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.
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.
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.