Why Open Access?

our authors Oct 25, 2021

by Daniel Rueda Garrido

Why it matters to you that the book is available freely to read and reuse online by everyone, everywhere regardless of their socioeconomic background.

I do not conceive of any other way of publishing than open access. That is why it is important for me to find a platform and publishers that provide this service. And I cannot conceive of any other way of publishing than open access because I do not publish for profit, I do not consider that my intellectual vocation has to be remunerated, since it is an obligation of my own -that of communicating my research- and at the same time, a right that I enjoy, that is, the right to be able to write and publish.

In my field, this is even more true. I believe that philosophy is a vocation, like medicine or art, and so on. That it is a vocation means that one would research and communicate one’s research even if it was not paid for, i.e. it is not a financial transaction. On the other hand, publishing in philosophy has an added difficulty, and that is that the audience or potential readers are a small group (partly dictated by the fashions and concerns served by the hegemonic publishers, which are the profitable ones), so publishers that publish without open access, and therefore expect dividends as a result of publication, cannot risk publishing but only those books that they know have the small philosophical audience secured, either by the institution from which the author comes, or by the prestige of the author himself.

In other words, I believe that if the vocation of the writer, and in this case of the philosopher, is not only that of his intellectual work but also that of communicating the results of this work, without the possibility of publishing, his vocation is partly undermined, and without the possibility that his results can reach the potential group that would be interested in receiving them, the philosophical community as such and the intellectual community in general are also adversely affected.

By this I mean, in conclusion, that open access publishing platforms such as Open Book Publishers not only provide integrity and development to the intellectual and cultural community at large, but are also the vehicle for those writers who put their vocation at stake in the communication of their ideas.

Can you share your own perception as of the importance of equity in the production and consumption of open knowledge and open infrastructure?

In my opinion, and to answer the question directly, there are several reasons why this type of open publication is preferable. What I do below is to list and briefly comment on some of them.

The first is because that is what an author essentially aims to do when he writes a work, namely to have as many readers as possible, or at least to make it possible for all those who wish to read his work to do so, beyond the economic barrier and even beyond the present time -potentially benefiting later generations-; the latter being understood as the potential capacity of the digital work to be preserved in different formats by an unlimited plurality of users over time. I understand, however, that this also brings with it a series of dangers and problems related precisely to the amount of information available and accessible due to this opening up of knowledge and culture. Suddenly there are so many presumably quality books available that, on the one hand, there is an imperative need for the reader to make the selection of books to read -no longer related to purchasing power and the mere prestige of the publishing house-; on the other hand, with this enormous amount of information increasingly at hand, authors find it more difficult for their books to stand out even within their field if it is not with specific marketing campaigns. However, both difficulties also have their positive sides: in the first case, it makes the reader have to be more critical, with an evenly formed ability to search for and discern the right reading for his or her needs and expectations, and in the second case, it makes authors define their potential readers more closely. These advantages are, at the same time, a challenge.

The second reason why I believe it is preferable to publish in digital open access is that of social equality. I believe that it greatly facilitates the incorporation into culture of the most disadvantaged social groups, who may not have the purchasing power to buy a book but certainly have the interest, capacity and intellectual training to benefit from it. In addition, this type of publication facilitates the academic development of those who do not belong to universities and educational institutions and therefore do not have access to institutional subscriptions with which they would advance their research. Facilitating the latter also means facilitating general scientific advancement not limited to official knowledge entities. One might say that these advantages are not enjoyed by those social groups that cannot access a private Internet connection…; granted, but at least it is a step forward, as there is usually the possibility of access in public buildings such as libraries, schools, universities, etc.

A third reason is that being able to find quality materials through the Internet encourages international dialogue, and even more so if it is published in different languages. However, the blocking of the Internet by various countries means that this equality of access is not complete, at least not for all citizens of the world. In China, for example, where I have lived for years, I had to use a VPN to access most of the international digital libraries, online academic journals and also to access the Open Book Publishers website. And using a VPN involves an extra financial cost. By this I mean the censorship that exists in the digital space, which currently prevents free access and threatens to be a major obstacle to free communication and knowledge sharing online in the future. Open knowledge and culture platforms can suffer from censorship by governments or large technology companies. Open access is therefore indirectly a push against these powers that want to curtail or block exposure to ideas and perspectives that are dangerous to their control of the population. However, it is not enough on its own if it is not accompanied by an active campaign against cyber-censorship, especially of a state nature.

The fourth reason is to break with the monopoly and hegemony of some publishing houses. Publishers with greater remuneration (whether state or private through the sale of their products) also have greater publishing, marketing and dissemination capacity, with all that this implies in terms of imposing certain visions and ideologies to the detriment of others. Opening up knowledge is also opening up to new possibilities.

For the reasons I have just outlined, which could be developed on another occasion, I claim that open knowledge publishing not only favours social and economic equity, but also creates the possibility of developing international joint research, and the means to defend against tendencies towards monopoly and cultural hegemony.

Daniel Rueda Garrido is the author of our forthcoming title Forms of Life and Subjectivity: Rethinking Sartre’s Philosophy.

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