Via Transversalinflections I learned about Re.Press, an Australian publisher of Open Access titles in Philosophy. Their business model is based on a free Open Access edition in combination with print sales, the model at the moment many presses are experimenting with (amongst others: Open Humanities Press, Open Book Publishers, National Academies Press, fellow Australians ANU E Press, Rice University Press, AU Press, and Bloomsbury Academic.
Re.Press already established a wonderful collection of titles, amongst others The concept of model by Alain Badiou, Graham Harman’s new book on Bruno Latour and forthcoming titels on Walter Benjamin and on first love by Sigi Jöttkandt, also co-founder of Open Humanities Press. I especially like Re.Press’s statement from their website:
“In line with this ambition, re.press is itself a new kind of publisher. Attentive to the latest developments in contemporary technologies, re.press publications are available globally, wherever there is access to the internet. We seek to make as many of our publications as possible available as open-access files, free to anyone who wishes to download them. Our hard-copy books are print-on-demand, minimizing waste and cost. Yet our publications also maximize design values, boosting clarity and aesthetic qualities.”
They clearly state in there Open Access policy that they believe, as I concur, that the digital and the print fulfill different functions (at least will do so for the time being) making it possible for them to thrive side-by-side. And this dual existence can even strengthen (traditional) Humanities/Philosophy publishing and scholarly communication :
“Our academic titles are published under an open access licence ensuring the greatest possible exposure for our authors’ work through the almost unrestricted distribution channels of the internet. This does not mean that re.press is a digital publisher: we are a publisher of ‘real’ books that are available in bricks and mortar booksellers (as well as on-line retailers). However, our open access titles are also available free of charge in digital form. We do not consider the digital version a replacement for the physical book. On the contrary, we believe that the two mediums perform different functions, offering the best of both worlds. In fact, it is our hope that open access publishing will strengthen traditional publishing and scholarship more broadly by releasing ideas and thinkers from the constraints of the market. You can support our endeavour to make our books widely available as open access titles by encouraging your library to buy a print edition (from the usual sources) or by buying one yourself.”
Via the Re-press link section I discovered another very interesting ‘Ópen Access’ initiative, to be more precise, a record company, called Records on Ribs. They actually seem to bring into practice the Maecenas model I described before (and up to now thought to be kind of hypothetical): they give away their music for free (with Creative Commons licenses) and offer deluxe editions for sale and hope that community support will generate some extra revenues. So they actually take donations targeting the ‘good-music-loving-and-supporting hearts of their community.
I love their manifesto so I am going to publish that integrally here now. Read and weep:
ManifestoRecords on Ribs gives away it’s music for free. Records on Ribs is against nothing. We are not here ‘in reaction’ to anything. We are merely putting into practice what we believe. And this is what we believe… To sell music for profit is to deny its worth. It is to reduce it to numbers, spreadsheets, targets. Desire cannot be quantified thusly. Tapes, CD-Rs and the internet give us the opportunity to distribute music for free without losing significant sums of money. Anyone could do what we are doing. A free for all. Brilliance obscured by an avalanche of mundanity. So what? There is an avalanche of mundanity already in the shops, and it costs you £9.99 a go. We only ask that you listen with open hearts and minds. And if one hundred, one thousand, one million people want to do the same as us then good luck to them. What a world that would be! Desire freed from profit. We accept donations, but do not expect them. What we do costs us little, but we cannot avoid making a loss. Nor can the artists who have to buy equipment and take time to rehearse, perform and record. Any money you give us will go to loosen these burdens and will be gratefully received. You can also buy lovingly crafted CD-Rs of our albums (made to order). We like to think they are objects worth owning, because we know you are all commodity fetishists when it comes to music, and an MP3 isn’t quite the same. We are hoping to do vinyl one day in the future. All the best The Records On Ribs Team
Are there more record companies working with such a model I wonder? And does it work, does it create enough revenue to be sustainable?