Re: Publication, Access Provision, and Fair Use

From: Stevan Harnad <>
Date: Sun, 10 Jun 2007 04:56:45 +0100 (BST)

Sandy, I do not claim to have any special expertise on the question of
scholarly monographs or their future in the online age. My hunch that
many will eventually go the way of Gold OA publishing is just a hunch,
and deserves no more weight than any other hunch.

Where I think I have some genuine understanding and expertise is on the
future of scholarly journal articles, and in that case there is no doubt
whatsoever that Green OA self-archiving is optimal and inevitable. (I
don't especially care about Gold OA, though I think it is likely too,

It is in this vein that I will reply to your comments below:

On Sat, 9 Jun 2007 wrote:

> Stevan: Just to clarify, I am NOT "director" of the AAUP (which
> stands for Association of American University Presses, not
> American Association...); that would be Peter Givler. I am
> incoming AAUP President, that's all.

My apologies, Sandy; I have corrected this in the Hypermail AmSci Archive.

> I appreciate the further clarification about the function of your
> scheme for journal Green OA, Stevan, which is indeed clever.

Not, I hope, clever, but natural, and soon adopted!

> With regard to books, however, I find this a stunning
> overgeneralization, at least as far as academic books are
> concerned: "At the present time, most book authors are not
> motivated only or mostly by the desire to maximise impact, and
> hence they are not giveaway authors, whereas all journal article
> authors are."

As I said, I am not an expert on monographs, monograph authors, or
their motivations. But the point I was making is exactly the same if
you substitute "many" or even "some" for "only" and "most" above: The
point is that in the case of journal article authors, the quantifier
is *all*: the population is completely exception-free, all give-away
authors, and hence the case for OA is an open and shut one, whereas with
monograph authors the population is not all just give-way authors,
seeking impact only, and hence the case for OA is not open and shut there
(yet). First things -- and clearcut, exception-free things -- first.

> Where you qualify the claim by restricting it to
> trade books, I agree. (But even there exceptions exist like
> Lessig and Benkler, who clearly are happy to trade some possible
> lost print sales for much wider impact possibilities.) Trade
> books, however, constitute a very small proportion of the book
> literature that contributes seriously to academic advancement; if
> I were to hazard a guess, I would put the figure at less than 10%
> in terms of numbers of titles. By far academic authors of books
> are more motivated by concerns about impact than income, partly
> because the income directly from sales of academic books is so
> small, but also because the indirect effect on income from wider
> impact, through career advancement and promotion, vastly exceeds
> any royalty income for the vast majority of such authors. For
> more on this, see John Thompson, Books in the Digital Age (Polity
> Press, 2005).

I don't doubt any of that. But until and unless *all* authors seek *only*
impact and not income, the case of books is simply not a straightforward
one for OA, as the case of (refereed research) journal articles is.

> I therefore do take very seriously the possible threat that ideas
> of fair use might post to undercutting monograph publishing.

Can I remind you again, Sandy, that the Fair Use Button is only designed
for the 38% of journal articles whose publishers still seek to block or
embargo the immediate provision of OA? It is not designed for monograph
authors. Monograph authors do not have a half century of tradition of
sending free reprints to all those who ask for them, whereas journal
article authors do. Hence it is only journal article authors -- the
38% of them that publish in journals that are not yet Green -- that are
inclined to make use of the Fair Use Button. (The other 62% of journal
article authors can immediately make their postprints OA without need
of the Button.)

I can't say that if the Fair Use Button should give some monograph
authors some ideas I would find that an altogether a bad thing! But
that is not the intention, and I doubt that that will be a significant
outcome of the creation and promotion of the Button. Institutional and
Funder deposit mandates do not apply to monographs. And the reason the
mandates are needed at all is because only about 15% of (article) authors
are depositing spontaneously. (And those are the "exception-free,
impact-seeking, give-away" authors, remember!) So I would not think
unmandated monograph authors represent much of a risk of either
spontaneous self-archiving or emailing free e-books to e-requesters at
this time. (But I am inexpert in that, and who knows?)

> You seem to suggest that it will dry up in print anyway. Perhaps so,
> but then we need to find a way of publishing this literature
> electronically that makes economic sense.

