You've just spent years researching and then writing your monograph. This is the book that will kick start your career – your proposal was accepted by your top publisher - you got great comments back from the peer reviewers - you've negotiated a great front cover and the blurb is short and snappy.
You can't wait to have the book in your hands and show your mum, flaunt it under the nose of the VC and place it on your bookshelf. Yes it's going to look great in your new office and the citations will start flowing soon. Yep. This is the beginning of....
Oh no wait, what's that? It only sold 30 copies, worldwide.
In the last ten years, library print book purchasing expenditure has declined from 11.9% of their overall budgets in 1999 to 8.4% in 2009 (RIN, 2010). The average number of sales of monographs to libraries has declined from around 2,000 in 1980 to around 200 in the early years of this century (Willinsky, 2009)
This creates two problems for researchers. First, it decreases the number of readers with access to individual monographs, meaning that the flow of knowledge that underpins research is compromised. Second, it means that many scholarly monographs become economically unviable, leading to concerns that publishers may select titles based primarily upon the potential for sales rather than scholarly worth.
So how do we...
a) Keep the monograph alive to allow humanities and social science researchers to present considered arguments
b) Help increase readership to foster new connections and research, and
c) Find an economic model to sustain the publishing and dissemination of monographs – in both electronic and print.
These are some of the questions we are trying to answer in our open access monograph project – OAPEN-UK being managed by Jisc Collections. What if your monograph was available online for free for everyone to read as a PDF or in HTML and in addition libraries and academics could still purchase print (60% of academics still prefer print) or e-book editions if they wanted them? There would be no limits on who can read your book - discoverable to all through online search engines and the sales of the print could support the sustainability of the Open Access version. And of course each book is put through the same peer review processes that normal print books are - you could even experiment with open peer review - or get input from fellow colleagues as you write.
This is the model we are exploring in OAPEN-UK with 58 monographs matched into pairs - half available in OA and half available through standard methods. We are gathering sales, usage and citation data to assess performance – do the OA titles get more usages and sales than the control group titles?
In addition we are gathering data on perceptions, attitudes and priorities and processes to help us work out how a move to OA publishing may work. We recently did a survey of HSS academics – and had around 700 responses. Here are some of the highlights:
- Only 50% of researchers are aware of OA and only 30% familiar with it.
- Around 50% of researchers think it is ok to make a profit from OA publishing as long as that profit goes back into supporting the discipline or making more OA content available – 20% think you can make a profit and use it however you like and 20% think that you can make a profit but only to cover costs.
- Almost 80% would prefer the most restrictive Creative Comms licence, but what is interesting is that the responses show that researchers are more concerned about protecting their work than it being used commercially.
- 60% had read a monograph in the last couple of days – 39% had bought it and 33% had got it via the library
- Early career academics are more willing to consider self-publishing than later career researchers.
- 397 that had published a mono, book chapter or co-authored a mono since 2000 where interviewed. The authors picked their publishers because 1st they are good at disseminating to the right audience, 2nd cause they have good QA process, 3rd cause they are the best in their filed and 4th because they were the only ones interested!
- Phd students were more likely to rely on the library that late career academics
- Print still dominates reading preferences but less so for early career academics
- Perception of the group was that open access will have negative impacts on quality, reputation and reward but will be brilliant for availability and efficiency – so clearly any open access model really has to address quality and think about impacts in terms of the REF and reputations. Oh and no one really cares about royalties!
You can view all the results of the survey at: http://oapen-uk.jiscebooks.org/research-findings/researchersurvey/
You can also read about focus groups with publishers, research funders, librarians, learned societies and e-book aggregators at: http://oapen-uk.jiscebooks.org/research-findings/y1-initial-focus-groups/
We are doing lots and lots of research so stay involved by following us on @oapenuk or visiting the OAPEN-UK website at: http://oapen-uk.jiscebooks.org/, or by joining us at events: http://oapen-uk.jiscebooks.org/events/