Ten Years of OBP: An Interview with Alessandra Tosi and Rupert Gatti (Part Two)

Academic Publishing Sep 24, 2018

The next ten years: “We need to show this can be different.”

While Gatti and Tosi are fiercely proud of what they have built, they believe the future of OBP lies in enabling the growth of other Open Access publishers. Gatti sees this as the way to achieve significant and lasting impact: “We did think we would grow bigger initially, that we’d want to be publishing a hundred books a year or something, but the Radical Open Access Collective, ScholarLed,[1] this is a much more powerful expansion if you can facilitate that rather than us getting bigger.”

Tosi agrees and argues that the example of OBP could combine potently with the new Open Source platforms currently being developed by ScholarLed. “I think the success of Open Book is in giving the idea of doing it to other people, providing an example of a model that can work and can change and adapt, for me that’s a measure of our success really. It’s not as difficult as it used to be ten years ago; the route is clear technically. It’s not as though you have to invent it as we did, so newcomers can just jump in and do it.”

They are both cautious about the new proposals for Open Access across Europe, including the recently announced Plan S and the Open Access mandate for the 2021 REF. “It depends how they implement it,” says Gatti. “If they just implement it with a BPC[2] it doesn’t help at all; it hinders Open Access in fact because you just tie all the institutions into this one funding model.” “And then scholars resent it as well because it’s not fair basically,” adds Tosi, “you have to allocate money and that creates friction. The devil is in the details.”

Gatti argues that research institutions need to make space for diverse publishing outfits and universities should reward staff who publish excellent Open Access work. “There’s a real potential to have genuine power from small, innovative publishers coming through. What you don’t want to have is an institutional structure that prevents them – so CUP and Harvard aren’t the only way to publish, and instead people can say, ‘I can be promoted without having to go to them.’”

Tosi believes communication is crucial to achieve this. “You have to keep telling people. They know bits and pieces but do they know there’s an alternative, so they can make an informed choice, that there are Open Access publishers of quality, do they know that? Because many people aren’t aware of the alternatives, and that’s why the system doesn’t change.”

They both agree that the success of OBP has been a source of great satisfaction. “We get a lot of positive feedback from the community that we care about and they come back and say, ‘good job,’” reflects Gatti. “I don’t know if I thought it would be so successful,” Tosi admits. To anybody wanting to set up an Open Access press of their own, they both say, “Do it. Just do it.”

“Open Access publishers, especially scholar-led and not-for-profit, they are very open. Everything is available; you can go and visit them, look at what they’re doing, ask for help, set up. In a way it’s easier than people think.”

“Action. That’s what it boils down to. Actually doing things.”

“A bit of passion. And finding people to work with who care about it as much as you do.”

“Not waiting around for other people to do it for one.”

“Good luck!”

To read the first part of this interview and find out more about how OBP was founded and developed, click here.

To read a blog post by OBP director William St. Clair about why he joined OBP and how the need for Open Access publishing has deep historical roots, click here.

[1] The Radical Open Access Collective and ScholarLed are communities of not-for-profit, scholar-led Open Access publishers who have different operating models but are working together to develop Open Access publishing in an open, diverse and creative way.

[2] Book Processing Charge: a fee charged to an author or her institution to publish a work Open Access.

Lucy Barnes

Lucy Barnes is Senior Editor and Outreach Coordinator at Open Book Publishers.