Why I couldn’t publish my book Open Access

Mercedes Bunz —  November 21, 2013 — 8 Comments

One of the most pressing problems Open Access currently still has, becomes very well apparent in my own story: there is no funding to publish a stand-alone book.

How Digitalization Transforms Knowledge, Work, Journalism and Politics Without Making Too Much Noise

Not Open Access despite trying: How Digitalization Transforms Knowledge, Work, Journalism and Politics Without Making Too Much Noise

When I planned to publish my book on algorithms “The Silent Revolution”, I wanted to publish it Open Access. Of course! In my view its topic should be available as widely as possible: It is useful for students and researchers – there is an introductory overview over recent debates about algorithms; and it discusses the effect of algorithms on our societies, with a special focus on the transformation of the public sphere pushed by Google, Facebook, Twitter, et. al. In short: it concerns us all, and I would have liked it to be within easy reach.

As we all know, academic books are often locked in a high price, my book currently costs $54 or £45 as a hard cover, so I am very happy that there is a much cheaper digital version at $32.44 or £19.50. However, easily available in Open Access would be much better.

How Much Is A Book? Expect the costs of a small car
When I asked Palgrave Macmillian, my helpful editor started to research the situation. The big publishers had just started to calculate the costs of Open Access, in fact Palgrave was just about to make their internal the decision on how to handle it. My editor was able to come back with official numbers one week later: my Palgrave Pivot publication would cost $12,000 or £7,500, I learned from a little leaflet (find the information here). Which is cheap compared to a bigger monograph with its costs of $17,500 or £11,000.

I started to research funding. I spent days google-ing the internet, asked all my publisher and publishing friends, spoke to Open Access experts like Open Humanity Press’s Gary Hall and Janneke Adema from Open Reflections. Both hinted that this could be a problem. And it was. I researched the information of numerous foundations like UK’s Higher Education Funding Council For England (Hefce), and JICS, and found out that they are still “developing an approach to open access” while exploring “how to make it a requirement”. I contacted the German Research Foundation (DFG) who informed me that they are currently considering how to set up some funding. This I heard from numerous other foundations.

In short, I could find: nothing. Some foundations had some money for Open Access publications, but only when it was part of an already funded project. The only research foundation I could find funding a stand-alone book was Austria’s FWF, who support the publishing of an Open Access monograph with a lump-sum of EUR 14,000.

Conclusion
Frankly, the situation is a bit worrying. Open Access is important and about to be made a requirement, but there is no funding for it. This is a serious problem which puts academia in the squeezed middle: thanks to no alternatives to the author-processing-fee, researcher have to bear the costs. I hope my book will still be read.

Profile photo of Mercedes Bunz

Mercedes Bunz

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8 responses to Why I couldn’t publish my book Open Access

  1. Costs are a problem. However, Open Book Publishers are able to keep them relatively low:
    http://www.openbookpublishers.com/section/6/1/information-for-authors

  2. Crowdfunding?

    Unbound? Authr? Kickstarter? Indigogo?

    Very rough maths says if you can pre-sell 385 copies, you have a book.

  3. Finding funding for publication of open access ebooks is is definitively a problem; the good news is that there are a bunch of us working on it.

    Unglue.it (what I’m working on) as been crowd-funding published books and is a starting a new type of open access campaign for newly published books.

    Knowledge Unlatched is pursuing a model where a consortium of libraries funds a package of academic press books.

    Open Editions offers publishers a variety of funding models for open access through their portal.

    Open Book Publishers is a publisher focussed entirely on new models for Open Access books.

    But there’s a lot of work to do. Hope you don’t give up!

  4. Profile photo of Mercedes Bunz

    Thank you for your comments. You are right, there is a new development that’s very good for OA publishing, and we are very glad about this. Keep up the good work!

    We have covered parts of it already on this blog, you can find our impressions from our research interview with Knowledge Unlatched here: “Knowledge Unlatched: A new business model for Open Access monographs?”.

    Within academic publishing there is also another problem we need to tackle: Academics can’t just publish. To hire academics, universities and research institutions evaluate their publications in a very specific way: it doesn’t matter that you have published a book, it matters where you have published it.

    That’s the bad news: we can’t simply get our books out there. The good news: also in academia and the humanities, new Open Access publishers are on their way, and it might take a bit of time before they will be considered by HEFCE and others that create those guidelines for the insitiutions, but they will be.

  5. I encourage you to talk to your University Library adn press. At ANU we have now published almost 500 works open access with no charges to the authors. See http://epress.anu.edu.au/

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