Open Access, or: The Internet is Not Going Away

UWE. 18th January 2017.

A book

Professor Martin Paul Eve, Birkbeck, University of London

Why do we publish?

To be read. To be assessed.

A research paper

Dissemination: Quality Control, Validation and Space-Time Compression

  • Dissemination of work
  • Preservation of record
  • Footnotes and scholarly genealogy (vs. science?)
  • Labour of reading: reading-avoidance techniques
  • Dissemination at a distance
    • Difference to conferences?


Symbolic Economy

The Symbolic Economy Maps onto the Real Economy

Library Economy

Crises of Socio-Legal Scarcity in the Age of Digital Reproduction #1

“Our fine arts were developed, their types and uses were established, in times very different from the present, by men whose power of action upon things was insignificant in comparison with ours. But the amazing growth of our techniques, the adaptability and precision they have attained, the ideas and habits they are creating, make it a certainty that profound changes are impending in the ancient craft of the Beautiful. In all the arts there is a physical component which can no longer be considered or treated as it used to be, which cannot remain unaffected by our modern knowledge and power. For the last twenty years neither matter nor space nor time has been what it was from time immemorial. We must expect great innovations to transform the entire technique of the arts, thereby affecting artistic invention itself and perhaps even bringing about an amazing change in our very notion of art.”

Paul Valéry, Pièces sur L’Art, 1931

Crises of Socio-Legal Scarcity in the Age of Digital Reproduction #2

“In principle a work of art has always been reproducible. Man-made artifacts could always be imitated by men. [...] Around 1900 technical reproduction had reached a standard that not only permitted it to reproduce all transmitted works of art and thus to cause the most profound change in their impact upon the public; it also had captured a place of its own among the artistic processes. [...] Even the most perfect reproduction of a work of art is lacking in one element: its presence in time and space, its unique existence at the place where it happens to be.”

Walter Benjamin, "The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction", 1936

Crises of Socio-Legal Scarcity in the Age of Digital Reproduction #3

“The problem in each case is not that you stole from a specific person but that you undermined the artificial scarcities that allow the economy to function.”

Jaron Lanier, You Are Not a Gadget, 2010

Three Problems

Three Problems: researcher access, public access and re-use

Problem 1: Researcher access

See under "serials crisis".

Problem 2: Public access

  • Increasingly educated populace
  • Institutional missions to benefit society
    • Or what is a university?
  • The academy becomes irrelevant
    • Especially the humanities

Problem 3: Restrictive Re-Use Rights

  • Photocopying licenses
    • Even for teaching
  • Text mining/derivatives prohibited
  • Inclusion in Wikipedia and other resources
  • Community translation
  • Third-party re-use rights

Open Access (OA)

  • Peer-reviewed research
  • Free to read online
  • Permission to re-use

  • Gold: at publisher/source
  • Green: institutional/subject repository

  • Gratis: free to read
  • Libre: free to re-use
Background image © PLOS. Used under a CC BY-SA 3.0 license.

But APCs problematic for the humanities and some other disciplines

APC graph


  • Monographs acknowledged as different
    • e.g. HEFCE mandate
  • Higher barriers to entry for new publishers
  • Open source platform development in infancy
  • Production toolchain likewise
  • Different discoverability and value-conferral sites

BPCs for monographs scale badly

  • 5,023 monographs in UK in 2013 by largest 4 publishers (source: Crossick)
  • At a £5,050 BPC (UP price): £25,366,150
  • At a £6,500 BPC (CUP price): £32,649,500
  • At an £11,000 BPC (Palgrave price): £55,253,000
  • UK spend on all books 2010/2011: ~£60,000,000 (source: SCONUL)

BPCs for monographs scale badly

BPC graph

Our Solution

Open Library of Humanities Megajournal / Multijournal / Not-for-profit / Collectively Funded

Planning since 2013

Press and Committees

Support from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation

  • $90,000 planning grant
    • University of Lincoln, UK, 2014-2015
  • $741,000 sustainability grant
    • Birkbeck, University of London, UK, 2015-2018

The Subscription Model as it Exists

The current system: many libraries all paying relatively large amounts

The OLH Library Partnership Subsidy Model

Many libraries all paying smaller amounts

>200 Libraries Financially Supporting the OLH in First Year

Some of the libraries supporting OLH: Harvard, Yale, Princeton, Cambridge

18 Journals on or Supported by the Platform (909 articles in first year)

Journals on the OLH platform Cost per institution per article: around $1.10 per institution per article. Target of 300+ libraries by end of year three. 118,686 unique readers. Average of 131 readers per article. $0.008 per institution per reader.

Ongoing Project to "Flip" Subscription Journals

Six additional journals joining in January 2017

Building Open-Source Publishing Technology

  • meTypeset: a JATS XML typesetter
  • CaSSius: a CSS regions PDF generator
  • Translation Layer

CaSSius: Heavyweight typesetting with lightweight technology

CaSSius output

The End

Thank you!

Presentation licensed under a CC BY-SA 3.0 license. All institutional images excluded from CC license. Available to view online at