Re: Open Access to Books?

From: (wrong string) édon <>
Date: Sun, 20 Jan 2008 21:50:39 -0500

    [ The following text is in the "utf-8" character set. ]
    [ Your display is set for the "iso-8859-1" character set. ]
    [ Some characters may be displayed incorrectly. ]

I have been following this discussion with interest as I have already
broached it in the past.

I would agree that the issue of books is different from articles. I
would also agree that the lowest-hanging fruit are the articles.
However, making the royalty issue stand as such an important issue
for monographs appears contrived. Most SSH authors do not expect much
in terms of royalties and most would rather publish and not receive
royalties than not be published at all. Because the sums are so
small, most authors would not mind a decrease in their royalties
either. In short, the only party to fear loss of revenue is the party
of publishers. However, these publishers are often university presses
that face difficult financial circumstances and they are afraid of
losing control. The fragility of the monograph publishing scene is
the real obstacle to OA for books. One must realize that most titles
published by university presses as specialized monographs hover
around a few hundred copies. Placing these books in electronic OA and
offering affordable print on demand for those who need it is a
solution that would deserve being examined, as it is already with the
reprint on-demand of out-of-print books in the public domain by some
firms such as Lulu.

Here is one precise situation where mandating an OA electronic
version of a book appears reasonable and doable: it is when books are
directly subsidized by the State. For example, in Canada, the Aid to
Scholarly Publishing Programme supports over 170 titles per year with
$8,000/title. It seems to me that if a book is subsidized to this
extent, the granting agency could mandate OA access to these
monographs. To help weak university presses, it could also be agreed
that authors of subsidized volumes should forfeit their paltry

Other countries have similar state aid for national monographs, so
there too mandates could be sought. As in the case of articles, it is
a question of political will and pushing for OA books is a positive
move in my opinion. Then, as Stevan says, the IR's are ready to
receive these books, but this is a trivial question.

By keeping the issue separate - monographs really import only in the
humanities and some social sciences, but there, they are the dominant
currency - there is no risk of placing the archiving, green road in
jeopardy. Mandating OA books is a related, but different, issue from
mandating the archiving of articles, and defending one does not
prevent defending the other. They are not competing for a finite
amount of advocacy energy that might be lost through some lack of

Jean-Claude Guédon

Le dimanche 20 janvier 2008 à 22:08 +0000, Stevan Harnad a écrit :

 On Sun, 20 Jan 2008, Pablo Ortellado wrote:

> You may call it OA or not, but books in many cases should be mandatorily
> made available on the Internet...

Mandatorily "in many cases"? How many? And which? and who decides, how?

Please take a moment to reflect.

The substantive issue is not what we do and don't call "OA."

The issue is what we can and cannot consensually mandate (and what a
mandate is).

After much too long a delay, the momentum is finally gathering for
funders and universities to adopt Green OA mandates to deposit all
peer-reviewed research journal articles in OA repositories. (Not "in
many cases": all, without exception: that's why/how it's a mandate.)

The reason those mandates proved possible was that all the authors of
all those articles (as well as their universities and their funders)
without exception, wanted to give away those articles for free online.

None of them sought royalty revenues or print sales -- they sought only
maximal research impact.

None of this is true without exception, or even majoritarily, of books. It
is true of some authors of some books. And those authors are all free
to deposit them in their OA IR if they wish.

But if you insist on including books in the deposit mandates, you will
simply prevent the adoption of the mandates themselves, because they
were predicated on consensus among authors, their institutions and
their funders that their articles were intended as give-aways all along
(even before the online era). There is no such consensus on books
(in fact, I suspect, far from it).

Not only are the same OA IRs there, ready for books to be
deposited into them too; they can even be deposited IDOA,
if the author wishes: Closed Access but with the option of
emailing one copy to any requesters the author approves.

And as with Gold OA journal publishing, book publishers are more
than welcome to experiment with offering free online access, as
National Academies Press does, extremely successfully and valuably:

But on no account should we needlessly jeopardize the spread of Green OA
self-archiving mandates today, just when adoptions are at last beginning
to gather speed, by raising the goal-posts, this time to a height for
which the research community can no longer sustain its natural consensus,
by now declaring that book deposit is to be mandatory too.

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 Mon Jan 21 2008 - 03:04:50 GMT

This archive was generated by hypermail 2.3.0 : Fri Dec 10 2010 - 19:49:11 GMT