On Open Access: Thoughts from our Authors

Open Access Week 2020 Oct 23, 2020

For Open Access Week 2020 we invited our authors to share their thoughts on the topics of equity, accessibility, open knowledge and open access publishing. Continue reading to find out what they had to say.

The small, specialized audiences characteristic of academic publishing are all the more restricted  when book prices escalate.  Authors reconcile themselves to poor sales by reciting the names of their distinguished publishers.  But is that compensation for burying one's work?   Traditional publishing risks becoming vanity publishing. Open access is the liberating alternative:   making books available freely to everyone,  it enables ideas to circulate.  This is  the promise of the web.  Let's see what difference it makes.  

David Weissman, author of 'Agency: Moral Identity and Free Will'.

An inclusive approach to knowledge is crucial for the empowerment and enfranchisement of people everywhere. Inclusivity facilitates the accessibility of knowledge while also affirming the diversity of knowledge. This is a key factor in the book 'Living Earth Community: Multiple Ways of Being and Knowing', edited by myself, Mary Evelyn Tucker, and John Grim. Based on a unique workshop that took place at the Oak Spring Garden Foundation in Virginia in October of 2018, the book includes a diverse array of perspectives on human-Earth relations, traversing Indigenous languages, contemplative awareness of nature, evolutionary complexity, Confucianism, Shamanism, Hinduism, storytelling, imagination, and more. Coordination and collaboration across different ways of knowing is crucial for humans to learn how to live together peacefully, justly, and sustainably, as one species inhabiting one planet. When the time came to find a publisher for this eclectic and inclusive collection of essays, one of our contributors (Mark Turin) suggested working with an open access model, which seemed entirely appropriate, especially considering the subject matter of our book. After all, what use is writing about inclusivity if the book itself is not inclusive in its accessibility? We wanted a publisher with high standards for academic integrity and book design, and we happily went with the initial suggestion from our colleague to contact Open Book Publishers. With their approach to open access publishing, we were able to produce a book that enacts the very inclusivity that it expresses, celebrating the diversity of knowledge as it is distributed across the living Earth community.

Sam Mickey, co-editor of 'Living Earth Community: Multiple Ways of Being and Knowing'.

Lindenwood University is committed to Equity and Inclusion and the use of open access resources is central to that strategy. We have seen that financial and physical barriers exist in preventing underrepresented populations in higher education from successfully  matriculating. Traditional and non-traditional students that work full-time, have families and obligations are limited by their circumstances with regards to attending traditional on-campus classes and are conscious of the rising costs of education. Open access  resources allow those in rural or urban areas to have a quality education and access the same information as those students who are able to gain access to physical resources on college campuses.

James Hutson, author of 'Gallucci's Commentary on Dürer’s 'Four Books on Human Proportion': Renaissance Proportion Theory'.

Open Book Publishers has been a wonderful Open Access venue for me to share my work globally.  Commercial publishers have shown little interest in translations from Yiddish.  This is unfortunate, because there are literally hundreds of books - fiction and nonfiction - that would interest a wide reading audience.  I am delighted that two of my translations, Bernard Weinstein's  The Jewish Unions in America: Pages of History and Memories of 1924, and Nokhem Shtif's The Pogroms in Ukraine, 1918-1919: Prelude to the Holocaust of 1923, are now available on the web and have found homes in hundreds of libraries.

Maurice Wolfthal, translator of 'The Pogroms in Ukraine, 1918-19: Prelude to the Holocaust' and 'The Jewish Unions in America: Pages of History and Memories'.

In the world of open access (or its opposite), there is one constituency that I feel is poorly served: the community of freelance researchers. There are resources that are only available through institutions and that are therefore difficult to access for those who have no institutional affiliation. In some cases, this is reasonably easy to overcome: many public libraries subscribe to the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, for example, although even then, it depends where you live. Other resources are simply impossible to use: for example, some years ago I was researching seventeenth-century travellers, and needed to make constant use of Early English Books Online, which is a wonderful collection. However, there is no facility for an individual to access it – even if you are prepared to pay: it is only available through academic libraries. It is available in the British Library, of course, but that may be very inconvenient for people who live a long way from London. I found this hugely frustrating. Surely it would not be beyond the bounds of possibility for the publishers of such resources to put in place a subscription system for individuals, or even a ‘pay per view’ arrangement? In the case of Early English Books Online I have raised this, but was met with a non-negotiable no.

Lucy Pollard, author of 'Margery Spring Rice: Pioneer of Women’s Health in the Early Twentieth Century'.

Photo by Kelly Sikkema on Unsplash

Open Book Publishers

We believe that knowledge should be available to everyone: our books are free to read and download online, and we are working to create a world in which all research is freely available to all readers