Moving Books into Open Access

This post is part of a series on highlights and key takeaways from the 2016 SPARC MORE Meeting.

When Alison Mudditt took the reigns as director of the UC Press five years ago, she was dismayed by its lack of engagement with Open Access, given its shared missions of dissemination and impact of scholarship. Looking at the landscape, Muddit saw a wide range of OA mandates, a growth of hybrid journal models, more flexible licensing terms from publishers, and a moderation in price increases from publishers. Still, open access wasn’t dominated by the traditional publishers and the majority of scholars had not yet shown much interest in it.

“If we really want to get open access to move further forward, we all collectively – publishers, librarians, and other groups – have to find a way to engage the faculty,” said Mudditt. “That really comes down to understanding more about their motivations when they publish.”

Under Mudditt’s leadership, the press explored open-access models, and agreed any new models had to: 1) meet the needs of producers, readers, and consumers who pay for it; 2) be self-sustaining; 3) generate surplus revenue, and 4) build on existing OA models.

Last year, the UC Press started a subsidized open-access journal, “Collabra,” developed with focus group and survey input from faculty. Under this model, authors pay an article processing charge of $875. Reviewers are paid for the reviewing activity, not based on acceptance or rejection. Reviewers can either accept a check, pay forward by donating to Collabra waiver fund for faculty who cannot pay for the cost of publication or donate to institution’s open-access fund. To date, reviewers of all 15 articles that have been published have donated their payment, said Mudditt.

Also in 2015, the press introduced a monograph program, “Luminos,” designed to take advantage of rich, digital formats.

“It’s a challenge to convince faculty to overcome the deep cultural attachment to print, “said Mudditt. “Book publishing is such an important mark of professional achievement and many voiced concern that open-access publishing would not carry the same prestige.”

But the traditional model of publishing monographs embedded in humanities and social sciences is increasingly unsustainable, Mudditt said. (The average cost of publishing a monograph at UC is $15,000.) So the press wanted to create a “survival mechanism” for monographs and reinvigorate it through an open digital model.

Without a single source to go to for funding of open-access monographs, UC brought in different stakeholders with an interest in making monographs for the long run. It used a combination of four sources of support: UC Press covering indirect overhead, revenue from print sales, subsidies from libraries, and author institution’s contribution.

UC Press started open access monograph publishing in September 2015. So far, 11 titles have been produced. The goal was to get $60,000 in library support in the first year and so far $67,000 has been generated. On average, about 200 print copies have sold for each title and there have been 4,782 downloads of the free digital versions. Because the titles are open, those in countries such as Mexico, Brazil, and India, who would not likely have bought a print copy are accessing the monographs digitally.

“We realized we needed to do far more than simply promote books in usual way,” said Mudditt. “There is a much bigger role for us as one of the first university presses to launch a major program for Open Access and that was to play role in both advocacy and education.”

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