The White Horse Press recently joined OASPA as member in the Small Professional Publisher category. The Press joins a growing list of over 210 OASPA members. We asked Dr Sarah Johnson, Partner, a few questions so we could learn more about The White Horse Press and the decision to become an OASPA member.
Q. Tell us a bit about your organisation and the service it provides
The White Horse Press is a very small family-run scholarly
Q. Why did you decide to join OASPA and what do you hope to get out of your OASPA membership?
OASPA is clearly a crucial nexus in the emerging Open Access publishing landscape. To complete our transition to full OA operations – and then to thrive as a fully OA press long into the future – we need to build connections, learn from our community of peers, and keep well informed about the latest thinking around OA infrastructures, business models and best practice. We hope that our OASPA membership will help us achieve this.
Q. What are the short and medium-term priorities for your organisation/publication in relation to open scholarship?
Our priorities are to identify, understand and then implement OA business models for our publications, in order to reach a position where all of our output is Open Access.
There are a number of challenges arising from the fact that we are genuinely very small and our author communities are widely dispersed around the world. Read-and-Publish agreements, for example, are a prominent approach for many publishers – but they are completely impractical for us. In some ways, that is perhaps a blessing in disguise: we have ethical concerns about APCs, and the fact that normal transformative agreements are not a realistic options for us means that we have no choice but to aim for the much more attractive goal of proper Diamond OA (or something like it).
One of the most serious risks and challenges is the uncertainty in how sustainable the various specific OA approaches will turn out to be. We simply don’t have the resource to keep overhauling our business model again and again as different approaches to OA funding emerge and expire over the years. So we are trying hard to discern paths that we’ll be able to rely on for the foreseeable future, as this will mitigate risk to our business.
Q. What do you think are the main challenges for the communication of scholarship generally in the near future?
The main challenge is that while the destination is well known – all scholarly publishing to be OA – it is not entirely clear how we’re all going to get there. This uncertainty is likely hard to deal with for many presses, not just very small ones like us.
Furthermore, many current approaches to OA rely on APCs and BPCs. There seems to a be a risk that funding models based on author fees will become entrenched, perhaps even being controlled by the same large presses who have dominated traditional scholarly publishing. The goal we share with many members of the OA community is to reach a place where scholarly publications carry pay barriers neither for readers nor for authors. But the heavy reliance on author fees in the current transitional phase, and sector-wide commitment to infrastructures that assume a fee-driven model, seem to carry a risk that this approach – inequitable, in our view – will remain standard for the long term. Avoiding that outcome is a serious challenge for the coming years.
Q. How do you think OASPA can help mitigate those challenges?
OASPA can help by supporting publishers to reduce uncertainty and to mitigate risk during their OA transition. There are many forms this could take. It’s helpful simply to bring peers together into a shared forum for exchange of ideas, for example, and to direct people to important information resources. Another measure might be to participate actively in assessing new or experimental approaches to OA publishing, in order to help publishers understand whether a new model would be a good fit for them and how likely it is to be sustainable (i.e. how risky it is to try). Generally speaking, OASPA’s role as a central hub and forum to develop insight around OA publishing is clearly an important element in confronting all of the challenges arising from the sector’s transition to Open Access.