Friday, September 15, 2006

Publishing Cooperatives: Another Seminal Work by Raym Crow

Raym Crow, author of the key SPARC discussion paper Institutional Repositories, has done it again!

Publishers cooperatives: an alternative for non-profit publishers, presents a blueprint for moving to open access that will work for a great many publishers. A very large percentage of peer-reviewed scholarly journals are still being produced by small societies, and many are still being produced in print only. Raym explains why publishing cooperatives, based on discipline, make a great deal of sense for such publishers. For Raym's excellent work, please see the link below. Following are some of my thoughts on how and why libraries should be helping to start and support publishing cooperatives.

From my perspective, this is a unique opportunities for libraries to be involved in helping to set up and support such cooperatives. Many of these societies would very much like to move to open access, but lack the means. Their members are our faculty; it makes sense for us to help them, as this creates the changes in scholarly communications we have been seeking.

It is not hard for a library to provide support. There is free, open source software available. Hosting costs are miniminal, and technical supports costs can be quite reasonable. Simon Fraser University Library, for example, has analyzed the costs involved per-journal to come up with a cost-recovery fee of $750 Canadian per journal, as listed on the SFU library web site at

This is a unique window of opportunity for library leadership in creating change in scholarly communications, in my view.

For the small, print-only publisher, with a little help, it could actually be quite easy to move from print-only to online and open access. It is easier to move to open access immediately, then to set up authentication and electronic subscription tracking first (it's probably more work to set up authentication and tracking than it is to set up an electronic journal). There could be journals that could easily afford an OA journal through cost savings from dropping print, although many will want to continue print.

The discipline-based cooperative makes a lot of sense to me from my experience as a new OA editor / editorial board member. When we have questions about how to run our new LIS OA journal, the first people we think to call are our friends at other LIS OA journals, and there is some overlap in editorial participation among our journals.

Even if the cooperative approach initially is likely to appeal first to the smaller publishers, not the big expensive ones where we'd really like to see changes, here is something to think about: once a cooperative is established, any editorial board fed up with high prices and limited access - has someplace else to go.

A brief article on publishing cooperatives is available in the latest First Monday:

The full discussion paper can be downloaded from the SPARC web site:

For direct download, go to:

Many thanks to SPARC and Raym Crow!


Heather Morrison
heatherm at eln dot bc dot ca

Disclosure: I work for SFU Library, one of the partners in OJS, although I'm not involved in this project.

This was originally posted to the SCHOLCOMM listserv, and is the fourth post in the
Transitioning to Open Access Series

This post reflects my personal opinion only and does not represent the opinions or policy of the BC Electronic Library Network or the Simon Fraser University Library.

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