Access to Knowledge in the Sciences and Humanities 2003, an active Open Access policy for FWF-funded projects has been established. Their reasoning behind supporting Open Access is based on the idea that you shouldn’t require Open Access without funding it. The FWF has two different funding programs for supporting the publication of scientific outcomes; it offers funds for peer reviewed scientific publications, and for stand-alone (book) publications.

The second part of the Open Access Books session focused on publishing models. Kathy Killoh offered the perspective of a small university publisher: Athabasca University Press, the first Open Access press in Canada established in 2007. As a non-traditional scholarly press, AU Press has strived to preserve the processes and character of a traditional press with the goal of maintaining high-quality peer-reviewed products, while embracing Open Access and the rapidly changing e-publishing world. What drives them is the desire to increase the dissemination of knowledge, a wish to avoid commoditisation, privatization and corporate control of knowledge, and the public right to access. Killoh argues that we need to get away from commercial revenue business models. AU press builds on Athabasca University’s 1% solution, where the university reserves 1% of their budget for publishing as it is seen as a core activity of the university. Killoh advocates that funding and support for Open Access book publishing needs to come from institutions. We need a reallocation of funds. This requires a change in thinking, where scholarly publishing needs to be valued more by institutions.

Bettina Goerner talked about SpringerOpen, which started with journals in 2010 and has recently expanded with Open Access books. Springer already has a successful ebook program, where its ebook collection consists of more than 50,000 titles. This program is driven by ebook sales and Springer depends for their revenue on these sales. However, they are also selling printed books. For Springer the sales strategy is thus very important. SpringerOpen books covers all scientific disciplines, where the establishment of quality follows the processes of traditional books. Their business model works via an APC model (article processing charge), based on average book costs of 15000 Euros. The APCS are needed to balance electronic revenues (the ebook isn’t sold) and to balance part of the print sales (where the print books of the Open Access titles are priced lower). An Open Access membership program covers SpringerOpen Books, where member authors are entitled to a 15% loyalty discount. To the argument that fees are not fair on authors with less financial backing, Goerner replied that authors could still choose to publish in the traditional model. She also emphasised the need to give waivers to certain poorer countries, to ensure that they are not turned away.

Lastly Margo Bargheer talked about her experiences at Göttingen University Press. She explained how the publishing scene in Germany is made up of small and medium enterprises. There are about 20 University Presses in Germany, operating under the control of their mother institution. They are defined to be a public service, which means they don’t pay income tax. In this scene Open Access is almost a must-do, Bargheer explains. At GUP, daily business blends into the university services, where they are very dependent on these for their over-all functioning. GUP’s overhead is covered by the library and the university, where the library decided it would be good for the university to set up an Open Access press. Revenues come from book sales and author fees. Each publication is subsidised for 50% by the university, which they find reasonable. In this respect GUP can be seen to do embedded publishing: in the university for the university. This model has cost saving potentials, and the press is a form of branding for the institution. The drawbacks of this model are however that every turn of the tide in the university affects the press directly. There are dangers of vanity publishing, and the true costs of publishing might be too high or remains unknown. Furthermore, innovation or change is difficult to establish due to the economy of scale and the specific context that determines the publishing process and model.

Next, a session chaired by Eelco Ferwerda focussing on how stakeholders see Open Access books. Caren Milloy presented the first results of OAPEN-UK, a four-year research project that is exploring an Open Access model for publishing HSS monographs in collaboration with publishers, research funders, researchers and institutions. Milloy reported the results of a survey of 700 academics undertaken in Spring 2012 with a focus on their attitudes towards and perceptions of creative commons licensing, the services their publishers provide, open access business models and the impacts of open access on the scholarly environment.

Janneke Adema presented the first outcomes of the Directory of Open Access books (DOAB) user needs research, zooming in on the main discussion points of the online discussion amongst stakeholders that DOAB organised in July, and on some preliminary results of the DOAB survey amongst stakeholders. Results showed a wide array of opinions related to quality, licensing of Open Access books and Open Access funding models, where standards and prescriptive models were on the one hand applauded to create trust and quality insurance, but on the other hand critiqued for their inflexibility and their potential stifling of innovation and critique.  The DOAB user needs report has now been released and is available at the DOAB blog.

During the final panel discussion, a set of questions was addressed focusing on what the requirements for Open Access books should be. Should there for instance be a specific format for Open Access books (such as html, xml, PDF)? Should users be able to download Open Access books or is it sufficient if you can read them online (i.e. Google Books)? What sort of license is required in the case of Open Access books? What sort of quality control would be required for Open Access books? And are there minimum requirements in any of these areas? The discussion also focused on the potential role of OASPA in establishing standards for Open Access book publishing, and on whether in the future the book will converge with journal articles in an Open Access world.

The presentations have all been recorded and are now available on OASPA’s website.

OASPA thanks Janneke for her work on this summary of the OA books sessions.

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