Makes economic sense for whom? Because if the objective is to generate scholarly
monographs that are online-only, then all that's at issue is covering the
essential costs. I don't know what those are, but I am mightily doubtful that
they are as high as your estimate, below:

> You suggest a Gold OA approach. That's easy to say, but much harder
> to implement for monograph than for journal publishing because the size of
> potential fees up front are substantially greater, on the order
> of $20,000 at a minimum.

For an online-only monograph that the author deposits in his IR? Does the
reviewing and editing really cost that much? (Text-generation and mark-up
can be offloaded onto the authors, and distribution and preservation
can be offloaded onto the IRs, just as with Gold journal articles.)

> One reason I encouraged the AAUP to
> issue its statement on open access was precisely to point out the
> greater difficulties that might face Gold OA proponents of book
> than of journal publishing.

Yes, but the statement should not be a blanket statement, conflating
both cases. The case of journal articles is a straightforward one, with
a logic of its own -- and independent of Gold OA, since the target
is Green OA (self-archiving).

> Yet, at least for humanities and social sciences, this is an
> imperative that can't be ignored or evaded. Too much of the most
> important scholarship in these fields is done in the form of
> books to be casual about accepting the demise of book publishing
> in these areas.

Aren't we getting ahead of ourselves? I was talking about Green OA
self-archiving mandates for journal articles, and the Fair Use Button
for the embargoed ones. You seem to have leapt to the demise of book

> (Only some subsectors, like Anglo-American
> analytic philosophy, might survive a retreat to journal
> publication only.) And the already yawning "digital divide"
> between the book and journal literature is a matter of increasing
> concern to all of us in scholarly publishing. It makes no sense,
> in terms of knowledge dissemination, to have what appears in
> books so much less widely available than most of the journal
> literature now is, even if it isn't in Green or Gold OA form.

You'll have to forgive me for being less enthusiastic about how available the
journal literature is when it is not made OA...

But if there is a corresponding need for access to monographs, let the chips
fall where they may. You have a respite, though, because it is not monographs
but articles that are the targets of the OA movement. We have our hands full
with those...

> Most monographs these days exist in the form of 400 or 500 copies
> located in just the top academic libraries. By contrast, an
> article in a Project Muse journal, with some 1300 institutional
> subscriptions worldwide (multiplied by the number of users each
> of those institutions serves), has a vastly greater exposure and
> use than monographs do.

I am not impressed! My constituency is journal articles, and toll-access means a
lot of access-denial and impact-loss. The fact that monographs fare even worse
is irrelevant.

> Happily, university presses are not alone in being worried about
> this "digital divide." It is a major theme of a new report from
> the Ithaka Group, titled "University Publishing in the Digital
> Age," recently released in draft form for comment by the
> university press community on the eve of our annual meeting in
> Minneapolis, where it will be a topic of discussion at a plenary
> session where the report's chief author, Laura Brown (former
> President of Oxford U.P. in America) and this list's frequent
> commentator Joe Esposito will be fielding questions from the
> audience after their initial presentations. We all look forward
> to a lively discussion and to the official release of this report
> to a wider audience soon. It is addressed as much to
> administrators and librarians, by the way, as it is to university
> press personnel, and the choice of the word "university
> publishing" in the title is deliberately broad to cover all the
> publishing that universities do, not just by their presses but
> also increasingly by librarians, departments, institutes, etc. It
> is an excellent report well worth reading by everyone concerned
> about the future of scholarly communication. (End of promo!)

I have to confess I don't quite know what the "digital divide" is: I used to
think it was the divide between the Haves and the Have-Nots insofar as access
to digital texts was concerned. But that also includes a goodly chunk of
internet-access problems for poorer countries, an important problem, but
different from that of OA, and likewise not to be conflated with it.

Stevan Harnad

If you have adopted or plan to adopt a policy of providing Open Access
to your own research article output, please describe your policy at:
    BOAI-1 ("Green"): Publish your article in a suitable toll-access journal
    BOAI-2 ("Gold"): Publish your article in an open-access journal if/when
    a suitable one exists.
    in BOTH cases self-archive a supplementary version of your article
    in your own institutional repository.
Received on Sun Jun 10 2007 - 05:01:01 BST

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