Friday, October 31, 2008

Should university presses adopt an OA model for all of their scholarly books?

At ELPUB 2008, Greco & Wharton presented a compelling case for why university presses should adopt an OA model for all of their scholarly books - a case based entirely on economics, not philosophy.

Greco & Wharton present analysis showing how a small press releasing 20 Open Access books would generate $128,511. in profit; a large press releasing 100 titles would generate $642,555.00 in profit (p. 11).

This is based on a processing fee approach (G&W use the term author-pays), with $250 as a preliminary charge, and $10,000 on final publication. This is for electronic text, with print-on-demand.

At first, this figure seems high, and I was quite sceptical. The more I think about it, the more sense this makes. Like journals, the primary market for scholarly books is academic libraries. Instead of paying to purchase for very limited access (in print, only one reader at a time - or none, if the book disappears), why not work together to pay for production of a book for open access?

$10,000 is a lot of money for a book - but another way of looking at this, is that 100 libraries contributing $100 each can pay for the production of an open access book. Libraries already do a lot of purchasing as groups through library consortia and groups of consortia; this approach could be a great fit.

There are other possible models, such as combinations of subsidy and direct support. For example, a library could host an Open Monographs Press, just as many now provide hosting and support services for Open Journal Systems. Libraries could work towards matching funds for scholarly books, rather than funding the full cost.

Full citation for Greco and Wharton's paper:
Greco, Albert N; Wharton, Robert Michael (2008) Should university presses adopt an open access [electronic publishing] business model for all of their scholarly books?, ELPUB2008. Open Scholarship: Authority, Community, and Sustainability in the Age of Web 2.0 - Proceedings of the 12th International Conference on Electronic Publishing held in Toronto, Canada 25-27 June 2008 / Edited by: Leslie Chan and Susanna Mornati. ISBN 978-0-7727-6315-0, 2008, pp. 149-164

[Disclosures: I am on the ELPUB 2009 planning committee, and I work for a library consortium].

This post is part of the Transitioning to Open Access Series.