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Martin Paul Eve

Professor of Literature, Technology and Publishing at Birkbeck, University of London

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In Open Access and the Humanities, I wrote:

the case study I have opted to focus upon for this model is Open Book Publishers (OBP), a new small press based in Cambridge, UK and headed by Alessandra Tosi, a fellow of Clare Hall, and run by Rupert Gatti, a fellow of Trinity College. OBP has a strict emphasis on strong peer review with the mantra that, if a book doesn’t meet the highest of academic standards, it will not be published. Using a streamlined workflow, they hope to be able to outperform traditional publishers, publishing material of an equal quality faster and cheaper. As of mid 2014, OBP have published forty-three open-access books. The press has several routes to funding, the first of which (although only constituting 25% of their current income, according to Gatti) is to ask authors to request a BPC payment from their institutions. Lack of funding does not preclude publication, however, because there is an additional revenue stream from the demand side. Titles are available through high-quality print-on-demand. It is unclear, at present, whether this model will prove sustainable but, as mandates come into force, OBP will emerge as a strong market contender when other presses are charging thousands of pounds per book, although it is unclear at what scale they might eventually operate. (pp. 131-132)

OA and the Humanities was published by Cambridge University Press and some asked, given my critique of the prestige economy in that text, why I had opted to go with one of the oldest, most established, and most prestigious presses. The question is not hard to answer: I wanted a broad audience to read the work, including those who do place a high emphasis on the matters I critique. Books about OA might go down well with born-OA publishers, but it seemed important to me that the debate was broader than “another book about openness going to a new, born-OA press”.

Yet, I thoroughly support and endorse what Open Book Publishers is doing. That is why my next book, subject to revisions, will be published by them. I am, therefore, putting my money where my mouth is and publishing a traditional, literary studies monograph (that has taken me well over four years to write) with OBP (indeed, this was going to be my second book, but I ended up writing two further works in between). The book will, therefore, be gold open access from the get-go, alongside a beautiful and affordable print version.

So far, the process has been absolutely exemplary. OBP commissioned three external reader reports as the basis for their conditional acceptance and each of these reviews was constructive and critical. The reviews took a little longer than OBP hoped, but far less time than many journal articles that I have submitted. Alessandra also kept in touch with me throughout to let me know the current status, which was hugely appreciated.

I was, actually, extremely nervous about this review process, though. I’ve never had three external readers on a book project before. I’d also had to submit the manuscript a month earlier (and one final check-over fewer) than I had planned as I thought I was going to die in hospital in March. I dreaded that they would all reject me, telling me I was barking up the wrong tree, or that the more polemical claims simply mustn’t appear in print etc. etc. However, in what has turned out to be the best type of review scenario, these reports (which all recommended publication with some queries/reservations) told me what I already knew deep down: chapter two requires some serious axe-wielding but the argument is fundamentally strong. The reviews have given me the courage to do this as well as to undertake some much-needed reflection on other areas that can be sharpened.

The process from hereon has also been outlined to me in thorough detail, from marketing strategies through to cover design. And, quite frankly, the whole thing is great. At this point, I’d thoroughly recommend OBP to anyone. Once I’ve got these revisions sorted, I hope I can recommend my book, too.