Business Models

future_of_monographic_books_bunz_open_accessThe following open access article in Insights: the UKSG journal, written by Dr. Mercedes Bunz, Director of the Hybrid Publishing Lab at the Centre for Digital Cultures (Leuphana University), evaluates the current state of academic book publishing based on the findings of the Hybrid Publishing Lab’s business model research. Continue Reading…

We wrote about the business model of Knowledge Unlatched a while ago, an initiative that seeks to link libraries with publishers in order to ‘unlatch’ scholarly monographs, i.e. to publish them as Open Access titles in a financially sustainable way.

Now Knowledge Unlatched has released its pilot collection: 28 monographs across the humanities and social sciences from publishers such as Bloomsbury and de Gruyter will soon be published an Open Access mode using a Creative Commons licence.

Here is a snippet of the press release:

The KU Pilot Collection is the first step in creating a sustainable route to Open Access for Humanities and Social Sciences books. Support from a minimum of 200 libraries willing to participate in the KU Pilot was required in order to achieve this goal.This target was exceeded by almost half, with close to 300 libraries from 24 countries joining KU in support of its shared cost approach to Open Access for specialist scholarly books.

Knowledge Unlatched is a truly global initiative, involving 137 participating libraries from North America, 77 from the UK, 27 from Australia & New Zealand and 55 from the rest of the world all working together to make the Pilot Collection Open Access.

Because the target number of 200 participating libraries was exceeded, the amount that each library is paying per title was reduced from the target average price of $60.00 to under $43.00.

The pilot collection will be made available via OAPEN, HathiTrust and the British Library.

The recently published Final Report of the Dutch OAPEN-NL project gives first answers to a still open question.

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In October 2010, OAPEN Foundation, NWO and SURF started the pilot “OAPEN-NL: A project exploring Open Access monograph publishing in the Netherlands” which combines qualitative and quantitative methods to provide information about the perceptions and expectations of authors and publishers, the costs of monographs, and the effects of Open Access (OA) on sales and scholarly impact.

To obtain valid and comparable data, 50 monographs in various subject areas were published in OA by nine participating publishers between June 2011 and November 2012. The publications were funded with up to € 5,000 each. For every OA title the publishers provided a similar title that was published conventionally. OAPEN-NL pursued a hybrid approach to OA books, which means that not only OA editions, but also printed editions were published and offered for sale. The costs of the OA edition were calculated as the first copy costs of a book, based on all the costs that go into producing the digital file of the publication (cf. p. 3).


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One of the most pressing problems Open Access currently still has, becomes very well apparent in my own story: there is no funding to publish a stand-alone book.

How Digitalization Transforms Knowledge, Work, Journalism and Politics Without Making Too Much Noise

Not Open Access despite trying: How Digitalization Transforms Knowledge, Work, Journalism and Politics Without Making Too Much Noise

When I planned to publish my book on algorithms “The Silent Revolution”, I wanted to publish it Open Access. Of course! In my view its topic should be available as widely as possible: It is useful for students and researchers – there is an introductory overview over recent debates about algorithms; and it discusses the effect of algorithms on our societies, with a special focus on the transformation of the public sphere pushed by Google, Facebook, Twitter, et. al. In short: it concerns us all, and I would have liked it to be within easy reach.

As we all know, academic books are often locked in a high price, my book currently costs $54 or £45 as a hard cover, so I am very happy that there is a much cheaper digital version at $32.44 or £19.50. However, easily available in Open Access would be much better.

How Much Is A Book? Expect the costs of a small car
When I asked Palgrave Macmillian, my helpful editor started to research the situation. Continue Reading…

Just a few days ago, independent journalist and long-time Open Access observer Richard Poynder published a striking interview with former Vice President at De Gruyter, Alexander Grossmann, who lately took up a post as Professor of Publishing Management at the Leipzig University of Applied Sciences and founded the publishing and network start-up venture ScienceOpen.

According to Grossmann, “there is no publishing house which is either able or willing to consider the rigorous change in their business models which would be required to actively pursue an open access publishing concept” though “both publishers and funding organizations should by now have had enough time”.

The Q&A is part of Poynder’s current series The State of Open Access where he interviews relevant stakeholders in the OA arena as Peter Suber, Joseph Esposito, Stevan Harnad, and others. The blog Open & Shut? contains much of Poynder’s writings on OA and other open initiatives.

The dispute amongst scholars and policy makers about which road to take to Open Access (gold or green) revolves to a great extend around the problem (or danger) of double dipping. It is widely acknowledged that publishers ought not to be allowed to charge twice for scientific publications, that is scholars and their public funders on the one hand and publicly funded libraries and readers on the other hand. On first glance this claim seems to be quite obvious as well as its solution appears to be trivial: when published open access a text has to be put online free of charge. Yet, that’s only part of the story.

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As part of our research into new business models in Open Access publishing we are interviewing managers at various scholarly publishers about the answers they find to the challenges posed by the current reconfiguration of the academic publishing market. While there seems to be an emerging consensus that APC-funded Open Access publishing in journals is the way to go for STEM fields, an issue that frequently comes up is the sustainability of that very model for the humanities and social sciences.

The monograph is still perceived as the gold standard of humanistic inquiry, yet research grants in the humanities are much less generous than in STEM fields. This makes coughing up the roughly 10-15.000 EUR it costs to produce a book a rather nontrivial task. And with this figure we are not even speaking about profits for the publisher. Consequently, most publishers are currently viewing their activities in OA monograph publishing as experimental and are not expecting any profits from those initiatives in the foreseeable future.

However, Knowledge Unlatched, a new initiative by ex-Bloomsbury Academic executive Frances Pinter, seeks to tackle this problem.

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Services such as Mendeley, and ResearchGate promise to transform research: they connect researchers in collaborative digital environments, provide venues for publication, and develop alternative metrics for measuring impact and reputation. Backed by venture capital, these services have seen considerable growth during the last years. But will they turn out to be financially sustainable?

We provide a quick glance at the prospective business models of three academic social networking services.

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