After a previous guest post where he developed an interesting forecast related to academic publishing, Ronald Snijder is back with his thoughts on Open Access monographs. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org
When I look at publishing academic books in Open Access, the story surrounding it tends to go a full circle, starting and ending with technology.
Technology is disrupting. Publishing in Open Access could only become an option because information technology enabled us to create files in a format – PDF – that could be used for printing and also be widely read on a screen. And the Web made it possible to publish those files without a lot of hassle. It made it possible to think about books that are free as in beer.
Of course, technology did not stop there. Apart from the ‘traditional’ web channel, we can access content from a mobile device. The number of available channels is not just increasing for the readers; those who make OA monographs available can now use several platforms such as repositories, the Google Books or other platforms like OAPEN. Using the right channels also influences the availability: will my precious books be found in all the search engines?
Technology may also be changing our definition of what a monograph actually is. When you add moving pictures, sounds, complete databases, is it still a book? When it is updated regularly, possibly as a result of an online collaboration, can we still speak of a monograph? Some may also question the academic status of a monograph, compared to articles. Books are too long to read, too slow to write. Or maybe not. Personally I do believe that monographs have merit, and that making them freely available is beneficial.
But how beneficial are they, and for who? This is something that I would like to explore a little further in the future. Open Access monographs may have a scientific impact, as barriers are removed. Pricing barriers may be important for scholars in developing countries. Full access may enhance research, by making the contents fully searchable. Making monographs accessible may help to carry their ideas to places beyond the academic circles. All this may happen right now, but on what scale? Open Access should not be just a believe system, it must be backed up with facts.
This leads to another question that is much easier to answer. How can Open Access be sustained? That is simple: through money and power. Funders of research can also fund Open Access publishing of the results. Libraries and publishers could adjust the way they operate; universities could mandate that all research must be made freely available. Sustainability also means that the digital monographs must be preserved, which is a technical issue. So this story ends where it started: technology.
If you like, you can look at a more visual representation underneath or here.