The momentum towards open access journal articles picked up substantially this year. Even though we’re still a long way from the ideal world we wish we had, where all academic scholarship can be freely read and used by anyone, anywhere, at least we are well on the way. More and more, I hear people say out loud, “It’s inevitable.”
But books are a much harder case. The cost to go from “here’s my manuscript” to the satisfying thump of the hardback on the table is a lot more than the $1000 – $3000 for an OA article. There are not a lot of people demonstrating the myriad ways to fund those costs.
But, it is happening, in many places across our country. Publishers are publishing open access monographs. I recently consulted with two faculty members at UT whose book, several years in the making now, will come out open access. They are art historians. Solid humanities. Open access. I just read an article about Wellcome Trust and Palgrave Macmillan publishing a book on the history of a disease open access. History.
Yesterday I listened to the panel of lawyers who attended the appellate hearing in the Georgia State e-reserves case discuss how the oral arguments went. Everyone is careful not to say that they think things will go one way or the other, but it is certainly clear that all were considering the prospect of losing on appeal. Open access may be the silver lining to that possible outcome. If publishers were to get what they say they want in that case — to limit course readings fair use to their 1978 Classroom Guidelines — it would encourage many who might doubt its viability today, to give open access monograph publishing a lot more thought tomorrow. We have it within our own hands to steward our scholarship in a more rational way. We might start by questioning whether our servants have become our masters, and then take back from them the responsibility for sharing what we do with the world. We create it. We pay for its distribution one way or the other. Why not up front, so our authors can have the wider audiences their scholarship deserves and that open access can give them?